Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Building (Former)

120 Eastbourne Street East And Russell Street South, Hastings

  • Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Building (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1076 Date Entered 22nd June 2007


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes all of the land in CT HB H3/798 and the building and its fittings and fixtures thereon.

City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lots 13-14 DP 4052 (CT HB H3/798), Hawkes Bay Land District


The CML building was designed in 1939 by the Wellington architectural firm of Swan and Lavelle for the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited (CML), a major Australasian insurance and investment company. Though CML sold the building to Pamela Mary Stewart of Melbourne in 1979 they continued to occupy parts of the building until 1988 when they moved their office to 206 Queen Street East. In addition to CML the building has been occupied by a variety of tenants over the years, including some well established Hastings businesses.

This is an important building from the hand of Swan and Lavelle, extending understanding of their work, since it combines elements of a number of styles in a well-considered and unusual way. The form of the building, with a turret and flanking wings, is appropriate for the corner site, and it performs a vital purpose in the townscape in anchoring the south end of the impressive row of period buildings on the east side of Russell Street. Although modern signage has defaced the main elevations, and the original coloured plaster finish has been lost to modern paint coatings, it is otherwise in reasonably authentic condition, maintaining exactly its original form. Decorative motifs of Maori origin are an unusual feature.

Historically significant for its association with CML, the CML building also has some social value for its use by a range of Hastings businesses over the last 68 years. Competently designed, the building at once stands out for its interesting and unusual composition and fits in well with its neighbours and the townscape.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Colonial Mutual Limited was a significant Australasian company, with interests in many parts of the world. This building was their Hastings branch for a number of decades from 1939 to 1988.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The former CML building has aesthetic value for its place in the townscape, the tower and turret roof forming an exclamation mark at a highly visible intersection at south end of the impressive row of buildings on Russell Street.

Architectural Significance or Value

The building is an eclectic and successful blend of styles, combining well with its neighbours. The counterplay of the forms of the building - the turret and wings out on two sides - make an interesting and unusual composition. It has added architectural value as a significant commercial building designed by the important practice of Swan and Lavelle.

Social Significance or Value

The CML building has some social value as the premises for a number of Hastings businesses and workplace for Hastings residents since 1939. Of note is the association between Visique Shattky on Russell, a long standing optometrists practice in Hastings, who have occupied the building for the last 40 years, and a number of individual jewellers who have occupied the corner shop for much of the same period.

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

This structure is representative of the role of Australasian financial services companies in New Zealand's commercial history and development. Like many others of its ilk e.g. AMP [Australian Mutual Provident Society] and T&G [Temperance & General Mutual Life Assurance Society], CML was diligent in keeping branches in major New Zealand towns and cities. CML was a major financial institution over its 120 plus year history and played its role in the prosperity of the countries it operated in, particularly New Zealand and Australia.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The building is a competently designed building, notable for the relationship of the forms (of tower and two flanking wings), and their juxtaposition on a prominent city corner. The building makes an important contribution to the streetscape, fitting well with its neighbours in Russell Street, and is a minor landmark in the city because of the tower.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

This building sits comfortably in the wider landscape of buildings from the post 1931 earthquake period and which so strongly define the character of the city.


Historically significant for its association with CML, the CML building also has some social value for its use by a range of Hastings businesses over the last 68 years. Competently designed, the building at once stands out for its interesting and unusual composition and fits in well with its neighbours and the townscape.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Swan, John Sydney

Swan (1874-1936) practised architecture during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He formed part of the last group of architects to follow the traditional Gothic and Classical styles. He was articled to Frederick de Jersey Clere, working with Clere on many major designs such as the Wellington Rowing Club building (then known as the Naval Artillery Boat Shed, 1894) as well as smaller provincial buildings such as the Church of the Good Shepherd, Tinui. The firm was known as Clere, Fitzgerald and Richmond and was one of the most prominent architectural practices in Wellington. From 1901 to 1906 Swan was in partnership with Clere, practising on his own account from 1907. The first major design produced by Swan in this new practice was the Karori Crematorium (1907) which served to establish his architectural identity separate from Clere.

