The old Customhouse Building, Timaru  

Evening Post, 15 October 1906, Page 7
Mr. Alex. Rose, Collector of Customs at Auckland, who is to retire on pension at the end of the present financial year, arrived in New Zealand (says the Auckland Star) by the ship Joseph Fletcher in 1856, and in the following year he entered the Customs Department at Christchurch. In 1861 he became sub-collector of Customs, and was sent to open Timaru as a port of entry. In December, 1865, he was appointed landing surveyor at Lyttelton, and after four years was transferred to Auckland, where he remained for a period of 7½ years. In 1875 he was appointed to the post of Collector of Customs at Lyttelton, and remained there until 1892, when he was appointed as Collector o£ Customs at Auckland, which position he has held ever since. In 1860-1861 he was a member of the Lyttelton Rifle Volunteers. In those days when Mr. Rose joined there were only 11 rifles for 210 men, and those had to be passed round turn about.


The 1902 HMS Customhouse, a handsome building on Lot 1 DP 1 first registered title in the Timaru District.
Photo taken in April 2008 by MT from the footbridge over the railway tracks.

Located at 2 Strathallan Street & Cains Terrace, Timaru at the junction of Station St. results in the former customhouse being seen from many aspects. The building cost about £2000 in 1902. That is the Royal Hotel to the back right. Custom duties have been collected in Timaru since 1861.  When comparing old photos there are two chimneys missing, above the front room to the left and far right back- see the booklet William Ferrier Photographer pg 39 - view of the Strathallan level crossing, with a steam locomotive passing and the Customhouse in the background. The level crossing was closed off about 30 years ago. We use to park at Pynes on Strathallan St. and use to walk or drive across that crossing to go down to the wharves and woolstores. There is also a 1902 photo of the building on Timeframes, ATL. newspaper

Historic Place - Category I -
"...places of ‘special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value under the New Zealand Historic Places Act 1993"
Category one buildings in the Timaru district include the Timaru Milling Company building, Mt Peel Station homestead, Peel Forest Station homestead, Kakahu lime kiln, Glenelg Stables (on Totara Valley Road), the former customhouse, Sacred Heart Basilica, Landing Service building, Gladstone Board of Works building (on Stafford St), St Mary's Church, the Bluestone House (on Arthur St), Levels Cottage (on State Highway 8), Mt Peel Boundary Hut and the Timaru Boys High School Memorial Library.

Who was the architect? Historic Places lists Forrester and Lemon architects of Oamaru, and was opened in August 1902. The Timaru City Council lists Daniel West, an architect, in Timaru. It is strongly classical in design. Two pairs of Doric columns support a frieze and a pediment over the porch on the main elevation; paired pilasters support the frieze around the rest of the building with a pediment on each of the side elevations. Each of the windows has a pediment bead. The fence and iron railing, climbing as it comes around the building, gives a finishing touch of dignity. The building has a long and close association with the port of Timaru and was vacated by the Customs Department in the late 1970s.

On 18 November 1871 a deed was executed in favour of Her Majesty the Queen, for an area of 1 rood 15 perches, parts of Lots 1 &2 for a Custom House site; the price was £790. Reference: Jubilee History of South Canterbury; 1916. pg 587


Cains Terrace Nov. 2011

Walkway. The map No. 2 Central Timaru Historic Walk takes approx. 30 minutes. The Canterbury Centenary memorial on Station St. at the footbridge entrance marks the spot of Le Cren's Landing Service which means it was the high tide mark. Since then land has been reclaimed. Walking on Caroline Bay there are markers indicating the high tide mark over the past century.


A railway car is seen in the background.

