Fitzroy Hotel (Former)

75-77 Wakefield Street, Auckland

  • Fitzroy Hotel.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • Fitzroy Hotel.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 29/04/2004.
  • Fitzroy Hotel.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 29/04/2004.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7582 Date Entered 10th December 2004


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CT NA60D/815 and the building, its fittings and fixtures, thereon.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 44312 (CT NA60D/815)

Location description

Located on the corner between Wakefield and Lyndock Streets.


The former Fitzroy Hotel was built in Auckland in 1854-55 as a three-storeyed brick building with a slate roof. It was constructed on the fringes of the colonial settlement at a time when Wakefield Street formed the main direct thoroughfare from the commercial centre to the interior of the Tamaki isthmus. The structure was erected by William Parker, one of the settlement's earliest brickmakers, whose family went on to play a significant role in Auckland's timber, tanning and brickmaking industries. Prominently situated on the Symonds Street ridge, it formed the last refreshment stop on the way from town, opening for trade as the Harbour Heights and Family Hotel in late 1856 or early 1857 in spite of opposition from temperance campaigners. Known from 1859 as the Fitzroy Hotel, the building's subsequent owners included Edward King and David Sheehan - both members of the Auckland Provincial Council - and the pioneering New Zealand brewer Richard Seccombe, who established the Great Northern (later Lion) Brewery in Newmarket as well as early breweries in New Plymouth. The building played an important role in community life as the scene of recreational activity and more formal events, such as public inquests, until the revocation of its licence in 1909.

Possibly designed and built by Parker himself, the building contained at least fifteen rooms when first opened. It was L-shaped in plan, with its main façade fronting directly onto Wakefield Street. The building probably contained public bars in the front part of the ground floor, accommodation for guests on its upper floor, and a combination of storage and lesser accommodation or kitchen facilities in the basement. The rooms were serviced in most cases by a central corridor. In 1874, alterations by the prominent Auckland architect Richard Keals may have been carried out. A brick extension was added to the rear, probably in 1896, and alterations were made to the façade, making the frontage more ornamental in appearance.

The building was used as a boarding house during the early twentieth century, and later as a private hotel. From 1954 to 1961 it formed the premises of the Pilgrim Press, founded and run by one of New Zealand's best-known typographers, Robert Lowry (1912 - 1963). Lowry was also resident typographer at the Wakefield Press, which was set up in the building in 1963. In such roles the structure has associations with several well-known New Zealand authors, including A.R.D. Fairburn, Denis Glover, Olive Johnson and Barry Crump. During the 1980s, the building housed Auckland Metro & More magazines, and more recently, public relations consultants Raynish & Partners who vacated the premises in February 2004.

The former Fitzroy Hotel is one of three hotels from the original colonial core of Auckland believed to survive from the 1850s and is thought to be the best preserved of them. It is considered to be the oldest currently-known brick building in the Central Business District, and reflects Auckland's role as an early brickmaking centre. It is significant as one of a distinctive group of early colonial brick pubs and public houses in the Greater Auckland region, which together are likely to form the earliest such group in the country. It has important literary associations, notably through Robert Lowry.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The former Fitzroy Hotel is historically significant as a well-preserved remnant of early colonial Auckland. It reflects a variety of activities including brickmaking, lodging, judicial inquests and aspects of working class recreation. Its nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history is particularly linked with prevailing attitudes towards alcohol consumption, and ultimately, the influence of the temperance movement.

The building has been associated with colonial brewing entrepreneur, Richard Seccombe, who established Seccombe's Brewery (later Lion Breweries), as well as other individuals of significance, including Auckland Provincial Council members Edward King and David Sheehan. It has close connections with the Parker family, who were involved in Auckland brickmaking and other industries throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The building is especially significant for its associations with nationally important figures such as typographer Bob Lowry, and the writers Maurice Duggan, Olive Johnson, Rex Fairburn, Denis Glover and O. E. Middleton. It is closely linked with the history of typography, printing and literature in mid twentieth-century New Zealand.


The building is architecturally important as a very early surviving example of brick architecture in the Auckland region and beyond. It is also valuable as a well-preserved 1850s public house. It retains significant elements of mid nineteenth-century pub architecture, including a central corridor with small rooms to either side, fireplaces and a basement for storage. Later alterations demonstrate how public houses and hotels evolved during the later nineteenth century.


As the building itself predates 1900, its structure and site are likely to provide insights through archaeological methods about New Zealand history. Information is likely to be produced about aspects such as brick and timber production, construction techniques and use of the building.


The former Fitzroy Hotel is illustrative of early brick building construction in Auckland, and reflects Auckland's role as an early brickmaking centre. Unusually for a structure of this period, it contains brick material that can be linked to a known producer.


The former Fitzroy has social significance for its long association as a public house with its local community (from circa 1856 to 1909), and as the first pub in Wakefield Street.

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

The former Fitzroy Hotel reflects important and representative aspects of New Zealand history, including early colonial drinking culture, requirements for temporary residential accommodation in a major port and commercial centre, and the impact of the temperance movement in the early twentieth century. It also has important connections with the flowering of New Zealand literature in the middle years of the twentieth century, and the development of typography in this country.

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

The place is significant for its associations with colonial brewing entrepreneur, Richard Seccombe, and Auckland Provincial Council members Edward King and David Sheehan, as well as the Parker family, who were heavily involved in Auckland brickmaking and other enterprises throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

It is highly significant for its association with figures of national importance such as typographer Bob Lowry, and the writers Maurice Duggan, Olive Johnson, Rex Fairburn, Denis Glover and O. E. Middleton.

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

The former Fitzroy Hotel has strong potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand history, having significant amounts of 1850s and other nineteenth-century fabric remaining. Some of its potential relates to aspects of nineteenth-century working class recreation that are not substantially or objectively covered by documentary sources.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The former Fitzroy Hotel has potential for public education. It is located on a corner site in a busy thoroughfare in highly populated central Auckland. The form, scale and material of the building provide potential for education as a rare remnant of mid-nineteenth century Auckland.

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

The place is significant as a surviving early colonial Georgian brick hotel and public house. It retains important elements of a mid-nineteenth-century public house layout, which have generally been removed in taverns that remained in use into the later twentieth century built of timber and/or retained for use as a pub during the twentieth century, particularly at ground floor level. It is highly significant as an early colonial brick building that has remained standing and in good condition for 150 years.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

The former Fitzroy Hotel is highly significant as the earliest brick commercial building currently known to survive in Auckland's central area, dating to within fifteen years of the settlement's colonial foundation.

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

The former Fitzroy Hotel is important as one of only a handful of early public houses surviving in Auckland, and highly significant as one of a small group of 1850s brick hotels in the Greater Auckland region, which together probably form the earliest such collection in the country.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Keals, Richard

Richard Keals (1817?-1885) arrived in New Zealand in 1858 and initially worked on the Thames goldfields. One of Auckland's earliest trained architects, he is known to have been practising in the colonial township by 1863, having first operated as a builder. Keals had previously served as a clerk of works in England, carrying out his articles as an architect in London.

Keals designed a variety of building types in New Zealand, encompassing domestic, commercial and public structures. His early works in Auckland included the Waitemata and Thames Hotels in Queen Street, erected in 1866 and 1868 respectively. His New Zealand Insurance Company Building in Queen Street (1870) was one of the grandest commercial buildings in late-Victorian Auckland. Surviving buildings designed by Keals include Blackett's Buildings, previously known as the South British Insurance Building, erected in 1878-79 on the corner of Shortland and Queen Streets (Register no. 4483, Category 1 historic place). He was joined in practice by his two sons by 1885, the year of his death. In 1902, R. Keals and Sons claimed to be the oldest firm of architects in Auckland.

Source: Registration Report for Logan Park (Register No. 9643), May 2014

Derrom, James

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Parker, William

William Parker (?1807-1869) was one of Auckland's earliest brickmakers, arriving in New Zealand with his wife, Harriet, in December 1840 from Audlem, Cheshire, England. Audlem was close to major centres for brick and ceramic production in the Staffordshire Potteries. Having first embarked in Wellington, Parker settled in Auckland by July 1841, and is known to have been operating as a brickmaker on the North Shore by 1844. Later references note that he was engaged in brickmaking in Ponsonby and Northcote in the early 1840s. He is considered to have been operating in central Auckland during the early 1850s, and was selling bricks from a brickfield on Symonds Street in January 1855. He is also known to have been involved in construction activity, having tendered for an earthmoving contract on the Auckland foreshore in 1857. Twith the former Fitzroy Hotel is believed to be the only currently known building associated with his early activities.

