Scottish Hall

112 Esk Street, Invercargill

  • Scottish Hall, Invercargill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Chris Horwell. Date: 7/03/2018.
  • Scottish Hall, Invercargill.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/08/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7760 Date Entered 27th June 2008


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land described as Lot C DP 1005 (CT SL158/184), Southland Land District and the building known as the Scottish Hall thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. The following chattels are also included in the registration: 49 Clan Tartans and Crests. (Refer to Extent of Registration Map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Invercargill City


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot C DP 1005, (CT SL158/184), Southland Land District


The Scottish Hall, designed by Invercargill architects Edward Haining Smith (1900-1980) and Russell Rice, was built in 1957 as a memorial to the pioneering Scottish settlers in Invercargill and wider Southland.

The building was funded by community subscription which was organised by the Scottish Hall Company, with canvassers throughout Southland. In addition the decoration of the interior with specially commissioned Clan Crests and Tartans added to the cultural significance of the building as a home for Southland's Scottish societies.

The asymmetrical reinforced-concrete building is a good example of modern interwar design, with its streamlined appearance and restrained moulding on the exterior.

The Scottish Hall has provided a centre for the Scottish community to meet and pass on Scottish cultural practices, including Highland Dancing and Piping. In addition it has provided a venue for family and community occasions for fifty years.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Scottish Hall has historical significance as a physical reminder of the importance of Scottish settlers in Southland. Scottish settlers were a major proportion of the nineteenth century migrants to Southland and they played a considerable role in the development of the province. The Hall is considered as a memorial to these pioneers.


The Scottish Hall has architectural significance. The building was designed by Invercargill architects Edward Haining Smith and Russell Rice, and is an example of an interwar design in a modern functionalist style. In its reinforced concrete construction with metal framed windows, asymmetric composition, and restrained detailing, it is a good representative example from this period.


The Scottish Hall has cultural significance as the meeting place for Scottish community in Southland and Invercargill. The building was designed as a memorial to the pioneer Scottish settlers of Southland, and supported by members of the Scottish community through out the area through subscription. The Scottish Hall houses a specially constructed collection of Crests and Tartans representing forty-nine clans in the Southland Area. In addition it is home to the Burns Society and the Scottish Highland Dancing and Piping Society, representing Scottish cultural activities.


The Scottish Hall has social significance as a gathering place for community events of various types for fifty years. The Hall has been used for many family functions such as weddings and twenty first parties, as well as larger gatherings.

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

The Scottish Hall reflects the role of immigrant communities in the settlement of New Zealand, and in particular the experience of Scottish settlers in southern New Zealand. The transmission of cultural practices by migrants is an important part of that history, and The Scottish Hall provided a place for the expression of Scottish culture as adapted to the colonial circumstances, which emphasised the romanticism associated with the Highlands of Scotland, particularly through highland dancing and piping.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

The Scottish Hall has a significant association with the Scottish community of Invercargill and Southland. This is shown in the public subscriptions which raised the money to build the facility. In addition a suggestion from Invercargill City Council in 2007 that the building be demolished resulted in a petition being signed by 4,000 people, and a nomination sent to the NZHPT for the building to be recognised as an historic place.

(f) The potential of the place for public education:

Through the interpretation of the display of Clan Tartans and Crests, and the history of these families in Southland, the Scottish Hall has significant potential for public education.

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

The Scottish Hall is a good example of interwar architectural design, representing the development of a modern architecture in Invercargill.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

The Scottish Hall was promoted as a memorial to the early Scottish settlers in Invercargill and wider Southland, and so can be considered as of commemorative value.


This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, f, g, h.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Smith and Rice

Edward Haining Smith was born in Invercargill in 1900. He commenced work in Invercargill in 1933. He died in 1980. His surviving buildings include the former Central Methodist Church, The Scottish Hall, Neil Neilson Ltd and the Department of Conservation Workshop.

R. Richardson Ltd

Builders of The Scottish Hall, Invercargill.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Scottish Hall was designed by Invercargill architectural partnership Smith and Rice in 1956 and built for the Scottish Hall Company. The Scottish Hall Company was formed in October 1948 with the purpose of raising money to build a suitable facility to preserve, celebrate and provide a place for the continuation of the tradition and culture of the Scottish settlers in Southland. The Hall was to provide a venue for social and cultural gatherings including poetry reading, concerts, pipe bands, Inglesides, as well as sports and games.

