Topic: Lands and Deeds Office (1913-1968)

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Staff of the Lands, Deeds and Stamp Duties Department outside the registry office in New Plymouth, 1922 

Collection of Puke Ariki PHO2006-094 (not to be used without permission)

Located on the corner of Powderham and Robe Streets, next to New Plymouth's police station, the Lands and Deeds Office (also known as the Lands, Deeds and Stamp Duties Department registry office; the Lands Registry Office; the Land Transfer Office; the District Lands Registrar; and the Registrar of Deeds) was opened in 1913.

Originally housed in the Government Buildings, situated on the block between Robe and Silver Streets known as the "Market Reserve" or "marketplace", along with the post office, court house, Resident Engineer and Customs, amongst others, complaints began to be made about a lack of space for the staff of the Lands and Deeds department in 1910. Local MP Henry Okey was approached to petition parliament for a new building in August 1910 and by May 1911 it appeared Cabinet was soon to approve a plan. In March 1912 the Taranaki Daily News reported that the contractors, R. Coleman & Sons, had cleared the site, moving what had been the Police Sergeant's residence further along the street, with the build set to be completed by the end of the year.

The new premises were not finished until February 1913 but were described as "a creditable addition" to the public buildings of the town. Constructed of brick coated with plaster, the new building cost £3500 and was only one storey high but had walls so thick and foundations so deep that another three storeys could have been added. It featured electric lighting, state of the art ventilators, a fireproof door and strongroom and its own fire hoses as well as separate quarters for the District Land Registrar, the Agricultural Department, stamp and document rooms and a dedicated typist.

Staff began moving in once the building was furnished, in June 1913. The District Land Registrar at the time was Arthur Vickers Sturtevant. With the police station next door, Taranaki County Chambers across the road (on the corner of Robe and Powderham Streets) and the post office and courthouse still located in the "marketplace", the entire area came to be known as New Plymouth's government block.

The Lands and Deeds Office was demolished in November 1968, to make way for a carpark for civil servants employed at the new court and in the Atkinson Building. The old offices had been so sturdily constructed that it took a three-tonne wrecking ball to bring them down.


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