With it’s attention-grabbing signage and life-size bulls, you just have to stop to see what all the fuss is about. Bulls is located at the convergence of SH1 and SH3, roughly between Palmerston North and Whanganui.
It’s named after James Bull, an English settler who established the first general store in the town in 1862.
Witty use of the word “bull” in town signage has captured the imagination and camera lens of many a tourist. This marketing strategy has worked largely because it was wholeheartedly adopted by its business community. Even the Police got on board with “Consta-bull” on a sign out front.
I’m told that the goal of the Bulls Community Committee is for the town to become Rangitikei’s premier stopover location. And it’s working -if the traffic through the town is any indication. Cars are not just driving through – they’re stopping – and not just to use the facilities – appropriately named “Reliev-a-bull.”
However, history buff that I am, my eye was caught by the “inescap-a-bull” late 19th century courthouse and jail on the corner of Bridge Street and Dalziell Street.
Bulls was the Rangitikei’s first township and thus one of the first in the region to have need of a pokey. The Category 2 listed 1884 building is typical of the two-cell lock-ups constructed in small towns throughout New Zealand at that time.
The lockup was originally behind the Bulls Police Station across the road but has now been relocated to the rear of the old courthouse building, now leased to Scully’s Gift Shop.
The lockup would contain prisoners while they waited to go before the judge at the courthouse over the road. The doors to the lockup are made of solid vertical timber slabs with hand-forged iron hinges and nails. The doors are 3 inches thick and still show kick marks and scratches from prisoners held in the cells 130 years ago.
Complete with replica handcuffs and stocks out the front it’s a must-have photo stop for any self-respecting tourist or lover of NZ pioneering history.