Guardian Royal Exchange Building

7-9 Liverpool Street, Dunedin

  • Guardian Royal Exchange Building.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 5/05/2009.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 5/05/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2158 Date Entered 15th February 1990


City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 12 Blk 38 Town of Dunedin

Assessment criteriaopen/close


The land (Section 12, Block 38) was originally Harbour Reserve and was sold by the Superintendent of Otago in 1869 two titles to Percival C. Neill, who eventually built Edinburgh House across the road. Neill sold Section 12 fairly promptly and it passed through the hands of various businessmen until 1881 when the western side was sold to Murray Roberts and the eastern side to the Dunedin Exchange. The history of Murray Roberts, the stock and station agents, says that the whole building was built for the firm but they do not appear on the land title for the eastern side. Certainly the building is a unity but there is a dividing wall down the centre, coinciding with the land tile boundary. The eastern half of the title passed to the Mutual Assurance 1888, National Mutual Life Insurance 1938 and the Guardian Royal Exchange 1960. The western half of the building remained with Murray Roberts until 1962 when it passed to the Guardian Royal Exchange.


This is one of the few large Petre secular buildings and makes an interesting pair with Petre's other nearby commercial building, Airport House. Its classical styling is carefully detailed.


This building is unusual in that it has three street frontages, positioned as it is on the end of a narrow block. Since Edinburgh House was removed it has become a very visible old building and an important part of the streetscape behind the Chief Post Office.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Petre, Francis William

Petre (1847-1918) was born in Lower Hutt. He was the son of the Hon. Henry William Petre and grandson of the eleventh Baron Petre, Chairman of the second New Zealand Company. Petre trained in London as a naval architect, engineer, and architect, returning to New Zealand in 1872. During the next three years he was employed by Brogden and Sons, English railway contractors, superintending the construction of the Dunedin-Clutha and the Blenheim-Picton railways.

He set up office in Dunedin in 1875 as an architect and civil engineer. He designed a house for Judge Chapman (1875), followed by 'Cargill's Castle' (1876) for E B Cargill and then St Dominic's Priory (1877), all in mass concrete.

It is for his church designs and for his pioneering use of concrete that Petre is most recognised. His church buildings include St Joseph's Cathedral, Dunedin (1878-86), Sacred Heart Basilica (now Cathedral of the Sacred Heart), Wellington (1901), St Patrick's Basilica, Oamaru, (1894 and 1903) and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch, (1904-05), which is the outstanding achievement of his career. Petre's commercial buildings include the Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Building (1881-82) and Pheonix House (now Airport House, c.1885), both in Dunedin.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


The style is classical without any gothic touches. The capitals of the pillars in correct order, with Doric below Corinthian.

The roof is built in two low pitched peaks in corrugated iron, almost invisible from the street. The lower story has large double hung arch headed windows, s3et in larger arches between Doric pillars. The side facade on the south has had the arches entirely removed and the whole rectangle between each pillar filled in with modern square window panes. The upper story has pedimented window heads with ornate Corinthian pilasters between the windows. There is a large central pediment at the roof line. The roof parapet had a balustrade with broad posts at intervals and each post topped by a spherical finial. There are two sets of heavy double doors leading to accommodation on each side of the central wall that divides the building in two on the line of the land title boundary. These doors are elaborately framed in rusticated false stone work with round headed fan lights. The inner edge of each doorway arch is framed with Oamaru stone carved to resemble tide bundles of leaves.


The stone, plaster and brickwork have all been painted in appropriate colours to give a uniform appearance to the different materials. Windows which have been replaced on the south side. Air conditioners and fire escapes have been added to the side walls. The balustraded parapet along the roofline has been filled in with flat panels of concrete and the spherical finials removed. The interior has been greatly modified, and re-partitioned with flush surfaces.

Notable Features

Its landmark qualities.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1881 -
Tenders for the construction of the building were called in May 1881 when Murray Roberts bought half the land.

Construction Details

The base of the building consists of roughly dressed blocks of Port Chalmers breccia and the walls are triple brick, only partly plastered. The major pillars and pilasters are Oamaru stone. Roof of corrugated iron.

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

McCoy, 1968

E McCoy and J G Blackman, Victorian City of New Zealand, Dunedin, 1968

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.