By the 1860s, Parker appears to have been operating as a grocer next door to his Wakefield Street building. The father of numerous children, several of his sons took up the brickmaking trade. The most noted of these was the prominent Auckland businessman W.J. Parker (1843-1930), whose brickworks in New Lynn were the first to be established in that suburb. New Lynn was to dominate brick and tile production in Auckland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. William Parker died at Karangahape Road in 1869, when still referred to as a brickmaker.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early history

The land occupied by the former Fitzroy Hotel lay on the western side of a ridge overlooking the commercial heart of early colonial Auckland. It was part of an original 1214 hectare (3000 acre) Crown purchase from Ngati Whatua in September-October 1840, on which Auckland was to be established as colonial capital in the ensuing months. It is not known if any previous Maori settlement lay close to the site, although the northern end of the ridge on which it is located had been the site of both a pa and a kainga. During the early years of colonial settlement, the ridge was laid out for mainly official use, incorporating the Colonial Governor's residence, the General Assembly building and military establishments at Britomart Point and the Albert Barracks.

Climbing the ridge to the south of these structures, Wakefield Street had particular importance as the main road from the commercial heart of the settlement towards the interior of the Tamaki isthmus and Onehunga. It was described in an account published in 1853 as 'the newest and most increasing street in the town. Many of the houses are built of brick, and it already bears a considerable resemblance to a new street in the outskirts of a modern English town.' While aspects of the description may be exaggerated - notably in its reference to many brick buildings - the road had been laid out as one of Auckland's major thoroughfares up to that point. The earliest settlement had occurred at the northeastern, or lower end of the street next to its junction with Queen Street, but by early 1854 subdivisions at the higher, more desirable end of the thoroughfare were sold off by the Crown to accommodate expansion of the township.

William Parker and construction of the 'Brick House'

Allotment 79 Section 36 occupied a favourable position at the junction of Wakefield and Lyndock Streets, near the crest of the ridge. Purchased by the surveyor John Campbell as part of larger block in February 1854, the land was almost immediately onsold to William Parker and John Bell at a profit. Parker was one of Auckland's earliest brickmakers, who had arrived with his wife in New Zealand in December 1840 from Audlem, Cheshire.

Parker soon began constructing a large, three-storey brick building, perhaps in partnership with Bell. Dominating the skyline, the structure can be seen as an advertisement for Parker's wares. Auckland was one of the earliest centres for brick production in colonial New Zealand, initially servicing the construction of elements such as wells, chimneys and drains. Brick buildings, however, were comparatively unusual prior to the City Building Act 1856, which promoted fireproof materials for construction in the commercial centre of the settlement. Statistics for the combined numbers of brick and stone residences in the Auckland area (including outlying settlements) record totals of 17 in 1845, 47 in 1849 and 103 in 1852. In 1849, there were just 21 brick residences noted in Auckland itself.

The building may have been constructed using bricks made on or close to the site, as Parker is recorded as living in nearby Mount Street in early 1855. On-site brick production had previously occurred elsewhere on the ridge, for example during the 1850-1851 erection of one of Auckland's main landmarks, Partington's Mill, a short distance to the south. The new building is likely to have been complete by March 1855, when a sale notice for allotments diagonally across the road describe them as 'nearly opposite the brick house which has just been erected at the top of the street.' A photograph taken in 1856 or 1857 shows that the building was constructed in a domestic Georgian style, with a hipped roof and double-hung windows. Its interior is likely to have incorporated five rooms at each of its three levels, with the eastern end of the ground floor dug into the face of a westward sloping site to create a basement. The roofing material was slate, matching the fireproof qualities and solidity of the rest of the building.

