133 Franklin Road, Victoria Street West, Union Street And Weld Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland
Historical Significance or Value
This assessment was prepared on 14 Jan 2014 with reference to the criteria of the Historic Places Act 1993.
The former Rob Roy Hotel has historical value for demonstrating the importance of hotels and public houses as places of relaxation and recreation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century urban society. The place reflects the impact of the temperance movement following the 1881 Licensing Act, after which the current building was erected. The place has close associations with significant New Zealand brewing companies and personalities associated with the industry, including Samuel Jagger, Captain Cook Breweries, Hancock and Company, and New Zealand Breweries. It also has associations with John Banks (Mayor of Auckland in 2001-4 and 2007-10) who owned the structure in the 1980s.
The former Rob Roy Hotel is significant for its close associations with a notable, industrial, working class community in Freemans Bay, and has particular links with the development of a local industrial economy, the impacts of the Great Depression, the Waterfront Strike of 1913 and the suburb’s gentrification in the later twentieth century. The place has close associations with significant land-use changes in Auckland, marking the original foreshore of Freemans Bay prior to the reclamations in the late nineteenth century and – through the hotel building’s temporary relocation in 2010-11 – reflecting the on-going development of Auckland’s motorway network in the early twenty-first century.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The former Rob Roy Hotel has aesthetic value for its visually impressive and ornate exterior, which includes decorative plasterwork, two plastered brick chimneys, a corner oriel window and a detailed parapet incorporating monumental parapets and balustrades. Its aesthetic significance is enhanced by its presence as a local landmark, occupying a notable corner site close to a major thoroughfare providing access to and from Auckland’s Central Business District. It retains internal elements of aesthetic value, notably a stairwell, and fittings and finishes on the first floor.
Architectural Significance or Value
The former Rob Roy Hotel has architectural significance as an externally well-preserved late-Victorian urban, corner hotel designed in a decorative Italianate style. The building is of value as a notable surviving example of the hotel work carried out by E. Mahoney and Son, a prolific and significant architectural firm in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Auckland. Comparatively few of the many Auckland hotels designed by Mahoney’s practice during the late 1800s remain.
Technological Significance or Value
The former Rob Roy Hotel has technological value for the significant engineering innovation and skill required to move the brick and mortar building to and from its temporary position. It is a rare example of a substantial brick and mortar building in New Zealand that has been relocated and moved back to its original position as a coherent structure.
Social Significance or Value
The former Rob Roy Hotel has strong social significance as a place of gathering and social congregation since the 1880s. The current building has been a focal point within the Freemans Bay community for more than 125 years. Its value to the local and wider Auckland community was demonstrated in 2010 when the community successfully advocated for returning the hotel to its original position following the completion of the Victoria Park tunnel.
This assessment was prepared on 14 Jan 2014 with reference to the criteria of the Historic Places Act 1993.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The former Rob Roy hotel reflects important and representative aspects of New Zealand history including attitudes to alcohol consumption and working class recreation. The hotel also reflects changes in land use and demographics in inner city Auckland suburbs during the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Through its temporary removal and relocation back to its original position, the hotel reflects progressive attitudes to heritage preservation in the early twenty-first century.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The hotel is associated with events of importance in New Zealand history, in particular the Waterfront Strike of 1913. The place also has close associations with significant New Zealand brewing companies and personalities associated with the industry, including Samuel Jagger, Captain Cook Breweries, Hancock and Company, and New Zealand Breweries. The place has associations with John Banks (Mayor of Auckland in 2001-4 and 2007-10), who co-owned the building for several years during the 1980s.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The former Rob Roy Hotel has been a focal point for the Freemans Bay community since it was built in 1885-6, providing a gathering place for social, sporting and political activities. Public esteem for the place was highlighted in 2010-11 when the community advocated for the return of the building to its original site following major public infrastructure works in Freemans Bay. The place retains its role as a significant local landmark and place of recreation.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
In its external appearance, the former Rob Roy Hotel can be considered a notable example of late-Victorian corner pub design. It is significant as one of few inner-city hotels in Auckland to have retained its ornamental parapet and pediments. Corner pubs were the predominant hotel design in urban areas during the late nineteenth century, and attracted passing trade through their ornate style and other means. The structure demonstrates the architectural accomplishments of the practice of E. Mahoney and Son, creators of many of Auckland’s notable commercial, residential and church buildings.
