Farmers Trading Company Building

256 Stafford Street, Timaru

  • Farmers Trading Company Building. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Francis Vallance. Taken By: Francis Vallance. Date: 28/12/2008.
  • Farmers Trading Company Building. Feb 1993. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: Pam Wilson.
  • Farmers Trading Comapny Building. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: C Cochran. Date: 8/04/1983.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 2057 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 3 DP 429968 (CT 516780), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Farmers Trading Company Building thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 1 February 2018.

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 3 DP 429968 (CT 516780), Canterbury Land District


The Farmers Trading Company Building was erected in 1902 to 1903 as the premises for prominent Timaru drapery firm, T and J Thomson, established in 1883 by brothers Thomas and James Thomson. The building has architectural significance as a prominent commercial design by Timaru-born architect, James Turnbull and aesthetic importance for its highly decorative Edwardian façade. The building has historical significance for its continuous occupation as a successful drapery and department store. The location of the building is also historically important as it pioneered the northward expansion of the central business area of Timaru. It has enduring commemorative significance in honour of the coronation of King Edward VII.

The land on which the Farmers Trading Company Building is situated was formerly part of Rural Section (RS) 7555, granted by the Crown to George Rhodes and another, probably William Rhodes. In 1853 the Rhodes Brothers had RS 7555, and adjoining RS 730, surveyed as ‘Rhodes Town’ and subdivided sections were sold for commercial and residential occupation. The subject land was formerly Lot 154 of RS 7555, transferred to Thomas Thomson, a Timaru draper, in 1900. Prior to this the land was held by the Public Trustee, and a commission agent before that, and was undeveloped with only an ‘open shed’ described on the land in 1896.

In January 1902 Timaru architect James Turnbull invited tenders from builders for construction of ‘extensive business premises’ on Stafford Street for Thomas Thomson. The location was criticised at the time for being ‘too far north’, beyond the concentrated business area of the town. Building work had commenced by February 1902 and the back and side walls were erected by April that year. The building was named ‘Coronation Buildings’ in honour of the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, however, construction was delayed due to difficulty in obtaining sufficiently large stone block for the pillars and was not completed by Coronation Day as intended. The building was nearing completion in November 1902 when Turnbull invited tenders for erecting a verandah at Coronation Buildings.

The building was completed in January 1903 and opened with a large celebration. The most prominent feature of the building was its ornate façade in plastered brick with flagstaff, balcony and verandah (since removed). The words ‘Coronation Buildings’ were set into the central pediment in relief lettering, although the main entrance was situated off-centre on the right side of the façade. T and J Thomson advertised their new premises as ‘ye sign of the crown’, referring to the crown that was mounted on the balcony balustrade. The interior of the building’s ground floor was divided into three large spaces from front to back.

In October 1908 the building was extensively damaged by a fire. The fire, which originated at or near the front door, ‘practically gutted’ the main shop and showroom on the ground floor and the first floor workrooms, but the brick construction prevented the spread of the fire or any damage to the façade. Thomson was insured for the lost stock and building and in March 1909 T and J Thomson returned to the Coronation Buildings, restored by Turnbull. The opportunity was taken to improve Turnbull’s original design by increasing the floor space by removing some interior walls and installing a more compact staircase. The interior spaces were also given ‘a more artistic appearance’. Charles Thomson expanded the business into the adjacent building to the north, erected around 1910. The firm was acquired by the nationwide department store Hay’s Ltd in 1961 which merged with Farmers Trading Company Ltd in the 1980s. ‘Coronation Buildings’ remains occupied by Farmers.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Turnbull, James S

James S. Turnbull (1864-1947) worked in a Melbourne architect's office before returning to establish his own practice in Timaru in c.1895. In a career which spanned over forty years, Turnbull designed a wide range of building types in the South Canterbury town, including Chalmers Presbyterian Church (1903-04) and a considerable number of large town houses.

Hunt and Werry (Builders)

Builders of Hay’s Building (Former), Timaru - 1908 and the concrete and brickwork for the D.C. Turnbull & Co. Limited Buildings, Timaru - 1901

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1908 -

1909 -
Restoration and remodelling after fire

Original Construction
1902 - 1903

Completion Date

28th November 2017

Report Written By

Christine Whybrew

Information Sources

A Century of Carnivals: The Caroline Bay Story

John Button, A Century of Carnivals: The Caroline Bay Story, Timaru: The Caroline Bay Association, 2011

South Canterbury region - Timaru and its port

John Wilson. 'South Canterbury region - Timaru and its port', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 21-Sep-12, URL:, accessed 25 July 2016

Timaru Centenary 1868-1968

Timaru Centenary 1868-1968, Timaru: Christopher E. Dawson, 1968

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand