Legal Chambers (Former)

60 Duke Street, Cambridge

  • Legal Chambers (Former), Cambridge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: K Mercer. Date: 18/02/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4342 Date Entered 2nd March 2011


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 374 Town of Cambridge East (CT SA550/37, CT SA550/36), South Auckland Land District and the building known as Legal Chambers (Former), thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. It excludes the bathroom extension at rear of building, but includes the land underneath the extension. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Waipa District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Pt Allot 374 Town of Cambridge East (CT SA550/37, CT SA550/36), South Auckland Land District.

Location description

Opposite the intersection of Duke Street and Commerce Street, Cambridge.


Built of brick, and invoking a sense of permanence, the handsome Duke Street Legal Chambers (Former) were constructed for barrister and solicitor William Francis Buckland (1847-1915) in 1899. Buckland was the Mayor of Cambridge, who was responsible for much of the local infrastructural development, involved in many local organisations, and a former MP. New Zealand was coming out of the Long Depression and this was a time of rapid expansion in the legal and real estate professions in the Waikato. In 1905 the entire ground floor was occupied by the Waikato Independent (aka Cambridge Independent) newspaper. George Sollitt (1834-1912), a Hastings based prominent architect of the late nineteenth and early twentieth Century, designed extensions to the building for the newspaper that same year. All the areas were well lit and ventilated and each room had its own fireplace for the comfort of employees. The Independent served the area for 90 years, occupying the building for six years during an early, formative stage of the paper’s growth.

Many occupants of the building were lawyers who were active in local body politics and served as Borough Councillors, or Mayor of Cambridge. The building later housed a variety of other professions and a branch of the Matamata County Council. In 1965 the building was modernised, the parapet removed, the ceiling lowered and some alterations made to the fireplaces.

The Legal Chambers (Former) has strong streetscape value as the oldest purpose-built commercial building in Cambridge’s central Character Area, noted on local heritage trails. It is a good example of the Beaux Arts Style being applied to a small office building. Its design was one that gave an impression of security and permanence, befitting its use. It retains a high level of heritage integrity and original fabric and is the oldest remaining commercial building in Cambridge. It is the only known design remaining in the Waikato of architect George Sollitt. The Chambers have been continuously used as professional offices since 1899, and are significant in their extensive association with Cambridge local body politicians. The building’s first occupant was Frank Buckland, the then Mayor of Cambridge who introduced key infrastructure to the town such as the sewerage system and drainage works. From 1912 the building is strongly associated with the locally prominent Lewis family. Both father and son ran legal offices from the building and were Cambridge Mayor and Borough Councillor respectively. The building is linked to the nationally significant figure of Henry Roche (designer of the first North Island hydro-electric power station, Horahora) who was a tenant in the building for over twenty years.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Legal Chambers (Former) has historical significance having been constructed at a time of rapid expansion in land agents and the legal profession in the Waikato, housing lawyers, land agents and insurance agents (often rolled into one) who benefited from the property boom. As with the trend elsewhere in the Waikato, many of these lawyers were also prominent citizens influential in local politics and the development of a rapidly growing town and provision of infrastructure such as water, sewage and power schemes.

The Legal Chambers (Former) is locally significant as one of the first, if not the first, brick structure in Cambridge, and is the oldest brick commercial building, likely reflecting the concern of the time about frequent fires. It was continuously used for over 65 years as legal offices and a descendant firm still practices locally in 2010. The Legal Chambers (Former) have been continuously used as commercial office/professional service space since construction, and is the longest building continuously used for this purpose in the Cambridge central business district. It was an early office of The Cambridge/Waikato Independent: a Cambridge newspaper than ran for 90 years.

The building is also remembered as the long-term office of the significant New Zealand engineer and land surveyor, Harry Roche, who is particularly remembered for his design and construction of the Horahora hydroelectric scheme and the Cambridge gravitational water supply. He served as a member of the Electric Power Board and was one of a number of building occupants who served as members of the local Borough Council.

Architectural Significance or Value:

Legal Chambers (Former) is architecturally important as the only known remaining example of architect George Sollitt’s work in the Waikato, as most of his work was in the Hawke’s Bay area. His extension of the Legal Chambers (Former) reflects the public health concerns of the late Victorian era to provide excellent light, ventilation and warmth for the workers. The Legal Chambers (Former) are also a good example of the Beaux Arts Style being applied to a small office building. Its brick construction reflects the growing concern with the frequent fires in the town centre.

