Topic: A Short History of the Te Puke Hotel

Topic type:

This article on the history of the Te Puke Hotel was written by local historian and author, Christine Clement.

In Te Puke’s early days there were actually two Te Puke Hotel’s operating at the same time.  Both built in 1881, one was built for Thomas Corbett in Stewartstown (the area of the present motor camp) and the other for Te Puke’s first European settler Peter Grant.  His hotel was on the corner of No 3 Road and the main road.  To avoid confusion it was suggested by the Licensing Committee that Grant may like to change the name of his hotel – they suggested the Atuaroa, but he named it the Traveller’s Rest Hotel.

By 1887 only one hotel application was received from Te Puke.  It was from William G Fraser who had taken over Grant’s hotel and renamed it the Atuaroa.   Both these hotel buildings were destroyed by fire in the 1890s.

In February 1894 the Bay of Plenty Times reported on the new Te Puke Hotel, operated by Timothy Kenealy.  This is the first mention of a hotel on the site of the present building; however no photos appear to survive of this hotel.  Kenealy owned the hotel until 1907.  Various people managed the hotel including a Mr and Mrs Pilling who in 1895 were noted as managing…

…a “family hotel” for the comfort and convenience of the guests is studied in a manner that makes them feel at once quite “at home”; a tired, hungry, wet or belated traveler may consider himself fortunate when he enters their hospitable door and Te Puke may be congratulated for that its hotel has fallen into such desirable and capable hands”.

On Saturday 10 August 1907 at around 7.15pm this hotel, referred to as Kenealy’s Te Puke Hotel or Martin’s Hotel, burnt down.  The blaze was so large that the glare could be seen from Tauranga.  Large numbers of able-bodied Te Puke men quickly came on the scene after the alarm was given and while the fire spread rapidly, most of the liquor and a large quantity of the effects from the ground level were saved.  The fire was thought to have started in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Emily Dye, a grandchild of Mrs Martin (the licensee’s wife) was rescued by Mrs McGrath, a housemaid, who went through the smoke to the child’s bedroom and carried her to the head of the stairs.  Fortunately there was little or no wind blowing or greater damage to the township may have occurred.  The building was valued at £2000 and the licensees Mr and Mrs Charles A Martin, as well as the servants and boarders lost everything including about £20 in gold.  A temporary bar was then conducted in the buggy shed of the stable presumably to keep the license operating.

A few months later a complicated court case was heard concerning possession of the Te Puke Hotel.  It appeared that Timothy Kenealy owned the hotel when it burnt down, but the licensee was Charles A Martin.  Martin however had sub-leased the hotel to Ernest Dufaur, who in turn had sub-let the hotel to Arthur Anthony Smith.  Kenealy alleged that Dufaur was not entitled to either the lease of the hotel or the license.  The judge ruled that the hotel should be handed over to Dufaur.  However when the new hotel opened on the 6 July 1908 the new licensee was Adolphus Montgomery and this began a long association by the Montgomery family with the Te Puke Hotel.  Adolphus Montgomery later purchased the hotel from Ernest Dufaur, and was followed in the hotel management by his brother Ernest Montgomery in the mid 1920s.

Adolphus Montgomery and family (Jean Keating)

Photo: Adolphus Montgomery and family (Jean Keating)

The Bay of Plenty Times reported on the opening of the new hotel in their edition of the 20 July 1908: -

New Hotel at Te Puke - Last year Te Puke Hotel was destroyed by fire, and now, re-erected on the old site is a commodious and up-to-date building, which for general appearance and comfort will compare very favourably with any country hostelry in the Dominion.

The actual ground space covered by the building is 4220 square feet and some 120,000 feet of timber have been used in its erection.  By walking round the building on the fire escape balcony on the upper floor 13 ½ times a distance of a mile will be covered.

The edifice has been built on designs prepared by Mr. G A Ward, architect and is pronounced by connoisseurs in hotel structure to be extremely commodious and well suited for its purpose.

On the ground floor provision has been made to entirely separate the bar and billiard room branch of the business from the boarding and accommodation portion.  The building is situated on the south-east corner formed by the intersection of the No 2 Road with the main coast road and is set back 12 feet from the street line.  It is built somewhat in the form of the letter H, the street corner portion being occupied by the bar, which is divided into two compartments for Europeans and Natives respectively, and two parlour’s are provided in connection therewith.  A separate hall, 6ft 8in wide is provided opening off the ground floor verandah to give access to this portion of the building and to the billiard room.   From the rear of this hall a second staircase gives access to the upper floor and adjacent to the foot of which is provided lavatory accommodation and a door leading into the open quadrangle.

The central portion of the H is occupied with bedroom, store room, parlour and smoking room, the latter being approached from the private entrance of the hotel.  This entrance is at the opposite end of the verandah to the bar hall, and is approached by a lobby with plain and coloured glass side and fanlight and internal swing doors.  The hall itself is 9ft wide and 22ft long and from it ascends the main staircase which is a handsome piece of joinery work.

The dining room is a spacious apartment entered off the hall just mentioned and is 53ft long and 18ft 4in wide and 12ft 4in high and will seat 80 persons with comfort.  This apartment is lit by two windows facing the main road and four on the eastern side.  Adjoining is the pantry and serving rooms 18ft 4in by 9ft, the walls being surrounded by cupboards, shelving and every provision for the most expeditious service.  Hot and cold water are laid on to the sink in this room and direct access is given there from to both the dining room and kitchen.  The latter room measures 18ft 4in by 12ft, running the full width across the wing, being lighted from each end.  It is fitted with a No 6 Orion range, with coving, plate rack, high-pressure boiler and circular patent take all ventilator and two ovens and is capable of cooking for 100 people in one operation.  Attached to the kitchen are the cook’s scullery with sink and hot and cold water laid on and also a large store room, each of these rooms being 9ft square.  On the ground floor ample separate covered accommodation is provided for the requirements of the housemaids and waitresses.