The structure may have been intended for use as a hotel or boarding house from the outset. However, given the involvement of John Bell, a storekeeper, in the land purchase, an alternative function as a shop or general store could have been envisaged. Parker occupied the building in its first year, evidently organising the construction of an addition prior to his application for a publican's licence in April 1856. The addition was carried out to plans by James Derrom, a carpenter of Princes Street, and may have consisted of stables as Parkers' application was for a public house to be known as the Star Inn, 'of 15 rooms, built of brick, with stabling for 7 horses...' Photographic images from the early 1860s reveal timber outbuildings in a yard at the rear of the main building, supported on what appears to be a large bluestone revetment wall.

In spite of the building's solidity, Parker's application was turned down after the presentation of a public petition. Effective resistance from local householders to the opening of public houses on Wakefield Street had been offered in previous years, with applications in 1852, 1853 and 1854 being declined. In part, this may be linked to the comparatively suburban nature of the immediate neighbourhood, as well as the influence of groups such as the Primitive Methodists in the adjacent Edwards (now Airedale) Street. Opposition to alcohol consumption from religious groups and concerned middle-class citizenry was a common feature of early colonial New Zealand. Such groups considering that drink undermined the moral aspects of the colonial enterprise, as well as other virtuous elements such as the settler work ethic. Fear of its effect on the 'civilising' of Maori was also strong. Organisations such as the Auckland Total Abstinence Society, St Patrick's Temperance Society and the Council of the Auckland League of Temperance were consequently established in the town during the 1840s and 1850s.

Harbour Heights and Family Hotel (circa 1856-1858) and Fitzroy Hotel (circa 1859-1909)

Although attempts to prevent the opening of the Star Inn succeeded, the building soon opened as the Harbour Heights and Family Hotel. It was the first public house in the street, having started trading possibly in late 1856, but certainly by April 1857. The respectable-sounding title may have helped persuade the licensing authorities of the establishment's virtue, while the new publican, John Russell, may also have been well-connected. Russell (1804?-1884) had a pedigree as a wine and spirits merchant, having previously operated premises in Glasgow and with his brother, Andrew, in Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Andrew Russell was one of the first group of town councillors and aldermen to be elected in Melbourne in 1842, becoming its fourth mayor in 1847-48.

Operating as the last refreshment stop on the way out from Auckland (and the first on the return journey from the isthmus interior), the hotel was run by Russell until 1858. In subsequent attempts to let the building, it was described as 'that old established, commodious and substantial BRICK BUILDING, known as the "HARBOUR VIEW HOTEL"...the House commands a most extensive prospect, and possesses every possible convenience requisite for carrying on a large business, together with Stabling, Outhouses, &c.' The establishment was conveyed in early 1859 to David Sheehan, hotelkeeper, and Edward King, merchant, apparently as trustees for Parker. Sheehan (1818?-1876) and King (1825?-1865) were members of the Auckland Provincial Council in the late 1850s and early 1860s, while King also held positions as Superintendent of Government Stores, secretary and treasurer of the Auckland Acclimatisation Society, secretary of the Otago Industrial Exhibition, and a director of the Bank of Auckland and Bank of New Zealand.

The new owners changed the name of the establishment to the Fitzroy Hotel, possibly after the Colonial Governor Robert Fitzroy, who had served in New Zealand from 1843 to 1845. The use of Governors' names for public houses was not uncommon at the time, reflecting an apparently deferential attitude to Crown authority and Auckland's identity as the centre of colonial government. In 1859, the Fitzroy had a ten p.m. closing licence, like most of the public houses in the outlying districts of Auckland. As the focal point of a local community as well as being home to temporary visitors, the hotel hosted a variety of activities and events. The most notable of the latter was perhaps an inquest into the murder of Jane Harper, who was killed by her husband - a local butcher - in nearby Edwards (now Airedale) Street in 1863. The jury gathered in the public house along with the accused on the day after her death, and as part of the deliberations went to view the body, which still lay at the scene of the crime. Other recorded happenings in the building include the birth of a son to the publican, Josiah Carter and his wife in 1860, the funeral of a sailor, Captain William Wilson and a later inquest into the death of Bernard Jones, a naval artilleryman.