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

The ornate and solid Legal Chambers (Former) signify the end of the long depression and the beginnings of the Waikato land boom, which saw concomitant growth of the legal and professional sector in Cambridge, reflected in the building’s style.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The Legal Chambers (Former) has strong streetscape value as the oldest purpose-built commercial building in Cambridge’s central Character Area.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Sollitt, George

Sollitt (1834-1912) is said to have trained in England as an architect, working as a general contractor before migrating to Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1879 where he worked as a builder, being declared bankrupt in 1885. He moved to Hastings in 1890. In the mid-1890s he was in partnership with J. Huntley Allan. From around 1900 he designed many of the biggest commercial and domestic buildings in the district using concrete and brick. He had architectural offices in Cambridge during 1903 and 1905, but no evidence has been found of his living there. His other work in Cambridge included a two storied extension to the business premises of Messrs Gardner and Sons, general merchants, (no longer extant). Sollitt is best known as a prominent architect in the Hawkes Bay, particularly for the substantial homestead Greenhill (1900), a key high Victorian wooden New Zealand house of the decade, and the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church (1895), both in Hastings. He also designed the large houses Waiterenui and Horonui (1899-1900), a house at Olrig Station, St Matthews School and vicarage (1899) Hastings, St Patrick’s Convent (1900) Hastings and plans for the Hastings Club (1900) among others. At times he was described as a builder, which may contribute to why he is particularly remembered for his expertise in designing with wood, and his lavish use of detailing.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Cambridge was originally a colonial military outpost established in 1864 by the 3rd Waikato Militia, on what was part of the Ngati Raukawa tribal area, part of the Tainui confederation. In 1889 a major fire razed most of the business premises in one block of Duke Street in Cambridge’s commercial centre, including the site of the Legal Chambers (Former). It is generally believed that the building was constructed as legal offices for William Francis (Frank) Buckland (1847-1915) ten years later, in 1899. It was at a time when New Zealand was coming out of the Long Depression and the Waikato was starting to see a property sale boom, a time of rapid growth in the number of land agents, lawyers and insurance agents who both facilitated and benefited from the boom. The use of brick construction is likely to have been a reaction to the frequent fires, preceding the Council edict in 1904 that all buildings in the business district should be constructed of brick. It was also likely chosen as part of an aesthetic that gave the impression of permanence and security.

Buckland had trained as an engineer, but retrained as a lawyer on a bet. Before moving to Cambridge, Buckland was Member of Parliament for Franklin North, then for Manukau, where he was known as a satirical wag, and for supporting women’s franchise. Like many early lawyers in small towns he fulfilled multiple functions in addition to the practice of law, including acting as estate agent, insurance agent, accountant/tax consultant and provider of some banking functions. Buckland served on many committees and boards, including the Auckland Education Board and two periods as Cambridge’s Mayor: 1898-1903 and 1905-1910. He is remembered for his dogged determination that the borough would steadily progress: ‘His Worship said no nation, no people or country could stand still. They either had to go on or go back. He believed in going on and on and on.’ His watch saw the introduction of key infrastructure such as the sewerage system, drainage works, water works including the water tower (NZHPT Record No. 753),the construction of the Victoria Street bridge (NZHPT Record No. 4159), the Town Hall (NZHPT Record No. 4187), the introduction of gas illumination and the construction of a number of other key public buildings.

Buckland’s son, Charles Channing Buckland (circa 1873-1936?) joined his family in Cambridge in 1898 and worked with his father, perhaps prompting the construction of the offices in 1899, and was admitted to the bar in 1904. At some point around this time the firm was known as Buckland and Buckland. However, Charles was restless and spent some time travelling in British Columbia, eventually moving there in 1906.

In 1905 Buckland operated from the top floor. A rear extension to the ground floor for the local newspaper was designed by architect George Sollitt (1834-1912), best known for his architecture in the Hawkes Bay. He had architectural offices in Cambridge during 1903 and 1905, but no evidence has been found of him living there. The entire ground floor was used by the Waikato Independent newspaper when it moved from Lake Street on 17 July 1905. The brick extension consisted of two further brick rooms with skylights to house the composing area and the printing machines. The front three rooms consisted of the business office, the editor’s and reporter’s rooms. It was noted that all areas were well lit and ventilated, and that each room had a fireplace installed ‘a necessary precaution for the comfort of the employees’, reflecting the impact on architectural design of the public health concerns of the late nineteenth century. The newspaper described the offices as ‘one of the most up-to-date newspaper offices in the colony.’ The construction was carried out by Cambridge builders, Potts and Hardy.

