Temperance Hall (Former)

27 Moray Place, Dunedin

  • Temperance Hall (Former), Dunedin.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Sarah Gallagher. Date: 16/07/2019.
  • Temperance Hall (Former), Dunedin. The Hall.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Hetaher Bauchop. Date: 5/12/2017.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 9709 Date Entered 20th February 2020 Date of Effect 11th March 2020


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 6 DP 2570 (RT OT185/5) and part of the land described as Legal Road, Otago Land District, and the building known as the Temperance Hall (Former) thereon. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 6 DP 2570 (RT OT184/5) and Legal Road, Otago Land District


The Temperance Hall (Former) designed in 1874 by Dunedin architect Robert Forrest as a meeting place for Dunedin’s temperance groups has special historical, architectural and cultural significance. Temperance groups, pioneering trade unionists and the campaigners for women’s suffrage met at the hall – reminding of us of these key political and religious movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Otago’s gold rushes of the 1860s threw the orderly Presbyterian settlement of Dunedin into turmoil – overrun with expectant miners drunk on hope and strong drink. The chaos led the community to debate morality and in particular, alcohol’s central role in a wide range of ills: ‘poverty, ill health, neglect and abuse of families, immorality, and social and economic instability.’ Supporters of the Temperance Cause, a worldwide Protestant movement that gained momentum from the mid-nineteenth century, were vocal opponents of the liquor trade, many supporting total abstinence.

Dunedin’s abstainers joined the fight. In August 1866, a meeting was held at the Odd Fellows Hall on George Street to discuss forming a Total Abstinence Society. The first meeting to discuss the erection of a temperance hall in Dunedin was held in the Congregational Hall (in the basement rooms of the Moray Place Congregational Church) on 21 March 1873. In 1874, the Company leased the land on which the hall was to be built (less than a block from the church) from James McLeod Nicholson. Dunedin architect Robert Forrest designed the building. Dunedin builder James Gore won the tender with his price of £2,778.

The Temperance Hall, as the building was known, became the centre for temperance campaigning, and also of political activism – the country’s first women’s trade union, the Tailoresses’ Union, and the Women’s Franchise League met there. The hall remained a centre for religious meetings for over forty years. In the early decades of the twentieth century it was taken over by commercial concerns; it housed clothing manufacturers, a pharmaceutical company, a night club and retail premises. The invisibility of its temperance history is typical of many temperance buildings that have been re-purposed.

The history of buildings associated with the Temperance movement is largely invisible and forgotten – as the movement declined, so many temperance hotels, coffee palaces or halls were reused and their history faded from memory. But Temperance buildings were significant stage sets for playing out temperance beliefs; total abstainers could meet there, eat, stay and campaign, all in an alternative network of places without alcohol. ‘The public buildings, events or practices…whether intended for a teetotal or general audience, all worked to inscribe the power of the temperance movement.’

The Temperance Hall is a two-storey brick building with its main façade to Moray Place. On two sides, it is built to the boundary – one side meets the Kaiapoi Buildings, while the other meets the St James Theatre. The façade is plain, the earlier detail having been removed. The first floor has four single paned double hung sash windows; with a string course separate these from four small rectangle windows. ‘Oxford Buildings’ is emblazoned in relief on the parapet of the building. At street level, the frontage is decorative – marble with inlaid panels flank the shop fronts, the shop doors are recessed, and the windows are notable for their lead-lighting and timber joinery. The façade has been altered a number of times, and reflects the changing use of the building.

In 2019, the former Temperance Hall is home to a café/bar, ‘A Dog with Two Tails’ and an adjoining entertainment space, ‘Bark’

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Temperance Hall (Former) has historical significance because of its association with significance nineteenth century political and social causes – temperance, women’s enfranchisement and unionism. As a meeting place for activist groups and individuals, the history of the hall provides insight in to these interrelationships and their significance. The outstanding historical value for this place is in its role as the nexus for the rallying cry for women’s suffrage in the South – Dunedin was New Zealand’s largest city in the late-19th century and the strength of the suffrage movement here was vital to its success nationwide. The Women’s Franchise League of New Zealand, formed at this place in 1892 with Marion Hatton as its first chair, played a large part in the collection of signatures for the influential suffrage petitions of the early-1890s.