Scottish immigration to Southland and Otago was significant: in 1871 Scots made up about a third of the total population of these provinces. The national population peaked in 1886 when there were close to 55,000 Scottish born people living in New Zealand. Scottish immigration declined in the early years of the twentieth century, rising again between the First and Second World Wars, to almost its 1880s level in the 1930s. Although the majority of Scots in New Zealand were lowlanders they adopted the activities and symbols proclaiming a Highland identity, such as clan societies, kilts, bagpipes and Highland games, emphasising the romanticism of a Scottish past. Scottish historian John MacKenzie writes that the 'complex of myths of the distinctiveness of Scottish culture, the Scottish settler, and the Scottish soldier come together in the creation of the statuary, monuments and societies of the later nineteenth century', which grew at an extraordinary rate in that period. Otago historian Tom Brooking also considers that pipe bands and the like fulfilled an 'important community function' and maintained a 'tenuous consciousness of cultural heritage', even one that could be considered ‘as distinctly Kiwi as they are Scottish.' Despite writings on immigration, there is little written on the ‘articulation of Scottishness' in the twentieth century.

Around New Zealand other Scottish groups had built halls. Some of these have been recognised by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The Canterbury Branch of the Caledonian Society built their Caledonian Hall in 1923, designed by architect Henry St Aubyn Murray in a conservative style (NZHPT Reg. No. 3095, Category I). Other Scottish organisations took over existing premises, for example, the Scottish Society in Oamaru occupied the former Dalgety and Rattray Store (NZHPT Reg. No. 3224, Category II). These seem to be the only structures associated with Scottish Societies on the NZHPT Register. While it seems that Scottish Societies were relatively common, it is difficult to trace the history of the buildings associated with them. An internet search within New Zealand indicates that there are Scottish Halls at Timaru, Horowhenua, Raumati and Dunedin, among other places.

Scottish pursuits and cultural events, such as Highland dancing and piping competitions, had been led by prominent members of the Invercargill community, such as watchmaker and jeweller Thomas Rankin. Historian Erik Olssen writes that the many Celtic immigrants were involved in the new Highland traditions which were developed to express Scottish nationalism, a trend of the nineteenth century, and which found expression in music, dancing, social events and holidays. It was from Rankin that the Highland Piping and Dancing Society of Invercargill acquired ownership of a section of land on Esk Street after World War Two. Any building plans were delayed because of restrictions on building and a shortage of materials. The Society agreed to form a company to promote the building of a hall.

The Scottish Hall was designed by Invercargill architects Edward Haining Smith (1900-1980) and Russell Rice. According to architectural writer Michael Findlay, Smith was an architect who saw ‘the transition between classical revivalism and modernism at first hand' when working at one of Britain's ‘premier architectural practices' - Burnet, Tait and Lorne. Smith's buildings in Invercargill include the Central Methodist Church (1935) and the Southland Museum (1941). Wyndham-born Russell Rice began his career as a draughtsperson at Southland Education Board in 1926, working there for ten years before attending Auckland School of Architecture, seeing active service in the Pacific before returning to complete his architectural training in 1946. He joined Smith in 1949, later becoming a partner in the firm Smith and Rice.

Community and cultural halls were important expressions of identity, but little has been written about them. Nigel Prickett in a paper to the New Zealand Archaeological Association in 1999 writes that halls were a vital social centre, used for a multitude purposes and events. Immigrant communities constructed cultural centres or halls to provide meeting places which provided a means of cultural identification, including music and dance as elements of cultural passed down to younger community members. Unlike the more lightly built country halls, the Scottish Hall was built to last in robust reinforced concrete with a modern streamlined design, and in common with some of its country cousins was considered as a memorial to the pioneering Scottish settlers of Southland, bringing together those with a shared background.

The Scottish Hall Company had canvassers all over Southland who were appointed to sell shares and to accept donations, and within four years sufficient funds had been raised. Plans were prepared and tenders called for. Only one tender was received and as it was too high, plans were redrawn and new tenders called. This time the lowest tender was accepted. The Scottish Hall Company commissioned H. & J. Smith Ltd. to make emblems for the displays in the hall. Bays within the Main Hall were designed to hold the Crest chosen as decoration for the Hall. The ‘Crests of the Armorial Bearings of Scottish Chieftains' were sponsored by individual donors. The Crests were constructed by Harry Walsh, well known in Invercargill for his commercial display work. The Tartans were hung in the form of ‘swag and tail.'

