Historical Significance or Value
The place has historical significance for its fifty-year association with the Bank of New Zealand, one of the country’s most important financial institutions. It is important for reflecting the prosperity of the banking industry during the economic boom of the 1920s, at a time demand for credit expanded.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The former Bank of New Zealand has aesthetic significance for its visually striking main façade, and street presence in the Victoria Road landscape. Its aesthetic significance is enhanced by the survival of interior features such as its banking chamber ceiling, and its proximity to other historic structures that contribute to the visual amenity of the streetcape, including the adjoining former Post Office.
Architectural Significance or Value
The place has architectural significance for its externally well-preserved Stripped Classical style, which reflects the ongoing popularity of classical influences for bank buildings in the early twentieth century. The place is also of value for its design by the noted practice of Edward Mahoney and Son, one of Auckland’s most prolific and respected architectural firms. The bank is particularly significant as one of the last structures created by this firm, which had a long association with the Bank of New Zealand. The building reflects the firm’s use of Stripped Classical design in one of its last commissions for the Bank.
Social Significance or Value
The place has social significance for reflecting the importance of banking within the local community, at a time when home ownership and suburban expansion rates were high. The place also reflects the strong links between banks and their managers, a tradition that extended back to the nineteenth century.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The place reflects a period of economic prosperity during the 1920s, when suburban activity and demand for credit expanded. It particularly reflects what has been described as ‘a golden decade’ for banking in New Zealand.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place has strong associations with the Bank of New Zealand, which created and then used the main building on the site over a fifty year period. The Devonport branch reflects an expansion of the Bank of New Zealand’s operations during the 1920s, when the company was already one of the country’s main financial institutions.
The place also has associations with the Grammar School Trust and Auckland Grammar School Board, which owned the property from 1850 to the mid twentieth century. Early trustees of the Grammar School Trust included the Colonial Secretary, Andrew Sinclair.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The place is significant as an externally well-preserved Stripped Classical building, which demonstrates the evolution of classical design for the use of bank structures during the early twentieth century. It is significant for demonstrating the adoption of Stripped Classical by the noted firm of Edward Mahoney and Son at the end of its long association with the Bank of New Zealand. The significance of the design is increased by its close association with nearby structures such as the adjoining former Post Office, which demonstrate the ongoing development of architectural style during the first half of the twentieth century.
The building retains evidence of its simultaneous use for both commercial and residential purposes, reflecting a design tradition for banks in New Zealand that extended back to the nineteenth century.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The place forms a notable part of a historic landscape in Devonport, which is important as a well-preserved nineteenth- and early twentieth-century seaside resort and suburb. The place is especially significant for its contribution to the Victoria Road landscape, which remains a particularly well-preserved thoroughfare incorporating a range of commercial and other structures that reflect Devonport’s historical development from the nineteenth century onwards.
Early History of the Site
The northern shores of the Waitemata Harbour are of significance to several iwi, having been explored and occupied since early human arrival in New Zealand. According to oral tradition, the Arawa canoe under Tama Te Kapua investigated the Waitemata after first arriving at Maketu. The Tainui canoe also landed at Te Hau Kapua (Torpedo Bay) in present-day Devonport before travelling to its eventual heartland in the Waikato. By the eighteenth century, land in the vicinity was occupied by Kawerau, who held settlements along the Waitemata shoreline noted for their access to shark fisheries. Following Ngapuhi incursions in the 1820s, much of the North Shore was depopulated, assisting its purchase by the British Crown after formal colonisation in 1840. A small Maori settlement at Te Hau Kapua remained inhabited until 1863.
Devonport emerged as a colonial settlement with its use as a British naval port from the 1840s. Crown land in the area was subdivided into suburban farms in 1850 and went on sale in 1853. Although the area was subject to considerable land speculation in the 1860s, large-scale development emerged primarily during the economic boom of the 1870s and 1880s. With the establishment of good quality ferry services to and from Auckland, Devonport became a well-established residential suburb and a significant seaside resort in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Located beside Victoria Road, the site subsequently occupied by the Bank of New Zealand formed part of a Crown Grant issued in 1850 to the Colonial Secretary Andrew Sinclair and others, as trustees of the Grammar School Trust. The issuing of grants to the Grammar School Trust had been empowered by the Colonial Governor, Sir George Grey, for the purposes of maintaining and supporting a grammar school or schools in Auckland. For the next 75 years, the Trust leased the land to successive parties. During this period, Victoria Road emerged as Devonport’s main commercial thoroughfare.
Construction of the Bank of New Zealand (1925-6)
In early 1925, the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) signed an agreement with the Auckland Grammar School Board to build ‘a good and substantial building to be used for banking purposes’ on the site. Plans and specifications were to be approved by the Grammar School Board. The building was to cost at least £2500 and be completed by 9 November 1926.
