The Exchange Court Façade (Former) and Thomson, Bridger and Company Façade (Former)

194 Princes Street, Dunedin

  • The Exchange Court Façade (Former) and Thomson, Bridger and Company Façade (Former), Dunedin.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Janny Sjaaholm. Date: 28/03/2018.
  • The Exchange Court Façade (Former) and Thomson, Bridger and Company Façade (Former), Dunedin.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 5/05/2009.
  • The Exchange Court Façade (Former) and Thomson, Bridger and Company Façade (Former), Dunedin.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 5/05/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2237 Date Entered 2nd July 1982


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described Lot 1 DP 77 (OT365/104) and part of the land described as Lot 2 Folium 4 DP 77 (OT14A/517), Otago Land District and the building facades known as The Exchange Court Façade (Former) and Thomson, Bridger and Company Façade (Former) thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 31 May 2018.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 77 (OT365/104) and Lot 2 Folium 4 DP 77 (OT14A/517), Otago Land District.


This pair of ornate facades - The Exchange Court (former) and the Thomson, Bridger and Co. (fomer) Building – on Dunedin’s Princes Street represent the height of Victorian and Edwardian architecture in what was the country’s wealthiest city. Their distinctive and highly ornamented facades have aesthetic, historical and architectural significance.

Dunedin businessman and jeweller John Hislop opened the two-storey (with a basement) Exchange Court in 1881 – providing office space, shops and an enclosed arcade. James Hislop (no relation) and W.H. Terry were the architects behind the building, and Mr Millington was the contractor. John Hislop had his own premises in the building and let other shops and offices. Through a cast iron gate access was gained to the shops and offices of the arcade. There were seven offices on the ground floor, and ten on the first floor. The walls were plastered throughout, and finished with cornices and chair-rails. The building’s heavily ornate facade was decorated with modillion cornices, Corinthian capitals and enriched panels.

In November 1915, Everybody’s Theatre was constructed opened within the Exchange Court’s building, behind the existing façade. There were 850 seats, split on two floors. The manager’s room, the store rooms and ladies’ cloak room were all located on the first floor. The ceiling was made of fibrous plaster, designed in 3 bays and domed. The Evening Star wrote that “Nothing equal to this plaster work is to be seen in Australasia”. The architect of Everybody’s Theatre was Edward Walden, and the contractor was William McLellan. In 1920 Haywards Theatre Limited took over the cinema. It was closed for renovation in November 1929, and re-opened as The Roxy on the in May 1930. It closed a year later in June. Woolworths, a retail store, opened in the theatre’s building in 1931. The ground floor was used to exhibit goods, while the first floor was used by the staff and for storage. The architect of alterations was R. G. Talboys, and the contractor was George Simpson and Sons.

The other building in the pair was built in 1906 for Thomson, Bridger and Co., an iron and woodware company. The three-storey building provided showrooms and offices. Mason and Wales were the architects. The company was founded in the early 1860s by Mr Guthrie and Larnach, and was later taken over by the Dunedin Iron and Woodware Company. Sometime after 1887 Thomson, Bridger and Co. bought the company. Before moving into Princes Street, they appear to have had their business on Bond Street. In 1952 Woolworths took over the lease of the building, and the two buildings functioned as one from then on, with Woolworths using both buildings.

In 1979 L.D. Nathan bought Woolworths, and in 1988 Woolworths was turned into DEKA, a general merchandise shop. Philip Laing House started leasing the old theatre in 1999, and the old Exchange Court in 1994. The freehold (the land was leasehold) was purchased by Philip Laing House Limited in 2004. In 2018, the ground floor is occupied by a shop and the upper floors are vacant.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mason & Wales Architects Ltd

Mason and Wales Architects Ltd is the oldest architectural practice in New Zealand, having been founded by William Mason (1810-1897) in 1862 Dunedin. Mason was born in England, studied under Peter Nicholson and worked under Thomas Telford and Edward Blore. In 1838 he immigrated to New South Wales, and came to New Zealand in 1840. Having spent 22 years in Auckland he went to Dunedin at the time of the gold discoveries and was elected the first mayor of Dunedin in 1865. He was active in politics as well as in architecture.

Mason was in partnership firstly with David Ross (1827-1908) and William Henry Clayton (1823-1877) and he took in N.Y.A. Wales (1832-1903) when Clayton left the firm to become Colonial Architect in Wellington. Wales had worked as a clerk of works and was very competent in all aspects of construction.

