Many of you would’ve driven past this old building and, like myself wondered about its history. What is it like inside? What was it used for? Is it still used today?
Yesterday, after many years of wondering, I decided to stop the car and get a closer look.
It’s the former St Anthony’s Convent. Now sitting vacant, a tad vandalised and in need of some TLC to bring it back to life. We are keen to talk to any past pupils, staff or anyone that has historical information about this beautiful old gem.
Whilst not necessarily haunted, we still enjoy photographing and documenting these rundown antique abodes in their current states.
Note: All interior photos were taken through windows. We do not encourage the breaking in and entering of buildings.
St Anthony’s Convent (Former) on Great South Road in Huntly is the second convent on the site; the donation of her home for the first convent had resulted in a papal blessing for the donor Sarah Ralph. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) has architectural significance as a rare example of an ecclesiastical building designed by Thomas Eli White, primarily known for his theatre design throughout Australasia. The building has a strong association with the Ralph family who developed the coal mining industry in Huntly and were arguably the most prominent and influential citizens in the region. The Convent played a major role in the religious and secular education of Huntly children in conjunction with the formerly adjacent school and is of considerable spiritual significance, being associated with the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions who worshipped in the convent chapel for over forty years.
Huntly Township was originally known as Rahui Pokeka and the area was occupied by descendants of the Tainui Canoe. The area was utilised seasonally for food harvest and possibly not permanently settled. Missionary Benjamin Ashwell established a mission near Taupiri in 1843 and was shown coal seams by local Maori; the presence of coal was confirmed by government surveys. After the New Zealand Wars the area was divided into land grants, two of which were received by Anthony Ralph and his son Robert. They discovered coal on some of their land and established what would become the primary mining industry in the area. After Anthony’s death his wife managed the family land transactions and businesses and this practice was continued by her daughters. In 1912 her daughter Sarah Ralph donated her own house for use as a convent and also completely financed the adjacent school. The site was conspicuous in its position on Great South Road, the main north-south thoroughfare, effectively at the southern gateway to the Huntly Township. The original convent burned down in 1931 being replaced by St Anthony’s Convent (Former), built for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Auckland, in 1931-1932.The convent was part of a Catholic precinct comprising the St Anthony’s Church, school and presbytery.
Small alterations were made to modernise the convent, including the addition of a car garage in 1973. Ironically, increased traffic and the development of the main road forced the relocation of the school in 1986, which together with earlier legislation requiring state-trained teachers, ultimately forced the convent’s closure. St Anthony’s Convent (Former) was briefly used as a television repair shop and later as an art gallery. An enlarged upstairs room for youth group activities was created by removing two cubicle walls. In 2006 a supermarket was erected immediately adjacent and the convent was resold. It has remained empty and unused since then.