The hall also has historical significance in the part it played in the burgeoning unionism movement of the late-19th century. In the 1889 the hall was the venue for the founding meeting of New Zealand’s first women’s trade union, the Tailoresses’ Union. The union was instrumental in the passing of the Factories Act and other legislation by the new Liberal Government.

Architectural Significance or Value

The Temperance Hall has architectural significance as an example of a significant commercial building within coherent historic streetscape. Its architect, Robert Forrest, is recognised for both his residential and commercial designs in Dunedin, including parts of Speights Brewery and buildings at Otago University. The 1874 building, which has been refaced and reflects its later incarnation as shops and a hall used for social entertainment, has its 1920s shop fronts complete with tiling, leadlights and recessed entrance doors. Its pared back façade above the verandah represents the stripped Classical style popular in the mid-twentieth century.

Cultural Significance or Value

The Temperance Hall has cultural significance, its construction arose out of a singularly Protestant cultural movement of the nineteenth century that emphasized self-regulation and control and manifested in the temperance movement. This movement peaked in the late nineteenth century but retained significance well into the twentieth century. The ideals of this culture were reflected in the functions that the building was constructed to carry out – to be a meeting place, a venue for entertainment and other cultural activities; all of these activities insulated from the damaging influence of alcohol.

It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place. This place was assessed against all criteria, and found to qualify under the following: a, b, j and k.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The Temperance Hall (Former) reflects the importance of temperance movement to a significant proportion of the Dunedin community. Its construction can be seen as part of a movement to create alternative, alcohol-free, spaces for people to interact and be entertained away from the demon drink. The services that this place provided as a drink-free venue are still apparent in the form of parts of the interior – especially the upper hall and mezzanine gallery. The interior is also reflective of the decline of the temperance movement and later 20th century attitudes to drinking, with the upper hall and mezzanine gallery hosting a bar and nightclub, the Manhattan Lounge, from the 1960s through to the 1980s. The survival of this original form is, in part, thanks to this change in attitudes.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The Temperance Hall has special significance for its association with New Zealand’s temperance movement, the trade union movement and the campaign for women’s suffrage. It sat at the centre of a turning point in New Zealand’s political and cultural landscape by providing the venue for Dunedin’s temperance movement and then by being the meeting place for luminaries of the suffrage movement of New Zealand’s largest city. Marion Hatton, who founded the Women’s Franchise League of New Zealand at the Temperance Hall, would later go on to be one of the prime movers of the establishment of the National Council of Women alongside the likes of Kate Sheppard.

The later use of part of the building reflects a continuance of progressive ideas and movements in the form of Modern Books a shop established here in 1943. The shop was founded by the Dunedin Co-operative Book Society, which had the objective promoting left-wing and intellectual ideas. Charles Brasch, a founder of the journal Landfall, headed the book selection committee and was the chair of the society from 1949.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The former Temperance Hall is a rare surviving example of a hall purpose-built as a meeting place for the temperance movement. The decline of the temperance movement as a cultural phenomenon in the early- to mid-20th century led directly to many such buildings losing this association through re-use and in many cases outright demolition. Built in the 1870s, at a time when many such buildings were being constructed, the hall appears to be among the oldest surviving examples, and certainly the oldest in a main centre.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural area

Along with the Octagon, Moray Place was the commercial, social and cultural hub of what was then New Zealand’s largest city. The Temperance Hall is one building in the precinct of historic buildings on Moray Place and the Octagon. The streetscape, with its mix of commercial, religious, and terraced houses is among Dunedin’s most significant.

