Historical Significance or Value
The Brougham Street Offices are of historical value as being the premises of important financial and legal institutions in New Plymouth for a long period of time. The New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society is representative of similar investment, savings and building societies that enabled workers and settlers of all classes to further their assets and establish homes and lifestyles with security in fledgling colonial settlements. Successful since its formation in 1876, this particular organisation is part of the legacy of the Countrywide Bank, now the National Bank. The building at 43 Brougham Street is historically significant as the offices of Robert Clinton Hughes, a lawyer and environmentalist who made a profound contribution to New Plymouth through his involvement in many cultural, social and political organisations, as well as leaving a lasting legacy in his work founding Pukekura Park and other conservation efforts.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The buildings at 41-43 Brougham Street form an impressive element within the streetscape of New Plymouth’s central business district. As striking, highly ornamented examples of Italianate styling from the end of the nineteenth century, the building facades have significant aesthetic value. As a pair they are of interest for the dynamic effect caused by the matching elements of their design, with the echoed layout and positioning of their fenestration and entranceways, and placement of decorative elements such as fluted pilasters, friezes and parapets.
Architectural Significance or Value
The Brougham Street offices have architectural value as relatively unaltered examples of Italianate commercial building facades from the late nineteenth century. Designed specifically to complement each other and account for the slope of their location on a hill, these two structures continue to provide decorative interest and knowledge of late-nineteenth century building types.
Social Significance or Value
The Brougham Street Offices are of social significance as the site of day-to-day commercial activities for over 125 years. These buildings have seen countless people carry out their business, as well as housing numerous trade and administrative organisations. The strong-room in the law firm offices of Robert Clinton Hughes would have served as the repository for documents important to the security of lives and businesses. Today the buildings continue to play a part in the public consciousness as dynamic and valued elements in the streetscape of the central business district, and as the premises of multi award-winning restaurant André’s L’Escargot for nearly 30 years.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The building at 43 Brougham Street is of importance for its strong association with Robert Clinton Hughes, who played a significant part in New Plymouth society from the 1860s until his death in 1935. The building served as Hughes’ business premises for over 30 years, continuing to house his law firm for decades afterwards. The New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building is representative of the building societies and financial institutions that were developmental in forming the financial institutions of today, and therefore played an important part in New Zealand’s economic history.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history
The sections along Brougham Street were among the first to be developed in New Plymouth, and for a period the street functioned as the town’s commercial hub on account of its proximity to the Huatoki landing and the presence of the Provincial Council building. Remains of foundations and features from earlier buildings are likely to survive where there has been no basement excavation for modern buildings, and therefore the Brougham Street Offices (Former), as intact buildings dating from the 1880s and 1890s, could considerably advance the knowledge about the development of the town through archaeological investigation.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Brougham Street Offices are recognised as important elements of New Plymouth’s built heritage landscape by their inclusion in the District Plan heritage schedule, and the Council Heritage Protection funding received for maintenance of the façades, granted because of their significance to the town.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The prominence of these buildings in the streetscape of New Plymouth’s central business district provides a rare opportunity for public education about the design of typical Italianate commercial buildings from the 1880s-1890s, as these type of buildings are now scarce in the city. Their inclusion on a heritage trail with interpretive signage conveys historical information about the original occupants of the buildings in an easily accessible location.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The former New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building, in particular, is important as a relatively rare example of a highly decorative Italianate façade within the New Plymouth commercial streetscape. As a pair the buildings are significant for the striking and complementary nature of their design, with elements of the façade of the former R.C. Hughes office building deliberately echoing that of the neighbouring building.
The Taranaki region is thought to have been settled by Maori around 600-700 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that pa were being built in the area, which surrounds Mount Taranaki, as early as the fifteenth century. A number of iwi hold mana whenua in the west coast of the region, including Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa and Taranaki. The area which would become New Plymouth was initially populated by Nga Mahanga a Tairi of Taranaki, and then Te Atiawa, who affiliate with the waka Tokomaru and are said to descend from the semi-divine origins of ancestor Awanuiarangi, whose people moved south from Northland to the Bay of Plenty and Taranaki.
European whalers initially arrived along the Taranaki coast in the first half of the nineteenth century, and generally integrated themselves relatively harmoniously with the local Maori communities. By the early 1840s, a Ngati Te Whiti pa at Ngamotu, called Otaka Pa, was still populated but many other Maori strongholds in the region had been abandoned following attacks by taua from the Waikato a decade earlier, which had prompted a major migration of the remnant Te Atiawa population to Otaki, Wellington and Marlborough. However, increasing numbers of European settlers created a demand for land and the resulting tensions between tangata whenua and colonists had lasting effects on all Taranaki residents.