Otago Witness, 1 May 1901, Page 34
THE OLD SURF-BOAT SHED. This shed was recently demolished to make room for the new Custom House Building. In the good old days some stirring scenes were witnessed in the heavy surf which beat upon this spot, prior to the breakwater. photo

Timaru Herald, 12 May 1879, Page 2
The Railway Station Improvements — The work of reclaiming the foreshore beyond the Timaru Landing Service is rapidly proceeding, the clay used being that taken from the cliff behind the present railway station. We see little use, however, in throwing it down on the beach unless it is at once protected by sheet piling or other means, as the first heavy sea that comes in will wash it away like sugar. We noticed on Saturday, when there was only a slight swell on, that the waves were rushing against it in many parts, and causing in to melt rapidly away. There is another question connected with the matter which requires attention, namely, that at the present time the unprotected clay is getting mixed up with the shingle, and being carried along towards the Breakwater wharf. It will interfere with the making of the concrete blocks. The Harbor Board should certainly call upon the Railway Department to put a stop to this evil at once.

Timaru Herald, 16 August 1884, Page 2
There is, we are glad to learn, at last a probability of the approaches to the Timaru railway station being put in decent order, and that are many weeks have passed, the long reaches of mud and puddles will be a thing of the past. The road leading from Strathallan street to George street, and running by the back of the station is to be raised, crowned, and thoroughly formed, and provision made for surface water, which now collects on it, to drain into and alongside channels. The necessary footpaths are also to be constructed, and altogether, if all we hear is true, the public will have little or no ground for complaint when the works as proposed are completed.

Timaru Herald, 8 September 1896, Page 2
Somebody, municipal or individual, has done the right thing in regard to the surface drainage of the vacant section between the Royal Hotel and Strathallan street, by cutting a gutter alongside the fence to catch the seepage, and passing a pipe drain under the asphalte.

Poverty Bay Herald, 2 June 1908, Page 6
The honesty of a Chinaman was brought to light in the Magistrate's Court at Timaru on Friday (says the Timaru Herald), when the charge of driving a vehicle over Strathallan street railway crossing while an engine was approaching was preferred against Ah Sue, a market gardener residing at Saltwater Creek. When Ah Sue's name was called out a celestial stepped forward and stated that Ah Sue, the offender, was at present on his way to China, but that he, the defendant's partner, would answer the charge. Evidence was called from the crossing keeper to show that defendant drove over the crossing while an express train was approaching, and that there was a narrow escape from an accident. A fine of 10s and costs, amounting to 9s, was imposed, and this the defendant's deputy cheerfully paid though not legally compelled to do so.

Marlborough Express, 21 March 1910, Page 3
The Timaru Herald reports that on Saturday afternoon a country resident was approaching the Strathallan Street crossing, and seeing the second north-bound express speeding past, he made a reckless attempt to board it, being at the time under the impression that the train was the slow one for Ashburton. With a firm grip he clutched the handrails, but, try as hard as he could, he was unable to gain a foothold, and in a precarious, position, his life hanging on a slender balance, he was dragged along for fifty yards. Providence came to his assistance, and he dropped to the ground further along the line, unhurt but greatly shaken and agitated.

The Strathallan St. crossing

Timaru Herald, 26 June 1885, Page 2
A horse and trap, the property of Mr R. Rutherford of Albury, were standing in front of King's stables about a quarter to twelve, when the horse suddenly took fright, and started off at a mad pace down Strathallan street. In the back of the trap was seated a man named Watson, who, however, did not have hold of the reins. Having no control over the horse, the terrified occupant very wisely and promptly jumped out of the back of the trap, and left it and the horse to proceed. The horse continued on his mad career across the railway line, and then on to the wharf. He went down the wharf with undiminished speed, and to the surprise of everyone, steered clear of all obstacles, such as cranes and trucks, the trap bumping over the points and rails without hurt. When about half way down the wharf, one of to wheels of the trap came in contact with a truck that was standing close to where the brig Niagara was moored. The suddenness of the stoppage detached the horse, who continued his gallop for about a hundred yards further, and stopped. He was then secured by some bystanders, and taken back to King's Stables, none the worse for his gallop.


1936 mean sea level

Nov. 2009
 "dear old Caroline Bay" in November 2009

At high tides the sea came right up to the Railway viaduct under which the traffic had access to the Bay.
Sometimes it would even cross over the main road if a very high wind was blowing.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb