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Village History

War Memorial, Plunket Rooms and Library (Corner Edward Street and Whitby Way)

The Wakefield Public Library and Soldiers Memorial are found on the corner of Edwards Street and Whitby Way.

This corner was once occupied by Painton’s Store after it’s relocation from the corner of Pitfure Road and Edward Street. The corner then became known as Painton’s Corner. This building was dismantled in 1953 and the site was dedicated as a War Memorial, and a new building constructed for the Plunket Society, was opened on 25 April 1955. The Plunket Rooms had previously been based in the second Wakefield Library (now the Toy Library) and Mrs Mabel Win was the Karitane Nurse based there for 40 years. As part of her role she was required to cart firewood and water, as none was laid on to this building at the time. The Plunket Society had been established in New Zealand in 1907 and the Nelson branch opened in 1913. A Plunket Nurse visited Wakefield from Nelson twice weekly by way of a Newman’s Bus. She then had to use a bicycle to visit the new mothers and babies before catching the bus back into Nelson again.

In 1993 the Soldiers Memorial was aptly relocated from the Domain to where it now stands.

In 1990 the Medical Centre was opened and the Plunket Society moved into this new building leaving the previous building vacant. It then became the third of Wakefield’s Libraries.

The first library was built on Pitfure Road, to the south of the Catholic Church, and was known as the ‘Waimea South Mechanics Institute and Circulating Library’. A community meeting, held in the original school on 20 July 1853, appointed a committee and three Trustees namely Edward Baigent, Robert Boddington and Ben Jackson, were tasked with finding a suitable site and raising money with which to construct a building. Edward Baigent donated the land and the new cob building was opened on 17 July 1856. Some of its first books had originally been used as teaching resources on board the Whitby by Arthur Wakefield and James Thomas Smith, who later taught at Wakefield School for 9 or 10 years.

The second library was built in 1912 and this building is currently owned by the TDC and houses the Wakefield Toy Library. The land for this library was donated by Joseph Gibbs who had negotiated a land swap with the original library site. Joseph became a Trustee along with Dr Walter Relf Pearless and Leonard Bird. It is interesting and, when compared to today’s standards, slightly amusing, to hear the Rules and Regulations that were part and parcel of the libraries use:

  • The subscription will be 15 shillings a family per annum for 4 books and 10 shillings an adult for 2 books
  • No person who is in a state of intoxication or who is uncleanly in person or dress shall enter or remain in the Library
  • No person shall lie down or sleep in the library
  • No person shall partake of any refreshments or smoke or spit or strike matches in or bring any animal or bicycle into the library.

In the past this building has also been used by the Scouts and Guides, Plunket Society, St John Ambulance, the Wakefield Band and probably other community groups as well.The library still operates and is open on Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons.

This information was shared on a historical walk  (in October 2022) along Edwards Street presented by Roger Batt and Yo Tye from the Waimea South Historical Society (Inc 2022).

Further information on Wakefield’s Libraries can be read here


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