Fortune Theatre

231 Stuart Street, Dunedin

  • Fortune Theatre.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 4/02/2014.
  • Fortune Theatre.
    Copyright: Heriatge New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 4/02/2014.
  • Fortune Theatre.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 4/02/2014.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3378 Date Entered 22nd August 1991


City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 16 Blk 14 Town of Dunedin



As a church this building was a significant aspect of the development of Methodism in Dunedin.

It was erected in 1869 to replace an earlier Methodist Church which had proved to be architecturally unviable. The building was sold in 1977 to the Fortune Theatre Trust, and is currently used as a playhouse theatre.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This building, as Trinity Church, represents part of the development of the Methodist Church in Dunedin. Its significant change from a place of worship to a playhouse in 1977 was an example of an innovative and successful reuse of a redundant ecclesiastical building.


Designed and built by one of Dunedin's leading architects in the late nineteenth century, and using an architectural style and construction which is a feature of Dunedin city, the former Holy Trinity Church was a very fine smaller scale church. On the Fortune Theatre it maintains its architectural integrity and streetscape quality.


The Fortune Theatre occupies a prominent inner city corner, and forms part of an architecturally attractive streetscape.


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.

Uren, E.W.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


The Fortune Theatre is a substantial Victorian building, Gothic Revival in style. Constructed in bluestone it is characterised by pale pointing and decorative Oamaru stone details, the contrast in colour emphasising the Gothic elements such as pointed arches, window tracery, pinnacles, finials and buttress angles. The pointed arch is used repeatedly for window and door openings, contrasted by a rose window in the west end. Windows vary in size, the largest ones featuring intersecting tracery enclosing trefoils.

The roof is steeply pitched above the nave and transepts with flat balcony areas to the north-west and south-west. The balconies have quatrefoil balustrading and oversized pinnacles at the corners. An octagonal bell turret on the north-west adds variety to the overall form.


1966: Building structurally strengthened and waterproofed; Mission organ enlarged; interior renovated; exterior pinnacles reduced and bell tower reclad.

1977: Remodelled for use as theatre.

Notable Features

Stonework; bar tracery of windows.

Construction Details

Local bluestone with Oamaru stone facings and decoration, slate roof.

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


Knight, 1988

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


Mullan, 1981

D S Mullan. The Trinity Fortune Affair, Trinity Methodist Trust, Dunedin, 1981,


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.