Heritage consultant Ann Mcewan peeks behind the facades of the area’s oldest buildings.
Council heritage schedules and the register of the NZ Historic Places Trust recognise the heritage values of groups of buildings, as well as of individual sites and structures. In Hamilton the residential heritage areas of Frankton, Hayes Paddock and Templeview originated in the middle decades of the 20th century. Waikato District Council has recognised a cluster of cottages from the late 1910s that also tell an important story from our past.
The Matangi Dairy Factory was built in 1917 to the design of Hamilton architect FC Daniell. He also designed nine nearby dairy workers houses, which are recognised as a historic precinct by Waikato District Council. The seven sisters on the south side of Matangi Rd and two houses east of the school on the other side of the road were built from concrete, as was the dairy factory.
An article published under the heading ‘‘Dairy Factory Workers Wages’’ in an October 1922 edition of the Hawera & Normanby Star tells us something of the working condition of dairy factory workers at the time the Matangi houses were built. In season, workers were evidently putting in 65 hours per week, reduced to 44 hours through the winter.
Housing was part of the pay package for dairy factory workers, as was an allowance of one pound of butter per week for single men and two pounds for married men. If the factory in question did not make butter then the same allowance was made in cheese. Two weeks’ holiday per year was offered and had to be taken in the off-season. Accommodation was offered to dairy assistants where factories required two or more workers, partly so that they could go home to eat their lunch but still be close to the factory.
When the Matangi factory was built it was reportedly receiving the largest milk supply under one roof in any part of the world. The factory produced Glaxo infant milk powder until 1936.
Glaxo was established by Joseph Nathan in Bunnythorpe, near Palmerston North in 1904, and today it is part of multinational pharmaceutical company Glaxosmithkline.
At Matangi, the dairy factory closed in 1984 but happily it is still standing and is a local landmark, as are the workers’ houses. Both contribute to Matangi’s place in global dairy heritage.
Dairy history: One of the ‘‘seven sisters’’. Matangi Rd, Matangi. Photo: Ann Mcewan