Organised colonial settlement at Taranaki was first instituted by the Plymouth Company in 1839-1840, who arranged to purchase land from the New Zealand Company for the settlement of immigrants from Devon and Cornwall, although this purchase would be much disputed in the future. The site of the township was chosen and laid out by Chief Surveyor Frederic Carrington in February 1841, and settler ships arrived from England from March 1841 onwards. By this time the Plymouth Company had fallen into financial difficulties, and was formally merged with the New Zealand Company in May 1841. Settler ships continued to arrive, but disputes around the Crown’s role in transferring land out of Maori ownership, and between tangata whenua over who had the authority to transfer land were already evident, frustrating all involved.
The series of prolonged conflicts during the 1860s are now commonly known as the Taranaki Wars, waged between the Crown and Maori in response to Maori uprising against the enforced alienation of their land. These caused widespread deprivation, suffering and loss of life and land for iwi, resulting in the heavy confiscation of tribal land taken by the Crown under the Land Settlement Act of 1863. The devastating effects of these actions have since been acknowledged by the Crown through formal apologies and efforts of redress by settlement agreements.
The conflicts also affected the fledgling European settler communities, with many residents of outlying areas abandoning their homes and taking refuge in the urban centre of New Plymouth town, or leaving the region altogether for a time. Complaints from anxious European settlers eventually forced the Government to station troops at New Plymouth, and the site of the former Pukaka pa (Marsland Hill) was transformed into a military stockade and barracks in 1855. As the frequency of battles decreased the British troops were gradually withdrawn, until the last detachment of the 50th regiment left in 1867.
Although land-related clashes occurred sporadically until the 1880s, the relative security of the less frequent military engagements saw the European settlers able to develop the township of New Plymouth with more certainty. Brougham Street became the early centre of commerce and administration for the town, due to its proximity to the Huatoki landing (in use before the harbour at Ngamotu was developed), and was the site of the Provincial Council building, as well as banks and numerous trade and small businesses.
As the colonial population grew, the town’s commercial activity flourished. To service the growing settlement, a number of financial institutions and administrative businesses were set up to facilitate lending services for settlers to establish their own homes and personal finances, including systems for investment. Investment and building societies were formed on the British model, with the aim of providing facilities for the safe and profitable investment of small savings, capital loans for property purchase, debt consolidation, building costs, and other expenses necessary to establish or advance oneself in a fledgling society. Funds for the activities were sourced from the monthly subscriptions of a society’s members, based on their shareholdings.
New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society
In New Plymouth, the Taranaki Land and Building Investment Society had been founded in 1865. However, in January 1876, a preliminary meeting of interested parties was held in the Taranaki Institute to discuss the formation of a new society, to be called the New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society. The proposed operational rules included a scale for the repayment of loans over varying periods of time, and a scale of frequency of repayments. A preliminary committee was appointed to formally draw up the rules, and included local solicitor Robert Clinton Hughes (1847-1935), and Clarence Sydney Rennell (1831-1906), an accountant and house, estate, land and commission agent.
In March 1876 intending shareholders gathered to further discuss the intentions of the new Society, and to correct the ‘erroneous impression’ that the Society they were about to start was in opposition to the existing Taranaki Land and Building Investment Society. It was emphasised that:
‘The society they were about to start was for the purpose of enabling the labouring men and those who were in receipt of weekly wages an opportunity of putting aside a portion of their earnings. At present a labouring man would have to save up his money during the month, and many found this a difficult thing to accomplish… It would be the same with the borrower. Many who would not perhaps be able to meet a monthly payment, might not feel the re-payment of the loan weekly from their wages in the same way as they would pay their rents.’
Another point of interest in the new Society was that borrowers need not necessarily be shareholders. By April the Society had been officially formed with over 50 shareholders, and held its first meeting, at which Clarence Rennell was appointed Secretary, a position he was to hold for 30 years.
New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society office building, 41 Brougham Street
Seven years later, in May 1883, the successful Society reported an accrued balance of £745 4s in credit, and the intention to build ‘more suitable premises than they now occupy’ on a central site in Brougham Street that the Directors had recently purchased. Progress on the new offices moved quickly. By August 1883 prolific architect Mr Henry J.T. Edmonds had designed the building, and W. Sole’s tender of £783 for construction was accepted, with Mr. H. Hooker sub-contracted for the masonry foundations. Edmonds, who had won a large number of residential and commercial commissions, was flush from the recent success of his design for the Alexandra Hall nearby on Devon Street West, which shared stylistic similarities with the Society office building in its Italianate features.
