Sunday, 27 September 2020


The long history of Arlingham House

Arlingham House, the green two-story weatherboard building and former locksmith shop in Monk Street, Whitianga, is destined to be demolished.

Thames-Coromandel District Council, the owner of the building, undertook an independent assessment of the building structure and deemed that the costs of restoring the building to a condition fit for use were simply too prohibitive.

Although a practical decision, it is a shame to lose Arlingham House. The building may not be listed as a heritage building, but it has a long history.

Trying to find out more about the history of the building, I of course spoke to well-known Whitianga resident, Jack Cooper, the most recent owner prior to TCDC. Although he knew of some of its history, it took some researching to work out who else had owned the building.

Arlingham House was originally built in 1896 by the Mercury Bay Timber Company as a residence for one of their mill managers. The Mercury Bay Timber Company owned a large amount of the land bordered now by Albert Street, Monk Street and The Esplanade. Monk Street is named after Richard Monk who was the manager of the Mercury Bay Timber Company when Arlingham House was built.

A search for the title of the property on which the building is situated produced a document, all hand-written in cursive, with each transfer of ownership entry posing a legibility challenge. Hence, some of the information in this article is extrapolated through logical guessing and matching against other historic references.

The building was initially either sold or given to Rosina Hand, the wife of John Hand, who was likely a Mercury Bay Timber Company mill manager. It appears that the building was after a short while on-sold to storekeeper, Sarah Lee, the wife of renowned timber worker, sailor and personality, William Lee.

William and Sarah featured prominently in the development of Whitianga at the turn of the previous century.

In 1910, Arlingham House was passed on to William and Sarah’s son, Charles George Lee, who was the butcher in town. When Charles passed away in 1913, with his wife pre-deceased, the building was transferred to his sister, Sarah Leonora Watson (formerly Lee).   

Sarah sold the building to Thomas Hannan (after whom Hannan Road was named) in 1919. He was a local farmer, politician and dairy entrepreneur.

In 1928, the building was passed on to Thomas’ son, Edward, and then to Edward’s sister, Francis 1930, with whom it remained for some years.

Dr Wilfred John Feltham (Fred) bought Arlingham House in 1947 and moved to Whitianga in 1948. Trained in the UK, he was a qualified pharmacist before studying medicine. He had practised in various areas on the Central Plateau of the North Island before coming to Whitianga. Although he had come to Whitianga to retire, he ended up running a consulting room from the building, where he took patients until 1953. 

According to feedback received on the article regarding Dr Dorothy Logan in The Informer of 5 June, Dr Logan also used Dr Feltham’s consulting room in Arlingham House during this time. Dr Feltham died in Papatoetoe on his birthday in 1960.

In 1955, Jack Cooper’s uncle, Vivian John Matthews, purchased the building. Vivian John’s family had initially come to New Zealand from a town called Arlingham in England, so he decided to name the building “Arlingham House.”  

Vivian John was a journalist in his teens in Palmerston North, before later travelling to Panama where he became the editor of a Panama American newspaper.

Back in Whitianga, Vivian John became the secretary of the Mercury Bay Golf Club and the secretary of the predecessor of the Mercury Bay Community Board. His wife, Barbara, taught at the local high school and was responsible for setting up Whitianga’s first library in the room in Arlingham House which used to act as the doctors’ consulting room.

Arlingham House was passed on to Jack Cooper in 1987. Originally from Palmerston North, Jack had been an entrepreneurial spirit in Whitianga for many years. He and his wife, Bernice, decided to open a business in Arlingham House. One side operated as a boutique shop of fine china, giftware, silverware, clocks and household goods, and the other side as Jack’s locksmith and trophy business. 

Bernice sadly passed away in 2015 and when Jack was presented with the opportunity to sell the building to TCDC, he decided to retire after 57 years of doing business in Whitianga. 

Pictured: Arlingham House in Monk Street, Whitianga is destined to be demolished.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.