Globe Theatre

104 London Street, Dunedin

  • Globe Theatre.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3177 Date Entered 24th March 2006


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes the land in Certificate of Title OT266/29 and the building, fixtures and fittings thereon. The registration includes both William Mason's House and the theatre. It does not include the garage to London Street.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 68 Blk XVIII Town of Dunedin (CT OT266/29), Otago Land District


The Globe Theatre is a hybrid building made up of a two-storey villa designed by New Zealand's first architect William Mason as his Dunedin residence in 1867, and the 1961 Globe Theatre designed by Niel Wales, (with the nicely circuitous connection of Wales being a partner in Mason's old architectural practice Mason and Wales). The theatre sprouts from the old drawing room of the villa, with the house performing backstage functions for the theatre. The building has special significance not only because of its association with William Mason, but as a highly idiosyncratic expression of the vision of Patric and Rosalie Carey who aimed at knocking down the barriers to real life and art in both physical and conceptual fashion.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Globe Theatre is historically significant as the home of a number of prominent New Zealanders. It was designed by New Zealand's first architect and Dunedin's first mayor William Mason as his Dunedin residence, and later was home to prominent citizens, draper Herbert Haynes, and members of the Begg family, who owned one of the most well known musical instrument companies in the country.

The Globe Theatre has outstanding importance in the history of New Zealand theatre being simultaneously both home and performance space for actors, producers, and teachers Patric and Rosalie Carey. The history of the theatre's genesis and construction provide insight into a philosophy and physical expression of ideas which theatre historian David Carnegie considers made an unique contribution to New Zealand theatre.

Victoria University Theatre Studies lecturer David Carnegie considers that The Globe Theatre (the theatre in the house) (makes a unique and outstanding architectural contribution in its expression of the ideas associated with theatre as expressed in the building. The hybrid building, comprised of the 1860s villa and the 1960s theatre, expresses Patric Carey's beliefs about the fundamental connection between art and life. The theatre sprouting from the living room of the house was a vital expression of these beliefs. The building is an idiosyncratic and unique expression of these views. The theatre building has special significance as a one built by volunteers committed to the philosophy of the theatre.

In addition, the association with New Zealand's first architect William Mason who designed the building as his own Dunedin residence, and Niel Wales, the grandson of Mason's original architectural partner, and himself a later partner in Mason and Wales adds significance.

The Globe Theatre has special cultural significance. As David Carnegie notes The Globe Theatre is one of the longest running theatre groups of its kind in New Zealand, and played a pivotal role in the cultural life of Dunedin, and was an important element in the development of a New Zealand voice in theatre. Patric and Rosalie Carey believed in the integration of life and art, encouraging this vision in their productions and in the artistic community that developed around the theatre. The theatre now attracts a second generation of actors and other theatre professionals.

One of the most outstanding cultural contributions of the theatre was the collaborative relationship that developed between Patric Carey and writers and artists such as James K. Baxter and Ralph Hotere. In the two years following Baxter's Burns Fellowship in 1966 seven of the nine plays he wrote were premiered at the Globe, and twelve plays in total were written for production at the Globe. Ralph Hotere was involved in designing sets and costumes.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The Globe Theatre represents the development of amateur theatre in New Zealand, and in particular the development of a distinct New Zealand voice. Theatre in the mid-twentieth century increaslingly relied on amateur productions, with the development of studio theatres an expression of this trend. The story of the Globe shows the outstanding contribution of the theatre to the cultural life of Dunedin, and the wider development of a New Zealand voice in both literature and the arts through the work of James K. Baxter, Ralph Hotere inspired by the Carey's efforts.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The Globe Theatre has a number of important associations with both people and ideas.

Architect William Mason was the first architect to live and practice in New Zealand. The house was designed by him for his own residence, and he lived there from the 1860s until his retirement in the 1880s. Mason was first mayor of Dunedin during this period and an important figure in the Dunedin community.

As the Globe Theatre the place has a special association with pivotal figures in the cultural milieu of New Zealand. As noted above one of the most outstanding collaborative efforts at the theatre was between Patric Carey and James K Baxter. Although Baxter had written plays prior to coming to Dunedin as a Burns Fellow, it was, he says, Patric who was 'the only man I have met who could tell me what a play is'. Carnegie argues the "modern hybrid building could be scene as physicalization of the two impulses: inherited European classicism and a rough-as-guts New Zealand voice."

