Bank of New Zealand Building (No 1)

239-247 Lambton Quay, Wellington

  • Bank of New Zealand Building (No 1). (CC BY-SA 4.0 Licence). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Michal Klajban. Taken By: Michal Klajban - Wikimedia Commons. Date: 24/11/2014.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building (No 1). (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Licence). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Gordon Haws. Taken By: Gordon Haws - Wikimedia Commons. Date: 30/01/2005.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building (No 1). Photo taken from Lambton Quay showing where BNZ building No 1 (right) joins BNZ building No 2 (left).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 22/11/2015.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building (No 1) c.1910. Image courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa. Reg. #PS.002948.
    Copyright: This image has No Known Copyright Restrictions. Taken By: Zak (Zachariah, Joseph).

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 212 Date Entered 7th April 1983


City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 and 2, DP 85253


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The Head Office Building of the Bank of New Zealand occupies the site of the first major reclamation of the Harbour, that of 7 acres carried out by the Wellington Provincial Government. It is also the site of Plimmer's Ark, the barque 'Inconstant' which was salvaged by John Plimmer in 1849 and converted to a warehouse. (Timbers from the 'Inconstant' were uncovered in 1899 and survive today in the form of the director's chair in the Bank's Board Room.)

The Bank of New Zealand was founded in Auckland in 1861; it opened a Wellington branch in 1862 and its first permanent building in 1863. This stood on the site of the present building. The Head Office of the Bank was transferred to Wellington in 1894 and in 1899 plans were prepared by Thomas Turnbull and Son for a new Head Office Building. A contract was let to T. Carmichael on 4 April 1899 and the building opened on 1 July 1901.

The facades of the building are divided horizontally into three parts. The ground floor is heavily rusticated. The first and second floors are joined with a giant order of Corinthian columns at the corners. Between them, the first floor has pediment and columned windows, the second floor round-headed windows with decorated corbels. A bracketed frieze and balustrade have been removed as an earthquake precaution. The interior has a fine banking chamber with a tesselated floor, highly finished Kauri furniture and elaborate plaster capitals and ceiling decoration, all of a standard of craftsmanship now rarely seen.

It is an imposing structure in the Edwardian Baroque style, fashionable in England at this time for important commercial buildings. It occupies a prominent wedge shaped site at a nodal point in the City, its two neighbouring buildings being compatible in scale and character. It befits the self assurance expected of the Head Office of New Zealand's largest banking house at a time of economic prosperity in the country.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Turnbull, Thomas

Thomas Turnbull (1824-1907) was born and educated in Scotland and trained under David Bryce, Her Majesty's Architect. He travelled to Melbourne in 1851 and after nine years there moved to San Francisco. He arrived in New Zealand in 1871 and soon established a thriving business. His son William, a distinguished architect in his own right, became a partner in the firm in 1891.

Turnbull was a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He was a pioneer in the design of buildings to withstand earthquakes and he was responsible for breaking down prejudice against the use of permanent materials for building construction. He specialised in masonry construction for commercial purposes but was also responsible for some fine houses.

Among his most important buildings were the Willis Street churches of St Peter (1879) and St John (1885), the former National Mutual Building (1883-84), the General Assembly Library (1899) and the former Bank of New Zealand Head Office (1901), all in Wellington.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1901 -

Other Information

NZHPT Heritage Order (23 September 1986)

Note: the other two buildings in the BNZ 'complex' are not included in the Protection Order i.e. Bank of New Zealand Building (No.4), 29 Hunter Street, Wellington NZHPT Record No. 1337 & Bank of New Zealand Building (No.2), 233-237 Lambton Quay, Wellington NZHPT Record No.1336.

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.