The firm was responsible for many of Dunedin's early important buildings such as the Post Office (later known as the Exchange Building), Princes Street (1864-68), the Exhibition Building (later the Dunedin Hospital), Great King Street (1864), St Matthew's Church, Stafford Street (1873), and the Wains Hotel, Princes Street (1878).

Mason and Wales designed the Abbotsford Farm Steading (1871) at Outram, Otago (NZHPT Reg. No. 7579). This farm steading was designed for James Shand, a prominent land owner, politician and businessman in the area. Mason and Wales designed another farm steading for Shand at his property Berkeley in 1881 (demolished 1981). In 1881, Mason and Wales also designed a plain concrete Chicory Kiln (NZHPT Reg. No. 3359, Cat II) at Inch Clutha, South Otago for Gregg and Coy.

Mason and Wales continues today. N.Y.A. Wales (b.1927) is a fourth generation director of the firm.

WALES, Nathaniel Young Armstrong (1832-1903)

Wales was born in Northumberland, England, and educated at Jedburgh, Scotland. He immigrated to Australia in 1854 and found employment as a carpenter working on the buildings for the first exhibition held in Melbourne.

He arrived in Dunedin about 1863, and was a clerk of works for William Mason on the old Bank of New Zealand Building (1862-64), the Post Office Building (1864-68) and the Port Chalmers Graving Dock (1868-72).

Wales entered partnership with William Mason in 1871. The firm of Mason and Wales was responsible for many fine buildings in Dunedin including Bishopscourt (1873), St Matthew's Church (1873), Government Life Insurance Building (1897) and Wains Hotel (1878).

Wales had military and political interests and was a Member of Parliament for some years. He occupied a seat on the Dunedin Harbour Board and was a Dunedin City Councillor. In 1895 he was elected Mayor of Dunedin. In 1900 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Walden, Edward Walter

Walden was born (b.1870) in Dunedin and educated at Otago Boys' High School. He began his architectural career articled to James Hislop. He became a partner in the Dunedin firm of Hislop and Walden, and when Hislop died in 1902, he took over the firm.

Walden was responsible for the first abattoirs erected in New Zealand, Hallenstein's Building on the Octagon, a church at Anderson's Bay and Levin and Company's Building, Dunedin.

His son Eric practised architecture at Nelson.

Hislop, James (1859-1904)

‘James Hislop (1859-1904) was born in Glasgow and came to New Zealand at a very early age. He was educated at North East Valley School and received his architectural training in the office of Mason and Wales. He also spent two years with the Public Works Department, as district manager of Nelson. In 1880 he entered into business with W.H. Terry who retired three years later. He established his own practice in Dunedin and later entered into a partnership with Edward Walter Walden. In 1889 Hislop designed and supervised the erection of the South Seas Exhibition among a number of prominent buildings both in Otago and elsewhere in the country.’

‘Among the significant buildings designed by James Hislop, or by the Hislop and Walden partnership are Crown Milling Co. building, Miller Place, Dunedin (c.1880); New Zealand Steam Shipping Co. office, Dunedin; DIC, Christchurch; Evans and Co. Mill, Timaru; National Bank, George Street, Dunedin; Napier Abattoirs (1902); Hallenstein Building, The Octagon; Dunedin City Abattoirs.’ Hislop moved to Wellington around 1903, where he died as the result of an accident in 1904.

Source: Heritage New Zealand Review Report for Ferntree Lodge, List No. 368, 27 Jun 2017, Heather Bauchop.

McLellan, William

McLellan was the builder of several prominent buildings in Dunedin, including the Lindo Ferguson Building (1925), Maori Hill Presbyterian Church (1920) and St Pauls Cathedral in the Octagon (1916-1919).

Mr Millington (contractor)

A Dunedin contractor active in the 1880s.

R. G. Talboys

Robert Gordon Talboys (-1971) was a renowned architect, who primarily worked in Wanganui. He began his career with Basil Hooper in Dunedin, where he designed several buildings. After World War One he moved to Wanganui and started a partnership with C. Reginald Ford: Ford and Talboys. In 1922 he moved to Auckland to join William Gummer. Talboys is also remembered as an associated architect for Woolworths (NZ) for the period 1937-1963.

George Simpson and Sons

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Elaborate plasterwork in the interior of the theatre and the highly ornamented facade.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1906 -
Thomson, Bridger and Co. opened

1915 -
Everybody’s Theatre opened at the rear of Exchange Court

1915 -
Theatre built behind existing façade

Original Construction
1880 - 1881
The Exchange Court opened

Completion Date

28th March 2018

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Otago Witness

Otago Witness

31 December 1881, p.22. Completion of building; 19 October 1904, p.33. James Hislop's obituary.

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 Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand