Historical Significance or Value
The place is historically important for its connections with the Albert Barracks and early military activity in New Zealand. It is particularly significant for demonstrating the transformation of a major urban area into an exclusive residential neighbourhood for Auckland's commercial and professional elite in the late nineteenth century. The place reflects the wealth and lifestyle of such groups and their prominent position in Auckland society. It is associated with later developments in urban history, including the growth of the University of Auckland in the twentieth century and attitudes to heritage protection in the early 1970s.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The place has aesthetic significance as an elite late-Victorian urban residence designed in an ornate, Italianate style. It has considerable value for its prominent contribution to the visual amenity of the Princes Street and Albert Park landscapes; for the striking appearance of its main residence, garden steps and front railings, and for the quality of its ornate internal and external detailing. It is aesthetically important as one of a conjoining group of high-quality and ornate historic residences on the western side of Princes Street.
Archaeological Significance or Value
The place has archaeological value as part of the Albert Barracks complex, the largest and most important military installation in early colonial New Zealand. Known remnants within the place include the fortification's main guardhouse, and there is also strong evidence that the buried remains of the Commandant's Office and other elements survive.
The place is also significant for containing material linked with its later colonial use as an elite urban residence. Elements associated with this activity include the well-preserved main residence and its garden features, the buried remains of a late nineteenth-century outbuilding and other related features. The archaeological value of the place is enhanced as it is a rare survival of an elite residence and its curtilage within the urban centre of colonial Auckland.
Architectural Significance or Value
The place has architectural significance as one of the best-preserved elite urban residences in late nineteenth-century Auckland. It is architecturally significant as a well-preserved surviving example of a plastered brick villa designed in the Italianate style. Its value is enhanced by the survival of adjoining residences of similar style and date which reflect the range of expression in Italianate design of the 1870s and 1880s. The place has architectural significance as an early and possibly rare surviving example of the work of William Hammond, a prominent member and president of the Auckland Institute of Architects and a founding member of the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The place has significance for its association with British military activity in New Zealand, and Auckland's function as early colonial capital. It is of particular value for reflecting the economic boom of the 1870s and early 1880s, Auck-land's ongoing role as a major commercial entrepot, and the unusually high ca-pacity for social mobility in colonial New Zealand. The place is also important for reflecting the emergence of exclusive residential neighbourhoods based on wealth in late nineteenth-century urban society. It has connections with Auck-land's Jewish community and the nineteenth-century general merchant and drapery trades.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place has strong associations with individuals of significance, including co-lonial merchants John Smith and A.H. Nathan, and legal figures Edward Russell and Sir Arthur Fair.
(c)The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history
The place has outstanding potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand his-tory, particularly the activities of the British Army in the early colonial period. The place is notable for incorporating the rare archaeological remains of a mili-tary guardhouse and the probable (and rare) remnants of the Commandant's Office. A study of these has the capacity to improve knowledge about the or-ganisation and operation of colonial military garrisons in general, and the Albert Barracks in particular.
The place also has potential to provide knowledge about the functioning and economy of elite urban households in late nineteenth-century Auckland. Incor-porating a range of material linked to its use as a residence, it has particular capacity to supply information about the lives of wealthy mercantile and profes-sional families in one of New Zealand's largest colonial urban centres.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The place has considerable potential for public education about the military, commercial and residential history of colonial Auckland, being a highly visible Council-owned property on the fringes of a major park. Lying within Auckland's busy city centre, its potential is enhanced by its location close to two major edu-cational institutions - the University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The place has special value as one of the best-preserved examples of an elite urban residence in Auckland, and as a well-preserved plastered brick villa of urban type designed in the Italianate style. It is also significant as an early de-sign linked with the Auckland architect, William Hammond.
