Shop (Former)

9 Grafton Road, Auckland

  • Shop (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 1/04/2007.
  • Shop (Former) Auckland. East and North elevations looking south.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joan McKenzie. Date: 1/11/2006.
  • Shop (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joan McKenzie. Date: 1/11/2006.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 667 Date Entered 14th September 2007


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes part of the land in CT NA89C/588, part of the land in NZ Gazette 1983, p.2757, and part of the land in road reserve Grafton Road (as shown on the 'Extent of Registration' plans in Appendix 3 of the registration report), and the building, its fittings and fixtures thereon. Registration includes the verandah and verandah posts to the east of the building, and a well in the western part of the property.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Part of Lot 1 DP 151179 (CT NA89C/588), part of Pt Lot 1 DP 1747 (NZ Gazette 1983, p.2757) and part of road reserve Grafton Road, North Auckland Land District

Location description

The address recorded in Land Information New Zealand [LINZ] records is 27 Grafton Road. Auckland City Council property and rates information records give the address as 7-35 Grafton Road Http:// The address 9 Grafton Road is given for the building in Appendix 1, Schedule A (Buildings, Heritage Properties or Places of Special Value (Ref. No. 046)), City of Auckland - District Plan, Central Area Section - Operative 2004. University of Auckland property records also refer to the building as 9 Grafton Road. Part of the main building and all of its eastern verandah lie in road reserve Grafton Road.


Early history of the site

Prior to the arrival of European settlement, there was Maori occupation on today's Symonds Street ridge and Queen Street gully, known as Horotiu. The ridge may have been particularly well-regarded for its fertile soils and was cultivated by Ngati Whatua in the 1830s, when food was grown to supply the increasing number of Pakeha visiting the Waitemata harbour. After Auckland was chosen as the site of the colonial capital in 1840, the ridge was laid out as the epicentre of administrative power in the new colony, incorporating the British governor's house, the Albert Barracks - the largest military installation in the country - and the general assembly, where delegates from throughout the country gathered to discuss political matters. Following the departure of the colonial administration to the newly designated capital at Wellington in 1865 and the withdrawal of British troops shortly afterwards, the ridge consolidated its reputation as a high-status neighbourhood in the 1870s with the construction of desirable housing for the wealthy and places of genteel recreation such as Choral Hall and Albert Park.

The site occupied by the former shop at 9 Grafton Road was part of a larger area of land on the southeastern side of Symonds Street that was initially set aside for military purposes. By 1860, potential military use appears to have been discounted as it was part of 79 ha (196 acres) designated under the Public Domain Act passed in that year. A number of timber houses were constructed on Grafton Road in the 1860s, particularly on the northeast side between Symonds and Stanley Streets, and both sides of the road on the opposite side of the gully. Perpetually short of funds, the Domain Board subdivided the land in 1870 putting 29 allotments up for lease. The site on the corner of Grafton Road and what was formerly the southern section of Wynyard Street, was leased to auctioneer Henry Keesing (the younger) for a term of 21 years. Arriving in Auckland in 1843 with other members of the family, Keesing (1825-1896) worked as a storekeeper, general dealer and commission agent and became a prominent member of the Auckland Hebrew congregation of which his father was the first president.

Construction of the building

The earliest part of the building appears to have been constructed as a timber dwelling at an unknown date between Keesing's purchase in 1870 and 1877, when a 'wood building' was recorded on the site. It may have been erected shortly after 1873 when a builder, James Paul, took over Keesing's lease. Paul, who may or may not have lived in the house, is listed in Council valuation records as late as 1891 as the lessee of the allotment.

Constructed fronting Grafton Road, the building appears in early photographs as a small two-storey dwelling of Georgian design. Rectangular in plan at this time, it has a centrally located doorway flanked on each side by a window on the ground floor. The upper façade to Grafton Road has three windows with another window overlooking Wynyard Street. The steeply hipped roof with virtually no eaves has two tall chimneys - the front one suggesting a parlour in the northwest corner on the ground floor. The windows, tucked high under the eaves, are 12-light double-hung sashes. By 1877 there was at least one outbuilding on the site.

In 1880 surveyor Francis Henry Burslem (1800-1888), at that time employed on the office staff of the Lands and Survey Department in Auckland, became the occupant of the residence. Born in the United Kingdom, Burslem had spent time in New South Wales and Tasmania. He came to New Zealand in 1862 offering his services as a military engineer where he was engaged in surveying confiscated land at the close of the Waikato campaign of the New Zealand Wars. Appointed a Goldfields Surveyor in 1868, he was also engaged by the Auckland Provincial Council as Provincial Architect. The footprint of the house as it appears in 1882 is L-shaped, suggesting that a small addition had been made to the building's north side. In 1883 Burslem returned to Sydney where he died five years later. Between 1883/4 and 1886/7 the house was successively occupied by a William Robinson and Duncan McNab.