Summary of Significance or Values

The Temperance Hall (Former) has special significance because of its strong association with key social and political movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth century: temperance, trade unionism and the campaign for women’s suffrage. The history of the hall illustrates the relationship between these causes, while the subsequent invisibility of the temperance history reflects the largely forgotten but no less important historical landscape of temperance.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Gore, James

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Smith & Smith

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Robert Forrest

Robert Forrest (c.1833-1919) was born in Hamilton, Scotland, and came to New Zealand in 1862. He became involved in building and carpentry, and by 1866 was engaged in some large contracts. He entered into partnership with David McGill, carrying on business as McGill and Forrest, contractors. The partnership completed many large projects including the City Hotel, the Bank of New Zealand at Port Chalmers, buildings at Otago University, the Southern Reservoir and a large wharf at Port Chalmers. In Ōamaru, they built a concrete building for the Loan and Mercantile Agency Company and superintended the construction of the mole. After Forrest retired from contracting, he worked as an architect. He designed the Union Brewery, Excelsior Hotel, the Otago Farmers’ Cooperative Association building, and major parts of Speights Brewery. He designed residences for prominent individuals, including Mr Speight, and Mr Greenslade (also of Speights Brewery), and Mr Dawson, of Duncan Street.

Source: List Entry Report for the Temperance Hall (Former), DUNEDIN, List No. 9709, Heather Bauchop, 27 August 2019

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early History

Historically, Kāi Tahu had a tauraka waka (canoe landing place) at the head of the Ōtākou Harbour. The slope of the foreshore and the tidal flats where the Toitū Stream entered the sea was bisected by a hill (called Bell Hill by colonists). Swampy land provided a rich habitat for birds, eels and plant life.

In 1847 the Free Church of Scotland immigrants arrived in Dunedin. Between February and May 1846, New Zealand Company surveyor Charles Kettle and his assistants laid out the settlement. The layout was based on the Edinburgh city plan. The numbers of settlers grew only slowly, from 890 in 1857 to 2,262 by 1859. This trickle became a flood with the discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully in 1861. By 1865, 10,000 people lived in Dunedin. Gold brought commerce and wealth. The city was the major port of entry for the goldfields and it prospered beyond all imagining.

Wealth translated itself into the city’s buildings and to people’s behaviour – the Presbyterian settlement found itself inundated with hopefuls bound for the goldfields, with all the attendant drunkenness and loutish behaviour. For this Free Church of Scotland settlement, railing against the intemperate tide became a social movement, as it did elsewhere in New Zealand.

The Scourge of Alcohol

New Zealand’s settler men drank a lot – in 1879 there was one pub per 287 people in New Zealand. The average Pākehā man in the 1840s drank 45 litres of commercial spirits a year and 14 litres of beer. Until the 1890s, alcohol related crime was higher in New Zealand than Great Britain. The chaos of the Otago gold rush era led to debates about morality and in particular, the role of alcohol in causing a wide range of ills – ‘poverty, ill health, neglect and abuse of families, immorality, and social and economic instability.’ Temperance became a political cause throughout New Zealand.

Temperance was a cultural movement: sociologist Harry Levine writes that only some societies developed temperance movements in response to drunkenness, and that these societies tended to be those which drank a large portion of their alcohol as distilled liquor, and were predominantly Protestant. The English-speaking cultures that developed temperance movements were US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. In wine drinking societies, alcoholic drinks did not have a negative symbolism, and indeed wine had a positive symbolism. The culture of Protestantism with its emphasis on self-sufficiency and self-control was reflected in the temperance movement – alcohol was a concern because it was a threat to self-regulation.

Internationally, temperance societies first appeared in the 1820s and 1830s. New Zealand’s disorderly ‘frontier’ society led to the saying that the country’s leading causes of death were ‘drink, drowning, and drowning while drunk.’ Temperance movements were centred in the country’s urban areas, with non-conformist churches encouraging their congregations to abstain, and a wider blossoming of temperance societies. Women were ‘frequently the victims of men’s alcohol abuse’ – drunkenness often involved violence against women and children, and pouring money down the bar. Women, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, were keys to the fight for reform, which tied itself to the cause of women’s franchise. The disparate campaigners needed a centre for their activism.