The opening of the Scottish Hall was celebrated by a Shareholders Grand Ball on 16 August 1957. Clan tartans were worn and the Highland Pipe Band played. The opening was reported in both the Southland Times and the Southland Daily News. J.C. Mackenzie, chair of the Scottish Hall Company, opened the Hall in front of a crowd of 300 people. Mackenzie considered that the building was a memorial to the ‘pioneers of Southland who came from Scotland 100 years ago. It is a hall built by the Scots for the Scots, and I hope our young people will come to regard it as a community centre where they can gather in a truly traditional atmosphere.' Deputy Mayor N.L. Watson described the Scottish Hall as an ‘architectural ornament and an important civic amenity', and described the Hall as a ‘credit to this generation.' Mr Watson continued: ‘This is a hall which will provide a home for the many Scottish societies in the province, and is a tribute to the foresight of those who had the courage to press on with these plans.'

The Scottish Hall is a plainly detailed two-storey building with a three-storey section to the south-west, and a large basement beneath. The building is constructed of reinforced concrete. A promotional article describes the facilities:

The Entrance Foyer has a welcoming effect and gives easy access to the ticket room and telephone on the right, and to the left the ladies cloak and powder room. The stairways, up and down, are off this front foyer. Straight ahead one enters the Lounge. This room displays a quality rarely found in public halls, is carpeted throughout and comfortably furnished and heated. It provides a favoured setting for wedding parties, private luncheons, informal gatherings and can accommodate a party of forty seated in dinner style. The Main Hall contains an excellent dance floor and is highly rated as a Ball Room. For concert purposes it can provide seating for up to 500 people. The acoustic properties of this hall are a very special feature and have been highly commended by people best qualified to comment. The stage provides a floor space of 25 feet by 18 feet and a picture screen of 14 feet by 10 feet. A range of Back Drop facilities are provided and dressing rooms nearby. The Supper Room is situated at the rear end of the building with separate entrance off the Main hall and can accommodate up to 100 people. A modern kitchen adjoins with a convenient servery between provides easy access for transport of food and drink.

Upstairs are three rooms of convenient size for smaller gatherings and are in popular demand. The Burns Room (No. 2) will seat up to 100 is furnished with piano and table and decorated with pictures reminiscent of the Scottish Bard. The Highland Piping and Dancing Room (No. 3) will seat up to 35 people and Room No. 4 will seat up to 30. These rooms are all available for hire by the general public and serve a useful purpose for committee meetings and less formal gatherings. Supper can easily be served to these first floor rooms from a kitchen on the second floor and within easy access.

It is the distinct form of decoration that makes the Scottish Hall Scottish. All people entering the hall, whoever they may be, have been attracted to take a second look and then a closer examination of the wall decorations. Simple, dignified, colourful, a stroke of genius is here displayed in utilising the Clan Crest with motto, skilfully draped around with its distinctive Clan Tartan. In the main hall the dado from floor level to door height is of natural wood French polished. Above the dado twelve panels with white backing on each side wall provide space to display each Crest in attractive taste. Each panel is occupied by one crest draped with its Clan tartan.

Reminiscent of Scottish Highlands the only other decorations are three find stag heads suitably mounted and hung. The upper wall space around the lounge is similarly decorated with twenty two clan Crests and Tartans making a total of forty six in all. Each crest with tartan has been provided by a private person in honour of the Clan to which he belongs.

Not only favourable comment but also exclamations of surprise have been heard from visitors whether they come from Royal Scotland itself or from foreign countries, especially from our American friends.

So when the Annual Rose Show or Christmas Party or when any Banquet or Concert fills the Main Hall, this colourful and friendly setting feels just right, and indeed, could not be excelled anywhere.'