The BNZ was one of New Zealand’s major financial institutions, which had been founded in Auckland in 1861. Prior to encountering difficulties during the economic depression of the 1880s and 1890s, the business had 109 branches throughout the country and overseas. The bank expanded further in the early 1900s, and in the 1920s entered a decade-long period that has been described as a golden era for banking. Between 1920 and 1930, the number of BNZ branches and agencies increased from 212 to 244 as demand for credit expanded at a time of general prosperity. Prior to leasing land from the Grammar School Board in 1925, the BNZ had occupied premises elsewhere on the eastern side of Victoria Road in Devonport.
Plans for a new bank were prepared by the noted architectural firm of Edward Mahoney and Son, a practice that had long associations with the BNZ. In the 1870s and early 1880s the firm’s founder, Edward Mahoney, had designed BNZ banks in Cambridge (1875), Greytown (1875-6) and Hamilton (1877-8), and extensions to the Auckland branch in Queen Street (1882-5). His son and successor, Thomas Mahoney, was responsible for numerous other BNZ buildings throughout New Zealand including banks at Wellington (1899-1900), Opitiki (1913-14) and Matamata (1920). Thomas Mahoney died in 1923, so plans for the Devonport branch were evidently drawn up by another party in the firm. The practice has been considered one of the most prolific in Auckland and was particularly noted for its commercial and religious buildings during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In October 1925, a permit was issued for the construction of the Devonport premises. The plastered brick building was to be two storeys in height, and to jointly contain banking facilities and accommodation for the manager. The visual design of the building was classical in style, incorporating pilasters and Ionic capitals supporting a heavy entablature of moulding, cornices and parapet. Classical-influenced design had been the preferred style for most New Zealand banks during the nineteenth century, and this tendency extended into the first half of the 1900s.
The particular design for the Devonport structure is considered to have been modelled on an earlier BNZ bank at Te Puke (1918), erected when Thomas Mahoney was in charge of the architectural firm. Both buildings incorporate pilasters that extend through two storeys, and also have similar spandrel panels. However, the Devonport building contains some elements that reflect an increasing tendency to adopt a plainer appearance during the 1920s: its parapet is plainer than that at Te Puke, and it also employs a lesser depth of modelling. Its overall appearance has been described as Stripped Classical. As the firm of Edward Mahoney and Son was dissolved in 1926, the design is likely to have been among the last created by this long-standing business. A smaller bank of Stripped Classical design was completed by the firm for the BNZ in Thames shortly beforehand, in 1925.
The Devonport building was evidently erected by 23 March 1926 at a total cost of £5858. The contractors were Adams and Hine.
Internally, the new structure contained a banking chamber on the ground floor, accessed directly from Victoria Road. The chamber was associated with a central strong room made of concrete, a manager’s office, a stationery room and an internal w.c. Residential rooms were accessed from a side entrance in the north elevation of the building, and were located both at the rear of the building and in the upper storey. Ground floor spaces included a heated living room and a kitchen, with an interconnecting buffet. Use of the living room may have encompassed entertaining important clients of the bank.
Upstairs rooms in the main premises were reached from a staircase in the side entry hall, and comprised a sitting room, three bedrooms and a bathroom. A sleeping porch was provided on the northern side of the building. This feature was fashionable in the 1920s, due partly to the perceived health benefits of fresh air. It may have been seen as particularly appropriate for a building in Devonport, which was a popular maritime resort. A detached washhouse was situated in the rear yard.
The provision of combined banking facilities and accommodation followed a tradition of such arrangements in New Zealand, improving security for the bank and closely linking senior employees such as the manager with their place of work. Institutions such as the Auckland Savings Bank had adopted the same approach, although in the latter case a change in policy led to the erection of structures without accommodation in 1929 at Khyber Pass Road and Dominion Road, both in Auckland.
Nineteenth-century guidance on bank design had noted the likelihood of including residential accommodation for a senior employee, but emphasised the importance of restricting physical access and noise between such quarters and parts of the building used for banking. It also suggested that banks should be located in the most ‘respectable’ area of a town and be handsome in appearance. In August 1926, the architecture of the newly-erected Devonport branch was referred to by New Zealand Architectural and Building Review as ‘dignified’, and was used to illustrate the view that ‘the old idea of wood and iron being good enough for Suburban Banking Premises has been exploded’.
Subsequent use and modifications
The first manager of the Devonport bank was G.B. Blyth, who occupied the post until 1930. The opening of the building broadly coincided with the passing of the Bank of New Zealand Act 1926, which allowed the BNZ to provide long-term mortgages. This was a departure from earlier banking practice, which generally avoided locking up capital over extended periods. In the same year (1926), the proportion of New Zealand wage- or salary-earning householders who owned their owned homes reached 50%, considered to be ‘probably the highest rate of ownership in the world.’ Suburban expansion was a characteristic of all the main centres. Demand for credit remained high until the Great Depression.
During the Second World War (1939-45), public office hours were reduced. In 1945, the Government purchased the BNZ with the stated aims of facilitating post-war reconstruction, rehabilitating returned servicemen, and generally promoting economic welfare. In the same year, the first accountant, W. A. Wilson, was appointed to the branch. By 1950, nine people were employed on the staff. Following the passing of the Education Lands Act 1949, the property was vested in the Crown.