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:

The community esteem for the theatre is evident first through its construction from voluntary labour, and secondly through its long life as a community-based amateur theatre group. That the theatre and its Friends group have survived for forty years indicate the on-going and valued role the theatre plays.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The design of the Globe Theatre is a physical expression of the ideas about performance, theatre and the relationship between life and art expressed by Patric Carey. The intimate connection between the theatre and the house is an integral part of its design, use and history.

Both the house and the theatre were designed by significant architects of their period - William Mason, whose surviving Dunedin buildings include Bishopcourt (now Columba College) and St Matthews Church, and Niel Wales, partner in Mason and Wales a hundred years later.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

The Globe Theatre is a unique building, a hybrid between two architecturally designed buildings from different periods with different purposes. The later theatre built on community labour, and on a passion with little financial gain is a rare expression of such an ethos and one that has served the Dunedin community for close to forty years.


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.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Globe Theatre is a hybrid building made up of a two-storey villa designed by New Zealand's first architect William Mason as his Dunedin residence in 1867, and the 1961 Globe Theatre designed by Niel Wales, with the nicely circuitous connection of being a partner in Mason's old architectural practice Mason and Wales. The theatre sprouts from the old drawing room of the villa, with the house performing backstage functions for the theatre. The building has significance not only because of its association with William Mason, but as a highly idiosyncratic expression of the vision of Patric and Rosalie Carey who aimed at knocking down the barriers to real life and art in both physical and conceptual fashion.

William Mason was the first architect to live and work in New Zealand. Mason was born at Ipswich, Suffolk, England on the 24 February 1810. At an early age he moved to London to study architecture under Thomas Telford and Peter Nicholson. In 1840 Mason migrated to New Zealand where he lived in Auckland. Mason shifted to Dunedin in 1862 in the wake of the gold rushes, with the promising economic climate offering good work prospects. Within two years the promised returns were flowing in the both large and small commissions making up a busy practice. He set up a practice at first with well known architect David Ross (the partnership was short-lived, and was dissolved the following year), and later with William Henry Clayton, the 'colonial architect'. He also became involved in politics. Mason was elected the first mayor in Dunedin. He served two terms from 1865 to 1867. In 1871 he formed an architectural partnership with N.Y.A Wales. Mason and Wales was responsible for many significant Dunedin buildings.

William Mason purchased the London Street section and a small cottage which his parliamentary colleague Christopher William Richmond had rented from builder William Thomas Winchester. Mason designed the house as his Dunedin residence. While the house was being built Mason lived in Winchester's Cottage. Mason had a reputation for choosing the best sites for the homes and buildings he designed and 104 London Street was no exception as it had sweeping views of both the city and harbour.

Mason retired in 1874 to Paradise, near Glenorchy. In 1879 he sold the London Street house to Dunedin merchant Robert Blackadder who lived there from 1879 to 1901. The house was later sold to prominent Dunedin draper Herbert Haynes lived there between 1901 and 1915.

In 1915 the house was sold to another significant Dunedin figure, Alexander Begg, son of Charles who founded a well known music and piano store in Dunedin. Charles Begg senior was born c.1825 in Scotland. He served as an apprentice in the piano manufacturing industry and in 1861 reached Dunedin. He became a familiar figure throughout Otago, where he travelled extensively carrying his tuning and repair kit to fix pianos. The business was carried on by his sons Charles and Alexander.

On Alexander Beggs' death in 1941, the property passed to his widow Christina. She married John McLaren of Dunedin in 1948. On Christina Begg's death in 1956 it passed to John McLaren. According to later owner Rosalie Carey the house was rented out in the 1950s and became “sufficiently run-down to be purchased by an impecunious theatrical couple” - the Careys. McLaren sold the house to the Careys in November 1957 (OT266/29).

New Zealand-born actor and drama teacher Rosalie Carey and English-born director and stage designer Patric Carey moved from England to New Zealand in early 1953. They first lived in Wellington where they worked alongside Richard and Edith Campion's professional theatre company - the New Zealand Players founded that year. In 1954 the Dunedin Repertory Society offered Patric Carey a year's contract as producer, and the Carey's shifted to Dunedin. Rosalie Carey taught speech and drama classes.

