Restoration of the Stone Shed

How Old Is The Stone Shed?

The age of the stone shed is hard to determine. We know that Henry and John Williams had a trading store situated somewhere near the stream at Horotutu, from the 1820s. The store is shown in a sketch map drawn by Edwin Fairburn. It is likely that building was no longer in use as a trading store after Henry Williams moved to Pakaraka in the 1850s

We also know that Hugh and Lydia Carleton had a house built on the site that Canon Percy Williams would later purchase from the Church Missionary Society.  They were married in 1859 and occupied a stone-walled house at Horotutu.

An 1859 water colour painting by Thomas Hutton, (who was married to Lydia Carleton's sister Sarah), shows Henry Williams son Henry's house at Horotutu along with another house and another small building approximately where Williams House and the stone shed is today.

There is also anecdotal evidence that a school for local children was held in the stone shed during the 1880s. Who the teacher may have been remains open to conjecture.

Taking all this into account it would be reasonable to surmise that the stone shed is between 130-190 years old. One thing for sure is that it is the oldest, still-standing building in Paihia.

Williams House Paihia - sketch map drawn by Edwin Fairburn showing Paihia in 1833
Williams House Paihia - water colour painting by Thomas Hutton showing Horotutu in 1859

What We Started With

During the years the Williams family lived on the property the stone shed was well looked after. Adjacent plant growth was tidy and in a trimmed state. Over the years it had been used as a garden shed by the Williams family. At some stage a plaster coat had been applied to the exterior of the walls.

However, when Mary Williams died in 1993, she left the property to the Bay of Islands Council, (now the Far North District Council), and form then very little maintenance was carried out.

Plant growth was allowed to proceed unchecked until both ends of the stone shed were covered in growth that had also started to encroach on the inside.

In 1996, acting on behalf of the Mission Heritage Trust and following the ratings outlined in the ICOMOS (International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites); New Zealand Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Heritage Value; Salmond Architects assessed Williams House and the Williams House grounds, including the stone shed. Their intention was to provide a report to cover the conservation values of the house and grounds. What became known as the Salmond Report rated the house and the stone shed overall as "A - items of exceptional significance", (p39). From the report this photograph (below) recorded the then current state of the stone shed.

The rating assigned to the stone shed is for; "Items or spaces which should be preserved and protected at all costs. Only processes of maintenance, stabilisation, restoration, reconstruction or reinstatement are appropriate for such features."

They noted that all aspects of the shed were of this highest rating, with the exception of an unglazed opening in the south-west wall gable area and the modern, painted, cement plaster. The unglazed opening was given a "b" rating, which was for "items which should be preserved and protected where they do not conflict with the conservation of a feature of higher heritage value." In other words it could be restored to match the other end.

The plaster was given an "intr" rating, which was for "items which are intrusive on conservation values." Such items can be removed to conserve the original.

Because of the historical significance of the stone shed, it was registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and given a Category 2 rating, (as a Historic Place of "historical or cultural heritage significance or value"). Follow this link for the entry in the NZHPT register.

Williams House Paihia - the stone shed in the 1960s
Williams House Paihia - the stone shed in 1996 before restoration started
Williams House Paihia - the stone shed in 1996 before restoration started

Restoring The Building Integrity

In September 2004, vandals rammed a back corner of the stone shed. Prompt action from the Historic Places Trust and the Far North District Council resulted in the damaged corner being propped up and covered in to minimise further deterioration of the shed.

[On the right of this picture, (taken during restoration work in 2005), can be seen the temporary repair made after the ramming.]

The following year the Friends of Williams House Paihia Library consulted with all relevant parties, including the Williams family, to investigate the possibility of restoration of the stone shed. A decision was made to proceed with restoration.

Kerikeri stonemason Dennis McCondach was contracted to carry out the repair work required to restore the shed. He estimated roughly $9,000 of remedial work was needed.

However, the estimate rose to $11,000 when it was discovered that the front wall of the shed, (the wall facing north containing the door), had badly subsided. The effects of this can be seen in the picture above of the west wall, where large cracks had appeared (toward the left) and also in the north wall (to the left of the door in the picture on the right).

"Whoever plastered the stone shed had done a good job," observed Dennis. "That's

the only reason it's lasted so long, because the local brown stone the shed is made of deteriorates over time."

To correct the subsidence of the front wall a considerable excavation had to be made. A substantial concrete slab was then poured to under-pin the unstable section and prevent further subsidence.

To correct the subsidence of the front wall a considerable excavation had to be made. A substantial concrete slab was then poured to under-pin the unstable section and prevent further subsidence.

In the picture to the left, Dennis McCondach is shown during the painstaking process of inserting mortar into the foundation stones to help prevent further deterioration of the foundation and to prevent ingress of moisture to the inside of the shed.

The last part of the stone work restoration was to apply a lime slurry from what had been left from the Kerikeri Stone Store project to help protect the stone work and mortar from further weathering.

In Fiona Craig's book, Protecting Paradise In Paihia, (commissioned by The Friends Of Williams House Paihia Library), on page 129, there is an account of the restoration of the stone shed. This book is still for sale at our second-hand book sales from the Williams House garage.

While the stone work was being attended to, the broken window frame from the east wall gable was removed for restoration. At the same time a new, matching window frame was constructed for the corresponding open hole in the west wall gable.

The various tools and implements in the shed, (some of which had been resourcefully hand made, such as a rake made from wire and a piece of timber), were carefully removed from the shed during the restoration work.

The metal tools underwent basic restoration treatment by local handyman Don Jansen, who volunteered his time to the cause.

The last work to be carried out was in September 2006 when the Friends financed the final "tidy up" of the shed. Replacement guttering was installed on the eaves and the roof, barge boards, gable ends and door were painted.

A month later the Friends arranged the official opening of the restored stone shed on behalf of the Far North District Council.

Guests included; Stuart Park from the Historic Places Trust, Deputy Mayor Laurie Byers, local personalities and members of the Williams, Joyce and Yorke families.

Williams House Paihia - a view from the west end of the stone shed in 2005
Williams House Paihia - a view from the north side of the stone shed in 2005
Williams House Paihia - a view from the east side of the stone shed in 2005 showing stonework restoration
Williams House Paihia - some of the Stone Shed artefacts
Williams House Paihia - a view of the north side of the stone shed following restoration

The Final Step

The final step in the restoration process was to provide a museum displaying the various artefacts relating to the uses of the stone shed over the years.

The Friends commissioned Workshop E to design and construct a display facility, (shown at the right as presented in their concept report), within the stone shed to complete our intention to provide a museum displaying the many uses of the shed over the years.

Workshop E has now completed the enclosed cabinet that will provide a suitable environment and a large degree of security for the artefacts on display. There are also interpretive signs that explain details of the display and the shed.

Museum standard conservation work on the artefacts has also be carried out by ObjectLab to protect them from further deterioration.

Arrangements have been made to allow for public access. To complement the History Trail brochure that is under production, the Friends hope to also provide a small brochure outlining the history of the Stone Shed and of the many artefacts displayed.

For further information regarding the Stone Shed Museum follow this link.

Stone Shed Museum - display concept
Williams House Paihia - historic stone shed interpretative sign


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