The place also reflects a notable technical achievement linked with heritage conservation in New Zealand, being an unusual example of a substantial brick and mortar building that has been relocated and moved back to its original site as a coherent structure.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The place forms part of an important historical and cultural landscape in Freemans Bay, a notable nineteenth- and early twentieth-century working-class suburb. The hotel lies close to a number of significant structures linked with the suburb’s industrial and residential past, including the former Auckland Municipal Destructor and Works Depot complex, the former Campbell Free Kindergarten, the Auckland Gas Company Offices and Workshops, and the former Freemans Hotel. The hotel marks the position of the colonial and earlier shoreline. The place lies within a Maori cultural landscape associated with Te To on the western headland, a fish-drying site at nearby Te Koranga, and a waka landing on the former foreshore used into the 1870s.
Early history of the site
Prior to European arrival, Maori camped, fished and traded goods on the foreshore of Waiatarau (Freemans Bay) and occupied pa on both of its headlands – the settlement on the western headland being known as Te To.
Following the foundation of colonial Auckland in 1840, Freemans Bay developed into an industrial working-class area, with sawyers, brick makers and boat builders establishing businesses on the foreshore of the bay. Maori continued to maintain a presence, building store houses; drying fish on a structure known as Te Koranga at the foot of what is now Victoria Street West; and using the bay as a landing place for waka. Freemans Bay was renowned as a place of recreational drinking in the early days of colonial settlement, when Maori referred to it as Waipiro (‘stinking water, or spirits’) Bay.
The site of the Rob Roy Hotel, which is today bounded by Franklin Road, Victoria Street West, Union Street and Weld Street, was situated on the foreshore of Freemans Bay during the early colonial period. Allotment 18 Section 43, comprising 1 rood and 39 perches, was purchased by Catherine Marks from the Crown in 1853. In 1862, Marks sold the property to William Morrin, who leased it to a publican, Michael Wood, along with a purchase clause, which Wood did not take up. Morrin sold the property to David Nathan in 1867, who sold it to Samuel Jagger, in 1885. Jagger (1840-90) was a well-known Auckland brewer and hotel owner, who owned the Captain Cook and Hancock and Company breweries in Newmarket during the 1870s and 1880s.
Early plans of Auckland indicate that the site of the Rob Roy Hotel was vacant when Jagger purchased it, although by 1882 a culvert had been built across the property which drained into Freemans Bay. The foreshore north of Drake Street had been reclaimed sometime between 1875 and 1879, creating Patteson Street (now called Victoria Street West). Reclamation of the western part of the bay was to take place soon afterwards, between 1885 and 1888, forming Beaumont Street. The remainder of the bay was reclaimed to create Victoria Park between 1886 and 1901.
Construction of the Rob Roy Hotel (1885-6)
Jagger purchased the site to replace a pre-existing public house, also known as the Rob Roy Hotel, located nearby on the corner of Drake and Centre Streets. The Rob Roy had been operating since the early 1860s, but in June 1885 the Licensing Committee announced it would not renew its license. Jagger undertook the construction of a new hotel in 1885-6, utilising the earlier name.
Creation of the new Rob Roy Hotel was closely linked to the emergence of the temperance movement. The temperance movement, one of the most divisive issues in New Zealand at the time, had gained momentum with the passing of the Licensing Act of 1881. The Act implemented more stringent hygiene, comfort and accommodation requirements for public houses, and allowed communities to elect their own committees for granting liquor licenses to establishments in the area. Through the upgrading of such facilities, it was hoped the worst excesses of alcohol consumption would be avoided. The law led to a hotel construction boom in Auckland, which saw the rebuilding of older licensed establishments to meet the more stringent requirements of the Licensing Act 1881.
