St Aubyn Chambers

1 Queen Street, New Plymouth

  • St Aubyn Chambers.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 22/04/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7451 Date Entered 9th December 1999

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

New Plymouth District

Region

Taranaki Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 4787

Summaryopen/close

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

HISTORICAL:

St Aubyn Chambers was originally designed for Messrs Jones and Sandford, a builders firm established in 1918 The firm has achieved a measure of local significance and still exists today, although no longer occupying St Aubyn Chambers, as a major firm of builders and timber, hardware and builder suppliers, Roy Burkitt, after returning from service in the RAF, operated the service station in the building in the early years following World War II. RJ, Burkitt Ltd went on to become a major motor vehicle and agricultural machinery dealer with agencies for several makes of cars, trucks and machinery, The company had branches in New Plymouth and Hawera.. Following the death of the founder the company underwent radical entrenchment Roy Burkitt was a New Plymouth city councillor (Tullet p,59).

General Trends in New Zealand:

Traditionally New Zealand has had a rural based economy serviced by small towns across the country. Only in last 50 years or so has the change from this rural focus resulted in the migration to larger towns and cities, From the 1930's increased migration to the cities reflected the development of better transport linkages and infrastructure, and focused social concern on issues of public hygiene and better living conditions.

Concomitant with a rising social consciousness and an emphasis on health and welfare, two movements were gaining momentum in New Zealand: the garden suburb and higher density living, The need for well thought out accommodation became apparent in the main centres and led to an increase in housing densities and apartment style architecture. As a result the traditional housing pattern of single dwellings on small sections was replaced by higher density accommodation blocks in central city areas, Apartment dwellers were able to live close to their place of work and eliminated the need for vehicle use and garages. This was, in a way, contradicted by the Garden city movement which advocated for well thought out neighbourhood with separate gardens. This movement added to the increasing use of motor vehicles generally with the need to transport workers to city offices.

St Aubyn Chambers provides a link with these ideas in the development of New Plymouth from a rural town to larger urban centre. It demonstrates the move towards higher density living and the increasing use of the motor vehicle for the movement of people and goods, and subsequently the need for their servicing.

THE SITE:

Formerly occupied by a large pa (Pukeariki) opposite to the landing place and is a recorded archaeological site (no P19/8) Pukeariki (hill of chiefs) was so named because a number of principal chiefs were buried there. (Wells 1878:6). It was known to the early Europeans as Mount Eliot (a hill of some 60 ft which has now been leveled). (Tullet 1981:27). Pukeariki pa was excavated down to street level however there may still be potential evidence and values in the immediate vicinity (Dave Robson 31/03/95).

The site also had early port connections. Developing a safe port was crucial to the prosperity of New Plymouth. Mount Eliot was used for signalling purposes, hosting the flagstaff, bond-store, signal station, pilot and signalman's houses, as well as the headquarters of the Armed Constabulary (Tullet 1981:27) Later the hill was levelled and provided spoil for the harbourworks (Gavin McClean 1994).

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The site of St Aubyn Chambers (being Lot 1 DP 4787) is a small part of a much wider area which was formerly Pukeariki Pa. Pukeariki or Mount Eliot as it was known to the early Europeans, was a prominent rise of some 60ft above the growing town of New Plymouth. The pa is a recorded archaeological site (P19/8) but it is not registered by the Trust. Pukeariki or 'hill of chiefs' was so named because a number of principal chiefs were buried there. The hill has long been leveled and the soil used for nearby port works. The site of St Aubyn Chambers, but not the building, is held in esteem by Te Atiawa. Te Atiawa consider the total area that once was Pukeariki pa as having traditional and spiritual significance to Maori people even though there is little or no tangible evidence remaining.

The Trust may look at registering the entire are of Pukeariki pa as a wahi tapu or registered archaeological site at a later stage and as a separate registration proposal. This proposal only considers the building and land at 1 Queen St, New Plymouth (Lot 1 DP 4787). As the property is only a very small part of the entire pa site the significance of the pa cannot be translated on to this site and the building. For that reason the following assessment concentrates on the significance of St Aubyn Chambers building rather than the significance of Pukeariki pa.

