University of Otago Allen Hall Theatre and Archway

Leith Street, Dunedin

  • University of Otago Allen Hall Theatre and Archway, Dunedin.
    Copyright: Public Domain - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Benchill. Date: 29/11/2007.
  • University of Otago Allen Hall Theatre and Archway, Dunedin.
    Copyright: Public Domain - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Benchill . Date: 29/11/2007.
  • University of Otago Allen Hall Theatre and Archway, Dunedin. Building detail CC BY-NC 2.0 courtesy of
    Copyright: Allison Brown. Taken By: Allison Brown. Date: 28/05/2015.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2225 Date Entered 27th July 1988 Date of Effect 27th July 1988


City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Lot1 DP8790 & Lot4 DP9986 & secs 11/20 pts 1/2 10 DP1649 etc

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Otago University was established in 1871 and is the oldest of the New Zealand universities. The assembly hall in this building was named after Sir James Allen who was active in supporting the University and the erection of this particular building. The name is now applied to the whole building.

Architectural Significance:

A part of the Gothic complex of University buildings built between 1878 and the 1920s, which constitutes a major example of nineteenth and early twentieth century gothic in New Zealand, impressive in its size and completeness. Allen Hall has square tops to the windows instead of the pointed tops of the main buildings. The castellations on the two unequal towers on either side of the archway are not a feature of the older part of the university but an addition by Anscombe.

Townscape/Landmark Significance:

Allen Hall is an important street frontage building for the University gothic complex, and the Archway forms a ceremonial entrance to the old quadrangle area.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Anscombe, Edmund

Anscombe (1874-1948) was born in Sussex and came to New Zealand as a child. He began work as a builder's apprentice in Dunedin and in 1901 went to America to study architecture. He returned to Dunedin in 1907 and designed the School of Mines building for the University of Otago. The success of this design gained him the position of architect to the University. Five of the main University buildings were designed by Anscombe, as well as Otago Girls' High School and several of Dunedin's finest commercial buildings including the Lindo Ferguson Building (1927) and the Haynes building.

Anscombe moved to Wellington about 1928 and was known for his work as the designer of the Centennial Exhibition (1939-1940). Anscombe had travelled extensively and had visited major exhibitions in Australia, Germany and America. The practice of Edmund Anscombe and Associates, Architects, had offices in the Dunedin, Wellington and Hawkes Bay districts, and Anscombe's buildings include the Vocational Centre for Disabled Servicemen, Wellington (1943), Sargent Art Gallery, Wanganui, and several blocks of flats including Anscombe Flats, 212 Oriental Parade (1937) and Franconia, 136 The Terrace (1938), both in Wellington. As well as being interested in the housing problem, Anscombe held strong views concerning the industrial advancement of New Zealand.

(See also )

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Architectural Description (Style):

Anscombe faithfully followed the style set by Bury, influenced by Sir George Gilbert Scott's design for Glasgow University built in 1870. Bury improved on Scott's design with more lively Gothic details and better fenestration.


Exterior unmodified but interior modified several times. The assembly hall has been converted from a flat floor to tiered seats for a small theatre.

Notable Features

The strongly designed stonework in contrasting dark grey and white stone.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1914 -

Construction Details

Constructed of bluestone (Leith Valley andesite) backed by concrete with a slate roof. The archway is closed by large ornate cast iron gates.

Information Sources

Stacpoole, 1976

John Stacpoole, Colonial Architecture in New Zealand, Wellington, 1976

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.