In early October 1885, the architectural firm, E. Mahoney and Son, received tenders for the construction of the ‘new Rob Roy building’. Cleghorn and Rosser’s tender of approximately £3000 was accepted and excavation began on the site immediately.
E. Mahoney and Son was a prolific and significant architectural firm in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Auckland and made a substantial contribution to Auckland's architectural heritage. The practice designed many of Auckland's banks and hotels during the 1870s and early 1880s, as well as numerous schools and churches, many of them Catholic. The Rob Roy Hotel was one of some twenty Mahoney-designed corner hotels erected in Auckland in the late nineteenth century. Other surviving central city corner hotel buildings by the practice include the United Services (1874), the Metropolitan (1883), the Occidental (1884) the Albion (1884), the Empire (1886), and the Shakespeare (1898) hotels. Owing to a greater capacity for passing trade, corner pubs became predominant in urban areas and more ornate in their design with bars that encouraged swift turnover through perpendicular (standing) drinking.
E. Mahoney and Son designed a highly ornamented façade for the Rob Roy Hotel in the Victorian Italianate style, which was commonly used on corner pubs and commercial buildings in Auckland at the time. The architects’ design reflected the specialisation of public houses that occurred in nineteenth-century Britain and subsequently New Zealand, in which hotels became more elaborate architecturally and provided numerous and elaborate separate spaces within the building to cater for groups of varying social status and technical requirements. The hotel occupied a prominent corner site, fronting Franklin Road and Drake Street, with an entrance on the corner and on the north façade. The façade was divided into bays, with expressed pilasters, and pediments capping the central bays. Each level was defined with a string course, and the parapet incorporated sections of open circular balustrades above the windows.
The hotel had almost been completed in late January 1886, when the Auckland Star described the internal layout of the building in detail:
‘The building contains 25 rooms, having ample accommodation for the requirements of the district. On the basement floor are the kitchen, pantry, scullery, coal cellar, store-room, and three servants’ bedrooms. The kitchen has every convenience, such as the lift communicating with the dining room above, hot and cold water taps, & c, while all the rooms are match-lined and carefully finished. On the ground floor is the bar, facing the corner, a handsomely furnished room, 24 by 20 feet. This is to contain a circular counter with all the modern conveniences to trade. A large dining-room fronts Drake-street and in the rear are three neat and commodious sitting rooms, all connected with the bar by electric bells, which are also laid on upstairs. A room hall runs right round the bar, and from it a handsome staircase leads to the top floor, which contains nine bedrooms, a commodious sitting room, 20 x 16, from the Oriental bow window of which a splendid view of the Harbour is obtained, bathroom, W.C., and linen closet.’
An 1886 plan shows the Rob Roy Hotel built over the pre-existing culvert and records a rectangular building in the rear yard of the hotel.
Jagger’s application to transfer the license from the old Rob Roy to the new Rob Roy was refused in December 1885, and the issue became pivotal in the April 1886 license committee elections in Auckland: ‘It is in this ward that the greatest efforts on both sides are being put forth, and nowhere does the conflict wage more determinedly. The reason for this is the unconcealed intention of the Temperance candidates if elected to refuse a license to Mr. S. Jagger’s new hotel at the foot of Franklin Road.’ The election, which attracted much public interest and involvement, was won by the opponents of the temperance movement, and the following month the license was transferred from the old Rob Roy to the new hotel.