On 15 February 1884 the new offices were opened. The building was corrugated iron with a timber façade sand-painted in an imitation-masonry effect, carved and embellished with pilasters, cornices, pediments and parapet balustrading. The façade was topped with an ornamental legend commemorating the 1876 date of the Society’s establishment. Consisting of a main public office, manager’s office, board room, strong room, and associated facilities, the rooms had a 16 foot high stud and were well-appointed. The carved rimu and kauri desks and counters were French polished and made by Mr J.C. George, and the bricks were locally made in Fitzroy. The interiors were celebrated in the Taranaki Herald:
‘The [Society] is one of those institutions to which we can point with unqualified pride. Established eight years ago, it has had a career of uniform and increasing success…The entrance to the public office is neatly paved with patent glazed tiles, and admittance is gained through two inner swing-glass doors, having a large fanlight… The walls are plastered and distempered, and the ceiling is painted white, picked out in blue…. The walls [in the board room] are plastered and dadoed, the wood work being polished. A well-finished gasalier is fixed in the room, over which, in the ceiling, is a ventilator. We also noticed a fireplace, with nicely carved and polished mantelpiece. The floor is carpeted…’
The Directors later reported that the total construction cost had gone over budget at £1,603 19s 9d, but ‘considering the class of buildings being erected in the town, it was thought advisable not to have the offices of the Society in any way inferior to them.’ The building was also given extensive coverage - including an illustration - in the Taranaki Jubilee supplement to the Taranaki Herald in 1891, suggesting its importance in the commercial streetscape of the town. A photograph dating from between 1885-1896 shows the office standing out from its neighbours on Brougham Street as the finest, most ornately decorated building on the street. At some point over the years the finial and decorative urns that once adorned the parapet have been removed.
The premises were also used by the New Plymouth Gas Company and the New Plymouth Harbour Board, a situation no doubt assisted by Clarence Rennell’s position as Secretary for these organisations as well as the New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society. Rennell also ran his own business from the site, and the Union Insurance Company and New Zealand Insurance Company also rented office space.
Clarence S. Rennell died in December 1906, aged 75, and was succeeded in his position as Secretary of the Society by his son, also named Clarence Rennell (1874-1937). C.H. Wynyard became the secretary of the Society in the 1930s, and from this time until 1972 the building was also the offices of his accounting firm, Duff & Wynyard, as well as various other administrative and trade organisations. Like many other similar finance societies, the New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society was eventually merged into the Countrywide Building Society, which became Countrywide Bank, now incorporated into the National Bank.
R.C. Hughes office building, 43 Brougham Street
Serving as its solicitor and adviser for over 30 years, Robert Clinton Hughes had a long association with the New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society from its inception in 1876. Therefore, the site next door at 43 Brougham Street was a convenient location at which to build the new offices of his law practice, which were constructed in 1896. This section had been originally granted to Robert Clinton Hughes’ father, Robert Hughes, who had run his bootmakers’ business from an older building which was demolished to make way for Hughes’ new office.
Hughes was born in Auckland in 1847, but moved to New Plymouth with his family three years later. His surviving diary writings from his schooldays are a valuable account of what it was like for settlers living in the town during the conflicts of the 1860s. He continued his education with an apprenticeship to New Plymouth solicitor William Halse and was admitted to the Bar in 1870, at which time he opened his own law practice. Hughes, whose legal business included acting for commercial organisations and conveyancing, was fluent in Te Reo and had a lifelong interest in Maori culture, which saw him also take a number of cases to the Maori Land Court.
Always community-minded as well as being a keen outdoors enthusiast and environmentalist, Hughes made many lasting contributions to New Plymouth’s society, culture and landscape. He is perhaps best remembered today for being the driving force behind the institution of Pukekura Park (then called the Recreation Ground) in 1876. This 128-acre tract of native bush and botanical plantings surrounding man-made lakes in central New Plymouth remains a much-treasured amenity with an international reputation for its beauty, as well as a popular cricket and cultural venue. Hughes’ interest in conservation also saw him lead a successful campaign against a proposal to use New Plymouth landmark Paritutu as landfill, and he served membership on the New Plymouth Beautifying Society. He was a member of the Provincial Council and New Plymouth Borough Council, and of a great number of community and religious organisations and political and cultural groups.