(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement
The place incorporates archaeological remains linked with the Albert Barracks, which was operational during the first three decades of New Zealand's colonial history.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places
The place incorporates the archaeological remains of a British military fortification, considered to be a rare type of historic place in New Zealand.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The place is a significant element within a historical and cultural landscape of outstanding importance. The northern part of the Symonds Street ridge incor-porates places of significance to Maori and was the epicentre of British adminis-trative and military power in New Zealand. It also incorporates significant heri-tage linked with the redevelopment of the area as an exclusive residential and recreational neighbourhood in the late nineteenth century, its ongoing focus as a centre for wealthy residential and medical activity, and its occupation by the University of Auckland during the late nineteenth and twentieth century.
The importance of the place is enhanced as one of a group of residences of similar age and style that reflect variations in Italianate style, and both the indi-viduality as well as collective identity of their mercantile owners.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, c, f, g, i, j, k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place because:
-it has outstanding potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand history, particularly the activities of the British Army in the early colonial period;
-it has special value as one of the best-preserved examples of an elite urban residence in Auckland, and as a well-preserved plastered brick villa of urban type designed in the Italianate style; and
-it is a significant part of an outstandingly important cultural and historical landscape on the Symonds Street ridge that retains numerous archaeological sites, historic buildings and other places linked to its role as the epicentre of early British colonial power in New Zealand, and as a subsequent residential neighbourhood of note.
Early history of the site
The site occupied by Pembridge was part of a significant Maori and early colonial landscape on the Symonds Street ridge. Prior to European arrival, land at the northern end of the ridge incorporated a pa known as Te Rerengaoraiti. Another settlement, Horotiu, may also have been located in the immediate vicinity, occupying high ground overlooking the Horotiu (now Queen Street) gully. Ongoing cultivations on the ridge were intermittently maintained during inter-tribal hostilities in the early nineteenth century and re-established by Ngati Whatua in the late 1830s. Ngati Whatua left these cultivations as a result of their offer, and the subsequent purchase by the Crown, of some 3,000 acres at Auckland in 1840 to accommodate a capital for the new British colony.
Following the establishment of Auckland as a colonial town, the Symonds Street ridge was at the epicentre of British administrative and military power in New Zealand. Significant buildings in the area included the Colonial Governor's residence at Government House, the Provincial Council and General Assembly, and the Albert Barracks - which was the largest military installation in the colony. Erected using Maori labour in 1846-1852, the basalt walls of the Barracks enclosed accommodation for approximately 1000 soldiers. Internal structures included several on the site of Pembridge, which lay just inside the main gate to the fortification. One of these was evidently described in 1871 as the Commandant's Office and another is believed to have been used as a guardhouse. The Barracks wall, a drill hall and a military road were located immediately to the north of the property.
Following the relocation of the colonial capital and its associated administration to Wellington in 1865, many of the troops were withdrawn. In February 1870, the last of the fourteen British regiments to serve in New Zealand left the Barracks, after which the fortification was decommissioned.
Redevelopment of the Albert Barracks Reserve
Decommissioning enabled a large part of the eastern core of colonial Auckland to be redeveloped. Prior to the construction of the Barracks, the Surveyor-General Felton Mathew had intended that the northern end of the Symonds Street ridge should be occupied by residences arranged in fashionable avenues and crescents. In the 1870s, the area remained desirable for its proximity to places of high social standing such as the former Government House, and for its elevated vantage point overlooking Auckland's commercial district. The Auckland Improvement Commission subsequently laid out new roads, subdivided the land and promoted the creation of Albert Park.
The redevelopment appears to have marked a new approach in urban Auckland, consciously creating a neighbourhood based on wealth. Formal restrictions for leaseholders stipulated that sections could not be further subdivided and that the houses erected were to be two storied, roofed with slate or iron and to be built at a cost of at least £700. Plans for the houses were also subject to the approval of the commissioners. Earlier residential areas in Auckland were generally more mixed and influenced by shared places of work (such as occupation of the Symonds Street ridge by high officials and ordinary soldiers alike), although some areas were traditionally more prestigious than others. The redevelopment attracted many wealthy merchants, who had become Auckland's new elite following the departure of government officials to Wellington. The former were often self-made men from working- or lower middle-class backgrounds, whose success reflected the unusually high potential for social mobility in colonial New Zealand. Their rise was assisted by a prolonged economic boom in the 1870s and Auckland's emerging role as a major Pacific entrepot.
