Thursday, 3 August 2017

Kensington Park Grandstand Whangarei- Design by Edward Bartley

Grandstand Interior. Image Prana Art Project for BFA 2017

In April 1902 the Whangarei Agricultural and Pastoral Association resolved to purchase Kensington Park ground as a permanent home 1. A government subsidy of  £500 was received in October 1902. Meanwhile the Association joined forces with the newly formed Whangarei Racing Club. Together they decided to develop the park with upgraded facilities-including a new grandstand. Edward Bartley was appointed as architect for that part of project 2.

Bartley worked over a wide geographical area - from Gisborne northwards. In the cities he was best known for his ASB banks, churches and commercial buildings. In rural areas it was mainly in his role as architect to the Auckland Charitable Aid Board that led to introductions. In Whangarei his donation of plans and supervision to the hospital, along with his Council work and commercial clients in Bank St, meant his bowler hat and dust coat were often seen. He also had strong links with both the racing fraternity and the A&P Association. Those links began in the early 1870's when the NZ Pedigree Stock Association and A&P and Farmer's Associations began to erect permanent buildings in the Auckland region.

The design which was settled on for Whangarei was a barrel roofed grandstand. It was very similar to, though smaller than, the design for Avondale Racing Club where Bartley had been engaged. That stand was opened in February 1902. No doubt members of the Whangarei Racing Club  inspected it at first hand during the 1902 racing season.

Avondale Racing Club Grandstand AWN 22 Sept 1904

There was plenty to be done before the new building could get underway. A new entrance and drive were constructed first. New cattle pens and other show facilities were a top priority. The re-siting of the race course took time to resolve and implement and the unsafe old stands were demolished.

So it was not until September 1903 that Edward Bartley advertised tenders for the Whangarei stand.
NZH 15 Sept 1903
Matters proceeded quickly once a figure was agreed on and the building was finished in a matter of months for £1200.

The side elevation closest to Kensington Park. The associated booths are original. Image BFA 2017

Edward Bartley designed a similar grandstand for the Ohinemuri Racing Club (later the Paeroa Racing Club) at Paeroa in 1904. That one no longer survives. It burned down in the 1980's after years of neglect.

 Kensington Park grandstand nearly met the same fate. Fortunately it was relocated and restored for  the Northland Hockey Association. A more recent renovation in 2009 brought the building up to modern fire safety standards - modifications Edward Bartley would certainly approve of. His many designs for public amenities and institutions were characterised by the latest advances in fire safety, a personal as well as professional interest of his.
AWN 19 Oct 1922

This is a comfortable grandstand for viewing, even by modern standards. The barrel roof acts as an early form of climate control. A careful calculation of the angle and depth for the overhanging verandah means that no one is ever looking directly into the sun. The worst of mid-summer glare is shielded from spectator's eyes. Kauri and steel posts are spaced well apart, considering their load. This allows for good visibility and flow of 'traffic' entering and leaving the stand.
These days one is more at risk from a flying hockey ball than a pressing crush of racegoers.
The grandstand is now situated on the Northland Hockey Association grounds, Park Ave Whangarei -on the outskirts of Kensington Park.
The building is listed Category 1 with the Historic Places Trust.3

1. AS19020424
2. AS19020920, NZ19020911
3. Refer