The newspaper had only been publishing since November 1904, but was to continue for 90 years. At the encouragement of the editor/owner/founder, David Pirani, the newspaper office was used as a meeting place for many community groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.

In 1909 Frank Buckland’s wife became ill, prompting Charles to return to Cambridge, though not the law firm. In 1910 Frank’s wife died and he retired the same year, devoting himself to horticulture at the family farm, ‘Monavale’ (NZHPT Record No. 4328).

In 1911 the Independent shifted into a new building across the road and in 1912 the building was bought by another lawyer, Samuel (Sam) Lewis (ca.1879-1976). He had been practicing law from at least 1906, and in Cambridge from at least 1910 in Duke Street. It is unclear whether he operated out of Buckland’s building before purchasing it. Lewis went into partnership with Henry Dickens Dallimore (? -1954?) around 1915, using the ground floor of the building. Dallimore had practiced law in London before migrating, and was a Cambridge Councillor from 1915-21, while Lewis was Mayor from 1921 to 1923. During Lewis’ term, electricity was turned on in Cambridge for the first time by his then six year old son, Peter. Lewis also served on a number of other committees, including being president of the South African War Veterans Association and a member of the first Hamilton District Law Society Council. By the time he retired he was one of the oldest practicing lawyers in the country.

Henry (Harry) Roche (1856-1949), a Civil Engineer and Licensed Surveyor, moved to Cambridge by at least 1913, opening an office in Duke Street in 1914. Born in Ireland, he had trained as an engineer in England, migrating to New Zealand with his parents and siblings around 1880. He worked initially on the Rotorua railway layout, before working in Auckland and Sydney, returning to New Zealand to serve as a Government surveyor in the Wellington provincial district. He went on to work for the Whakatane Road Board and became head of the Engineering Works of the Waihi Gold Mining Company in 1896. Between 1910 and 1914 he lived in Horahora where he designed and oversaw the construction of the hydroelectric scheme, described as ‘the first large-scale hydro-electric scheme in the North Island, and the largest generating plant in the country at the time, and the first…on the Waikato River’. Built to supply the internationally significant Martha Mine, by 1921 Horahora supplied much of the Waikato and Thames areas electricity. Roche’s peripatetic lifestyle ended with his private practice in Cambridge being run out of the top floor of the Legal Chambers (Former), where his contracts included surveying and engineering work for the local road boards and the design of a gravitational water scheme for the Cambridge Borough Council. He carried out private and corporate work from Kaiwaka to Tauranga. He served as a Borough Councillor and on the local Electric Power Board. Roche eventually retired in 1946 aged 89. He is buried in Cambridge.

In 1921 Roche advertised rooms to let in the top floor of the Legal Chambers (Former), but he was already sharing the floor with Les Nicols, Land Agent, and the Matamata County Council. The Council used the space until they were relocated to Tirau. Perhaps its best known function was the renewal of driver’s licences.

Lewis’s son Peter Samuel Lewis (1915-2009) joined the firm in 1945 and property ownership was transferred to him, with Dallimore retiring shortly afterward. The legal offices moved from the ground floor in 1947, continuing to use the building as legal chambers until 1962 when the firm relocated elsewhere in Cambridge. Peter was also a Borough Councillor (1947-1951), served with the Cambridge Fire Board and was vice president and councillor of the Hamilton District Law Society. From 1950 the firm operated for 33 years with David Stanley Jecks as ‘Lewis and Jecks’. Jecks was a long serving Coroner for Cambridge and occasionally Hamilton, and was awarded the Queens Service Medal in 1998.

In 1965 the building was sold and altered, including modernising the interior and the removal of the parapet. Its use as professional offices continued; tenants included a dentist, a doctor, and a physiotherapist.

The building was bought in 1988 in a near derelict state by Chris B. La Pine and M.P La Pine. Murray P. Borland and Associates were engaged to design renovations and extensions creating space for a gym for patient use in 1989. Recently the name was changed to Cambridge Physiotherapy and Acupuncture Clinic: La Pine has operated out of the ground floor premises for over 25 years. From 1998 property changed hands several times, with the building leased or rented out.

In 2010 the Legal Chambers (Former) are the oldest commercial premises remaining in Cambridge and the longest continuously used as professional offices, well known to many residents.

Physical Description

The Legal Chambers (Former) are situated in Cambridge’s central business area in the Cambridge character zone. Surrounding buildings are a mix of single and double storey, and while most have verandahs the Legal Chambers (Former) do not. While narrower than many of the buildings in the street, the Legal Chambers (Former) form one of the more ornate and imposing structures in the street. One side of the building runs along a paved right of way to a shared parking area. The earlier front portion is two storied with single storey extensions to the rear.