The Careys were building on a tradition of serious amateur theatre such as that in the Little Theatre in Christchurch, of what Glyn Strange called “talented people whose love of the theatre provided inspiration for their generation.” In the 1950s new voices were beginning to emerge, New Zealand voices telling New Zealand stories, and companies like the short-lived New Zealand Players tried to bring serious theatre, and serious New Zealand plays to audiences. Peter Harcourt writes that in the 1960s New Zealand in the theatre became a reality in different places in different ways, and theatres, productions and patronage began to assume a stable professional outlook.

Amateur dramatic societies found themselves more and more the only providers of theatrical entertainment in their communities in the mid-twentieth century, with a number of societies building their own studio theatres. The Carey's theatre, along with Unity Theatre in Wellington and University dramatic societies led the way.

Around 1957 the Careys started using the largest room of the house to present their plays. After a few years of freelancing and teaching the Carey's decided to build a theatre adjoining their house. The Dunedin City Council granted permission as long as the theatre was an extension of Rosalie Carey's studio, which meant that the former drawing room became the inner study in Shakespearean terms. Above the centre section of the main stage was a tarras or balcony supported by two pillars (later demolished). The theatre had to remain private, with no advertising until such time as fire regulations and toilet requirements were met.

Excavations began in January 1961, largely with enthusiastic volunteer support - actors, academics, professionals; people wielded shovels, poured concrete and constructed the building to Niel Wales' design (the grandson of Mason's partner, who designed the original house almost a hundred years earlier). The opening performance was Romeo and Juliet in May 1961. By the end of the first year at the Globe, three thousand people had seen seventy-one performances of fourteen plays. The Globe Theatre pre-dated professional theatres (Downstage, Wellington 1964, and Centre Theatre in Auckland).

Rosalie Carey describes the building: "The theatre's exterior does little to excite the eye, its special feature being the domed neo-octagonal roof devised to give maximum height without the use of pillars. The interior, on the other hand, was such that when it opened in 1961, the theatre was as like an Elizabethan playhouse as possible, given the current research, the restrictions of by-laws, the shape of the section and cost. The structural features and the fact that it was created by the people who would work in it, made the name 'Globe' the obvious choice." Rosalie Carey described the house: "dominated by a huge magnolia tree. The perfume from its rich cream velvet blooms adds to the romance of approaching the theatre along a winding gravel path between flower-beds, overhanging trees, urns and statuary."

Victoria University Theatre Studies lecturer David Carnegie considers that the combination of house and theatre was a unique physical expression of the Carey's ideas; he writes: "The adaptations made by Patric and Rosalie Carey in order to create an intimate theatre constitute the really significant architectural transformation." He also notes James K. Baxter comments on the site:

'The upper part of London Street is high above the centre of the town. One approaches the theatre through a garden with a view of the harbour. Thus the theatre is both part of the town and separate from the town, a physical circumstance that exactly symbolises the intention of its directors.'

According to Carnegie the Careys presented their first drama performances on this site in the garden, then in the living room, which was far too small. The Carey's lived in their house, but in the absence of a satisfactory small theatre for the work they wanted to do, they knocked a hole in the wall and expanded their lounge into a theatre. The adaptation and incorporation of the house into the theatre was an outstanding illustration of the philosophy of the Careys. Carnegie writes that

"While the ugly concrete block extension to an elegant turn of the century house is no doubt in some respects an architectural outrage, it is this adaptation of a family dwelling by the Carey's that encapsulates the importance of the current building. Rosalie Carey entitled her book A Theatre in the House, and that is precisely what it was. The family lived backstage. Patric was a stage designer by training, and the Globe epitomizes his significance to New Zealand theatre: knock down the barriers between real life and art."

Carnegie considers that the Globe was probably the first theatre in New Zealand built as an open stage with no proscenium arch, a radical idea at the time that is now common throughout the country. "Patric [Carey] valued the elegance of the old house, but equally wanted it to serve the immediate creative needs of Dunedin. To do so with virtually no money required that it be done in a typically Kiwi do-it-yourself fashion." The result provides special and unique illustration of the physical expression of Carey's ideas "...[t]he resulting hybrid building is therefore unique, and a graphic exemplar of the turning of old materials to new uses, and of Patric Carey's particular vision of theatre."

In 1964 additions by architect Paul Armfelt extended the auditorium space. The new extension provided for a workshop below ground level, a raked auditorium with space for costumes and a foyer with a tiny area under the stairs for box office and coffee. Upstairs there was a lighting box overlooking the stage, and a small dressing room.

