Helensville Museum & Pioneer
PLEASE NOTE: Helensville Museum will be closed until early 2020 for maintenance and refurbishment.
Please bear with us while we undertake this important work.
Hours of Opening
Museum: Monday & Tuesday 9am - midday; Wednesday 9am - 3.30pm; Thursday & Friday 9am - midday, Saturday and Sunday, 1pm - to 3.30pm
Research Room: Research assistance is available Monday to Friday 9am to midday or at other times by appointment - please phone 09 420 7881 for more information.
Adult $10.00, Senior Citizens $8.00, College Students $2.00.
Primary school children accompanied by an adult, free.
Wheelchair access; Guided tours; Museum brochures; Tourist brochures; Membership club; Functions-charters; Toilets; Parking
The Helensville Museum is located at the Riverside Reserve,
Mill Road, Helensville [see
The museum has been open to the public (apart from its current
transition period) since December 1970, when Hedley House, as it
was known, was officially opened by then Helensville Member of Parliament,
the late Peter Wilkinson.
Until then, the Society housed its exhibits in the Helensville
Primary School’s old dental clinic.
In 1982 the Courthouse was acquired by the Historical Society and moved from its riverside
site to join Hedley House on the Porter Crescent Reserve.
When the Society moved to the River Reserve in December 2003, a third building, the Old Schoolhouse
was added to the Pioneer Village. More recently the Hector Nichols Barn was constructed.
In August 1969, members accepted the offer of a house owned by Jack and Nancy Hedley,
situated in Porter Crescent, Helensville. The offer was conditional upon it being removed
from its original site.
Helensville Borough Council made a 600sq m site behind the Helensville War Memorial Hall
available, and with funding from the local Clan McLeod, business people and Society members,
the house was moved 200m (partly down a bank) onto the site it occupied until December
2003. The building was redecorated inside and out before being opened in 1970. In 1973
a 500 sq ft annex was added at the rear of the building.
On the town site, Hedley House was the administration centre as well as display area,
featuring kitchen, living and bedroom areas and annex displays covering a range of social
history, Maori artefacts, milling and timber, kauri gum, and a family history section. After
the move the display emphasis changed (see Displays)
The oldest remaining small District Courthouse in the Auckland region, and believed to
be the second oldest in New Zealand, Helensville’s original and only courthouse was
opened on June 7, 1864 as the main District Court and Maori Land Court for Kaipara and
Here many historic Maori Land Court cases of the 19th and early 20th centuries were decided,
hence its significance to Ngati Whatua.
Presided over by Maori Land Court judge and local resident Magistrate, Judge John Rogan,
who had been the area’s judicial authority since 1858, it was sited originally close
to the Kaipara River above the first Helensville Railway Station at the south end of town
on land donated to the Crown by Te Otene Kikokiko, a rangatira of the Te Taou hapu of Ngati
Its new location restores its proximity and association with the river. The judge's bench
and chair, prisoner dock and witness stand are still intact.
Kauri timber for building came from the McLeod’s Helensville mill, and the original
kauri posts and rails that enclosed the Courthouse were donated by the rangatira Te Tirarau
from the Tangiteroria area.
Alongside the main entrance is what was a dispensary, added in 1865 for the use of Dr
Nicholson, who treated patients there once a week. However this service lapsed after a
year due to the lack of Maori patronage. Facing it was the access to Judge Rogan’s
living quarters, which he occupied until his own home, ‘Te Makiri’ was completed
in 1866. Later, his boatman, James Hand, lived in those quarters.
For several years, the courthouse was used as a meeting place by the Helensville Town
Board, established in 1883, and was also the local police headquarters for some years.
The Courthouse remained in use until 1979 and was acquired by the Society in 1982.
On the town site, the police office area of the courthouse was used to display Kaipara
Harbour photos, maps, charts and artefacts, and also housed the extensive collection of
photographic display albums. (See also Displays).
The Museum’s service centre is based in the former Helensville
Primary’s original Schoolmaster’s House. Built in 1883 at a cost of £429
by Mr A J Haszard and occupied by Irishman Mr D D Metge (popularly known as “DD”),
headmaster until 1900.
Described as “an impressive man and in many ways, beyond his time in educational
methods”, "DD" was born at Seabrook, Ulster and sired 10 children, nine
of who were born in Helensville. He, his wife and three of their children are interred
at the Helensville cemetery.
Interior alterations to the landmark building were carried out in 1977 to mark the school’s
centenary - and, more importantly as a response to the Education Board’s intention
at the time to demolish and replace it. In its latter years, it was used as the school
hall and was gifted to the Society by the school’s board in 1999. It was stored offsite
for us by Eurovision Building Removals Ltd, of Helensville, until being moved onto our
Helensville Riverside Reserve site in December 2003.
Much remedial renovation and refurbishing work has been carried out on the building since then to create the men’s, women’s and disabled-access toilets, improved kitchen facilities and a large display area.
The Maori Room features Maori artefacts from the Ngati Whatua tribe and on open days will have live demonstrations of various arts and crafts of olden days.
The Kaipara Room features the history of kauri gum, milling and shipping in a timeline following the river on the floor. A large wall map of the Kaipara Harbour pinpoints wrecks and strandings. Also housed in the Schoolhouse are some of the Society’s impressive photographic collection, including the Alan Jordan Kaukapakapa collection, the oral and family histories, and pioneer portraits.
The research area of the museum has been named the John Pyatt Archive, in recognition of the sterling work done by foundation member John Pyatt in setting up the comprehensive collection of papers and documents.
This purpose-built facility houses the archives in temperature control environment, including the original photos, newspapers, and all sorts of other information. An appointment is necessary to access these items. The best time to come down is a Wednesday morning when the archive team are on site to help with the research. This building also houses the Helensville Museum office.
Hector Nicholls Barn
This recently added building houses farming, fishing, milling and similar equipment. There are also old carriages, boats and other farming items. The displays in this building constantly change, so there is always something new that will catch your eye.
Waitoki Sunshine Block
This building is still under re-construction and not yet open to the public. It was built in the 1930s as a second classroom for Waitoki School. It is called a Sunshine Block due to the two bifold doors at the front, and although it looks like half a building, it is in fact the whole building. Once completed, the building will house all the schoolhouse displays and provide a space for community groups to meet.
A sophisticated internal security/smoke detection system protects all our buildings, while our advanced communications equipment, apart from providing telephone, fax and Internet access also enables callers to be connected directly to key officers and Museum specialists.
Formal landscaping has been undertaken featuring shrubs and plants typically used by South Kaipara pioneers to enhance natural scenery. A shelter belt includes native trees which were part of the early Kaipara landscape. Some thought has been given to establishing a ‘heritage’ orchard. Given the length of our lease, the current Executive Committee is determined to make the utmost use of this site as a visually attractive introduction to our visitors.