Bank of New Zealand Building and Fence

188 Williams Street, Kaiapoi

  • Bank of New Zealand Building and Fence. Image courtesy of .
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 4/09/2011.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building and Fence. Image courtesy of .
    Copyright: Francis Vallance. Taken By: Francis Vallance. Date: 20/03/2010.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building and Fence. Image courtesy of .
    Copyright: Francis Vallance. Taken By: Francis Vallance. Date: 20/03/2010.
  • Bank of New Zealand Building and Fence. Building detail. Image courtesy of .
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 4/09/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3677 Date Entered 27th June 1985


City/District Council

Waimakariri District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 36550


The former Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) building at Kaiapoi was built in 1883 and replaced the earlier timber building, which had housed the bank on the site since 1862. The Kaiapoi branch of the BNZ opened soon after the founding of the bank in 1861. The establishment of the bank was described by historian W.J. Gardner as one of the landmarks in New Zealand's economic history. The main driving force behind the BNZ was a young Auckland solicitor and politician, Thomas Russell (1830-1904), who called on New Zealanders' incipient nationalism to support the creation of a New Zealand bank to compete with the two Australian banks already established in New Zealand. His nationalist appeal was successful and the Bank of New Zealand was established with the passing of the New Zealand Bank Bill in 1861. The BNZ's first office opened in Auckland in October 1861 and the bank received the central government's account the following year, which it held until the establishment of the Reserve Bank in 1934.

In Canterbury the first BNZ branch opened in Christchurch in March 1862. Others soon followed in Lyttelton, Timaru and Kaiapoi. The Kaiapoi branch was opened in April 1862, by W. Gilkison, and its opening reflected the town's belief that it still had the potential to outstrip Christchurch as the main Canterbury settlement. By 1871 there were 39 BNZ offices established, of which 31 were in the South Island, reflecting the economic importance of the South Island at this time.

The original BNZ building at Kaiapoi was constructed in timber. In 1882 it was decided to replace it with a building constructed of permanent materials. W.B. Armson, the noted Canterbury architect responsible for a number of fine bank buildings around New Zealand, drew up plans and called for tenders for the Kaiapoi branch building. However, building did not go ahead and Armson died in 1883, leaving the BNZ to make other arrangements. T.S. Lambert, another Christchurch architect, was then commissioned to design the building and he drew up plans for the present two-storey red-brick building. Such a building, argued B.N.Z archivist R.H. Griffin, was typical of the 'suburban or ersatz-city style' of New Zealand bank architecture. As was commonplace at the time, the building was designed to house the bank manager as well as the bank, and Lambert distinguished the two different roles of the building by the different treatment of the two facades. A bay window on the Williams Street facade indicated the residential nature of that side of the building, as compared with the classical entrance on the Charles Street side. The classical elements of the Kaiapoi BNZ link it architecturally to the wider history of Victorian bank architecture.

The building contained the main banking chamber, the manager's office, a stationary room fitted in under the staircase, and a strong room. As well as the dining room with its bay window on the ground floor, the manager was provided with a kitchen, scullery and pantry downstairs, and five bedrooms, a drawing room, and bathroom upstairs. At a later stage the bank's business expanded to fill the residential space as well.

The plaster relief in the pediment over the Charles Street entrance illustrates the BNZ's emblem of a distant waka and kiwis amidst native plants, linked at the time with the BNZ's own banknotes. According to Richard Wolfe, author of 'Kiwi: More than a Bird', the BNZ use of a kiwi as its symbol is one of the oldest symbolic uses of the bird. This motif, although perhaps once common on BNZ buildings throughout the country, is a distinctive feature of the Kaiapoi building today.

The former BNZ building at Kaiapoi was constructed during a period of optimism for the bank, in the year of its twenty-first anniversary. At the time of its opening it was the only banking institution in Kaiapoi and 'nearly the sole building in that town erected in brick and stone', according to a contemporary newspaper report. The solidity of the Kaiapoi bank building, firmly planted on a prominent corner, projects the stability, dignity and eminence of the bank in the nineteenth century. The institution of the BNZ has been closely tied with the history of New Zealand since its inception in 1861 and this building stands as a reminder of that history. It is a particularly well preserved example of a nineteenth century bank building, and continues to make an important contribution to Kaiapoi's streetscape.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lambert, T S (1840-1915)

Thomas Stoddart Lambert (1840-1915) served articles and studied in Edinburgh before coming to Christchurch in 1874 where he worked for three years in Frederick Strouts' office. He established an independent practice in 1877 and rapidly gained a reputation as a sensible and economical architect. He designed a variety of structures including churches, warehouses, business premises and schools (serving as Education Board architect for four years). He was the architect for Christchurch's second Theatre Royal in 1876 gaining valuable experience for his commission to design the Tuam Street Hall five years later. The Odeon is now one of only few surviving examples of his many prominent inner city buildings. The Synagogue, 1880, Canterbury Farmers' Association Building, 1882, United Services Hotel, 1883, and Young Men's Christian Association Building, 1884, have all been demolished. In 1893 he moved from Christchurch and continued his practice in Dunedin and then Wellington.

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

The fence, surmounted by an iron railing, was built at the same time as the building, and is included in the registration.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1883 -

Completion Date

2nd April 2002

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Chappell, 1961

N.M. Chappell, New Zealand Banker's Hundred: Bank of New Zealand 1861-1961, Wellington, 1961

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903


Griffin, 1983

R.H. Griffin, 'Victorian Bank Architecture in New Zealand: A paper delivered to the Australasian Victorian Studies Association on 26 January 1982 at Massey University of the Manawatu, Palmerston North, New Zealand', BNZ Archives, Wellington, 1983 (with corrections)

Wolfe, 1991

Richard Wolfe, Kiwi: More than a Bird, Auckland, 1991


Lyttelton Times

Lyttelton Times

22 May 1882, p.3

Oliver, 1981

William H. Oliver, The Oxford History of New Zealand, Wellington, 1981

W.J. Gardner, 'A Colonial Economy', pp. 57-86, pp.67-69

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.