Family history remembered at Old Government Buildings

Who was Pierre Burrows? His great-granddaughter, a current scholarship and a tour through Old Government Buildings reveals some clues.

Architect Pierre Burrows and brother Arthur
Pierre Finch Martineau Burrows, right, with brother Arthur. Photo supplied: Gillian Feistexpand/collapse
When Mrs Gillian Feist recently toured Old Government Buildings in Wellington, long standing tour guide, Mike Deavin, was delighted to learn she was the great-granddaughter of the Chief Draughtsman for the Colonial Architect’s Office, which designed the Old Government Buildings. 

The Colonial Architect’s Office formed part of the Public Works Department from the late 1860s to the mid-1880s. William Clayton was the first and only Colonial Architect from 1869 – 1877. His right-hand man on the design of the Old Government Buildings was Pierre Finch Martineau Burrows - Gillian’s ancestor. 

Gillian says it was delight to meet Mike and to talk with him about a New Zealand landmark building that her great-grandfather took special pride in.  

Burrows was born in Norwich, England in 1842 and came to New Zealand in 1865. He joined the Public Works Department in 1874 under William Clayton and was appointed Chief Draughtsman in 1875. The Old Government Building was completed in 1876. “When Clayton died in 1877, my great-grandfather took over his duties but was never given the title of Colonial Architect,” explains Gillian. 

Burrows was the architect of several government buildings in Wellington including the Supreme Court House and Wellington’s Mt Cook Prison, a huge building on a radial plan that was only partly built before being demolished to make way for the Dominion Museum. He also designed other notable buildings around New Zealand. His works included the Christchurch Post Office in 1877, Auckland Hospital, and the Mount Eden Prison. 

Gillian says the family is especially proud of her great grandfather’s achievements. Through a family bequest, a scholarship was established through the Victoria University Foundation in his memory. 

The scholarship is for students studying Architecture at 300 level. It is awarded to a student who shows particular skills in architectural design. The recipient of the Pierre Finch Martineau Burrows Memorial Scholarship for 2021 is Hannah Brodie. 

Burrows died in 1920 and was buried at Te Henui Cemetery in Taranaki with his wife.

- David Watt