University of Otago Professorial Houses

St David Street, Dunedin

  • University of Otago Professorial Houses, Dunedin. CC BY-SA 3.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Benchill - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Benchill. Date: 19/09/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4406 Date Entered 27th July 1988 Date of Effect 27th July 1988


City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 7, Three Pts Blk LXXI

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Professors Sale, Black, Shand and Scott were the first heads of departments and had a profound influence on the teaching traditions of the University.

Architectural Significance:

An important part of the Gothic complex of University buildings built between 1878 and the 1920s, which constitute a major example of nineteenth and early twentieth century gothic in New Zealand , impressive in its size and completeness.

Townscape/Landmark Significance:

The professorial houses form the end of the major block of neo-Gothic buildings of the University and mark the entrance to the block from St David Street.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Bury, Maxwell

Maxwell Bury (1825-1912) was born at East Retford, Nottinghamshire and was the son of an Anglican minister. He had training in architecture, civil and steam engineering and ship design, and it appears that some of his training was undertaken at Butterley Ironworks. He subsequently went to sea as an engineer officer. In 1853 he married Eleanor Sarah Deighton (known as Ellen) and the following year they travelled to Australia. They found, when they arrived, that Melbourne was suffering from a post-goldrush depression, and consequently the Burys moved to New Zealand. They arrived in Lyttelton in 1854 from Melbourne and settled in Nelson soon after. Bury established himself as an engineer, and became the chairman of the first Nelson Board of Works. He also became involved in various mining ventures and was churchwarden. By 1858 Bury decided to change professions, and took up architecture again. He was responsible for the first Masonic Hall in Nelson, the 1858 enlargement of Frederick Thatcher's Christ Church, and the Nelson Institute. His design for the Nelson Provincial Buildings did not win the 1858 competition but was successful none the less, as his was the only design that could be built for the specified price. None of these timber buildings now survive.

The area's wealth, which enabled Bury to gain these commissions, was based on mining. When this boom slackened, the Burys moved, arriving in Christchurch in 1863. Their involvement in the church led to further commissions for Bury, including an orphanage in Addington, the Riccarton Parsonage and the Church of St John the Baptist in Latimer Square.

He entered into partnership with Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898) in 1864. The partnership only lasted two years, but in that time Mountfort and Bury were responsible for a number of churches: St James-on-the-Cust, St Mark's at Opawa, St Joseph's at Lyttelton and St Patrick's at Akaroa and a few houses including Risingholme and Chippenham Lodge.

Bury and his family then left for London in 1866. Although it seems he intended to return to New Zealand, various problems delayed this. His marriage appears to have broken up and family tradition has it that Bury went back to sea. Around 1870 Bury did make it back to New Zealand, settling by himself in Nelson. He designed the Chapel of the Holy Evangelists for Bishopdale in Nelson (1875-1876) By 1876 Bury was based in Dunedin and won the competition for the design of Otago University, Dunedin, in 1877. Unfortunately costs on this building overran to such an extent that a Commission of Enquiry into the matter was held in 1879. Thereafter Bury found his commissions dropping off. He did undertake further work for the University from 1883-1885. Some time after 1885 he returned to Nelson, and then to Sydney, where he set up office as a civil engineer in 1890. He retired in Sydney six years later, and in 1908 finally returned to England where he died in 1912.

(Anne Marchant, 'Maxwell Bury of 'Bury and Mountfort', in Bulletin of New Zealand Art History, 19, 1998, pp.3-15)

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Significance of Designer:

Maxwell Bury won the competition for the design of the new university and had evidently been influenced by Sir G G Scott's design for Glasgow University, which he improved on.

Architectural Description (Style):

The style has been described as domestic Gothic (Romantic Gothic might be more apt for these houses) and though Bury did not build these houses in stone their detailing fits with the other buildings of the University.


Exterior unmodified, but interior much modified. Interior modifications include tortuous connecting passages between the semi-detached houses. The woodwork has been badly attacked by borer.

Notable Features

Their narrow proportions and complexity of windows and roof lines.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1878 - 1879
The houses were built in 1878 and completed by March 1879

Construction Details

The walls are brick, which has been painted and plastered with a typical Otago finish - reddish brown Moeraki gravel. The roofs are slate. Each house is relatively narrow for its height, being three stories high.

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

J Strauchan 1973. Report to the Historic Places Trust

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.