Bishop's House (Catholic)

30 New Street, 10 St Francis De Sales Street and Green Street, Ponsonby, AUCKLAND

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The Bishop’s House forms the centrepiece of a significant ecclesiastical complex at Mount St Mary in Ponsonby, Auckland, that has formed a headquarters for the Catholic faith since the 1850s. Constructed in 1893-4, the main residence is a rare nineteenth-century example of a Catholic Bishop’s residence, and a rare or unique New Zealand design by the notable British architect, Peter Paul Pugin. The site is located on a high point that originally overlooked the Waitemata Harbour. The surrounding area was successively occupied by different Maori groups, including Te Waiohua and Ngati Whatua. Following the creation of Auckand as a colonial settlement in 1840, the land became part of a gentlemanly estate known as Clanaboy. This was purchased in 1853 by Bishop Jean Baptiste Francois Pompallier, considered to be the founder of the Catholic faith in New Zealand. Pompallier established an ecclesiastical centre known as Mount St Mary, on which he held a residence, and on which convents for the Sisters of Mercy, and then the Sisters of the Holy Family, were erected. The site also contained the Church of the Immaculate Conception (1858), the earliest Catholic suburban church in Auckland. Following Pompallier’s departure from New Zealand in 1868, the site was briefly sold into private ownership before being purchased by Bishop Croke in 1873 for reoccupation as the official Bishop’s residence for Auckland Diocese. With the arrival of the Benedictine Bishop, John Edmund Luck in 1882, considerable new building work was carried out in the diocese. In 1891-2, Luck raised funds during a tour of Europe to construct a large new brick residence on the site in place of the earlier timber structure. The two-storey design Peter Paul Pugin was strongly influenced by The Grange in Ramsgate, which had been designed by his father – the important promoter of Gothic Revival architectural style, A.W.N. Pugin – and occupied by Bishop Luck as a young man. The design may also have made reference to the appearance of Bishop Pompallier’s residence, which was all or mostly relocated to a nearby site. Constructed with a slate roof and crenelated tower, the building incorporated ornamental interiors and up-to-date technology including electrically-lit gas lighting and water closets. As well as living quarters, it contained a library, lookout and chapel, like The Grange. A single-storey timber element was evidently from an earlier structure on the site. The residence has been occupied by all subsequent Bishops of Auckland, including a 40-year tenureship by Bishop J.M. Liston, noted for revitalising the diocese and given the honorary title ‘archbishop’ for his services to the church. The house was also where the newspaper, The Month, later Zealandia, was written and edited over most of the twentieth century. Set in mature grounds, the residence was enlarged with a cafeteria and glazed links to a single-storey, brick Diocesan Centre to the north. The latter was opened in 1989. The house remains in use as the Bishop’s residence, with its grounds retained as part of the Catholic administrative complex and for recreational use.

Bishop's House (Catholic), Ponsonby, Auckland. Image courtesy of | Jonty Crane | 01/08/2015 | Jonty Crane
Bishop's House (Catholic), Ponsonby, Auckland | Martin Jones | 19/10/2012 | Heritage New Zealand
Bishop's House (Catholic), Ponsonby, Auckland. Chapel interior looking north | Martin Jones | 19/10/2012 | Heritage New Zealand
Bishop's House (Catholic), Ponsonby, Auckland. Chapel stained glass window by Alex Booker | Martin Jones | 19/10/2012 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

2nd February 2013

Date of Effect

2nd February 2013

City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 2, 9 DP 20314 (RT NA466/196), North Auckland Land District, and part of the land described as Lots 1, 4 DP 201314 (RT NA466/196), North Auckland Land District and the building and structures known as Bishop's House thereon, and the following chattels: chapel chairs x 2; framed list of donors; books; telescope; and large table. It also includes the building's fixtures and fittings, and the mature trees in the grounds. The extent excludes buildings on Lot 9 DP 20314 adjoining Green Street, and the main body of the Pompallier Diocesan Centre (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

Legal description

Lots 1, 2, 4, & 9 DP 20314 (RT NA466/196), North Auckland Land District

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