Bank of New Zealand (Te Aro Branch Building)

79-85 Manners Street, Wellington

  • Bank of New Zealand (Te Aro Branch Building), Wellington. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Ann (Helen) Devereux - Taken By: Ann (Helen) Devereux. Date: 7/02/2011.
  • Bank of New Zealand (Te Aro Branch Building), Wellington. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Tony - Taken By: Tony. Date: 24/07/2011.
  • Bank of New Zealand (Te Aro Branch Building), Wellington. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Jane - Taken By: Jane - Date: 22/11/2009.
  • Bank of New Zealand (Te Aro Branch Building), Wellington. Side view of the Te Aro Branch of the Bank of New Zealand crn of Cuba and Manners Steets. CC Licence 2.0.
    Copyright: Archives New Zealand. Taken By: M Berthold.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1338 Date Entered 24th November 1988 Date of Effect 24th November 1988


City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Unit Plan 86062, Lot 1 DP 86037

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The following extract is taken from ' A Century of Service' by P T Murphy Wellington 1976:

The Te Aro Branch was originally a sub-branch of Wellington. Opening on 23 October 1876, work was begun on new premises in 1877. On the vacant land the Bank owned in Manners Street, adjoining its premises, it constructed a small shop and auction rooms. These were completed by the contractor T & A Wilson, in 1897, and thereupon leased out to Francis Sidney, an auctioneer for ten years. In 1900, Sidney sold the lease to Robert Pearson.

On 6 July 1012, the Te Aro Branch moved into temporary accommodation, and the old bank premises and the auction mart were demolished to make way for a larger building. Thomas Turnbull and his son, William, designed the new building.

The building composed of three floors with a mezzanine floor over the banking chamber, and rooms were available for leasing. The contractors for the 1913 building were Campbell and Burke, and they received £13,158 in payment for the construction.

The contract price seems interestingly low, as do the rents of the period. Francis Sidney only paid £185 per annum as rent on his Auction Mart, and Robert Pearson, who bought his lease, paid a yearly rental of £286. The small shop in the premises was rented out in 1910 for £2 per annum.

For about twenty years, Mr Bartley, the caretaker, lived in the mezzanine floor accommodation. Up until the 1950s the bank let a ground floor shop space out to a tobacconist. The 1960s saw a minor fire which did no real damage but provided minor excitement.


An early example of steel framed building in New Zealand it combines the structural strength of the new material with concrete to enable an impressive structure to be built on an awkwardly shaped site. Turnbull had placed the entranceway at one apex of the parallelogram to the best architectural and commercial advantage, both drawing customers in, and allowing the facades to Manners and Cuba Streets to be uninterrupted nearly-symmetrical essays in the Baroque Style. Turnbull has captured the spirit of the High Edwardian Baroque Revival; using the style of Sir Christopher Wren's St Paul's Cathedral (1675-1711) as his base for the two facades but adapting its features to forms appropriate for a major financial institution, with a great degree of freedom and originality. Thus there is a great order employed to carry the entablature with the legend 'Bank of New Zealand', which along with the high base gives the building monumentality and grandeur. By the time that this building was designed the classical style with variations had been synonymous with bank architecture for almost one hundred years (dating from Cockerell's design for the Bank of England in 1833). Its solidity evokes dignity, stability, security - and these imposing and splendid facades have a great concern for concentrating ornament to give a convincing impression of power and wealth. Some of the ornament that William Turnbull employs is symbolic; for example the lion's head derive from St Mark, patron saint of Venice, the home of commercial enterprise, whilst the garlanded urns are purely decorative baroque devices.

Above the segmented window arches are scroll keystones which are linked by festoons to the paired lions' heads whilst the heads themselves are placed on a frieze with meander fretwork. The middle floor window above the entrance is framed by a guilloche and architrave with applied patina - a rich and complex vocabulary of ornament is introduced and deployed in an original way.


Has clear links to Thomas Turnbull's Lambton Quay Bank of New Zealand and to William Turnbull's Boulcott houses. The bank building has considerable streetscape significance as it occupies a prominent corner site in what is a major 'node' of the city.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Turnbull, William (1868-1941)

William Turnbull (1868-1941) entered the architectural office of his father Thomas (1825-1907) in 1882, and received a professional education from him. In 1890, William visited Melbourne and Sydney and was engaged in the office of J A Gordon, a Melbourne architect who at that time was engaged in the design of several major commercial buildings including the Melbourne (now Victoria) Markets.

In 1891 William returned to Wellington and was admitted into partnership in the firm of Thomas Turnbull and Son. This was one of the foremost architectural practices in the city at the turn of the century and it continued after Thomas Turnbull's death in 1907.

William became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1906, designing many important early twentieth century buildings in Wellington such as 12 Boulcott Street (1902), Turnbull House (1918), and the Wellington Free Ambulance Building (1932). The range and variety of his adaptation of architectural styles show him to be fully versed in virtually every contemporary architectural style and to have special skills and flair for masonry design.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


High Edwardian Baroque Revival (or 'English Renaissance' as it was called at the time). The national style for Great Britain and Empire at the end of the nineteenth century which symbolised the meridian of British imperial and symbolised commercial power.


Permanent light roofing replaced with pitched steel frame and glass roof in 1931. Alterations to provide better heating and more room for staff and public in 1938. Asphalt roof replaced in 1946. 1983 - 85 extensive renovations by Toomath Wilson Irvine Anderson Ltd:

* New Lighting installed in main banking chamber

* Structural ties placed around columns on the façade

* Entry canopies added

* Structural additions inside. (Colour scheme by Wendy Light)

Notable Features

Main cornice has particular emphasis as it projects and has large dentils forming a strong line of demarcation between the unified first two storeys and 'crowning' top storey.

The third storey has a much more exuberant appearance with large tympani, repetitive pediments, buttress-like pilasters and broken entablatures.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1913 -

Construction Details

Steel-framed with concrete and brick walls. In plan the building has the shape of a parallelogram.

Information Sources

BNZ Archives

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) Archives

Peter T Murphy, Bank of New Zealand Te Aro Branch: A Century of Service 1876-1976, 1976.

BNZ Staff News, Vol 27, No 2, May 1985, pp 3-6.

Series (Premises), Sub-Series (Te Aro) Accession No. 810.2709, 2797

A) Correspondence and Memoranda, 24 July - 15 Nov 1911 relating to the new building between Thos Turnbull & Son, the Branch Manager and Head Office.

B) Plans and Specifications

Chappell, 1961

N.M. Chappell, New Zealand Banker's Hundred: Bank of New Zealand 1861-1961, Wellington, 1961

McGill, 1980

David McGill and Grant Tilly, In Praise of Older Buildings, Auckland, Methuen, 1980

pp 107-8

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.