Historical Significance:

The site has historical significance as being part of Pukeariki pa and has early port connections. The building was designed for a builders firm of local prominence. The service station was originally run by a former city councillor.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Aesthetic Significance:

Visual impact and streetscape resulting from the three storied front facade which follows the curving intersection of St Aubyn and Queen Streets.

Architectural Significance:

Stripped classical building dating from 1927 and designed by Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor. Francis Messenger was a New Plymouth architect who designed numerous prominent buildings in various styles throughout Taranaki. Significant for its curving facade; original design and use; as an example of Stripped Classical architecture in New Plymouth and as being a transitional design coming between the Beaux Arts Classicism and the new Art Deco aesthetic which, in 1927, was just being formulated in Europe and America.

Three major interior refurbishments have stripped the interior of its original features. However, only some modification has occurred to the exterior, and these alterations have not compromised the original features to such an extent that the original design is unrecognisable.

Technological Significance:

St Aubyn Chambers is the first all-reinforced concrete building in New Plymouth and one of the first in New Zealand. It has a reinforced beam structure.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Social Significance:

The building is representative of the national trend at the time towards urbanisation. With the rising social consciousness and emphasis on health and welfare, two movements were gaining momentum in New Zealand: the garden suburb and higher density living. St Aubyn Chambers provides a link with these ideas in the development of New Plymouth from a rural town to larger urban centre. It demonstrates the move towards higher density living and the increasing use of the motor vehicle for the movement of people and goods, and subsequently the need for their servicing.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

St Aubyn Chambers was originally designed for Jones and Sandford, a builders firm established in 1918. The firm has achieved a measure of local significance and still exists today (although no longer occupying St Aubyn Chambers), as a major firm of builders and timber, hardware and builder suppliers. Roy Burkitt, a former city councillor, operated the service station in the building after WWII. The building is representative of the national trend at the time towards urbanisation and the

increasing use of the motor vehicle.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

The current ground level is thought to be pre-1900 so the site may provide information about early European settlement in New Plymouth and early port works. The site may also provide Maori evidence (although the majority of Pukeariki/Eliot Hill ended up in the port works).

The building provides knowledge of the move towards urbanisation and the rise of the motor vehicle.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The building is well designed by a known local architect and is representative of his work, It was the first all-reinforced concrete building in New Plymouth and one of the first in the country.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

The building was originally designed with an unusual mix of use - a service station and residential apartments, which is rare in New Zealand.

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

St Aubyn Chambers forms part of the wider historical and cultural landscape of urban New Plymouth. It relates to the nearby Hookers Building, Arnold H White Building and the former RSA Building, which are described by R Prichard as "three other buildings in the block with character and style". None of these is classified St Aubyn Chambers forms the backdrop of Frank Messenger's Cenotaph (1924, Cat II) on the corner of St Aubyn and Queen Streets. Interestingly, Messenger was one of the three architects who designed St Aubyn Chambers.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Messenger, Griffiths & Taylor

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL:

Original Design

Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor's plans of St Aubyn Chambers are dated September 1927 and it is presumed that the building was constructed a short time later. The plans show a two storied building with a service station at ground floor level and residential accommodation at first floor level. The ground floor is shown as only partially closed in, allowing two lanes of drive through traffic under cover. The remainder of the ground floor was later closed in and is largely glazed. From the information supplied with the Registration Proposal Form, it is not clear whether the building was built with two stories and a third added later, or whether the original plans were amended to incorporate a third floor.

The front facade of the building is continuous about the curving intersection of St Aubyn Street and Queen Street The unusual plan of the building was a direct response to the shape of the corner site (Lot 1 DP 4787). Stripped Classical in style the facade is regulated by a series of piers with abstract capitals raised above the parapet. The piers allude to a giant order. Between the piers are recessed spandrels and groups of three (in one case two) identical windows. Simplified pilasters flank either side of each window, though only those at the upper level have capitals . The timber casement windows have 6 pane fanlights above. Above the capitals is a geometric frieze (above the second floor windows) and the parapet which bears the words "ST AUBYN CHAMBERS" in relief.

Alterations:

1975 Converted to motel (plan dated 20 Feb 1975). First Floor plan shows two 2 bedroom units with kitchen, bathroom and separate lounge.

1982 Converted to offices (plans dated 26/5/82 & 17/6/82). Service station enclosed providing retail/commercial spaces The interior was virtually gutted.