In time use declined in the face of competition from television, cinema and other attractions. By the 1970s there were discussions with the Invercargill City Council about the future of the Hall. There was a suggestion that the Council acquire the hall by deed of gift in return for taking over the Scottish Hall Company's liabilities, as a district amenity, and the various Scottish Societies having use rights for a number of years on favourable conditions. In addition the Scottish Hall Company suggested that the Scottish décor be preserved and a plaque recognising the gift be mounted in the foyer. The Hall was to be renamed the Scottish Memorial Hall as a memorial to the Scottish pioneers of Southland and Invercargill, and maintained by the City for twenty years.' The building was formally handed over in a ceremony on 27 March 1974.

In 1990 the Southland Scottish Council was formed from representatives of a variety of Scottish Societies in Southland, with the aim of promoting and cultivating Scottish culture through the preservation of Scottish tradition and heritage. The Council raised funds to preserve the display of tartans and crests in the main hall, and the display cabinet in the foyer.

In 2007 the Invercargill City Council's Draft Annual Plan suggested the demolition of the Scottish Hall. The Council indicated that there was also a need to upgrade the facilities to comply within minimum legal requirements, at substantial cost. As a result a local petition collected 4,000 signatures in a plea to save the building, and a nomination was prepared for registration as a historic place.

In December 2007 the arrangement negotiated with the Invercargill Musical Theatre Company to take over the Scottish Hall fell through. The Invercargill City Council then received another offer to take over the Hall, and has given a three month period for negotiations, after which, if arrangements fail again, the Council will again consider demolition.

Physical Description

The Scottish Hall is a substantial concrete building with metal-framed windows. The building is simply detailed in a restrained modern style, with decoration emphasising both the vertical and horizontal elements of the building. The asymmetrical composition with the three-storey tower dominating the façade is typical of the international functionalist style of the interwar period. The main south elevation provides the decorative focus for the building. The moulding and window placement emphasises both the vertical tower, and the horizontal banding of the first floor windows. The smooth plastered concrete finish emphasises the streamlined modern decoration, which design writer Michael Findlay notes as typical of Edward Haining Smith's work which bridged classical revivalism and modernism.

The principle south elevation faces Esk Street with the main doors placed centrally in a recessed entrance. The north and east elevations are largely built out, while the long west elevation is largely functional with plainly-finished walls, and the windows providing the only rhythm to the façade, behind the tower level which continues the pattern of the windows on the south façade.

The main doors open into a vestibule, with tiled floor and masonry finish on the walls. The entrance hall has a ticket booth on the right, double doors opening to the foyer, and stairs on the left providing access to the basement and upper levels. Toilets are located off the vestibule area.

The vestibule leads to what is called the foyer on the original plans. The foyer is an open public space with bar facilities on one side. Clan Crests and Tartans are mounted on the walls and there is a display cabinet with memorabilia located in this room.

The Foyer leads to the main hall with a stage at the north end. The main hall has a stage at the north end. Its main decorations are the bays in which the Clan Crests and Tartans are mounted. The main hall has panelling to Dado level, and an exposed timber dance floor.

To the left of the stage a corridor leads to the services at the rear of the building which include a supper room and commercial kitchen. The supper room is lined with Pine to Dado level, with Pinex above.

Access to the first floor is via stairs from the vestibule. The concrete walls are finished with painted plaster. On the first floor are meeting rooms, including the 'Burns Room', the band room, and the committee rooms. The walls are lined with ply veneer. A further flight of stairs leads to the tower level which provides access to the roof for raising flags on the flag pole on the tower.

The basement level used to house the men's cloak rooms, but they have been relocated to the vestibule level. The boiler for heating services is located in the basement.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1956 - 1957
Formally opened 16 August 1957

1972 -
Roof renewed

1985 -
Toilets altered

1990 -
Kitchen and amenities facilities upgraded

1992 -
First floor toilet block converted to a kitchen

Construction Details

Reinforced concrete

Completion Date

10th June 2008

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Brooking, 2003 (2)

Tom Brooking and Jennie Coleman (eds), The Heather and the Fern: Scottish Migration & New Zealand Settlement, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 2003

Invercargill City Council

Invercargill City Council

Invercargill City Centre: Heritage Buildings: A History. Heritage Building Record 100

Invercargill City Council, File: Scottish Hall

Sorrell, 2006

P. Sorrell, (ed) Murihiku: The Southland Story, Southland to 2006 Book Project Committee, Invercargill, 2006

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area 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.