During his long and varied career Swan produced a large and wide range of work, including a number of banks for the National Bank such as the head office building in Wellington (1907), educational buildings for the Wellington Technical College with William Gray Young (1922), and a number of major buildings for the Catholic Church including St Gerard's Church, Mt Victoria (1910), Sacred Heart Convent (later Erskine College), Island Bay (1909), and Wanganui Convent (1912). He was an architect of imagination as evidenced by the design of his own house 'The Moorings', Glenbervie Terrace (1905).

Abbott, H.W.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Lavelle, William Edward

Lavelle (1905-1974) was chief draughtsman for King & Dawson and co-founder of Structon Group Architects (1944). Structon Group received an Institute of Architects gold medal for St Joseph's orphanage, Upper Hutt. Lavelle was also an active member of NZIA. After retirement, rather than continuing to practise as an architect, he set up as a consultant helping with litigation cases.

Swan and Lavelle

From 1906 to 1915 John Swan practiced on his own. In 1915 he was joined in practice by his younger brother, Francis H Swan, and the practice was renamed Swan and Swan. They were later joined in practice by Charles Lawrence and the firm was renamed Swan Lawrence Swan. Charles Lawrence died in 1933 and, in 1934, John Swan left to form Swan and Lavelle (the practice he left would be carried on by his younger brother, and would become known as Lawrence and Swan). In 1936, only two years later, John Swan died. Swan and Lavelle was a forerunner to the present day Structon Group Ltd which Lavelle co-founded in 1944. The Swan and Lavelle partnership only lasted eight years but it was an important link between traditional, historicist architecture and the modern idioms adopted by Lavelle and his contemporaries post-World War II.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

This building was constructed for the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited (CML), a major Australasian insurance and investment company, which was originally established in Melbourne in 1873. Melbourne was a city that had grown prosperous on gold and a series of co-operative organisations, based on mutual benefit, were formed during the second half of the 19th century. By the end of 1874 the company had established offices in the other capital cities of the Australian colonies. CML branches were then established in Fiji (1876), South Africa (1883) and New Zealand (1884). In 1886, CML entered the British market.

CML opened branches in many New Zealand cities and towns, often designed in the house oeuvre, which drew on the Spanish Mission style, other examples include the now demolished CML Building on the corner Customhouse Quay and Willeston Street, Wellington. The Hastings CML building was constructed for CML in 1939 to a design by the noted Wellington architectural practice, Swan and Lavelle. This building extends understanding of the work of Swan and Lavelle, combining elements of a number of styles in a well-considered and unusual way. CML had bought the land from the Bank of Australasia in 1938.

CML was a consistent performer, remaining intact through several depressions and it outlasted many other competitors. In 1996, it was demutualised and listed on the Stock Exchange the following year. It merged with the Commonwealth Bank in 2000 and the name CML largely disappeared from the commercial scene.

CML sold their Hastings office to Pamela Mary Stewart of Melbourne in 1979. She was described as a secretary and remains the owner of the building.

Building plans indicate that CML planned to occupy the southern corners of the ground and first floors of the building. The company planned to use their section of the ground floor as a reception area and offices, and their section of the first floor for further offices. CML planned to lease the shop fronts on the north west side of the ground floor and other areas on the ground and first floor of the building that they were not occupying.

In addition to CML, who occupied the building between 1939 and 1988 (as a tenant after 1979) at which time they moved offices to 206 Queen Street East, the building has been occupied by a variety of tenants over the years. Known tenants include:

•A merchant and importing company, Satterthwaite & Co Ltd, occupied the eastern corner of the ground floor (adjacent to CML's offices) between approximately 1952 and 1968.

•A china and glassware retailer, Sim and Co, occupied the middle shop (shop 2) on the ground floor between approximately 1953-1968.

•The Union Steamship Company likely occupied the shop in the northern corner of the ground floor (shop 1) from approximately 1962 to 1967.

•Minh Ta Design, occupied the first floor of the building between approximately 1989-1993 (giving rise to the building being referred to in some publications as the Minh Ta building).

