The first Europeans entered Nelson Haven in October 1841. Five months later, "in a house built of toi toi" the first school was opened. At the end of the year, the school, attended by 120 children, was moved to a specially built school-room in Tasman Street.

By 1878, education in the settlement of Nelson was flourishing. Seven schools, under the governance of the Town Schools Committee, contributed to the beginning of Nelson Central School. Boys and girls were taught at separate schools until 1927 when children were encouraged to enrol at the school nearest their home.

The site of the present school was purchased in 1893. Some thought that at 1,600 pounds the 2-acre property was too expensive, but this was the site finally chosen. Renwick House and surrounding grounds (the back field was then a bowling green), were vested in the Nelson Education Board "for the purpose of a public school" following the death of Mrs Renwick. Shortly after, in 1939 it became part of Nelson Central School.

J G Gibbs was the first headmaster of Nelson Central Boys School as it was then named. At this time there were 304 pupils on the roll and might be up to 80 children in a class. They sat in pairs, in four rows of desks, running ten deep. Gibbs was an outstandingly gifted headmaster who was keen on informal teaching and out-of-school activities. He was often seen walking in the playground followed by a trail of children chanting their spelling and times tables at him.

He often gave inspiring nature lessons. Gibbs, a keen tree planter, recorded in his diary that the lime trees, an appreciated feature of our school today, were planted at the end of June 1895.

Nelson Central School gained its present name with the enrolment of both boys and girls in 1927. The newly constituted school was made up of the main building in Nile Street which took Standards 3-6 and two side schools; Brook Street, Standards 1 and 2 and Tasman Street which housed the infants.

There were further problems as the main building in Nile Street was already overcrowded and difficult to heat. Brook Street School was inadequate and there was talk about closing it. Upon further investigation, parts of the main building were found to be decayed and weakened by the Murchison earthquake.

A decision was made in favour or rebuilding the main school. The local MP, Mr Harry Atmore, was also Minister of Education and a strong advocate. In October 1929, Cabinet approved the new school and made a grant. The lowest tender to build the new school was accepted at 5,890 pounds and in December 1929, the old building was demolished. In March 1930, Harry Atmore laid the foundation stone of the new building. He gave a long address in which he advised the children to "clean your teeth and keep your muscles in good order by running about". He then allowed them a holiday on the following day.

The new building was finished nearly four months later and officially opened on 23rd June 1930. Allowing for alterations, it is the building we have today.

Tasman Street Infant School moved to Nelson Central and was fully integrated by the last term of 1980. Rooms 15 and 16 were moved to the school from the Tasman Street site. These rooms now house Te Pouahi, the bi-lingual Māori/English language unit which began in 1985.

With the development of "Tomorrow's Schools" in June 1989 came the election of the first Board of Trustees, the drawing up of the Charter and Mission Statement, and the adoption of the school logo which we carry today. In 1996 Renwick House was refurbished, in character with its original style and reopened as three classrooms with the teaching resource facilities upstairs. 1997 has seen, with the increased staff numbers and administration load, the construction of an enlarged staffroom and extended office facilities.

Our school has moved forwards to maintain its recognition as an active and progressive inner city school, with a challenging and happy learning environment for the children, who are, as always, the primary focus of our school.

Taken from:- 1878-1978 NELSON CENTRAL SCHOOL - A History by Maurice Gee.