The title was temporarily repossessed in 1864 by William Parker's sons, including William Johnson Parker, who followed his father's trade. W.J. Parker (1843-1930) went on to found the timber company Parker And Lamb, as well as establishing the earliest brickworks in New Lynn (Jagger and Parker, later Gardner and Parker, then the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Company) and, reputedly, also one of the earliest brickyards in Dunedin. The Parkers immediately onsold the public house to Richard Seccombe and his son John, owners of the great Northern Company (later to become Lion Breweries). Richard Seccombe (1803-1893) is considered to have been the most influential pioneering brewer in New Zealand, establishing a brewery in New Plymouth in 1843 before taking over the Albert Brewery in Queen Street, Auckland, and then constructing the extensive Seccombe's (later the Great Northern, then Lion) Brewery in Newmarket in 1859-1860. The Lion Brewery continues to operate on a nearby site in Khyber Pass Road, producing New Zealand's best-selling beer, Lion Red, whose rampant lion logo is taken from the Seccombe family crest.

Richard's second son, John, took full charge of the business from 1873, and his assumption of control may be reflected in changes made to the Fitzroy the following year when a prominent local architect, Richard Keals, produced plans for alterations. The precise nature of Keals' work is unknown, but many public houses were 'modernised' in the 1870s and 1880s, making them more appealing to customers as well as acceptable to temperance campaigners, who were gaining in influence. In 1871, a Licensing Act in Auckland allowed for public polls to veto local liquor traffic - the first so-called 'permissive' law adopted by any legislature in the British Empire - and in 1873, the first nationally comprehensive Licensing Act was introduced with similar provisions. Ironically, the progenitor of the 1871 Act was John Sheehan, whose father David had co-owned the Fitzroy in 1859-1864.

Further alterations to the building were carried out, probably in 1896, when a large brick extension was built to the rear and a decorative balustrade added to the parapet. After this time, one of the rooms at the front of the building was advertised as the public bar. The high point of the temperance movement in New Zealand occurred in 1908, when a national vote did not quite reach the required two-thirds majority for success for prohibition. In 1909, however, successful lobbying by the No-licence party resulted in the Fitzroy's licence being revoked, along with those of other public houses throughout the city. By July 1909, the building was empty. At the time it was claimed that Auckland had nine fewer hotels than 20 years previously and the lowest number of hotels per capita than any other city in the Australasian colonies.

Robert Lowry and the home of the Pilgrim and the Wakefield Press

The Fitzroy re-opened as a boarding house by 1912, a use that it retained until at least the late 1930s. For much of that time it was run by Mrs Bessie Dawson and was known as the Fitzroy Boardinghouse. Many redundant public houses were converted to similar use, as the closure of hotels had significantly reduced the quantity of accommodation for transient or semi-transient populations. During the 1940s and early 1950s, the building operated as a private hotel known as Fitzroy House where, amongst other guests, Fullers used to accommodate touring vaudeville players. The structure was also employed for a short period in the late 1940s as a nurses home for employees of Wakefield Hospital, a private establishment situated on the opposite side of the street.

From 1953-54, the building was used by the Pilgrim Press, a business founded at that time by Robert (Bob) Lowry (1912-1963), one of New Zealand's most prominent typographers. Productions included Maurice Duggan's Immanuel's Land (1956), Olive Johnson's A.R.D. Fairburn 1904-1957: A Bibliography (1958), Fairburn and Glover's Poetry Harbinger (1958), and O.E. Middleton's The Stone and Other Stories (1959). Lowry had previously been the first to print or publish New Zealand authors such as Allen Curnow, Frank Sargeson, Kendrick Smithyman, Roderick Finlayson, Maurice Duggan and Greville Texidor. Issues of 'Here and Now' magazine were also produced from the building.

The printing press was located in the basement, with Denis Glover referring to the staff as troglodytes. Prominent visitors to the offices included Barry Crump. The enterprise folded in 1961, although Lowry returned to the building - by now renamed Ashington House - to work as resident typographer for the Wakefield Press in 1963. He had moved to nearby Airedale Street during the intervening period, but died later in the same year.

