Dunedin Law Courts
1 Stuart Street, Dunedin
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
26th November 1987
Pt Sec 37 & Pt Res No.3 Blk XV Town of Dunedin
Historical Significance or Value
An earlier law courts building existed to the east of the present site which was originally occupied by the Dunedin gaol. Later the courts moved to the Provincial Council building in the Exchange. Probably it was the availability of this latter building which delayed the erecting of the purpose-built home for the courts to as late as 1900.
This is a late major gothic building for Dunedin. Only the University buildings around the archway are later in this category of building. It is reasonably pure in its styling, lacking the hybridisation with the classical apparent in some other buildings of this period.
The Law Courts form part of the impressive Castle Street precinct which includes the Florentine Railway Station across the road, the Central Police Station and the Otago Early Settlers building.
John Campbell (1857-1942) served his articles under John Gordon (c1835-1912) in Glasgow. He arrived in Dunedin in 1882 and after a brief period as a draughtsman with Mason and Wales joined the Dunedin branch of the Public Works Department in 1883. His first known work, an unbuilt design for the Dunedin Railway Station, reveals an early interest in Baroque architecture.
In November 1888 Campbell was transferred to Wellington where in 1889 he took up the position of draughtsman in charge of the Public Buildings Division of the Public Works Department.
He remained in charge of the design of government buildings throughout New Zealand until his retirement in 1922, becoming in 1909 the first person to hold the position of Government Architect. Government architecture designed under his aegis evidences a change in style from Queen Anne to Edwardian Baroque. His best-known Queen Anne design is the Dunedin Police Station (1895-8), modelled on Richard Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard (1887-90). Among his most exuberant Edwardian Baroque buildings is the Public Trust Office, Wellington (1905-09). Although Campbell designed the Dunedin Law Courts (1899-1902) in the Gothic style with a Scottish Baronial inflection, he established Edwardian Baroque as the government style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout New Zealand. In 1911 Campbell won the nation-wide architectural competition for the design of Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Although only partially completed, Parliament House is the crowning achievement of Campbell's career.
Its size and grandeur as a gothic building and its unmodified state.
The walls are built of Port Chalmers breccia with Oamaru stone window framing, parapets and pinnacles. (It is somewhat unusual for a Dunedin building to be completed in breccia rather than Leith Valley andesite with breccia foundations.) The roof is slate. The marble figure of Justice over the Stuart Street door in Italian and is not blindfolded. The High Court is lavishly gothic, with Rimu emblems and mouldings and with fine cast iron work fronting the jury and press seats and the witness stand. The major doors have gothic arches and the main staircase has a handsome cast iron balustrade. The Law Library still retains its fine built-in bookcases and heavy oak furniture.
ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION (Style):
'The epitome of High Victorian architecture in Dunedin, not only for the rich gothic flavour of its lines, but even more because it is built throughout with the city's distinctive combination of breccia and limestone'. (Griffiths in Porter 1983).
The interior has been modernised to some degree, mostly by changing the function of some rooms. The staff cafeteria was once the judge's room. When fire doors were required by regulation in the main downstairs corridor, they were made up as replicas of the other heavy wooden doors with gothic glass panes. The exterior is unmodified except for the removal of some Oamaru stone decorations.
L. Galer, Bricks and Mortar, Allied Press Ltd, Dunedin, 1982.
Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.
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.