Dunedin’s abstainers joined the fight. In August 1866, a meeting was held at the Odd Fellows Hall on George Street to discuss forming a Total Abstinence Society. Mr Jago told the meeting that ‘three temperance societies had been organized but all had signally failed.’ Jago had been a leader in those societies and while he didn’t want to lead the society, he was prepared to support one. Another attendee, Mr Hooper identified that the other societies failed because ‘the temperance question had been treated too exclusively in its religious light’ and suggested plans ‘to make the movement popular and effective.’

The first meeting to discuss the erection of a temperance hall in Dunedin was held in the Congregational Hall (in the basement rooms of the Moray Place Congregational Church) on Moray Place on 21 March 1873. Some twenty men attended the meeting and resolved to form a committee to select a site and decide on a suitable building.

Many of those involved had been founding members of the Dunedin Abstainers’ Union, formed in February 1864. The founding resolution was: 'that in the opinion of this meeting the drunkenness of a people is in proportion to the prevalence amongst them of social drinking habits and the facilities afforded for obtaining intoxicating liquor; and that social and moral debasement characterises every community amongst whom intemperance prevails…[the meeting] views with considerable alarm the very general observance of drinking customs in society here, and the widespread and increasing growth of the traffic in strong drink, and believes it to constitute an evil loudly calling for actively remedial measures'.

The meeting further resolved that ‘no means short of the entire abolition of social drinking customs, and the entire abolition of the traffic in intoxicating beverages, will be sufficient for the removal from society of the drunkenness which it has now so greatly to deplore; and that the universal adoption of the principles and practice of total abstinence from all intoxicating liquors as beverages would be conducive to the highest well-being of the state.’ In forming the Dunedin Abstainers’ Union, the attendees pledged to give the union ‘cordial support in every legitimate effort for the creation of a public opinion antagonistic to the prevailing social drinking customs, and in favour of the restraint and suppression of the traffic in intoxicating liquors.’

Building the Temperance Hall

Reporting back to the around 40 attendees of the next meeting of the hall supporters, the committee’s suggestion of leasing the Odd Fellow’s Hall was rejected, and it was instead moved that the committee investigate a Moray Place site. In May 1873, the Dunedin Temperance Hall Company (Limited) was formed to facilitate the building of a hall on the Moray Place site. The hall was to have ‘the requisite accommodation for carrying on the business of the several Total Abstinence Societies, and the front part of the building is to be built as shops.’

Plans were well underway by October 1873, when the Bruce Herald reported that the plans were for a main hall to accommodate 600, as well as a smaller hall and other accommodation. ‘This hall will supply a felt want here, provided the acoustic properties and ventilating conveniences be attended to so as to make the hall a comfortable place for speaking and hearing.’ The provisional directors were A. Mercer, John Mackay, John Hughes, John W. Jago, Alexander Rennie, James Pryor, John Neil, Edward Moss and R. Rutherford.

In 1874, the Company leased the land on which the hall was to be built from James McLeod Nicholson. Dunedin architect Robert Forrest designed the building. Company secretary James McCulloch advertised for tenders in November 1873. Dunedin builder James Gore won the tender with his price of £2,778.

The Otago Daily Times described the proposed building as of

"a very substantial appearance, though not a very pretentious one. There will be three front entrances – a main one in the middle and two side ones, leading upstairs, and adjoining which will be two ante-rooms, 15 ft 10in by 7 ft [4.8 by 2.1 metres]. The hall on the ground floor is to be 42ft by 25ft [12.8 by 7.6 metres] and to the hall upstairs access will be gained through very handsome side lobbies leading up staircases of polished kauri. Its length will be 77ft 8in by 43ft [23.5 by 13.1 metres], and it is calculated to seat over 800 persons, besides having a gallery to contain over 120, and a platform 19 feet by 10 [5.7 by 3 metres] feet, ladies rooms, lavatories, &c, will be added. The base portion of the building will be of Port Chalmers blue stone, and the rest of brick, and the ventilation being on the most approved style."