As part of the redevelopment, tenders for the southward extension of Princes Street from its junction with Waterloo Quadrant were received in June 1873. The road, along with others in the vicinity, was evidently complete by April 1875. In keeping with the proposed elite nature of the area, the streets were metalled, lit with gas and provided with drainage and sewerage. Deciduous trees were also intended to be planted. Most of the Barracks wall was dismantled in 1873-1875.
In December 1875, the Auckland Improvement Commissioners auctioned 99-year leases for fourteen sites on the western side of Princes Street. Considered to be the premier plots within the redevelopment, these were advertised as desirable for their 'unsurpassed and uninterrupted view' over the surrounding area and their proximity to the Government House grounds. They were also considered suitable as villa sites for businessmen, lying just a few minutes walk away from Auckland's main commercial district in the Queen Street gully. All of the eventual purchasers secured at least two conjoining allotments to provide generous sites for their homes.
Construction and initial use of 31 Princes Street
Lots 13 and 14 were considered to be 'perhaps the choicest of the choice' and were purchased by Auckland draper John Smith (1833?-1882) for ₤986. Construction of a large and impressive two-storey brick building was apparently well advanced by early April 1876, when Smith was reported as prosecuting the work with 20 men and hoping to take possession of his home 'in few weeks' time'.
Smith was a self-made entrepreneur, having arrived in New Zealand at the age of ten on a warship from which he and other crew deserted. He subsequently travelled to Australia where he worked on the goldfields as a miner and in business. Arriving in Auckland with wife and adopted daughter after spending time on the Otago and West Coast goldfields, Smith became established as a draper and clothier on the west side of Queen Street. In 1875 he constructed a two storey shop of Italianate design on the site of the current Smith and Caughey's department store.
Overlooking the gully in which his business was located, Smith's rendered brick house was also designed in an Italianate style, although it was evidently more ornate. Italianate architecture was often used for mercantile premises and residences in Auckland during the late Victorian period, being modelled on the designs of Italian Renaissance buildings associated with commercial wealth. Constructed of plastered brick at a time when most Auckland residences were of timber, Smith's house was symmetrically designed, with a grand, two storey central portico flanked by double-storey bay windows facing Princes Street. The building's height and location facilitated uninterrupted views in all directions, as well as enabling it to be seen from a considerable distance. Internally, its ground floor incorporated a broad hallway and four spacious rooms, with three rooms to the rear intended for use as a kitchen and offices (scullery and pantry). Upstairs, the accommodation was equally commodious, incorporating several bedrooms and a library. Its interior appears to have been ornate from the outset. The building appears to have been one of the most opulent residences constructed in the neighbourhood.
The building's architect was William Hammond (1830-1907), a comparatively recent migrant from England who had initially practiced in London. Already an associate member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, he had won a competition for the design of Western Park in Ponsonby with gardener J.C. Blackmore in 1873, a factor that may have influenced his commission by Smith in view of proposals for the laying out of Albert Park next to the house. Also an active member of the Auckland Institute of Architects, Hammond was to become President of that organisation in 1885. He was also a foundation member of the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors. Smith's residence in Princes Street is believed to be one of his earliest surviving works. Throughout his career he is known to have designed commercial buildings, churches, schools and hotels, and a large number of private houses.
John Smith owned the house until his death in 1882, after which his wife Jane briefly held the leasehold. During their occupancy, the residence was known as Park House. By 1882, the residential grounds incorporated outbuildings, including a brick structure against the rear boundary of the allotment and a long corrugated iron building, possibly used as stabling. Access to the rear of the property may have been from an informal service lane. On Princes Street, elaborate railings along the front boundary and a grand stepped path to the front portico may also have been in place. Smith was buried in Symonds Street cemetery, where his wealth is testified by one of the largest monument's erected there.