In 1896, when the time came for him to construct new purpose-built premises, W.F. Brooking won the commission to design the building for the Brougham Street site. Brooking was well known to Hughes as a Director of the New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society, and a Borough Councillor. The multi-talented Brooking also ran a building and construction firm as well as an undertakers and monumental mason business from premises on the corner of Brougham and Powderham Streets, neighbouring Hughes’ new office site.
Messrs Boon Bros, a prominent local construction firm, won the contract to build the offices, at £424 10s. Construction was finished by June 1896, when Hughes took occupancy of the building. Brooking’s design had the new building directly adjoin the New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building, and complement it with a false-front façade featuring a frieze of moulded corbelling, fluted pilasters and ornamental volutes that echoed the Italianate features of its neighbour.
Hughes’ law practice continued to thrive, eventually evolving into the venerable law firm of Hughes Grey & Co, which forms part of the legacy of present day law firm Till Henderson, who inherited Hughes Grey & Co’s asset of Post Office Box no. 1, New Plymouth. Hughes continued to play a very active part in the community until his death on 18 January 1935. He was survived by his widow, Amy Hughes.
His office building continued as the premises for the legal firm until the 1970s, when it was then occupied by real estate agents E.A. Wood & Co until 1992.
In 1976 André Teissonniére opened New Plymouth’s first ‘genuinely ethnic’ French restaurant on a site in Devon Street, and in 1982 moved the restaurant to the former New Plymouth Loan and Investment Society Building, the design of which suited the ‘French café’ style of the restaurant. Following adaptation to house the restaurant kitchen and services, further alterations to the building were undertaken in 1983. André’s L’Escargot has since become a New Plymouth culinary institution with a much wider reputation for excellence, and in 1992 Teissonniére purchased the adjacent Hughes building next door at 43 Brougham Street and extended the award-winning restaurant into both buildings. The relationship between the two buildings was reinforced at this time by the partial removal of the wall between them, enlarging the dining space into one split-level room. Other major alterations around this time included the removal of the fireplace and strong-room in the New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building and the installation of a new staircase in its place, removal of the existing stairs to the mezzanine, installation of a new bar in the place of the former Board Room, and replacement of the front sash windows in the R.C. Hughes building with the present casement windows.
In 2006, with partial funding from the New Plymouth District Council’s Heritage Incentive Fund, the south, east and part of the north walls were reclad, and new window awnings were added. A heritage grant was again provided for repairs and maintenance to the facades in 2010, illustrating the importance of these buildings to the community and their place in new Plymouth’s heritage landscape. The buildings feature on the New Plymouth central Heritage Walkway, and in 1998 were voted in the top 10 favourite heritage buildings in the town.
Environs and Exterior
The buildings at 41-43 Brougham Street are adjacent to each other on the eastern side of a sloping street in New Plymouth’s commercial centre. To the left of 41 Brougham Street is the larger, modern extension to the Art Deco National Bank building (Record no. 901) further down the street on the corner, while 43 Brougham now sits next to a vacant lot used for car parking, formerly the site of other office and trade businesses that lined Brougham Street up to the Powderham Street corner. The opposite side of Brougham is lined with mostly modern buildings, a notable exception being the former Salvation Army Citadel at the intersection of Powderham and Brougham Streets.
Together the two Brougham Street Offices present an impressive and united front through the design of their facades, which echo each other in their Italianate decorative features and positioning of their fenestration and entranceways. The ornamentation for both buildings is solely concentrated on the front facades, with the side walls and rears clad plainly in corrugated iron. The buildings are placed at slightly different levels to each other to account for the slope of the hill, giving a stepped appearance to their parapets.
The former New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building, at 41 Brougham Street, is a single-storey building positioned downhill from the former R.C. Hughes office building at 43. The corrugated-iron roof, which is hidden behind the raised parapet, has a single gable, hipped at the front.
The entranceway to the building is formed by tall, panelled double doors in a central bay, framed by fluted pilasters which support a moulded segmental pediment containing scrolls of foliate relief and an anthemion motif on a decorative corbel. The pilasters, each of which is topped by a lion mask, are repeated at either side of the façade; these frame the windows, which consist of four narrow 10-paned casement windows, two on either side of the doorway. A moulded frieze of dots runs the width of the façade above the windows, separating them from the arched fanlights above each, including the doorway. These fanlights are now hidden behind projecting hooded window awnings. The parapet is topped with an open balustrade of turned wood, on either side of a central cornice which features the legend of the Society’s formation date, 1876, moulded or carved in relief. The façade is timber but painted with a ‘sanded-in’ finish to imitate masonry. The whole effect of the façade is highly ornamented, and this is enhanced by the current paint scheme, in which the decorative elements are picked out from a rich red background with gold paint.