The Globe did much to foster local talent, including James K. Baxter and Ralph Hotere. Baxter, while the 1966 Burns Fellow at Otago University became involved with the theatre, in what Harcourt called "his fruitful association with Patric Carey and Dunedin's estimable little Globe Theatre." Patric's commitment to the classics released a new aspect of Baxter's creative energies in turning his spiritual fascination with myth into modern versions of Greek tragedy. In addition, Baxter's use of Kiwi vernacular speech on stage, especially in his modern plays, had a profound influence on the younger playwrights who were about to transform New Zealand drama. Seven of the nine plays Baxter wrote over the next two years were premiered at the Globe, and twelve plays in total were written for production at the Globe. Ralph Hotere was involved in designing sets and costumes. The Careys also fostered the wider arts community, with exhibitions in the foyer of including Colin McCahon's Waterfall paintings, and Barry Brickell's pots.

The Careys and the theatre were of outstanding cultural importance. Carnegie writes that the historical and cultural importance of the building lay:

in the extraordinarily important contribution of the Careys, and especially Patric, to the development of new artistic ideas in New Zealand from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The artistic significance of Patric's productions and designs of an extraordinary range of the world's great drama not only made the Globe an outstanding and eccentric part of Dunedin's culture, but also a significant force in a vital stage of the development of a mature New Zealand theatrical culture.

The Globe's importance was recognized during the 1960s. Carnegie writes that in 1967, just as regional professional theatres were emerging in Wellington and Auckland, the third edition of the prestigious Oxford Companion to Theatre found the Globe the only existing theatre [in New Zealand] worth commenting on. Patric's work was known and respected in theatre and arts circles throughout New Zealand.

The Carey's and the Globe Theatre had a huge influence on Dunedin theatre Carnegie, states:

"Patric and Rosalie Carey and the Globe Theatre have had an influence on Dunedin theatre out of all proportion to the small numbers of people who went to see the plays. Scorned and ignored by the establishment and idolized by much of the artistic and intellectual community, the Careys confronted the city with a philosophy of theatre that placed the imaginative creation of the playwright above all else."

The building was transferred to the Friends of the Globe Theatre Inc. in May 1970, and remains in their ownership today. Patric Carey retired from the Globe towards the end of 1973, and both the Carey's left Dunedin.

The adjoining Winchester Cottage, which had previously belonged to Mason was demolished, and the section subdivided to enable the Friends of the Globe to raise funds to purchase and maintain the building. A toilet block was added, and the old kitchen renovated. A caretaker continued to live in the house.

The Globe Theatre is still producing plays and is valued highly by the Dunedin community.

Physical Description

William Mason's House is a two-storey wooden villa. Its east elevation has the main entrance, notable for its faceted bay double-hung sash windows on the ground and first floors and its ornamental wooden quoins. The north and south elevations are largely obscured by the later addition of the Globe Theatre. The west elevation is clad in narrow weatherboards and is largely utilitarian in appearance compared with east.

The ceilings are ornate, particularly the centre roses and cornices. The original fire places were taken out c.1930s-1940s and replaced with brick. The second floor now has a small self-contained flat, in what were the original servant's quarters. There are three main bedrooms on the first floor, now largely used for wardrobe and property storage.

The Globe Theatre addition was constructed in 1961, with a number of later additions. The building was designed by Niel Wales, of Mason and Wales, with some later additions designed by Paul Armflet. The theatre is concrete block building with some timber cladding to the east elevation.

Notable Features

The 1867 William Mason residence incorporating the 1961 Globe Theatre.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1867 -
Construction of William Mason's residence

1961 -
Globe Theatre (Niel Wales)

1964 -
Additions to Theatre (Paul Armflet)

Demolished - Other
1970 -
Winchester Cottage demolished

1980 -
Toilet Block added

Completion Date

30th May 2006

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Carey, 1999

R. Carey, 1999, A Theatre in the House -The Careys' Globe, University of Otago Press, Dunedin.

Carnegie, 1984

David Carnegie, 'Dunedin's Globe Theatre: The Carey Years' Australasian Drama Studies 3,1, Oct 1984, pp.14-21

Galer, 1981

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

Knight, 1988

Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

L. Galer, 'First New Zealand Architects Home', 10 June 1980.

Stacpoole, 1971

John Stacpoole, William Mason: The First New Zealand Architect, Auckland, 1971

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.

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.