Methven’s oldest building gets blue plaque

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Peter and Gwenda Ireland prepare to unveil the new blue plaque on the Mount Hutt Road Board office building. Below: The blue plaque on the building.

Methven’s oldest surviving building has received a blue heritage plaque from Historic Places Mid Canterbury to mark its importance in local history.

The modest timber Mount Hutt Road Board (MHRB) office, built in 1879, was one of the first buildings in Methven and was put on the New Zealand Heritage List as a Category 2 historic place in October 2019.

It had historical and cultural significance and reflected the story of New Zealand’s emphasis on building roads since colonial times, said Historic Places Mid Canterbury deputy chairperson Nigel Gilkison.

It was the ninth building or location to receive a blue plaque in the district.

The plaque system acknowledged locally built heritage and helped to increase their prominence and importance, he said.

The building is at 59 Main Street and is a single-storey wooden structure building with a gabled corrugated iron roof.

It comprises a main hall, just over 10m long and 5m wide, with a lean-to lobby on its north side.

Inside there is dado panelling over lath and plaster, and on the south wall is a timber fire surround with MHRB markings.

By the time the road board was formed, much of the roading network was established, so a big part of the work was maintenance and gathering rates.

It also acted as the Domain Board office from 1885 to 1922.

After the road board was disestablished in 1939, the building continued to be used by the community.

It has served as a polling place, assessment court and general meeting venue.

The Caledonian band practised there for a number of years and it has been used by SeniorNet, as a temporary library and is now used twice weekly by the Methven Toy Library.

The building was moved from its original site in 2000 to give the neighbouring playcentre more play space.

The honour of unveiling the blue plaque was given to Peter and Gwenda Ireland, who donated money towards the plaque, as did the Methven Lions and Ashburton District Council.

Mr Ireland, a former Caledonian band member, recounted his memories of the building and its other users.

Methven’s Brown Pub will also be marked with a blue plaque soon.