The Italianate styling of the former New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building’s façade is echoed in that of the former R.C. Hughes office building, although with less embellishment. The Hughes building also has an entranceway consisting of tall, panelled double doors framed on either side by two 10-paned casement windows, and shares the same placement and design of fluted pilasters as the neighbouring Society building’s façade, as well as the moulded frieze between the windows and fanlights, in this case of bevelled squares instead of dots. It also has a false front, stepped at the top to hide the single-gabled roof, and featuring a central parapet emblazoned with the date of the establishment of R.C. Hughes’ law firm, 1870. This cornice is supported by a moulded frieze of decorative corbelling, punctuated at each end by an ornamental volute bracket. The façade of 43 Brougham Street is not sanded-in and instead the rusticated timber boards are left visible. It shares the same paint scheme as described above, red with gold detail.
Access to the interior of the restaurant is gained through the entrance to the former New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building, which has a pair of internal doors as well as the exterior panelled doors. Entering into the open, split-level dining room, the high ceilings, skylights and tall multi-paned windows give the sense of a light and airy space. This has been formed by the removal of most of the interior partition walls of the original offices, portions of which are left as dividers for the room, and the insertion of skylights in the former Hughes building part of the space. The interior spaces of the original office buildings have largely been rearranged for adaption to the buildings’ use as a restaurant.
Upon entering the restaurant through this doorway, the eye is drawn up a modern sweeping stairway to the right. This leads up to a mezzanine dining area, from which the toilet facilities are accessed. The wooden window joinery on the mezzanine level is plain and utilitarian, glazed with strengthened glass.
A semi-circular bar has been installed at the left hand wall of the ground floor of this room, in the position of the original stair access to the former office space on the mezzanine level. A feature wall with statue niche has been added at an angle in this corner. Remnants of the partition walls have been punctuated with decorative Ionic columns, and other classical features, such as fluted pilasters and pediments, have been added to echo the Italianate styling of the exterior façade, giving an overall impression of elegant opulence. Original panelled ceiling fabric and decorative ventilators remain, now hung with modern chandelier-style light fittings suspended from chains.
To the rear of the bar, on the ground floor of this original New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society office part of the building, a full restaurant kitchen has been installed. Beyond this are a series of small service and storage rooms and a small open doorway giving passage through the original dividing wall of the buildings.
From the ground floor of the former New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society part of the building, access to the former Hughes building is gained through a large opening in the original dividing wall, now crowned with an ornamental pediment fixed above the doorway. The floor level between the two buildings is different because of the latter’s position higher up the Brougham Street slope, therefore four stairs are necessary between the two spaces. The second dining room is of a similar floor space as the other building, however without the mezzanine and staircase appears a larger space, although the remnants of several former partition walls are evident. To the right rear of the room, the original strong room is located behind a heavy safe door. This small room is lined with shelving.
The original window joinery in the façade of this building has also been replaced, however the positioning and fanlights remain, as does the original entrance.
New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building constructed
R.C. Hughes office building constructed
Alterations to New Plymouth Investment and Loan Society building for adaptation to restaurant use; including installation of kitchen
Changes include upgrading lavatories; replacement of first floor joists, extension to rear of building; replacement of front sash windows with casements and lowering of sill height.
Modifications to both buildings including creating opening in dividing wall between them.
Repairs to east, south and north sides of building.
Removal of decorative finial and urns from parapet and balustrading, removal of chimneys, installation of skylights in Hughes office building.
Timber, brick and masonry foundations, corrugated iron roofing and cladding of side and rear walls.
Public NZAA Number
9th February 2011
Report Written By
G & R Lambert. An Illustrated History of Taranaki, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1983.
Murray Moorhead, Colonial Tales of Old New Plymouth, Zenith Publishing, New Plymouth, 2005
Nigel Prickett, Historic Taranaki: An Archaeological Guide, GP Books, Wellington, 1990
Wells, 1878 (1976)
B Wells, The History of Taranaki, Edmonson & Avery 'Taranaki News Office', New Plymouth, 1878. Reprinted by Capper Press, Christchurch, 1976
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.