The Brian Boru traces its origins to the Thames gold rush of 1867. Thames is credited with having had 112 hotels, one more than Auckland, at that time. By the 1970s this number had been reduced to seven. The hotels of the goldfields served a variety of purposes in addition to the provision of accommodation, a liquor outlet and entertainment. They provided the venues for formal public meetings held to discuss roading, bridging and wharf facilities and were the places where certain mining companies held their meetings. Accident victims were often taken to a nearby hotel for treatment.
The Brian Boru Hotel was established by a Mr Sainsbury in 1867, as the Reefers' Arms. A year later it was taken over by Edmond (Ned) Twohill who had arrived at Thames before the goldrush. Twohill, originally from County Cork, renamed the establishment after Brian Boru, the Irish King (941-1014). Twohill's appointment as Treasurer of the Thames Irish National League at the inaugural meeting held 20 October 1884 confirms his commitment to his country of origin. Following his death in 1896, the licence was taken over by his widow, Kate, who had the present hotel built in 1904.
The new 40-roomed hotel, capable of accommodating upwards of 70 guests at a time, replaced the less imposing two-storeyed structure which had previously occupied the site. The identity of the builder and architect is not known. The hotel was under construction in mid-July 1904. It opened for business on 5 October, 1904. The price for the newly completed building was £3,140 but this bankrupted the contractor.
Eight months after completion, the hotel was extensively damaged by fire. Early on the morning of 11 June 1905, fire broke out above the kitchen in the southeastern wing. The interior of the top storey of the eastern wing was totally destroyed. The bedrooms along the Pollen and Richmond street frontages were partially burnt, requiring refurbishment. The lower floor suffered extensive smoke and water damage. By early February the following year rebuilding, renovating and furnishing the hotel had been completed.
The two hotels on this site were managed continuously by members of the Twohill family from 1868 until 1974.
Sited on the corner of Richmond and Pollen Streets, this two storeyed Edwardian hotel is L-shaped in plan and has two similar street facades with hipped roofs, a prominent verandah and regular fenestration.
The verandah runs the length of both facades and is supported on a series of turned posts with decorative brackets at both levels. It has balustrading at first floor level and a lean-to roof beneath the eaves brackets of the hipped roof. On the ground floor casement windows are hung horizontally. Window and door cases are in the form of pilasters.
The two street facades are linked by a diagonal corner section which forms the guest entry and lobby of the hotel. This area provides access to the dining and kitchen wing to the left and bars to the right. While few ground floor rooms remain unaltered, panelling in the public bar remains intact. Bedrooms retain some original elements, particularly those in the east wing which have panelled ceilings, original doors, architraves, skirtings and double hung sash windows.
Dates Unknown:- Removal of walls to enlarge public bar
- New public bar added
- Bathroom facilities added to bedrooms
- Cellar blocked up
- Double hung windows replaced with horizontally
hung casement windows
- Chimney removed
- Stair balustrading covered with plywood
1974:- Foundations reblocked
- Walls and ceilings relined
Foundations reblocked, Re-roofed, Walls and ceilings relined
Concrete foundations; timber frame with weatherboard cladding; long run steel roofing.
'Two Men Suffocated', 12 June 1905 p5 (2
Auckland Weekly News
Auckland Weekly News
'Fatal Fire at Thames', 15 June 1905 p21 (3,4,5) and p6 of the Supplement
'The Fire at Thames', The , 22 June 1905 p19 (2-3)
Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin
A Digger's Diary at the Thames, 1867, Theophilus Cooper, Dunedin 1978
James McNeish, Tavern in the Town, A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1984 [first published 1957]
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
'Fatal Fire at Thames', 12 June 1905, p5(2)
D Baglin & A Austin. N.Z. Pub Crawl, Auckland, 1984
C Bolinger. Grog's Own Country: The Story of Liquor Licensing in New Zealand, Auckland, 1967
J Grainger. The Amazing Thames: The Story of the Town and The Famous Goldfield From Which It Grew, Wellington, 1951
W A Kelly. Thames: The First Hundred Years, Thames, 1968
New Zealand Graphic
New Zealand Graphic
'A Well-Known House of Calls - Mrs Twohill's Brian Boru Hotel, Thames', 22 October, 1904 p.41
'Brian Boru - 100 Years New' p7; 30 August 1974 in Scrapbook, Waikato 81, p109 Hamilton Public library
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.