Subsequent use and modifications
The licensee of the new hotel was the highly regarded William Regan, who had run the old Rob Roy hotel on Drake Street since 1880 and continued to run the new Rob Roy until 1905. The hotel was erected just before the onset of a prolonged economic depression that is likely to have particularly affected the working-class community of Freemans Bay. In Auckland, as in other centres, much of everyday life centred upon hotels where public dinners, meetings and inquests were held. During the 1880s there were said to have been few other places of entertainment in the city. Recreational drinking was an important aspect of colonial working-class culture, particularly for men, and may have been especially prevalent in poorer urban districts such as Freemans Bay.
Following the death of Samuel Jagger in 1890 and his wife in 1892, the property was conveyed to Moss Davis, Jagger’s partner in the brewing firm, Hancock and Company. The firm, established by Jagger’s father-in-law, Thomas Hancock, continued to own the property until 1981. Hancock and Company was one of Auckland’s leading brewing companies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and merged with Lion Brewery in 1923 to form New Zealand Breweries.
By the early twentieth century, Freemans Bay had become dominated by large scale industries that included the nearby Auckland Gas Company and the Auckland Municipal Destructor and Depot. The close, stable, working-class community lived in small, overcrowded and poor quality houses. The Rob Roy served as a focal point for this community. Due in part to proximity to Victoria Park (1905) and other sporting venues, local hotels served as clubrooms, places for aftermatch socialising and were of major importance to many local recreational groups. From 1903 to 1917, the cellar of the hotel served as the clubrooms for the Victoria Cruising Club (the biggest yacht club in Auckland).
Following the revival of Auckland’s economic fortunes interior alterations were made to the ground floor of Rob Roy Hotel in 1913, which included converting the saloon bar at the Union Street end of the hotel into a private bar and dining room, converting a passage, sitting and dining rooms into a large corner bar with two adjacent smaller bars and forming a new kitchen in the basement. In the same year, the Rob Roy was one of 64 hotels in Auckland that was ordered to close during the Waterfront Strike, since it was considered a place where radicals would meet to discuss labour relations. Freemans Bay was at the centre of the industrial dispute. On 11 November 1913, 1000 strikers marched passed the Rob Roy hotel while it was closed on their way to a rally in Victoria Park.
In 1942 and 1958, further minor internal alterations were carried out. In 1958, the Crown issued a proclamation defining the middle of a motorway and began constructing a motorway viaduct above the eastern portion of the property, and in 1965, the Crown acquired part of the property (Lot 18) and the neighbouring property (Lot 17) under the Public Works Act.
In 1967, five decades of ‘six o’clock swill’ ended in New Zealand with the introduction of ten o’clock hotel closing. The following year, an addition was constructed on the eastern side of the building for toilets, as well as an addition on the southern side of the building for staff facilities. Minor internal alterations were also carried out.
This was a time of considerable transition in Freemans Bay. The Auckland Council had cleared large tracts of residential housing in the area in the 1950s, declaring much of the suburb as unfit for habitation. This initiated a significant change in the residential population, with the influx of a highly mobile tenant population, made up of predominantly recently arrived Pacific Island migrants. When the designation was finally removed in 1973, after only two of the proposed terrace housing blocks had been built, the area slowly began to gentrify. By the end of the twentieth century, Freemans Bay had become an area with predominantly European, middle class residents.
In 1981, John Banks (later Mayor of Auckland in 2001-4 and 2007-10) and Tony White (well-known Auckland restaurateur) purchased the property from Hancock and Company. They remodelled the ground floor interior, built a new kitchen in the courtyard at the rear of the building and converted the first floor into storage space, a manager’s office and staff facilities. The new owners renamed the hotel, ‘The Birdcage’, moving away from the working class associations with the Rob Roy Hotel in the past.
Whistler Holdings purchased the property in 1985, and in 2002 the Crown acquired the property under the Public Works Act.