Dunedin mayor (and temperance supporter) Andrew Mercer laid the foundation stone on 26 December 1873. By July 1874, the ‘skeleton building’ had assumed ‘a striking appearance’, as the workmen put on the roof.

Twelve hundred people took part in the procession to the site on opening day, and celebrated with a soiree, concert and dance on 14 August 1874. The Tuapeka Times reported that the ‘building is one that reflects infinite credit on the various temperance organizations which have co-operated in its erection. It is a commodious, substantial erection, and contains one of the largest halls in the city, thus supplying a want that has long and severely felt by the various temperance bodies in Dunedin.’ The article continued ‘[t]he pluck of the I.O.G.T.’s [International Order of Good Templars] in erecting such a handsome and useful building , deserves substantial recognition, and it is to be hoped that the carrying capacity of the new Hall will be strained to the utmost on the opening night.’ Not all agreed on the merits of the building, an Otago Daily Times correspondent, noting the building was receiving its final ornamentation, grumbled ‘[i]f a few more feet elevation had been allowed, the external appearance of the structure would be much more imposing and handsome.’

A Public Venue

The hall provided a venue for balls, dancing lessons, concerts and other entertainments. Popular events included the Kennedy family playing their Scottish ballads (1874) world billiards champion John Roberts (1876), tight rope walkers Henry Morris (1878), wax works exhibitions and a series of chamber music concerts, and a Māori carnival in 1902.

The hall was an important venue for religious meetings for nearly forty years. The Salvation Army’s first New Zealand meetings were held at the hall on 1 April 1883, preceding the well-known outdoor meeting commemorated by a plaque on Cargill’s Monument at The Exchange (List No. 4754, Category 1). The Salvation Army continued to use the hall for three years, before building the Salvation Army Fortress on nearby Dowling Street (List No. 2215, Category 2).

The Dunedin Temperance Hall Company transferred the lease to Donald Cameron in January 1883. Scottish-born Cameron (1850-1932) arrived in Dunedin as a twelve year old, and as a young man became involved in the temperance movement. He became the Grand Secretary of the Good Templar Order in 1875, as well as pursuing journalism and commercial interests. He was the proprietor and manager of the Temperance Herald, and of its successor the Temperance Standard – newspapers that had a national circulation for some twenty three years. He was active in the Independent Order of Rechabites and the Sons and Daughters of Temperance Benefit Societies. His wife, the former Christina McNeil, was also an enthusiastic temperance worker. Cameron advertised ‘The Choral Hall’, noting ‘this favorite Hall has now been considerably improved and thoroughly renovated’ and was available to let for entertainments. ‘The floor is in splendid condition for dancing, and the Hall is fully seated with chairs, etc., to comfortably accommodate 750 persons.’

From 1886, the Brethren congregation hired the building, now renamed the Choral Hall. Evangelist Alfred Brunton led Brunton’s Choir, a group of some 100 singers known throughout Otago. Brunton (1828-1900) arrived in Dunedin where he became the relieving minister for the Moray Place Congregational Church (List No. 2218). In 1867, he became the leader of a group of Plymouth Brethren, meeting first at Milton Hall and then with other Brethren at Farley’s Hall on Princes Street. He was an engaging preacher who attracted a sizable following. The congregation shifted to Garrison Hall in 1880, a venue that could accommodate over 2,000 people. His open air meetings were also popular. His close relationship with other Protestant churches caused dissension in his congregation, and a group split off to set up closed meetings. Brunton’s Assembly moved to the Choral Hall. Brunton was ‘one of the most popular and dynamic evangelists of nineteenth century Dunedin’, and was also known for being successfully sued for libel in a highly publicised case. This association with the choir may explain the change of name. Brunton died in 1900. The Brethren continued to hold their meetings in the hall until 1920.

