Collingwood Library


“At 3 am the Collingwood Institute and Library  ... burned down, nothing being saved. The Institute was an old building but the Library is a new one, and the loss will be greatly felt in town, for the place was the chief meeting room for public bodies and gatherings" Nelson Mail, 19 November 1897 (1).

Collingwood Library

1.The Institute and Library on the far left of the photograph. This is thought to be the building rebuilt in 1898. Collingwood Hotel. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 180481

The library at the time held 1100 books, many of them rare and irreplaceable. There were two copies of Hochstetter’s New Zealand and a book of Von Haast’s as well as some English classics. As well as the library’s collection, nearly all the district’s records were lost. 

It is not known when the library became part of the Institute which had been established in 1859. A request for a library and reading room in Collingwood had been put before the Provincial Council in May of that year. A private subscription had raised a sum just over £49 for such a purpose. The newspaper account of 1897, however, stated that although the building was old, the library itself was new, which might indicate that library had not been built for sometime after the petition was submitted. The building that was destroyed in the 1897 fire had been opened on 10 November 1862.

The library was most definitely in operation from the beginning of 1883 as it appears in a February newspaper article as one of the libraries in the Nelson District to be receiving a grant from the government. 

After the fire, the Institute reopened on 31 July 1898 on the same site as the former, but apparently with a different layout as plans were provided by F G Mace free of charge. It survived a fire in 1904 but in the fire of April 1930 was totally destroyed with nothing saved.

Collingwood 1947

2. Collingwood, 1947.The Sunday School Hall is circled on the left. 

Between 1931 and 1938 the library was housed in the Sunday School building, below St Cuthbert’s Church.

Collingwood after the fire

3. The small building with the open door and one window, on the right of the photo, is the library. Collingwood Fire aftermath, 1904. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 177098

In 1938 a small building was shifted from the Post Office Hotel site to the original Institute and Library site fronting William St, near the house belonging to the Collingwood camp caretaker. This little building serviced the Collingwood book readers until 1953 and was then used as an accommodation unit by the Collingwood Camp.

In 1953, additions were made to the Star Theatre on Tasman Street which was to become a War Memorial Hall. Room was included in the plans for a library, which was also to be used for meetings of various organisations.

In December 1967, this Memorial Hall and other buildings burnt down and the library was lost once more. A temporary library was established in a room at the back of the museum on Tasman Street, the building having previously been the Collingwood County Office. 

In June 1972 a new hall opened with a purpose-built small library incorporated. Still in operation, it is an independent community library run by volunteers whose members are elected from the local population. It relies heavily on charges  for borrowing books, grants and donations.

Panel 4 Collingwood Library : From Heritage Golden Bay 2018. 

Sources used in this story

  1. The Institute and Library burnt down.(1897, November 19). Nelson Evening Mail. p.2. 


  1. Nelson Provincial Museum. Collingwood Hotel, G.W. Riley, Licensed Publican. Tyree Studio Collection: 180481. Retrieved from
  2. Collingwood, 1947. Photo supplied by Denny Gillooly.
  3. Nelson Provincial Museum. Collingwood Fire aftermath, 1904. Tyree Studio Collection: 177098. Retrieved from: 

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