Ongoing use as an elite family home
The property continued to be used as a family residence until the middle of the twentieth century. From 1884 to 1893, the lease was held by Dr John Hay Honeyman (1844?-1895), who had initially worked as a draper before travelling to Edinburgh in 1874 to study medicine. Upon his return, he established a surgery in Symonds Street, helping to create a tradition of professional medical care in the area that persisted into the later twentieth century. This may have been encouraged by both the presence of wealthy patrons in the neighbourhood and contemporary notions linking clean air and open spaces with good health.
The lease was subsequently taken over by Arthur Hyam Nathan (1856-1905) and his family, who occupied the property from 1894 to approximately 1916. Nathan was a nephew and employee of the pioneering entrepreneur David Nathan, striking out on his own in 1880 to establish A.H. Nathan as a firm of general merchants, kauri gum and produce brokers. The extended Nathan family were prominent members of Auckland's Jewish community, helping to found the Jewish synagogue, built a few doors away at 19A Princes Street in 1884-85. Many of Nathan's relatives lived nearby, including David Nathan in Waterloo Quadrant, and N.A. Nathan at Wickford, on the eastern side of Princes Street.
During their tenure, the Nathans renamed the residence ‘Pembridge' and may have been responsible for several modifications made before 1904. These included a double-storey rear addition on the southwest corner of the building that closely matched the original section, and a further extension of simpler design on the northwest corner. Prior to circa 1908, a double-height bay window was also added to building's north side. These changes improved the service facilities of the residence and its outlook over gardens to the north. A flight of steps leading to the front portico and a front wall with ornate railings also appear to have been in place by this time. It is possible that the rear of the property was extended to encompass the southern end of Bowen Lane, which had been formalised by the early 1900s. Previous structures in the rear yard were evidently demolished, with the garden probably incorporating a service yard in its southwest corner and lawns to the north and east. Its boundary with Albert Park appears to have been marked by a low hedge.
Between the First and Second World Wars (circa 1916-1939), Pembridge was occupied by the prominent Auckland solicitor Edward Russell (1869-1939) and his wife Corrisande. Edward Russell was a senior partner in the legal firm Russell McVeigh Macky and Barrowclough, having followed his father into the enterprise. He was also a director of several companies including the South British Insurance Company and a member of the elite Northern Club, located at 19 Princes Street. During the Russell's tenure a garage was erected at the rear of the property in 1926, a glass house already being a feature of the back garden. In 1942, the leasehold was sold to Supreme Court Judge, Arthur Fair (1885?-1970), whose place of work was in nearby Waterloo Quadrant.
Born at Charleston on the West Coast, Fair had been educated at Nelson College and Victoria University and later won the Military Cross while a Captain in the First World War (1914-1918). Appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in 1934, Justice Fair occupied the house between 1942 and 1945-1946 and was knighted in 1951. During his occupancy, he converted the house into three separate flats with the addition of two kitchenettes on the upper floor, but continued to live on the ground floor himself. The upper storey of the building's portico was enclosed and glassed in at an unknown date after 1924 and may have been part of this work. The modifications commissioned by Fair were designed by the prestigious architectural practice of Gummer and Ford, who had been responsible for such structures as the carillon of the National War Memorial in Wellington (1932) and the National Museum and Art Gallery (1936). Conversion of the house into flats occurred later than for many other large houses on the Symonds Street ridge, perhaps indicating that the building retained its role as one of the most elite residences in the area.
Institutional use and heritage protection
From 1945-46 until the present time, the building has been used for institutional purposes. The Education Department of the Auckland University College is recorded as an occupier in the mid 1940s. Modifications at this time and in the following decade included the addition of a steel fire escape and toilets. Pembridge housed the Law School until 1969. A large single-storey building behind the main structure contained the Law School Library and may have been a glasshouse relocated from Old Government House and re-erected for that purpose. When the Law School vacated the building in 1969, Pembridge became the home of the Music School which remained there until 1986.
