University of Otago Clock Tower Building

364 Leith Walk, Dunedin

  • University of Otago Clock Tower Building. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Benchill - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Benchill - Wikimedia Commons. Date: 26/04/2009.
  • University of Otago Clock Tower Building. Image courtesy of .
    Copyright: Ulrich Lange - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ulrich Lange - Wikimedia Commons. Date: 3/09/2007.
  • University of Otago Clock Tower Building. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 16/09/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 62 Date Entered 18th March 1982 Date of Effect 18th March 1982


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land in Pt Blk LXXI Blk LXXI Town of Dunedin (RT OT299/36), Otago Land District, and the whole of the University of Otago Clock Tower Building, being the Main Building (completed 1879), the Oliver Classrooms (added 1912) and the Physics Department (added 1922), and its fixtures and fittings thereon.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Blk LXXI Blk LXXI Town of Dunedin (RT OT299/36), Otago Land District


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

This distinguished piece of architecture dating from 1878 emphasizes the value placed in Otago on higher learning. It features an early use of local basalt stone on a dramatic and large scale, giving Dunedin a head start in buildings of permanence. The building was erected in the period of Dunedin's pre-eminence. Outstanding features are its former library and main stairway.

Until recently, the buildings townscape qualities were superb, but these are now diminishing because of the large scale of the more recent development.


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

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1879 -

Other Information

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.