The Wakefield Press continued to occupy the premises until the end of the 1960s. The upper floor was occupied by a variety of tenants during this period, including advertising agents and hypnotherapists. Literary connections were maintained when in the early 1980s the building became the offices of Auckland Metro magazine and More magazine, when some internal alterations were made, notably the addition of extra doorways at all levels. More recently it has been the offices of PR consultants, Raynish and Partners who vacated the building on 7 February 2004 to move to larger premises. The building is currently vacant and has been the subject of a campaign to save it from demolition. This has been led by a local resident, Allan Matson.

Physical Description


The former Fitzroy Hotel is located in the southeastern part of Auckland's Central Business District, occupying a corner site between Wakefield and Lyndock Streets. Wakefield Street forms a broad thoroughfare linking Queen Street and Symonds Street, whose upper stretch is dominated by modern high-rise apartments. Some earlier buildings in this area remain, such as premises on the opposite corner of Wakefield and Lyndock Streets, but most appear to be significantly later than the former hotel. The Globe Hotel, located on the northeastern side of Wakefield Street, was recently demolished.

The main remnants of the early colonial landscape other than the Fitzroy are the surrounding street pattern and a small park at the top of Wakefield Street, which contains a 1920s memorial to the New Zealand Wars (NZHPT Register # 4493, Category II). Nearby Airedale Street also contains a pair of semi-detached mid-Victorian houses (NZHPT Register # 7089, Category I), while the later ARA Lodge near the top of the same road has been scheduled by Auckland City Council (ACC Central Area Schedule # 002, Category B).


The former Fitzroy Hotel lies close to the Symonds Street ridge, with its surrounding ground surface sloping down significantly from east to west towards Queen Street. The building directly fronts onto Wakefield Street, without any intervening yard or garden. The building combines Georgian and early Victorian styles, with loosely symmetrical elevations. Its main façade to Wakefield Street measures approximately 9.7 metres wide x 9.7 metres high, while its side elevation to Lyndock Street is approximately 17.5 metres long. As the ground slopes away to the west, a full basement level becomes evident along its side elevation. This gives the building a two storied appearance from some parts of Wakefield Street but a three storied appearance from other vantage points.

The building is comprised of at least two parts to form an elongated L-shaped plan. The portion fronting Wakefield Street has been blended in with at least one subsequent addition - probably erected in 1896 - to provide a coherent external appearance. The latter effectively added one room of depth across the rear elevation. All elevations have been plastered and incised to imitate ashlar, except for one wall at the rear of the building. The latter demonstrates Colonial Bond construction, utilising three rows of brick stretchers and one row of headers. The building is topped by a parapet with exposed classical balusters facing Lyndock Street only, concealing a hipped roof clad with corrugated asbestos.

The main entrance of the building, located on Wakefield Street, has a pair of doors in a slightly off-centre location. A five-pane fanlight containing a distinctive circular glazing bar carries the name Ashington House (the building's name from 1961) in gold leaf. On either side of the main door are two large windows, which have had their glazing bars removed and a single sheet of glass installed. A second door at the southern end of the main frontage, shown on early photographs, has been blocked in. The upper floor of the building has four double hung sash windows, with each sash containing two panes, in the Victorian pattern. Similar windows exist at the main level and upper level on the Lyndock Street elevation. The basement windows are also double-hung, with a much shorter vertical dimension. A door provides access to the basement at the rear of the building.


The ground floor of the building contains a traditional central corridor for part of its length, flanked by rooms on either side. The corridor is accessed from Wakefield Street via a small vestibule or wind lobby, which retains a board and batten ceiling. Beyond the wind lobby, a change of floor level (of about 0.3m) exists at the rear of the two front rooms facing Wakefield Street, corresponding to a change in ceiling height in the basement. The front room on the southeastern side of the building retains an unusual aperture at this juncture, which may reflect the position of a counter in the nineteenth-century public bar. The front room on the northwestern side of the structure may have been enlarged by removing one side of the central corridor. It is likely to have originally been used as another bar or a lounge, while one or more of the rooms at the back of the building may have been used as private rooms by the publican.

In the rear addition, a broad staircase exists with an ornate balustrade of turned elements, characteristic of mid-late Victorian colonial architecture. There is no visible evidence of the original stairway to the upper floor. However, most of the internal walls and ceilings at all levels have been concealed by later linings.