By the 1970s, the land on which the house stood had reverted to Auckland City Council ownership following the expiry of its 99-year lease. In 1963 the Council had decided that Pembridge, along with its neighbours on the western side of Princes Street should be demolished to become part of Albert Park. By 1972 a developing awareness of the importance of preserving heritage, and heritage values in formal city plans, led the Auckland City Council to retain and restore the Victorian residences. The Auckland Improvement Trust Act 1971 allowed the Council to keep one or more of the houses as examples of Victorian architecture, and a subsequent Act detailed how the buildings were to be managed. In 1974 the Council resolved to designate the houses and the adjacent synagogue as a conservation area and to restore them. Physical boundaries separating the property from Albert Park and the adjacent house at 29 Princes Street appear to have been removed at this time or later.
In 1986, Pembridge underwent a major refurbishment for reuse as commercial offices. The large single-storey outbuilding was removed from the rear of the property. Original panelled doors were modified to achieve required fire ratings and hardware was generally replaced. A number of new openings were made in the brick walls on both floors. The New Zealand Institute of Architects leased the building as head tenants, with subtenants including the Auckland Savings Bank, the Institute of Engineers, and the Northern Regional Office of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. In 1997 the premises was taken over by its current tenant, Languages International. An archaeological excavation at the rear of the property in 1990 was carried out to shed light on the history of the houses and the underlying Albert Barracks. This revealed the presence of at least three phases of activity, including the presumed remains of the guardhouse, the late nineteenth-century domestic stables associated with Pembridge, and a pre-fabricated building connected with later occupation by the University of Auckland.
Pembridge is one of very few elite dwellings remaining from when the Symonds Street ridge was the premier residential address in the city. Along with the adjacent building at 29 Princes Street, it is also one of the best-preserved. Many contemporary houses that occupied neighbouring streets have been demolished, and of those that remain most have lost significant aspects of their nineteenth-century surroundings, including their curtilages. Together with Albert Park and other houses that remain on the western side of Princes Street, Pembridge forms an important reminder of a major recreational and residential landscape on the fringe of Auckland's colonial commercial district. Few other buildings attributed to William Hammond are currently known to survive.
Pembridge is located in the eastern part of Auckland's Central Business District (CBD), on the Symonds Street ridge. It is situated on the western side of Princes Street, a broad tree-lined thoroughfare that separates the city campus of the University of Auckland from Albert Park, currently one of central Auckland's main recreational spaces. Pembridge is one of several large adjoining historic residences along the eastern fringe of the park. A narrow service access, Bowen Lane, separates most of these properties from the main park grounds.
The immediate area is noted for its historical and cultural heritage significance, encompassing numerous important buildings and archaeological sites. To the north is the former Synagogue (NZHPT Registration # 578, Category I historic place), and the Northern Club (NZHPT Registration # 663, Category I historic place). To the east is the former Government House and its grounds (NZHPT Registration # 105, Category I historic place), the University of Auckland Old Arts Building (NZHPT Registration # 25, Category I historic place), and a remnant of the Albert Barracks Wall (NZHPT Registration # 12, Category I historic place). To the south and west, Albert Park is also an important archaeological and historical landscape, incorporating the buried remains of the Albert Barracks, several registered historic places (including a band rotunda and a keeper's cottage), and other elements linked with nineteenth-century recreational and Second World War military use.
Pembridge is the southernmost of a group of five adjoining historic residences, and occupies a 1228 m ² rectangular lot. The ground is slightly raised above the level of Princes Street and is mostly flat. The property incorporates a large two storeyed brick building and surrounding garden features including a flight of concrete and tiled steps from Princes Street, palm trees, lawns and other plantings. A distinctive boundary feature fronting Princes Street consists of a low masonry retaining wall topped by highly ornate cast iron railings. Decorative cast iron gates mark the entrance from the pavement, flanked on one side by the inscribed name 'Pembridge' in the retaining wall. The northern, southern and western boundaries of the property are unfenced. The site incorporates the archaeological remains of a guardhouse, and probably also the Commandant's Office and other features located within the Albert Barracks.