An optometrist's has occupied part of the north western section of the ground floor since 1967. The practice began in approximately 1905-1907, originally operating as Shattky and Webber at Webber's Building (also on Russell Street). Ernest Shattky practiced with his two sons Derek and Herbert. After returning from World War Two Derek Shattky continued to practice with his father (his brother, Herbert Shattky, left the practice to train as an architect) and Neil Donaldson would join the practice after Ernest Shattky died. The practice would become known as Shattky and Donaldson in approximately 1966 and moved to the CML Building in approximately June or July 1967. The practice subsequently took on Mark Eagle in 1979, becoming known as Shattky, Donaldson and Eagle in 1984 and then took on Donaldson's son Phil in 1987. The practice has continued to be very much a father and son affair with Mark's son Tim recently joining the practice. During their time in the CML building the practice has enlarged its premises. Originally occupying the northern corner of the ground floor (shop 1) the practice extended its premises towards the south west (into shop 2), in approximately the 1980s; then, during a major refit in the 1990s, the practice expanded further by extending its premises into the rear of the building (the southern and eastern corners). The practice joined Visique in 2001 and is now known as Visique Shattky on Russell.

A jeweller's has also occupied part of the north western section of the ground floor for much of this period. Willem H Wilm, occupied the corner shop (shop 3) between 1966 and 1983. Narborough Jewellers then occupied it between approximately 1988 and 1993 and Baldwin's Jewellers, the current tenants, have occupied this since that time. A yoga studio and other groups make up the remaining current tenants, occupying the first floor.

Physical Description

The CML Building is situated on a prominent corner site within the Hastings Central Business District. Directly opposite the building, on Eastbourne Street East, is the Hastings Municipal Women's Rest and beyond that Civic Square. Directly opposite the building, on Russell Street, is the Palmerston North-Gisborne Railway line. To the north of the building heading towards the main shopping area are other shops and businesses at ground level.

Exterior: The CML building is a two-storey structure, distinguished by an octagonal corner turret with flanking wings extending north along Russell Street and east along Eastbourne Street. The turret has a column at each corner, the columns extending beyond a parapet to give a stepped profile; a tiled roof of near-conical shape rises from within the parapet, and is capped with a flagpole. The two wings of the building are quite plain, but are discreetly trimmed with a moulded sill under the windows and a band of fluting and zigzag patterning at the top of the parapet; an enlarged version of the zigzags (slightly reminiscent of tukutuku weaving patterns) ornaments the top of the parapet of the tower. A Maori theme is also discernible in stylised koru and lattice designs worked in panels on the Eastbourne Street side of the building. The building is hence a mixture of styles: Stripped Classical (in the columns and plain wall surfaces), Spanish Mission (in the turret roof and clay tiles), and Art Deco (in the geometric patterning, some of which borrows from Maori tradition).

A verandah extends along the Russell Street façade and a short distance around the corner. It has a new wide fascia, but the underside of the verandah is lined with what appears to be the original sheet material with half-round battening. Steel windows are still in place, and there is a terrazzo shop front with chromed window frames, again presumed to be original.

Although now painted, the concrete was originally finished with coloured plaster with racked joints in imitation of stonework.

Interior: The north west section of the ground floor, once divided into three shops, now consists of two shops, Visique Shattky on Russell and Baldwin's Jewellers. Visique Shattky originally occupied one of the three shops on this site, expanding into the shop to the south west and later towards the rear of the building. The interior of Visique Shattky includes a retail space, examination areas and dispensing rooms, storage areas and office space. Baldwin's occupies the Russell and Eastbourne Street corner of the building. It retains the shape and size of the original shop on this site.

On Eastbourne Street is an arched entryway (the original entry to the CML part of the building). This gives entry to the rear of Baldwin's and to the first floor. Of note in the entryway are the original tiles and doors.

The first floor is accessed via an internal, and original, staircase. Access was not gained to the tenanted rooms on the first floor. Access was gained to the rooftop, which is normally locked. From the rooftop views of the surrounding area and the turret roof can be gained.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1939 -

Construction Details

In-situ reinforced concrete building, plastered; steel-framed windows; tiled turret roof.

Completion Date

5th June 2007

Report Written By

Imelda Bargas, Chris Cochran, Michael Kelly

Information Sources

Boffa Miskell Partners, 2001

Boffa Miskell Limited and Cochran, Chris Wellington Heritage Building Inventory 2001, Volume 2, Non-Residential Precincts, Wellington City Council, Wellington, 2001.

Kernohan, 1995

D. Kernohan and T. Kellaway, Wellington's Old Buildings, Wellington, 1995

Other Information

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.