Victoria Square shed revealed

The shed on Victoria Square was originally used as a cook house in the 1920s.

Ever wondered what’s inside the old, small shed on Victoria Square? We’ve figured it out. The contents are not too exciting, it’s now used as a storage shed for the Cambridge Cricket Club, but the history is fairly interesting.

Waipa District Council’s Heritage Items list records the shed as being built “circa 1920” as a “cookhouse”, used when Victoria Square was also a camping ground. It was equipped with a bench, two sinks with running water, and a gas cooker, for visitors staying at the square.

The earliest record of the shed being used by campers, found at the Cambridge Museum, is a December 16, 1926 newspaper clipping from the Waikato Independent, Cambridge’s first newspaper. It reads that the Cambridge Borough Council intended setting aside an area as a camping ground for tourists, and the council board “heartedly supported” using space at Victoria Square.

The shed is now used as a storage space for the Cambridge Cricket Club, but the remnants of the old cook house still remain.

“Tourists would be permitted to camp in the domain, subject to application being first made to the gardener,” the newspaper read. A following issue, dated December 28, 1926, said, “Victoria Square has been used during the holidays as a camping site by a number of motorists, who have been pleased with the facilities offered.”

Other newspaper clippings at the Cambridge Museum provide an interesting history on Victoria Square, which was formerly known as the Government Acre until the Queen’s Jubilee in 1897, when it was ploughed and re-grassed as a permanent place for recreation. Most of the towering trees at the square were planted in the 1930s, after hedges lining the square were removed, described as “an eyesore to anyone who takes a pride in the appearance of public property”.

Early 20th century faucets are still fixed to the sink, though the plumbing has long since been removed.

Just a few years before the shed was built, Victoria Square was also the site where Mayor E. J. Wilkinson announced news straight from the Prime Minister, that World War I had ended, which was met with “loud and prolonged cheers” according to the November 1918 newspaper.

The first cricket match in Cambridge was also held at the square, back to 1876, when a South Auckland army battalion travelled by steamboat along the Waikato River to play a Waikato battalion team. It seems quite fitting then that the historic shed is now used to house cricket gear. Today, the old and dusty sinks remain, and corrugated iron shed still stands, almost a century since it was built.

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