Subsequent use and development

Retail activity was introduced to the site by 1887 when grocer John Brennan became tenant. Brennan moved on during the following year, the first of a succession of grocer tenants to occupy the building over the next three-quarters of a century. Conversion of part of the building to a shop may reflect the changing character of the neighbourhood as an economic depression took hold and large dwellings in the area became increasingly used as boarding houses and lodgings. In 1886, a large area in nearby Grafton Gully was also leased by Chinese market gardeners for conversion to horticulture.

In 1896 dairyman Cornelius Taylor, was granted a 33-year lease of the property and undertook major alterations to provide purpose-built retail space. Two bays were added to the northern end of the building and its overall height was increased by the addition of a cornice and parapet, providing it with a more commercial appearance. The 12-light window sashes in the Grafton Road facade of the earlier building were replaced as part of its modernisation. Large windows for the display of goods were probably created in the new addition, contrasting with the more domestic arrangement of the shop prior to this period. The extended building with its modified roof form appears in a 1901 photo. A verandah was probably part of this work as four small circles indicated inside the kerb on a circa 1908 plan of Auckland suggest verandah posts. Its canopy would have sheltered produce displayed on the public footpath and in the shop windows, as well as encouraging public congregation beside the display area. Beautification of the street also occurred with the planting of London Plane trees on either side of Grafton Road in the 1890s, including immediately outside the shop.

Grocer-occupants of 10 years standing or more were P.H. Swain (1903-1913), Henry Arthur Edward Dunsford (20 years until 1939) and John Gilmour who occupied the premises for 16 years until 1955. The last retailer was John Rayner who established his I.G.A. Foodmarket in the building in circa 1960 and vacated the premises in April 1966. Over the store's eight-decade existence, the catchment it served changed markedly. Until 1916, when the Auckland Grammar School relocated from Symonds Street to Epsom, the store is said to have been used as the pupils' tuck-shop. Initially the shop served the needs of the well-to-do citizens of the large houses along lower Symonds Street, Wynyard Street and Grafton Road. The shop's clientele is likely to have increasingly given way to the more transient residents of the boarding houses and flats that dominated the area in the early to mid-twentieth century. The building was later the local dairy for those who worked in the office accommodation and doctors' rooms that occupied many of the old houses in the area, and it met the day-to-day needs of students and staff on the University of Auckland campus. During much of this period, local corner shops were a hub of neighbourhood activity, where conversation was exchanged and news distributed.

The property was acquired by the Crown in 1961. The University of Auckland had been asked in 1956 to accept Princes Street as a 'permanent home'. Formally opened in May 1883 the Auckland University College initially occupied the disused District Court House in Eden Street. By 1965 the University was operating from over 80 buildings, 45 of which were old residences or private hotels. The surrounding urban landscape was transformed during the 1960s and 1970s by the construction of a series of substantial tower blocks to serve the campus. These included the School of Engineering completed in 1969, and the Human Sciences Building and the School of Architecture Building constructed in the 1970s on the southeast side of Symonds Street.

Improvements in services and amenities for students during the 1960s saw the building at 9 Grafton Road become the home of the University's Student Counselling Service upon the appointment of the first student counsellor in 1966. The former shop was converted to provide a waiting room, counselling rooms and other facilities. For at least two decades from the early 1970s the building served as the offices of the Auckland University Press (AUP), the second of three independent University Presses established in New Zealand in the 1960s. Formally established in 1972, the Press had two staff members, including Dennis McEldowney who was awarded an honorary doctorate upon his retirement as Managing Editor in 1986. The AUP's publishing spans many fields, but its focus was - and remains - on New Zealand and Pacific history and literature. In the 1970s it pioneered a series that brought back near-forgotten New Zealand novelists including Robin Hyde and Jane Mander to a reading public. It also published works by noted contemporary New Zealand authors and academics, who regularly visited the premises. Writers published included Kendrick Smithyman (1922-95), Elizabeth Smither (1941 -), Allen Curnow (1911-2001), C.K. Stead, Bill Manhire (1946-), Albert Wendt; and historians and biographers such as E.H. McCormack (1906-1995), Keith Sinclair (1922-1993) and Judith Binney. The AUP's books were also sold by the Oxford University Press (OUP) which for a time rented an office in the building. The building's narrow passages and steep stairs, however, ruled it out for the celebration of book launches, university open days and similar events. Minor alterations were carried out in the 1980s and 1990s.

The building was subsequently used until 2004 to accommodate the Anthropology Department's Centre for Archaeological Research. It is still occupied by the Department as offices.