1998 Converted back into apartments on all floors containing six units in total (building consent granted 18/2/97). Numerous alterations the most significant including: timber windows replaced with aluminium, two false columns to flank main entrance, new aluminium doors with leadlights and harditex exterior at main entrance, retail area on ground floor converted to apartments set back with small garden/porch area, existing windows in the first and last two bays of the first and second floors removed and patio installed.

The last alterations can be considered as returning the building to the original use as apartments for the upper floors. However, some exterior modification and increase in density (i.e. two units per floor rather than the original spacious singular apartment) have been the price. It is likely, considering the building was not listed on the district scheme (so resource consent was not required for the recent alterations in 1997), that had the building been registered by the Trust the recent conversion to apartments could have been better designed and be less intrusive to the original design.

The Architects:

Francis John Messenger was a New Plymouth architect. He practised from the 1890s until his death in 1945 and was responsible for a number of prominent buildings in Taranaki which cover a variety of building types. His work includes the verandah (1909) of New Plymouth's White Hart Hotel (1886, Cat I), extensions to St Mary's Church (Cat I), Shoe Store Building, 58 Rata Street (1910, Cat II), Inglewood Town Hall by Percival & Messenger (1913, Cat II), St Andrew's Anglican Church, Rata Street by Messenger, Griffiths & Taylor (1922-23, Cat II), the Cenotaph opposite St Aubyn Chambers (1924, Cat II) and the Taranaki Savings Bank Building, 89 Devon Street by Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor (1929-30, Cat II).

The Shoe Store Building and Inglewood Town Hall are typical of Edwardian Free Classicism and St Aubyn Chambers is considerably more innovative than these earlier buildings. That St Andrew's Anglican Church of 1922-23 and the Taranaki Savings Bank Building of 1929-30 were also designed by Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor suggests the three were in partnership for a number of years. St Andrew's Church has been described as early Norman in style, while the Taranaki Savings Bank Building incorporates a number of Classical elements in a non-traditional fashion. Nothing is known of either Griffiths or Taylor.

Similar Buildings:

Other Stripped Classical commercial buildings in New Plymouth include:

- King's Building (designed by Gummer and Ford), 42 Devon Street West (1926-27, Cat II).This building was built by Messrs Jones and Sandford, the partnership for whom St Aubyn Chambers was built Like St Aubyn Chambers, King's Building has had ground floor alterations, and nothing is known of its interior.

- The Mayfair Cinema, New Plymouth (date not known, Cat II). This building has a vertical emphasis with a raised parapet above the entrance. The designer is not known and nor is the condition of its interior.

- National Bank, 41 Devon Street West, New Plymouth (1939, Cat II). This building has recessed spandrel panels, an angled corner and an Art Deco frieze, and has been described as a striking and dignified design.

St Aubyn Chambers differs from the above examples in that it has a curving front facade. This element is, however, consistent with classical precedent. The curved facade became part of the architectural language of the late Art Deco Moderne era c. 1930-40. There are a number of examples of curved facades throughout New Zealand and in contrast St Aubyn Chambers can be said to look provincial and stilted. This is primarily because the handling of the stylistic elements on the facade is academic; the curve is divided into eight classical bays defined by piers instead of being one smooth continuous curve. The building is therefore perhaps best regarded as being a transitional design coming between the Beaux Arts Classicism of the previous one hundred years, and the new daring Art Deco aesthetic Which, in 1927, was just being formulated in Europe and America. In addition, the building is worthy of registration as a result of its contribution to the genre of Stripped Classical architecture in New Plymouth.

Context:

St Aubyn Chambers forms part of the wider historical and cultural landscape of urban New Plymouth.

It relates to the nearby Hookers Building, Arnold H White Building and the former RSA Building, which are described by R Prichard as "three other buildings in the block with character and style". None of these is classified. St Aubyn Chambers forms the backdrop of Frank Messenger's Cenotaph (1924, Cat 11) on the comer of St Aubyn and Queen Streets.

TECHNOLOGICAL:

St Aubyn Chambers is the first all-reinforced concrete building in New Plymouth and one of the first in New Zealand. It has a reinforced beam structure (New Plymouth Central Business District Heritage Study, Cochran, Stewart and Associates and Kennan 1995).

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1927 - 1928

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.