A large concrete cellar exists below the bar with skids and outside flaps for taking in the goods.

On ascending the main staircase an upper hall of striking design is reached lit by a lofty stained glass window and ornamented with handsome turned and carved columns, newels and balustrades, the whole measuring 17ft 6in by 15ft including the stairwell.  On this floor are two sitting rooms with fireplaces, and 22 bedrooms, two of which also have fireplaces.  There is also bathroom and lavatory accommodation with hot and cold water.  These rooms are 11ft 2in in height and are all airy and of appropriate sizes.  They are approached by roomy and well-lighted passages.  Four large linen presses conveniently situated provide for the housekeepers requirements.  The principal sitting room on this floor 18ft by 16ft is a delightful room and commands an extensive view up Te Puke block and towards Papamoa.  A central covered balcony, 32ft by 6ft, occupies the middle of the main front and from it in each direction – runs the fire escape balcony which entirely surrounds this floor and forms one of the unique features in the design of the façade, two easy staircases in the rear of each wing giving access from there to the ground.  In case of an alarm of fire, the occupant of any room has simply to step on to the balcony and thus, no matter what portion of the building might be on fire by going one way of the other he can escape to the ground.

The internal finishing of the building is thoroughly up to date and tasteful.  The whole of the ground floor rooms and passages have dados of which the framing is kauri, and the panels picked rimu, the whole being oiled, spirited and varnished.  All the principal rooms in the house – upstairs and downstairs – and also the halls and passages have stamped steel ceilings and cornices of various handsome and appropriate designs artistically picked out in colour.  Ample provision has been made for cold weather, the building having no less than ten fireplaces in various rooms on both floors.  The two storeys have been painted externally in different tints, the upper being several shades lighter than the lower, both being picked out alike securing a pretty and effective contrast.

The structure has been built in a most substantial manner and stands upon a foundation of earthenware blocks on concrete slabs.  The faithful and workmanlike execution of Mr. Ward’s design by Mr. Thos E Palmer, the contractor, has secured for him the approval of all who have seen the building in course of erection or since its completion.  The large amounts of plumbing was carried out by Mr. Battson (Waihi) in first class manner and the painting, papering and general decoration effected by Mr. T A Pruden of Tauranga, has given an artistic finish to the structure which does him the greatest credit.

In 1910, local carrier and coachman John ‘Parly’ Ryan advertised that he had taken over the Te Puke Hotel Livery and Bait Stables from Mr A Montgomery. Hacks and buggies were on hire at the shortest notice and good paddocking was provided.  The stables were on the south-eastern end of the building – now the Jellicoe Room.

By 1927 the proprietors of the Te Puke Hotel were Mr and Mrs J Mahoney and Mr N Gillan.  The Mahoney’s ran the hotel for seventeen years until 1944.

From then until November 1999 when the Te Puke Hotel was brought by local family, Des and Shirley McGregor, their daughter Sue and her husband Ashley (Ash) Peat, the hotel was operated by the brewery (see below).  During this time the hotel was run by a series of managers and had a varied and chequered history but with the McGregor and Peat family the landmark hotel has had a whole new lease of life after renovating and modernizing. 


The Te Puke Hotel has long been connected with the brewing company now known as Lion Nathan Ltd.   Lion Nathan started life as Campbell and Ehrenfried.  This business was formed in 1898 with the merger of the Hobson Bridge Brewery (founded by John Logan Campbell and William Brown in 1840), and the Albert Brewery (founded in Thames in 1878 by Louis Ehrenfried.)  Ehrenfried’s nephew Arthur Mielziner Myers managed the company.  In 1903 the driver of the first motor car to Tauranga and on to Te Puke was driven by Alf Brooks, who was a traveler for Campbell and Ehrenfried.  Mr Brooks was probably making a visit to the Te Puke Hotel.

In 1914 Campbell and Ehrenfried took over the Great Northern Brewery (founded by Richard Seccombe in 1860) which held the Lion beer brand, and the brewery became known as Lion Brewery.  In 1923 Lion amalgamated with nine other leading brewery companies to form New Zealand Breweries.  This merger was to create a united force against the prohibition movement of the time.  Meanwhile Campbell & Ehrenfried expanded into other industries including hotel ownership and liquor production.  The firm was then managed by Arthur’s son, Kenneth Myers.

In 1965 Kenneth’s son, Douglas was appointed manager director and in 1970 the father-son team bought out other family members and gained full control of the company.  Meanwhile, Lion Brewery's core brand, Lion Red, had become the largest-selling beer brand in New Zealand.

In 1988 Lion Nathan Ltd was formed when New Zealand's largest retailer, LD Nathan & Co (formed in 1868 by David Nathan) merged with Lion Breweries and the company began selling off almost all of its retail stores to concentrate on the brewery operations.  Lion Nathan began to acquire many Australian breweries and moved its headquarters to Australia in 2000.  The company is now one of the leading wine and spirits producers and distributors in Australasia.

by Christine Clement (2012).



Clement, Christine; Robertson, Lynne; Lewis, Maree Te Puke – Nga Tangata me Nga Wahi – People and Places (Te Puke: Te Puke History Project 2007)  

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

A Short History of the Te Puke Hotel

City:Te Puke, New Zealand

Latitude and Longitude coordinates: -37.7861649,176.3254445

javascript needs to be on to use Google Maps