Main residence - exterior
The main residence consists of a rendered brick building, designed in an ornate Italianate style. From the front it largely retains its 1870s appearance, while probable later nineteenth-century additions at the rear have been designed in a comparable style. The building is largely rectangular in plan, and has a hipped slate roof over its earlier eastern elements and near-pyramidal, corrugated iron roofs over its western additions. The roofline in general is emphasised by ornate bracketed eaves and is surmounted by three plastered chimneys with corbelled tops. In general, the building exterior conforms strongly to its late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century appearance.
The main (east) façade of the building is symmetrically arranged, incorporating a prominent two-storey portico over the centrally-placed front door. The upper level of the portico, now enclosed, has Corinthian pilasters, turned balustrades and vermiculated detailing. The floor surfaces at both ground and first storey level incorporate highly decorative tilework. The portico is flanked on either side by a grand, two-storey bay projection incorporating large windows at both levels. In general, the solidity and opulence of the building is emphasised by the use of plasterwork that incorporates quoins, rustication and ashlar incisions.
The east end of the north elevation also incorporates a grand double-height bay with large windows, an addition made prior to circa 1908. A single-storey enclosed porch halfway along the same elevation has steps with striking mosaic tiling. French doors are located towards the west end of this elevation. The southern façade is plainer, with further doors in this wall. The south elevation also incorporates an entrance, into what were probably service quarters at its western end. Sash windows in the east, north and south walls and the ground floor of the two rear sections have elliptical heads.
Main residence - interior
The interior of the main building contains a broad central hallway at ground floor level with large flanking rooms. An impressive staircase in the hallway leads to several large rooms upstairs. A doorway from these stairs at landing level also provides access to smaller rooms at the rear. A separate service staircase in the rear extension still survives. Parallel corridors run off the north and south end of the main hall at ground floor level, providing access to a pair of rooms and service facilities.
Many internal details survive to illustrate the opulence of the residence, although some elements were removed or concealed during modification in the 1980s. Significant survivals at ground floor level include the main entrance, which incorporates a heavy timber panelled door, above which is a five-piece fanlight. The central staircase has an ornate newel post and balustrades, and also incorporates timber panelling in its base. Both front rooms have cornices with pronounced acanthus leaf brackets. The front room on the south side of the hall also contains an ornate ceiling rose, a blackstone fire surround with inlay work, and a tile hearth. The fireplaces in all but two other rooms in the building have been removed, although chimney breasts remain. The ceilings on the ground floor have been replaced but mouldings have been reinstated in some rooms.
At first floor level, the front room off the south side of the hall has a fireplace and a deep, ornate plaster frieze. Folding doors open into the large room to the north off which is a small conservatory with mosaic tile floor within the upper storey of the portico. With some exceptions, the ceilings of rear rooms at stair landing level and on the first floor are original. Mouldings such as skirtings may be original. Some panel doors have been modified to achieve required fire ratings, while others are new. Notable elements in the rear extension include a replacement skylight with blue and white glass in what was the stairwell of the service access, and a round-arched opening connecting this area with the main staircase. At the same level, a small toilet preserves tongue and groove timber lining, and another room incorporates a built-in cupboard that may be an early feature.
Construction of main residence
Large additions to southwest and northwest corners of main residence.
Double height bay window added to north wall, and bathroom installed.
Demolished - Other
Outbuildings at rear of main residence removed
Upper floor of portico of main residence enclosed and glazed
Major refurbishment of interior, including removal or replacement of some details
Plastered brick, slate roof (eastern section), corrugated iron roof (western additions)
8th November 2007
Report Written By
N. Easdale, Five Gentlemen's Residences in Princes Street Auckland: The Occupants and Their Enterprises 1875-1900, Auckland, 1980
R. C. J. Stone, Makers of Fortune: A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland, 1973
A fully referenced Registration Report is available from the NZHPT Northern region office.
Management of the place is governed by the Auckland Improvement Trust Amendment Act 1973. Section 4 of the Act provides constraints on use and modification.
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.