Theatre Royal

118-122 Stafford Street, Timaru

  • Theatre Royal.
    Copyright: Timaru District Council. Date: 1/03/2008.
  • Theatre Royal 1991. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: Sth Canterbury District Committee.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5393 Date Entered 19th September 1991


City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lots 3-5 DP 50218 Lots 1-3,8, 11-12 DP 9843


This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Proposal for Classification report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Built prior to 1877 as a stone store, very little of the original structure remains. It opened as a theatre on 16 July I877. In 1911 the present auditorium, fly tower and dressing rooms were added. The foyer was reconstructed in 1961-63. The building has social significance as Timaru's first permanent venue for entertainment. It has been the location of many significant events for Timaru, such as entertainment, meetings, and civic receptions. The auditorium was designed by Henry White, but is not considered as grand an example of his work as can be seen in the main centres.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

White, Henry Eli (1876-1952)

White was the son of a Dunedin building contractor and spent his early years learning a wide range of trades including bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry, joinery and painting. His first major project was in 1908, a tunnel on the Waipori River hydro-electric scheme. He developed a fascination with theatre design and educated himself in its principles while also attending Art School night classes. With the contract to build His Majesty's Theatre, Wellington, for (Sir) Benjamin Fuller in 1912, White moved his thriving practice to that city where he also built the Midland Hotel. White's reputation as a popular and innovative theatre designer grew to the extent that he became one of the most prominent in Australasia. He was to design over 130 theatres as well as a number of commercial buildings. Among his most notable designs were (builder of) The Press Building, Christchurch (1908), architect of His Majesty's Theatre, Wellington (1912), now the St James, and at the time the largest theatre in Australasia, the now demolished Midland Hotel, Wellington, (1916) The Strand, Christchurch (1917), the Tivoli, Brisbane, and his masterpiece, the State Theatre in Sydney. Much loved by audiences for its excessive Art Deco ornamentation, its interior made lavish use of marble, gold and ivory decoration, and featured paintings, sculpture and exotic objects (such as the 'Fujiyama cameo', removed during the Second World War).

The Depression marked the end of White's architectural career. He won a competition to design a college at Auckland, but plans were shelved; he closed his office and lost money through farming in New Zealand. By 1937 he had returned to Sydney. Although a cement manufacturing project near Bathurst fell through, dolomite was discovered on the site and during the Second World War his company supplied it for windows and light bulbs made in Australia. White spent much time sailing and big-game fishing.

Survived by his wife and two sons, he died on 3 March 1952 at Kings Cross, Sydney, and was cremated with Anglican rites. He had reputedly earned over £1 million in architectural fees, but was not an astute businessman; his estate was sworn for probate at £1147.

Source: Registration Report for St Anthony's Convent (Former), Register No. 4345, February 2013.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1877 -
Built prior to 1877.

1877 -
Opened 16 July 1877

1911 -
The present auditorium, fly tower and dressing rooms were added.

1961 - 1963
The foyer was re-constructed 1961-63

Completion Date

19th September 1991

Report Written By

Mary O'Keeffe

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern region 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.