The Pompallier printery, tannery and book bindery is the last remaining building of others in the compound constructed by the founding French Catholic Mission for the entire western Pacific and is also the oldest surviving industrial building in New Zealand.
Constructed in 1841-2 its primary use was as printing house, but it also contained a tannery producing leather for book-binding. The French missionaries used the rammed earth construction method common in their original home of Lyon. Earth was dug on site and supplemented with sand and rocks from the nearby beaches with the lime made by burning shells. The upper floor was constructed with earth supported by timber frames.
In 1850, the mission relocated its headquarters to Auckland and subsequent owners progressively altered the original building by converting it to a house. The Government purchased it in 1941 and the Ministry of Works undertook the first restoration to back to what was (incorrectly) considered to be Bishop Pompallier’s House. The thus restored building was opened as a public monument in the late 1940s.
A second more exacting restoration was undertaken in the 1990s by the (then) New Zealand Historic Places Trust with the guidance of Jeremy Salmond, based on detailed historical research and painstaking investigation of the physical fabric. Controversially, at the time, later additions to which the public had become accustomed were stripped away to reveal the original printery.
Jeremy Salmond’s ground-breaking work and faithful restoration of the building was award winning and established a new benchmark in conservation practice in NZ. This work continues today some 25 years on in the offices of Salmond Reed Architects.