Bishopscourt (Columba College)

421 Highgate, Maori Hill, Dunedin

  • Bishopscourt (Columba College).
    Copyright: Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ben Hill. Date: 14/08/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2147 Date Entered 27th July 1988


City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lots 8/12 DP 1994 Pt Lot 1 Deeds plan 146, Lot 2 DP 11030 etc


Built by Bishop S.T. Nevill as his residence. The stone house was designed by Mason and Wales in 1871. The contractor was [David?] Hunter and the quoted price was 3087 pounds. In August 1872 it was reported the residence would be finished in 2 or 3 months. In December 1872 it was reported that two theological students were in residence in the upper rooms of Bishop's Court. In 1878 the Bishop sold the residence to bank manager [John?] Roberts. It later sold to William Sargood, who was shot at Bishopscourt by a disgruntled employee. In 1914 the home became Columba College.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Bishop Nevill ordered this house for himself but found that the diocese would contribute only 2,500 pounds, which was less than half of the buildings cost. Nevill wished to house students training for the priesthood, and the house had six dormitory sized bedrooms in its upper storeys. When the diocese created further money difficulties Nevill put Bishopscourt up for sale while he was overseas in 1877-78 and moved to the even grander house of Bishopsgrove on his return to New Zealand. Bishopscourt was subsequently owned by a manager of the Bank of New Zealand, John Wright if Wright Stephensons, William Sargood, Son and Ewen, and Stuart Holmes, a farmer form Kakanui. The Presbyterian Church bought the building for a girls' school in 1914.


Bishopscourt is a large and splendid example of a Dunedin 'bluestone' house in the gothic style. It carries the bold grey and white stone patterns of many of Dunedin's imposing buildings of the period, such as Maxwell Bury's University buildings.


The building has an imposing presence on the major suburban street of Highgate, though now partly masked from the road by more recent buildings.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mason, William

Mason had been in New Zealand for 20 years when he first set up as an architect in the gold mining boom town of Dunedin in 1862. He had been an official under Governor Hobson and was a respected Member of Parliament. He designed the old Post Office building which became the Exchange Building, the former Bank of New Zealand and the Bank of New South Wales - all now demolished. He also designed the 1864 Exhibition building which became part of the Dunedin Hospital. Mason had retired briefly in the late 1860s but returned to work with Wales (1871-1874) and during this time designed Bishopscourt and the extension to All Saints. He then retired to live at Glenorchy.

In 1863 William Mason took W H Clayton into partnership and formed Mason and Clayton. Buildings designed by Mason and Clayton (while Clayton was in Dunedin) included All Saints Church, Edinburgh House, the Bank of New South Wales on Princess Street and the old Provincial Chambers. Of these only All Saints Church remains.

Hunter, David

David Hunter designed the post-1914 addition to Bishopscourt Dunedin.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


'Freely detailed Gothic somewhere between Perpendicular and Elizabethan in no way inferior to the better country houses being built at the time in England' (Stacpoole 1976).


External modifications have consisted of additions to the original bishop's house carried out in the same style. The hall and front rooms still have their original fittings but the interior has been modified to provide accommodation for Columba College.

Notable Features

Its Gothic bluestone facade and its association with Bishop Nevill.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1871 - 1872
The Bishop's residence was built

1883 - 1914
Additional gables to the south were added between 1883 and 1914

Another wing to the south was added

Construction Details

The walls of the original house are of Leith Valley andesite with Oamaru stone facings and the roof is slate. The addition by David Hunter is in dark grey Caversham sandstone.

Information Sources

Galer, 1981

L. Galer, Houses and Homes, Allied Press, Dunedin, 1981

Stacpoole, 1976

John Stacpoole, Colonial Architecture in New Zealand, Wellington, 1976

Porter, 1983

Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.