Spring Grove School


Spring Grove School and the TeeTotal Goats

In 1845, when Brightwater was still part of Spring Grove, there were a growing number of pākehā families settling on Section 34, or the ‘TeeTotal’ section as it was known. One of these settlers was William Andrews. He owned about 18 goats that he put to use on his farm in the same way other pākehā settlers used oxen or horses. The goats were harnessed as a team for pulling plows, dragging up flax stumps, carrying loads, and other heavy farm work.1

Spring Grove School building

The third Spring Grove School building, 1929. Waimea South Collection on Tasman Heritage.

Spring Grove School pupils early 1900s

Spring Grove School group, early 1900s. Waimea South Collection.

In May 1845 an unused school building in Bridge Street, Nelson, was given to the Nelson School Society. The decision was made to use it to open a school for the Waimea South children. Matthew Campbell on behalf of the Nelson School Society asked Mr Andrews to use his team of goats to transport the building almost 14 miles from Nelson to Spring Grove for a new school. The building was taken down, pulled by the team of goats to Main Street South (now Lord Rutherford Road) and rebuilt by volunteers and donated materials. At that time there were about 100 children living in the area, but no schools.2,3

On the 18th of May 1845 Spring Grove School officially opened with 60 pupils, but only as a Sunday school to start with. Subjects taught included scripture, arithmetic and history.4

Story from the Brightwater Heritage Boards 2020

Updated August 16, 2022.

Sources used in this story

  1. Brightwater School. (2013). 125th Reunion of Brightwater School 1888-2013:  Brightwater History & District Schools. Brightwater School.p.55
  2. Harris, Jill (2009 edition). A place to live: the Tasman District...a community profile. Tasman District Council. p. 70-71.
  3. Dakin, J. (1982, November). The Elementary Schools of Early Nelson 1842-1856: A Case of Community Development. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, 1 (2). Pp.11-25.
  4. Harris, Jill (2002). A place to live: the Tasman District...a community profile. Tasman District Council and Dry Crust. p. 62-63, 70-71.

Want to find out more about the Spring Grove School ? View Further Sources here.

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  • I notice you have avoided the problem of explaining how the school crossed the Wairoa River without a bridge. Does anyone know? Perhaps they were just lucky and the river level was low at the time otherwise the goats would have been swimming.Is there anywhere a photograph of the goat team?

    Roger Batt

    Kia ora Roger, I couldn't find any mention of how the goats crossed the Wairoa with their heavy load. it appears there was at least one ford, and also a ferry carrying passengers across the Wairoa as early as 1843. An article in the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle on 11 November 1843 mentions the Wairoa Ferry-house catching fire. Another article on 4 May 1844, mentions a new ferry being built for the crossing that could carry a loaded bullock cart across the Wairoa.

    There is a lovely article published in the Nelson Evening Mail in 1924 that describes crossing the Wairoa before the first bridge went in.

    The Hollybush Inn established 1847 'stood near the fordway, which was about where the railway now crosses the river, and the proprietor kept a boat in the deeper water below, to act as a ferry when required... A ford “farther down the river was known as Bush's ford, and was more favoured by settlers, who carted wood and produce on bullock drays into town. Being a wide and shallow fordway, carts could cross even when there was a good fresh in the river.” … It was customary for those carting into town to leave their homes at 6 or 3 o'clock in the morning and anxious fathers would often tramp long distances to see their young lads across the river safely, or, if need be, to wade in if the drays stuck in midstream.'

    Extract from In the Waimeas, reminiscences of the early days. (1924, March 8). Nelson Evening Mail, p.4. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NEM19240308.2.30

    Posted by Roger Batt, 28/04/2020 6:16pm (4 years ago)

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Further sources - Spring Grove School


  • 1845-1945: Centenary of the Spring Grove School : historical record : Spring Grove, Nelson, Saturday, May 19th, 1945. (1945).Centennial Committee.
  • Batchelor, B., & J. Marris. (1979). Centennial history, Brightwater and district schools: Waimea West, Brightwater Girls, Garden Valley, River Terrace, Brightwater Boys, Wairoa Gorge, Totara Bush Household. Centennial Organising Committee.
  • Batt, R., & Waimea South Historical Society. (2018). Schools in the valleys: Educating our ancestors in Waimea South 1843-2003. Waimea South Historical Society.
  • Brightwater School. (2013). 125th Reunion of Brightwater School 1888-2013:  Brightwater History & District Schools. Brightwater School.
  • Harris, Jill (2009 edition). A place to live: the Tasman District...a community profile. Tasman District Council. 
  • Stringer, M. J., & Wakefield School. (1993). 150 years of Wakefield schooldays, 1843-1993: Includes Eighty-Eight Valley, Pigeon Valley, Spring Grove, Totara Bush, Te Arowhenua, Wai-Iti. Wakefield School 150th Anniversary Committee.