The basement contains low-ceilinged rooms at the Wakefield Street end, consistent with cellaring or other storage, and rooms with a higher ceiling at the other end, consistent with habitable rooms such as accommodation for domestic staff. A large fireplace also indicates that one room may have been used as a kitchen. Exposed brickwork and supporting piers can be seen at the Wakefield Street end.

The upper floor has a central corridor, broadly corresponding with that on the ground floor. This is flanked on both sides by rooms, consistent with domestic or guest accommodation. Some spaces on the northern side of the building are likely to have been enlarged by the removal of wall partitions. The attic space at the Wakefield Street end of the building contains a pit-sawn roof structure, with broad timber sarking and closely-spaced rafters consistent with support for a slate roof, while ceiling boards could be seen surviving beneath the first floor ceiling lining. The roof structure at the opposing end was demonstrably later, bearing widely-spaced trusses.

The Fitzroy Hotel and other public house architecture in early colonial Auckland

The earliest public houses in Auckland appear to have been varied in design. Many contain verandahs or balconies, like later rural hotels. A number were domestic in appearance, with Georgian style dimensions and hipped roofs. Some of the latter appear to have conformed more to the 'village inn' style prevalent in rural England than overtly colonial prototypes, and may have been concentrated on the fringes of the settlement than in the commercial heart of the township itself. Surviving examples include the Windsor Castle Hotel, Parnell (circa 1850) - substantially altered in the later nineteenth century - and the rather more Georgian-looking Royal Oak Hotel, near Onehunga (circa 1854).

While timber was the predominant material for early public houses, brick was promoted as a construction material by licensing authorities from 1849 partly due to the frequent fires that affected timber structures, but perhaps also because they required a higher level of investment from their owners and thus offered a greater level of potential 'respectability'. The Windsor Castle Hotel (NZHPT Register #7406, Category I) is the oldest known brick hotel/ public house in the region, and possibly the rest of New Zealand. The Royal Oak Hotel (unregistered) is likely to have been built shortly afterwards. The former Fitzroy Hotel is believed to be the earliest survivor in the original urban settlement of Auckland, while De Bretts Hotel (originally known as the Commercial Hotel, NZHPT Register #7264, Category II) in High Street possibly retained elements of an 1859 structure when remodelled in the 1920s. Together, these buildings form a group of 1850s brick public houses that are believed to be the earliest of their type in New Zealand.

Other early public houses registered by the NZHPT were are timber-built, and comprise Scott's Hotel, Mahurangi (NZHPT Register #2603, Category II) and the Kentish Hotel, Waiuku (NZHPT Register #535, Category II), both erected in 1852. The Queens Ferry Hotel in Vulcan Lane, Auckland (NZHPT Register #630, Category II) was built of brick in 1859, but was used as a general store until 1865. The oldest surviving public house in the original urban settlement of Auckland is believed to be the former Prince of Wales Hotel on Hobson Street (unregistered, currently used as the City Mission), which was first licensed by in 1852 and consists of timber.

The original appearance of the former Fitzroy Hotel appears to have been similar to the domestic style of the other early 1850s brick pubs, although conforming to an L-shaped rather than rectangular plan, perhaps due to the smaller size of an urban plot. The detail of its front façade is unclear, but it may have had two doors from the outset. The building's internal layout appears to have been similar to early nineteenth-century pubs in Britain, which traditionally had five rooms on their ground floor, comprising a public parlour, tap room, bar, kitchen and publican's private parlour. External doors to the self-contained tap room or bar and more genteel public parlour were generally separate, as apparently with the Fitzroy. The domestic visual appearance of such buildings reinforced the view that they were literally 'public houses', whereby the owner of a house made some of his rooms available for drinking. This informal approach was linked to the means by which people were served, where drink was brought up from the cellar rather than served from behind a counter.

It is unclear if the building originally had large ground floor windows and a low plain parapet, although early photographs suggest that the latter may have been in place. By the 1860s, more specifically urban types of public house had appeared in Auckland, characterised by a more commercial-style frontage with large plate glass windows, parapets and, subsequently, gas lighting on the main façades. Such elements advertised the recreational activities carried out inside the building, as well as making such behaviour appear less secretive. Counters were introduced with such developments as pubs became more like shops. The alterations carried out on the Fitzroy Hotel in 1874 may have been linked to this process, or such features may have already been in place. The large opening between the front and back rooms in the southeastern part of the building may reflect the position of a counter or serving hatch between the bar and the publican's private parlour.