Temporary removal of the Rob Roy Hotel (2010-11)
In August 2010, the building was moved 44 metres along Franklin Road to make way for excavation work for a motorway tunnel. After extensive consultation with the community, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and Auckland City Council, a decision had been made to return the hotel to its original site once work had been completed. While other substantial historic buildings of non-timber construction had been successfully moved in New Zealand (including the Museum Hotel in Wellington and the Cornish Pumphouse in Waihi), the former Rob Roy Hotel was unusual in consisting of bricks and mortar, and in being returned to its original site. The move attracted significant local, regional and national attention, with thousands of onlookers and extensive media coverage.
Relocation of the structure by structural and civil engineers, Dunning Thornton, presented significant technological challenges. In preparation for the move, the building required extensive structural strengthening; separation from its associated basement; the construction of new rigid foundation sandwich beams; the insertion under the beams of hydraulic jacks and Teflon covered bearings; and the creation of concrete runway beams just below ground level for sliding the building to its temporary position. Prior to the move, additions to the building were removed, including the garden bar (1968), kitchen (1981), courtyard and conservatory (1982). Interior fitting and furnishings not original to the building were removed and much of it sold in February 2009. Early features and materials at risk of being damaged during the move, such as kauri floor joists, ground floor ceilings and cornices, skirtings and architraves, and interior doors and frames, were removed and put into storage until the hotel had been moved back to its original site.
Archaeological investigations were carried out on the site during the move. In particular, archaeologists investigated the basement, which was not included in the move and was subsequently destroyed, and exterior features, such as an early surface of Franklin Road, waste deposits, artefacts associated with the hotel and the remains of several wooden posts and boards associated with the earlier building at the rear of the hotel. Sections of the Freemans Bay stormwater drain that extended beneath the hotel, dating back to the 1870s, were revealed once the basement had been removed.
In April 2011, the hotel was moved back to within 10mm of its original location, which now formed the roof of the southern portal of the new tunnel. Following the move, the hotel interior was restored and the fittings in storage were reinstated. Three additions, designed by Salmond Reed Architects, were constructed in 2011. These comprised a single-storey glazed fronted eastern addition under the motorway viaduct, a two storey entrance and lobby on the western side of the building adjoining Franklin Road, and a two storey service block to the south on the rear elevation. Salmond Reed Architects designed an interior refurbishment of the first floor in 2011, and Burgess and Treep Architects designed a refurbishment of the ground floor in 2012. The space in front of the Rob Roy Hotel, which was previously used for car parking, was converted into a public plaza designed to reflect the heritage associated with the site, particularly its location on the foreshore of Freemans Bay prior to reclamation.
The ground floor of the building is currently (2013) used as a bar and restaurant, and its upper floor as offices.
The former Rob Roy Hotel is located on the corner of Franklin Road, Victoria Street West, Union Street and Weld Street in Freemans Bay, historically a working-class suburb to the west of the Auckland city centre. Today, Freemans Bay is an affluent residential and commercial area, with a mixture of town-houses, apartments and restored cottages. There are a number of historic buildings and structures in the immediate vicinity, including the Auckland Municipal Destructor and Depot Complex (NZHPT Register No.7764, Category 1 historic place); the former Auckland Gas Company Offices and Workshops (NZHPT Register No.542, Category 2 historic place); the former Campbell Free Kindergarten (NZHPT Register No.7537, Category 1 historic place); Freemans Hotel (NZHPT Register No.610, Category 2 historic place); and the historic Lampstands directly outside the Freemans Hotel (NZHPT Register No. 4495, Category 2 historic place).
The site of the Rob Roy Hotel was originally situated on the foreshore of Freemans Bay, but is now separated from the harbour by a large tract of reclaimed land. A public plaza to the north of the hotel property adjoins the northeast and northwest facades of the hotel building. The existing hotel structure occupies the northern part of its associated curtilage. The Victoria Park flyover (State Highway 1), which connects with the Auckland Harbour Bridge, runs above the eastern portion of the property and is supported by large columns. The Rob Roy Hotel also sits above the southern entrance to the Victoria Park tunnel, which was formed in 2011. Both the flyover and tunnel are excluded from the registration.
