Old Folks Hall Nelson


A well-used landmark of Nelson is the modest building beside the Trafalgar bridge with floor to ceiling windows  overlooking the Maitai River. Constructed in the 1956, the hall was the brain child of Robert King-Turner who established the Nelson Senior Citizens Old Folks Association in 1951. He was the group’s continuous president until his death in 1966. The community group decided there was not much on offer for senior citizens and got together to raise funds to purchase “ a property to house the activities of our Association which are in short to provide economic and social facilities which will enable the aged, invalid, widowed and lonely to grow old gracefully in the happy environment of the love and affectionate help and society of their fellow men.”

Old Folds Hall Association

Officers who built the Old Folks Hall. Back row (L. to R.) RA Heslop, J Goldie, AA Kirby, Mrs FE Kirby, Mrs NS Sherwood, Mrs ME Thomas, O Lees, A Bowman. Front - Mrs M Lough, Mrs A Ward, Miss A Colman, RJ King-Turner, J Crossan, Mrs C Lester, Mrs EE Blincoe, Mrs E Rouse. Inset Mrs J. Rodger.

The Club formed a building committee who moved from an original plan for a simple rest room to a larger structure with a social Hall.  The facility was for sole use of senior citizens during the day but could be let out at night to raise revenue to make the club debt free. Club notes record that the Service club, the JayCees, provided enthusiastic support raising $2400 with an Industrial fair.  A “Granny Carnival” raised $1678.  Concerts were held throughout the district and collection boxes were strategically sited.  Shop days were supported by orchardists and other country folk and substantial donations were given by business firms and private citizens, as the facilities were there for country people too.

Old folks Association bowling

Old Folks Association. Increased bowling space, 1967. Nelson Photonews

The facility, funded by the Senior Citizens and Old Folks Association, was built at 67 Trafalgar Street on land leased them by Council at a peppercorn rental. The Old Folks Assiciation became an incorporated society in 1959.  Membership of the the Association rapidly grew, with about 330 members and 22 life members listed in 1976. Various side clubs developed, such as the Senior Citizens Friendship Club providing organised entertainment and outings , including day trips and a longer annual coach tour. Regular shop days and other fund raisers continued to assist club finances. The Old Folks Association Indoor Bowls Club was one of a number of side clubs that paid rental for space, helping share expenses of the facility to keep it well cared for and maintained.

Club records show a caring and inclusive organisation, that held regular afternoon teas at the rooms, and provided thoughtful services such as hospital visits to members

Old Folks Association Frank Sharland

Frank Sharland. Nelson Photonews

The original facility was extended by the Association in 19671 to cater for increased demand for space for their activities. Under the leadership of club president Frank Sharland an additional 690ft of floor space in the hall and 145ft in the committee room was added. Much of the work, costing about £3000, was done by members. The Association believed in helping themselves as far as their limitations permitted them to do so. Again they raised funds through donations and shop days.

The hall was a lively place for seniors with the Nelson Old Folks Association Bowling Club enjoying much competitive action. In 1967, with increased space, six bowling mats were in use as members enjoyed competing for the Club cups presented at the annual prize giving.

Membership of the association gradually dwindled to around 20 members who were primarily involved with indoor bowls. Nelson City Council eventually purchased the building. The facility was leased to Age Concern for their activities for a number of years. Nelson City Council then took over care of the property.  Today the hall is for hire and used by all ages. The building now also houses the Ancestors Attic, the archival resource library of the Nelson Branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists.

Old Folks Hall

Nelson Jaycees repainting the Hall. Nelson Mail, Sep 14, 1974

Robert King Turner

Robert King-Turner was born in 1886 at Portage in Kenepuru Sound. He was 18 months old when the family moved to Waitata Bay, where his parents were among the first settlers. The area was isolated and there was no school to attend. It was nearly 16 years, following private study at night with borrowed books, before he was able to read and write. A friend assisted him to improve his education and he also studied in England for about nine months shortly after the turn of the century.

He sheared sheep, cleared bush, and for eight months was working manager at Port Hardy, D’Urville Island. The property there was spread over 8660 acres and the pay was £2 a week and keep. At one stage he was responsible for the successful farming of about 12,000 acres.

From 1920 Mr King-Turner worked as commercial fisherman for three years and then returned to the land, this time to Hamilton Bay where he farmed until 1938. He moved to Waiua in that year on to another farm and came to Nelson in 1950.

For 12 years he was a member of the French Pass Road Board, and had a term as chairman. For five years he was a member of the Marlborough Hospital Board as the Pelorus Sound representative.

Mr King-Turner was a keen and energetic leader of the association, and saw his ambition of a new hall for the old folks realised in 1956. He was assisted by his wife, Rose, who was the secretary-treasurer for several years.

He died in January 1966.2


Sources used in this story

  1. Old Folk's Hall enlarged (1967, March 4) Nelson Photonews, p.15
  2. Story of Robert King-Turner Items framed in the Old People's Hall (records from the  Senior Citizens Association)

Want to find out more about the Old Folks Hall Nelson ? View Further Sources here.

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Further sources - Old Folks Hall Nelson


  • Archives of Nelson Senior Citizens Old Folks' Association (held Janet Rowland)
  • Nelson City Council Report, no 5754: Nelson Senior Citizens Association Facility - 67 Trafalgar Street
  • Story of Robert King-Turner Items framed in the Old People's Hall (records from the  Senior Citizens Association)

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