Minor changes to the building prior to 1955 included moving the manager’s office to a newly created room immediately inside the front door. Earlier partitions from the structure, and other material originating from the Auckland branch, were evidently re-used.
In 1957, public space in the banking chamber was increased in size by moving the residential entrance towards the rear of the structure, and converting the earlier side entry hall into a manager’s office. Ground floor residential rooms such as the kitchen and dining area were relocated to the upper storey. Verandahs and porches, including the former sleeping porch at first floor level, were enclosed. These alterations were undertaken by the firm of Abbott Hole and Annabell. By the early 1960s, more recently-erected BNZ banks such as that in nearby Birkenhead were of single-storey, flat-roofed design.
Although reduced in size, the residential quarters may have been occupied by the manager until at least 1960-61. By 1963, ownership of the property had passed to the BNZ. The building ceased to be used as a bank in December 1975, when the BNZ moved to more modern premises elsewhere in Victoria Road. The structure was subsequently converted for use as a restaurant. Alterations in 1976 included minor openings in downstairs walls, and the removal of some internal partitions at first floor level.
Subsequent modifications have encompassed the removal of some further partitions on both floors. A roof terrace at first floor level at the rear of the building has also been covered.
The property remains in private ownership.
The former Bank of New Zealand is situated in the centre of Devonport, a maritime suburb of Auckland. Devonport lies on the northern shoreline of the Waitemata Harbour, and is noted for its well-preserved nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings. The former Bank of New Zealand is located on the eastern side of Victoria Road, Devonport’s main commercial thoroughfare. Victoria Road is a particularly well-preserved historic streetscape.
Formally recognised historic buildings in Victoria Road include the Esplanade Hotel (NZHPT Record No. 4481, Category 1 historic place) and the Victoria Theatre (NZHPT Record No. 7712, Category 1 historic place). The building immediately to the south of the former Bank of New Zealand is the 1930s Post Office (Former) at 10 Victoria Road (NZHPT Record No. 4510). The street contains many other commercial buildings of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century date that are scheduled as historic structures in the local District Plan. At the southern end of Victoria Road are a number of commemorative monuments including the First World War Memorial (NZHPT Record No. 4515, Category 2 historic place), the Alison Clock (NZHPT Record No. 4513, Category 2 historic place), and the Coronation Sea Wall (NZHPT Record No. 4516, Category 2 historic place) on King Edward Parade.
The former bank property occupies a rectangular plot, a short distance to the north of the intersection between Victoria Road and Flagstaff Terrace. It contains a main building in the central and western part of the site. A small yard occupies the eastern part of the section.
The main building is a two-storeyed brick structure. It contains a hipped roof over its western part. The building immediately adjoins Victoria Road and forms a notable landmark in the streetscape. The building’s main (west) elevation is particularly well-preserved, retaining its monumental 1920s appearance to the street.
The building’s architectural style can be described as Stripped Classical. Its west elevation incorporates a pedimented base; applied classical pilasters with Ionic capitals; and a large central doorway with solid, double doors and an ornamental fanlight above. An entablature at the top of the façade retains the inscription ‘Bank of New Zealand’ in large lettering. Windows at ground- and first-floor level are of similar appearance to those visible in early images and plans.
Other elevations to the north and south are plainer, with the south elevation incorporating several windows. Both the west and south elevations are plastered.
The building interior has not been inspected. Descriptions are based on existing plans of the building held in public records and other publicly available material.
Internally the building is rectangular in plan, incorporating large open spaces in the former banking chamber and elsewhere. Several internal walls have been removed since the structure was converted from use as a bank in the 1970s. However, the structure retains notable elements linked with its use for banking, including its reinforced concrete strong room, and decorative ceiling in the main banking chamber. Fireplaces at first floor level similarly remain. The initial ‘sleeping porch’ was evidently enclosed and converted to other purposes in 1957.
Relocation of side entrance, conversion of entry hall into a manager’s office, reconfiguration of some upstairs rooms, and enclosure of verandahs and porches
Minor openings in downstairs walls and removal of some internal partitions at first floor level
Removal of some further partitions on both floors, and covering of roof terrace at first-floor level
1925 - 1926
Brick, with corrugated metal roof
16th February 2012
Report Written By
Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) Archives
‘Bank Premises and Property at Devonport’, 27 April 1926; ‘Devonport Branch History’
N.M. Chappell, New Zealand Banker's Hundred: Bank of New Zealand 1861-1961, Wellington, 1961
Robin H. Griffin, Victorian Bank Architecture in New Zealand, Auckland, 2002
Auckland Council Archives, North Shore
Auckland Council, Takapuna Service Centre
Auckland Council, Takapuna Service Centre
Property file 14 Victoria Road, Devonport
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office
This place has been identified as being included in the Auckland Council’s Cultural Heritage Inventory as CHI Place no. 2433, Left Bank Restaurant/Former Bank of New Zealand.
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.