Lawrence Post Office (Former)

2 Colonsay Street And Peel Street, Lawrence

  • Lawrence Post Office (Former). CC Licence 3.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Benchill - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Benchill . Date: 9/10/2011.
  • Lawrence Post Office (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/03/2010.
  • Lawrence Post Office (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/03/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2244 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


City/District Council

Clutha District


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 9 Blk LXVI Town of Lawrence (CT OT13B/61)

Location description

Located on the corner of Colonsay Street and Peel Street.


The land on which this building was built was originally part of an area reserved for the public buildings of the General Government in 1867 (Gaz. 1867 p.374.). This Block became the local administrative centre with the County Council Offices, the Post Office, the Warden's Court, the Jail, the Postmaster's House, and Police staff houses all within the same area.

The 1866 building was occupied as Warden's Court from 1866-1876. In October 1876 it was handed over to the control of the postmaster general. The Post Office took up occupancy in 1877, moving from its older building which was situated behind the present one. The building remained the home of the Post Office from 1877 to 1973. In 1973 the Post Office shifted to new premises on Ross Place, and the building was vacated, and has remained largely unoccupied, except for a few short term tenancies since.

By the mid 1970s there was discussion about creating a historic reserve, noting the Post Office's importance to the other historic buildings in the vicinity, notably the adjoining Warden's Court (c.1874-1876), the Lodge St George (1878), the Presbyterian Church (1886) and other associated government buildings on the wider block. The site was reserved for historical purposes in May 1979. The Commissioner of Crown Lands at the time noted that the building was a landmark, "not only in Lawrence, but from the point of view of early New Zealand architecture," and hoped it would be put to good use by the local community. The property was handed over to the NZHPT to administer under the Reserves Act 1977 in mid 1981.

By the mid 1980s the building had remained untenanted and suggestions were made to revoke reserve status and sell it, with a covenant in place to protect it. The Reserve status was revoked, and the building sold into private hands in November 1989. A Heritage Covenant was registered on the building in 1990 (document 760813).

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Warden's Courts provided an important function in this period of history. Its use as first a Court and then a Post Office (for nearly 100 years) make it an important part of the social functioning of the town and an important part of the town's history.

Lawrence's first Warden's Court (known as the Post Office) was designed by prominent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson. It is possibly one of Lawson's earlier surviving buildings, representing the beginning of his distinguished architectural career. In its positioning on a prominent hillside overlooking Lawrence's main street, amidst other Government buildings, and its Italianate style it makes an important architectural contribution to the town. As Warden's Court it was the first substantial Government building to be constructed in the town, and represents the importance of the goldfield's history of the area.

As the first goldfields Warden's Court this building represents an important aspect of New Zealand history, and shows a strong association with these significant events. The goldfields period with administration provided by the Court was a formative part of the history of Otago and New Zealand as a whole, and Lawrence and nearby Gabriels Gully were the first places in the country to feel the full effect of the rushes.

The grandeur of this building in its small township shows the importance of this era as a bringer of wealth and government functions to Tuapeka area.

This building has a strong positive association for the community, having operated as a Post Office for close to 100 years, and also because of its prominent position in the townscape. Its value was also recognised in its previous Historic Reserve status, and through the Covenant which remains on the title. The Post Office was originally built as the Warden's Court, and as such it is the earliest such surviving building in the country, clearly identifying a rare building type. The later Wardens Court (1874-1876) on the adjoining section is the only one on the NZHPT register, and the building under discussion predates it by 10 years.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lawson, Robert Arthur

Born in Scotland, Lawson (1833-1902) began his professional career in Perth. At the age of 25 he moved to Melbourne and was engaged in goldmining and journalism before resuming architectural practice. In 1862 Lawson sailed for Dunedin, where his sketch plans had won the competition for the design of First Church. This was built 1867-73. Lawson went on to become one of the most important architects in New Zealand. First Church is regarded as his masterpiece and one of the finest nineteenth century churches in New Zealand.

He was also responsible for the design of the Trinity Church (now Fortune Theatre), Dunedin (1869-70), the East Taieri Presbyterian Church (1870), and Knox Church, Dunedin (1874). He designed Park's School (1864) and the ANZ Bank (originally Union Bank, 1874). In Oamaru he designed the Bank of Otago (later National Bank building, 1870) and the adjoining Bank of New South Wales (now Forrester Gallery, 1881).

See also: Ledgerwood, Norman, 2013. 'R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin'. Historic Cemeteries Conservation NZ.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The building was originally designed in 1866 as the Warden's Court by Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson (1833-1902). Scottish born Lawson started his professional career in Melbourne in 1861. After winning the design competition for the First Church of Otago in Dunedin, he set up practice in that city in June 1862. He was pre-eminently a church architect, designing and superintending the construction of over forty churches. He also designed other notable buildings in Otago such as the Dunedin Municipal Chambers (1878-1880) and Otago Boys High School (1882-1884) as well as the now demolished Seacliff Lunatic Asylum (1879-84). After Seacliff Asylum was condemned and Lawson disgraced he returned to Melbourne in 1890. He returned to Dunedin in October 1900, dying two years later.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1866 -

Construction Details

The Lawrence Post Office, built as the Warden's Court, is one of Lawson's earlier surviving buildings. It is of Italianate style, constructed of brick and plaster, with an iron roof.

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Mane-Wheoki, Jonathan, 'Lawson, Robert Arthur 1833-1902', updated 16 December 2003; URL:

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Colin Kerr, 'Warden's Court and Old Post Office, Lawrence.' 1975 unpublished report for the NZHPT (Lawrence Post Office file).

Other Information

NZHPT Heritage Covenant (13Aug90).

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.