Currently, increasingly few houses of colonial origin survive on the Symonds Street ridge to indicate early residential activity in the area, and the building is also the only timber shop of colonial origin currently known to survive in this part of the colonial city. Very few timber corner shops of nineteenth-century date are known to survive elsewhere within the formal boundaries of the colonial city.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Shop (Former) has historical value for its early association with the noted colonial surveyor Francis Burslem, and later for its connections with the development of New Zealand and Pacific literature and numerous authors of significance in New Zealand. It is also historically significant for reflecting aspects of city life in colonial Auckland, including small-scale residential and commercial activity. It particularly demonstrates the emergence of the Symonds Street ridge as a desirable residential location by the 1870s, as well as the importance of local corner shops within late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century urban communities, when shopping formed a substantial part of neighbourhood interaction. The place also reflects subsequent changes to this part of the urban landscape, including its current use as a university precinct.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The Shop (Former) has aesthetic significance as a notable local landmark with striking visual characteristics. These include its wedge-shaped appearance and its unusually wide verandah covering a public footpath. The aesthetic value of the place is enhanced by its setting, among century-old London Plane trees.

Archaeological Significance or Value

The Shop (Former) has archaeological significance as a site which incorporates a brick-lined well, and which is linked with domestic and commercial activity during the nineteenth century and later.

Architectural Significance or Value

The place also has architectural significance as an example of the late nineteenth-century adaptation of a residential dwelling to commercial premises within a confined urban space. It is of value for demonstrating changes from adapted colonial shops of domestic appearance to those containing commercial architectural features.

Cultural Significance or Value

The place has cultural significance as the premises of the Auckland University Press for more than two decades, and as an office for the Oxford University Press for a lesser period. During its employment as such premises it was particularly associated with the promotion of New Zealand and Pacific literature in this country and abroad, and was linked with many authors of cultural significance in New Zealand.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The Shop (Former) reflects the development of residential housing in colonial Auckland and the importance of neighbourhood corner shops during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also reflects early stages in the history of student counselling services and the development of one of New Zealand's few university presses during its formative years in the 1970s.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The place is associated with Francis Burslem, a noted military engineer, goldfields surveyor, and Auckland Provincial Architect. The place is also associated with the Auckland University Press and numerous individuals of significance from New Zealand's literary life in the 1970s, 1980s and later, including writer and publisher Dennis McEldowney, poets Kendrick Smithyman, Elizabeth Smither, C.K. Stead, Allen Curnow, Bill Manhire and Albert Wendt, and historians and biographers including E.H. McCormack, Keith Sinclair and Judith Binney.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Located beside a main road in central Auckland and on the campus of a major tertiary institution, the place has potential for public education about the history of residential and commercial activity in colonial and later Auckland, and the development of the Auckland University Press and its associated authors.

(g) The technical accomplishment or design of the place

The place demonstrates the contrast between the appearance of earlier colonial shops which were often adapted domestic houses of Georgian design, and the more widespread development of purpose-built commercial architecture in the later nineteenth century. The place is of particular interest as a unusual surviving example of a nineteenth-century grocer's shop in colonial Auckland, notable for the manner in which it accommodates an urban street corner.

(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 outstanding historical and cultural landscape in the lower Symonds Street area. The surrounding landscape is particularly significant as the epicentre of colonial power in early New Zealand, as a high-status residential and administrative area in the late nineteenth century, and as an important educational precinct during most of the twentieth century. It contains an unusually large concentration of structures, in-ground archaeological deposits and trees of recognised heritage importance. Items include the British governor's house, remnants of the largest military barracks in colonial New Zealand and the oldest surviving stone church in the country.


The place is assigned Category II status as a place of historical or cultural heritage significance or value due to the extent to which it reflects the development of residential housing in colonial Auckland, the importance of neighbourhood corner shops during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and other issues including the development of one of New Zealand's few university presses. The place is also assigned Category II status having regard to its associations with important persons and ideas in New Zealand history, including Francis Burslem, the Auckland University Press and numerous prominent literary figures; and to its potential for public education as part of a major tertiary institution. The place is further assigned Category II status as part of an outstanding cultural and historical landscape in the lower Symonds Street area.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The former shop at 9 Grafton Road occupies a corner site in the eastern part of Auckland's central business district (CBD). It is located on the eastern slopes of the Symonds Street ridge, in an area currently occupied as a campus by the University of Auckland. Situated a short distance to the southeast of the main thoroughfare of Symonds Street, the building occupies a corner site on the western side of Grafton Road at its intersection with Wynyard Street (now a stopped road). Grafton Road is a broad street linking the Symonds Street ridge with Grafton Gully, and is lined with numerous 100-year-old London Plane trees. These are identified in Appendix 2: Schedule of Trees, in Auckland City Council's District Plan.

Located within the eastern part of the historic colonial centre of Auckland, the former shop lies within a broader landscape of outstanding historical and cultural heritage value. In the block to the east are St Andrew's Church (NZHPT Registration # 20, Category I historic place) which is the oldest surviving stone church in New Zealand, a house at 5 Alten Road (NZHPT Registration # 7398, Category II historic place) and three late-Victorian villas at 12 to 16 Symonds Street. Diagonally opposite the former shop, on the eastern side of Grafton Road, are two buildings of early twentieth-century date built by industrialist and philanthropist Charles Mennie and his wife. One of these is 10 Grafton Road, the plastered brick villa Bayreuth that was for a time the home of influential music teachers Johannes Wielaert and wife Katherine Schafe. In the block to the north and east are the colonial governor's residence (Government House (Former), NZHPT Registration # 105, Category I historic place), remnants of the largest military barracks in New Zealand (including the Albert Barracks Wall, NZHPT Registration # 12, Category I historic place), the Old Choral Hall (NZHPT Registration # 4474, Category I historic place) which was one of the major venues for cultural gatherings in colonial Auckland, and the Old Arts Building, University of Auckland (NZHPT Registration # 25, Category I historic place).

The former shop occupies an approximately semi-circular piece of land that is bounded on all sides by a roadway. The main building fronts directly onto the street pavement of Grafton Road on its eastern side and is only a short distance from the pavement of an access route to the University of Auckland's Schools of Architecture and Engineering to its north and west. The site has a cross-fall down to the south and east, and there are small areas of lawn around the building. Part of the land on the building's west side is retained by a low basalt retaining wall. Part of an historic well is visible at the base of the wall. The rim section of the well has a concrete cap and drain, but the brickwork inside the well is intact. To the east of the building, a broad verandah covering the footpath is incorporated within the area proposed for registration. Two mature London Plane trees grow on the sloping grass verge between the verandah and Grafton Road. These lie outside the proposed registration area.

The main building consists of a timber weatherboard structure, two storeys in height, which is orientated with its main façade to Grafton Road. It is broadly Georgian in style, although the usual symmetry associated with Georgian architecture has been modified by additions, notably to the north. The building is a local landmark of distinctive appearance, having a pronounced wedge-shaped corner at its northern end and an unusually broad verandah along part of its eastern side. In plan, the building incorporates a two-storey dwelling of rectangular shape at its southern end with a single-storey lean-to on each of its southern and western sides. The northern part of the building incorporates a shop of broadly triangular plan with a verandah along its eastern frontage. The building has a corrugated zincalume roof.

The southern part of the building incorporates the three bay form of the original 1870s dwelling, with a central arched doorway and two flanking sash windows on its Grafton Road elevation. Three windows of similar design light its upper floor. The northern part of the building incorporates large display windows, which have recently been double-glazed. They are sheltered by a verandah measuring approximately 8 m long x 4.75 m wide. The verandah covers the full width of the public footpath alongside Grafton Road and is supported by four metal posts bearing leaf-motif capitals. A pronounced cornice and parapet along all of the building's east and north sides conceal a mono-pitch roof. Four of the five windows in the walls of the south and west elevations of the building are of the same style as those in the original 1870s dwelling. The north wall does not have any windows.

Internally, the building has a short central hall running west from the main doorway. A single office lies off the northern side of the hall at a slightly lower level, and corresponds with the former shop area. A front room off the south side of the hall has a chimney breast and fire surround, as well as a connecting door to a room in the lean-to on the south side of the building. A kitchen off the south side of the hall at its western end incorporates a boarded-up chimney breast. A steep timber staircase at the end of the hall runs north along the west wall and shows wear at the centre of each step. The largest of the upstairs rooms is triangular and has two windows overlooking Grafton Road. Two smaller rooms are each lit by a single window on the east wall of the building. The bathroom, located in the southwest corner of the upper floor, is lit by a small 12-light sash in the south wall, has a built-in cupboard constructed of tongue-and-groove timber, and has a cast-iron bath. Timber ceilings with pronounced rounded battens in the bathroom and an adjoining room at the southern end of the building may be original features.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1870 - 1876

Small addition on north side

1896 -
Pre-1882 addition demolished; Shop and verandah constructed on north side; Single-storey lean-to added on south side.

Conversion into offices

1980 -
New concrete footing and nib wall (kitchen/store); 2 doors removed (south); studs / wall lining against retaining wall replaced; book room flooring replaced; part interior relined with Gib.

1993 -
Two upstairs rooms, hall and corridor lined with Gib.

1997 -
Roofing replaced with corrugated zincalume.

Construction Details

Timber, corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

2nd May 2007

Report Written By

Martin Jones and Joan McKenzie

Information Sources

Stone, 1991

R. C. J. Stone, The Making of Russell McVeigh: The First 125 Years of the Practice of Russell McVeigh McKenzie Bartleet & Co. 1863-1988, Auckland, 1991

Sinclair, 1983

Keith Sinclair, A History of the University of Auckland, 1883-1983, Auckland, 1983

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office

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.