The former Rob Roy Hotel is a two-storeyed, L-shaped building of plastered brick construction. The building has highly ornamented Victorian Italianate façades with recent (2011) additions on its east, west and southern sides. The facades of the original 1886 building are divided into bays, with expressed pilasters and pediments capping the central bays. The main entrance on the northeast façade is flanked by rusticated pillars. There are also entrances on the northern corner of the building facing Victoria Street West, the northwest façade and the new western addition to the hotel. Each level of the building is defined with stringcourses. The ground floor windows are framed with Corinthian pilasters and robust round arches, while the rectangular first floor windows have brackets supporting the entablature above. The parapet has an open circular balustrade above each window and pediments capped by urns above the northern and corner entrances. The corrugated metal roof covering conceals extensive remnants of an earlier slate roof. The original basement was removed and replaced by the tunnel in 2010.
The 2011 additions comprise a single storey glaze fronted eastern extension under the motorway viaduct, a two story entry foyer on the western side of the building along Franklin Road and a two storey service block to the south on the rear elevation.
The ground floor of the 1885 building currently (2013) comprises an open plan restaurant and bar in the northern and western portions of the building, and a bar in the eastern portion of the building. The 2011 additions house a kitchen in the eastern extension, a foyer with lift in the western extension and lavatories in the southern extension. The ground floor layout, which comprised at least three spaces originally, has been significantly modified over time. Double hung sash windows on the north and west walls and arched fanlight frames above the entrances are original. The main brickwork of the building is currently exposed at ground floor level.
The original stairwell with handrail and baluster leads up to the first floor of the hotel. This floor is now used as office space, with a meeting room in the corner room and a kitchen at the rear of the building. The layout of the rooms is similar to the original plan, with limited modifications over time including the removal of some walls between the bedroom prior to 1969, and the creation of openings between some of the rooms in the 2011 refurbishment. The western end of the building opens onto the entrance foyer of the 2011 addition, and a kitchen on the rear southern side of the building leads into the 2011 toilet block extension. The upper level ceilings, strip timber floors, windows and door joinery are original.
Internal modifications to ground floor
2009 - 2010
Demolition of garden bar (1968), kitchen (1981), courtyard and conservatory (1982). Demolition of 1885-6 basement.
2009 - 2010
Structural strengthening, including new rigid foundation
2009 - 2010
The building relocated 44 metres on the same site while excavation work carried out for the Victoria Park Tunnel
2011 - 2012
Rob Roy Hotel moved back to original 1885-6 site
2011 - 2012
Additions constructed on the east, west and southern sides of the hotel.
Internal modifications to ground floor
Internal modifications to ground floor
Internal modifications to ground floor
Addition to eastern wall of building; addition to southern wall of building
Internal modifications to ground and first floor
Demolished - additional building on site
Demolition of original(?) building in rear yard
Additional building added to site
Construction of kitchen building in rear yard
1885 - 1886
Brick walls, plaster dressings, corrugated metal roof (overlying slate roof remnants)
Public NZAA Number
14th January 2014
Report Written By
Gordon McLauchlan, The Story of Beer: Beer and Brewing - A New Zealand History, Auckland, 1994
R. C. J. Stone, Makers of Fortune: A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland, 1973
Jenny Carlyon and Diana Morrow, Urban Village: The Story of Ponsonby, Freemans Bay and St Mary's Bay, Auckland, 2008
R.C.J. Stone, From Tamaki-Makau-Rau to Auckland, Auckland, 2001
Phillips, Jock, A Man’s Country? The Image of the Pakeha Male: A History, (2nd edn.), Auckland, 1996
Wolfe, Richard, Auckland: A Pictorial History, Auckland, 2002
A fully referenced upgrade report is available from the Mid-Northern Office of the NZHPT.
This place has been identified in the Auckland Council’s Cultural Heritage Inventory as CHI Places no. 2488, Rob Roy Hotel/Birdcage Tavern/Birdcage.
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.