Later alterations at ground floor level have been comparatively slight despite the creation of further door openings, preserving the basic layout of the main public house elements. In most New Zealand pubs used into the twentieth century such features have been removed. Alterations to the main façade in the 1890s, notably the balustraded upper parapet, reflect the increasingly ornate nature of both the interior and exterior of hotels and public houses. This occurred as they became increasingly distinct from domestic housing and keen to advertise their wares.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1854 - 1855

1856 -
Architect/designer: James Derrom, possibly detached stables, later demolished

1874 -
Architect: Richard Keals, Unknown modification, but possibly including internal modifications

1896 -
Architect unknown, Rear extension in brick, creation of balustraded upper parapet and other details on main facades

External modifications, addition of two windows on the upper floor of the Lyndock Street elevation, removal of the half-round parapet on the Wakefield Street elevation

Partial covering of balustrades (two sections on the Wakefield Street elevation and one on the Lyndock Street elevation - out of a total of eight sections)

Removal of four pilasters on ground floor of the Wakefield Street elevation, closing over one of two doors on the Wakefield Street elevation, removal of window joinery from two windows on the Wakefield Street elevation

Removal of fire escapes on both the Wakefield and Lyndock Street elevations

Internal modifications: Insertion of two new doorways at ground floor level, likely reorganisation of room partitions at first floor level on northwest side of building

Construction Details

Brick building, with some internal timber partitions and linings, timber roof frame and corrugated asbestos roof covering. Tarmac surrounds with brick paving at rear of building.

Completion Date

10th December 2004

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Daily Southern Cross

Daily Southern Cross

20 December 1862, p.3, 18 June 1863, p.4

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

D.B. Waterson, 'Sheehan, John 1844-1885', Claudia Orange (ed.), Volume Two (1870-1900), Wellington, 1993, pp.457-9.

Peter H. Hughes, 'Lowry, Robert William (1912 - 1963)', in Claudia Orange (ed.), Volume Four (1921-1940), Wellington, 1998, pp.295-6

Eldred-Grigg, 1984

Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Pleasures of the Flesh: Sex and Drugs in Colonial New Zealand 1840-1915, Wellington, 1984

Girouard, 1975

Mark Girouard, The Victorian Pub, London, 1975

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

1G 1498, 7 February 1854, Deeds Index 5A/652

4D/23, 25 February 1854, Deeds Index 5A/652, LINZ Auckland

8D 116, 25 February 1859, Deeds Index 5A/652, LINZ, Auckland

CT 1/159, North Auckland Land Registry, LINZ, Auckland

McLauchlan, 1994

Gordon McLauchlan, The Story of Beer: Beer and Brewing - A New Zealand History, Auckland, 1994

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

19 June, 1884, p.4

New Zealander

New Zealander

31 March 1855, p.2, 23 February 1856, p.1, 19 April 1856, p.3, 15 April 1857, p.3

Oral Histories

Oral Histories

Vanya Lowry - Bob Lowry's daughter and former Wakefield Press staff member.

Julian Mitchell - Bob Lowry's grandson.

Andrew Dentice.

Doug Harley.

Richards, 1997

Ian Richards, To Bed at Noon: The Life and Art of Maurice Duggan, Auckland, 1997, APL

Southern Cross

Southern Cross

29 June 1858, p.1, 22 March 1859, p.1, 28 April 1860, p.5

Vercoe, 1866

Map: J Vercoe and S.W. Harding, City of Auckland, New Zealand, Auckland, 1866

Vercoe, 1867

John Vercoe, Descriptive Schedule to Accompany Map of the City of Auckland, Auckland, 1867


Auckland City Council

Auckland City Council

ACC 210, Item 137, Valuation Book East Ward 1896

Peter Tatham, 'Floor Plan 75 Wakefield Street for Auckland Metro': Proposed Door Openings', February 1983, ACC Building and Property File, ACC

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern 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.