The Duke Street frontage is roughly south facing and is in a simplified version of the Beaux Arts classical style. While the removal of the parapet has reduced the height and some of the emotional weight of the building, and the removal of the left hand door has destroyed the original symmetry, (the replacement window is slightly wider than the central two, but the window sill has been sympathetically extended across), it nonetheless remains a largely coherent design. The remaining classical façade includes a cornice with block modillions, a central neoclassical window pediment, ornamental paired pilasters with composite capitals and banded window architraves with wedge-shaped voussoirs. Sections of decorative plastered brick give a rusticated effect on the ground floor, echoed in the concrete ‘quoins’ around the two outer upstairs front windows, creating an appearance of impregnability, permanence and status. The remaining front door with toplights and stained glass is not original, unlike the rear villa-style door.

Most of the external walls are of double brick and in 1996 was deemed not to need earthquake strengthening. The most recent addition on the north-western side is of concrete block. The building exterior was recently repainted in black with white detailing, highlighting the voussoirs: only the rear first floor wall remains unpainted brick.

The roof is clad in corrugated iron. The original two-storied portion of the building has a low hip roof hidden behind the front façade when viewed from Duke Street. The rear single storey portion has a complex roofline resulting from at least two extensions, but is essentially a hipped roof with a dormer window and a small, lower gabled toilet extension at the very back. There are two skylights.

The front door leads into the stairs, with the entrance into the first floor business to the left. The ceiling in the entry way is approximately 4 metres (13 feet) high. There is no interior wall cladding on the eastern wall: the exposed bricks appear to be wire-cut. The brass handrails appear original.

On the ground floor, a small portion of the original timber flooring remains around the front door and into the entrance of the downstairs clinic. The rest of the ground floor has been replaced due to rotten bearers sitting directly on the dirt: the floor sits just 6 inches (15.24 centimetres) above the ground. The recent rear extension has a concrete floor. The area under the stairs is divided into a small storage area and the original safe. Both feature brick walls.

The original two-paned sash windows in the front ground floor area have been replaced with triple paned sash windows at some point. Most of the rear sash windows are two over two panes with concrete sills and decorative moulded architraves. The two skylights and a dormer window at the rear are somewhat altered and no longer provide ventilation.

The ceiling of the front portion of the building has been lowered to a height of about 2.4 meters, but a door off the stairs opens into the ceiling space, revealing a gap of about one and a half meters between the floors and the brick arches that would have topped the windows in the original rear wall. The original ceiling has gone. The tongue and groove timber floor of the upper storey is occasionally visible from this vantage point and is believed to be matai.

The first floor has retained more original features than the ground floor including villa style doors with ornate door furniture. It is divided into two work spaces - the front is one large office: it used to be partitioned - plus a small kitchen/staff room with a toilet off it. A remnant of the original board and batten ceiling is visible in the upstairs toilet area. This toilet appears to have been added around the 1930s based on the architraves, door furniture and louvered window glass.

A 1920s photograph of the building appears to show four chimneys, but today no chimney pots remain. However, two fireplaces remain on the first floor, one with a double chimney which would have been shared by the (now non-existent) fireplace on the ground floor. The fire surrounds have been removed but some evidence of them remains in the moulded cornice work. La Pine’s office on the ground floor (next to the former safe) and the upstairs toilet both have a chamfered corner suggestive of a fireplace and chimney. It is unknown whether any of the fireplace fittings remain behind these walls.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1899 -

1905 -
Extension at rear of building

1965 -
Parapet removed, building ‘modernised’, likely to include lowering of ceiling in ground floor, wall claddings and fireplace surrounds removed, fireplaces blocked off

1980 -
Alterations including new roof, ground flooring replaced

1989 -
Left hand front door removed

Construction Details

Brick, concrete, corrugated iron, timber, concrete block

Completion Date

1st November 2010

Report Written By

Kathryn Mercer, Gail Henry, Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Beer, 1975

Plough of the Pakeha. Cambridge: Cambridge Historical Society, 1975.

Furkert, 1953

Frederick William Furkert, Early New Zealand Engineers, Wellington, 1953

Parker, 1986

S K Parker, Cambridge: An Illustrated History 1886-1986: The Centenary of Local Government in Cambridge, Cambridge 1986

Carter, 1964

Carter, Harry G., Cambridge Centenary 1864-1964: A Concise History of Cambridge and Surrounding Districts, Waikato Independent, Cambridge, 1964

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area 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.