Many other significant groups met at the hall – the Dunedin Burns Club, the Otago Art Society held its annual exhibitions in the building between 1891-1906. Frances Hodgkins, then at the beginning of her career, exhibited there. The art society led a peripatetic existence, mostly operating out of rented premises – with painter and arts supporter William Hodgkins, Frances’ father, the president from 1880-1898.

A Meeting Place for Activism

The 1880s was a time of activism for workers, particularly in the context of the ‘Long Depression’, the misery of which caused unrest about working conditions. The Temperance Hall was the venue for the founding of New Zealand’s first women’s trade union. On 11 July 1889, following a series of public meetings at the hall that discussed the evils of ‘sweated labour’ among women workers, the inaugural meeting of the Tailoresses’ Union was held. The meeting was attended by 300 people (the majority women and girls). At the meeting Reverend Rutherford Waddell denounced sweated labour and poor working conditions, ultimately leading to a change in labour laws. The union was instrumental in the passing of the Factories Act and other legislation by the new Liberal Government. The Union also campaigned for women’s suffrage – Secretary of the union from 1891-1896, Harriet Morison, was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and campaigned among working class women.

Other women’s groups made particular use of the hall – especially after the campaign for suffrage proper got under way in 1885. Dunedin and Christchurch were ‘hotbeds for the women’s suffrage cause’, which spread from these centres. Otago had the most signatures in the main 1893 suffrage petition, with 7471 signatures out of a total of 23,991. Dunedin has ‘long been recognised’ as ‘the primary centre of women’s suffrage agitation.’

In 1891, when Parliament discussed Sir John Hall’s Women’s Franchise Bill, the Dunedin Tailoresses’ Union adopted a resolution that parliamentary franchise be extended to adult women and that there was desire among the city’s women to bring this about. During the debate Dunedin Member of the House of Representatives Henry Fish made a ‘venomous attack’ on Dunedin women, and particularly Harriet Morison, in response to which ‘a monster meeting’ was held in the Choral Hall, demanding the immediate enfranchisement of women.

As the first vice president of the Tailoresses’ Union of New Zealand (formed in 1889), Morison had worked hard to organise women workers in Dunedin and in other provinces. She canvassed for the suffrage petitions in 1891 and 1892. She was a founding member of the Women’s Franchise League, the first in New Zealand. She was also a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Out of the Dunedin branch of the WCTU (established in 1885) grew the Women’s Franchise League of New Zealand, which held its inaugural meeting at the hall on 28 April 1892. The Women’s Franchise League of New Zealand played a pivotal role in promoting women’s suffrage and was responsible for circulating the petition that was influential in the successful campaign for women to be given the vote. The campaign for the vote was formalised by a meeting on 28 April which saw the foundation of the Women’s Franchise League. The public meeting held at the Choral Hall on 28 April 1892, attended by 150 women.

Mrs Marion Hatton presided over the meeting at which the Hon. William Downie Stewart and John Jago spoke ‘strongly in favour of the formation of the league.’ Mr Boot moved that a league be formed ‘for the parliamentary enfranchisement of the women of New Zealand’ with headquarters in Dunedin. The group was open to women eighteen years and over, with ‘honorary membership’ available for women under that age.

The first chair of the Women’s Franchise League, Marion Hatton (1835-1905) had strong links with temperance. Having chaired a pro-suffrage meeting in April 1892, Hatton provoked the anti-suffrage mayoral candidate, Member of the House of Representatives, and head of the liquor lobby Henry Fish. The league was formed two weeks later. The League focused on organising – collecting signatures for the suffrage petitions, making sure women of all classes were canvassed, and reaching out to country districts. Dunedin was New Zealand’s largest city in the 1890s, and was therefore an important centre for the group. Otago returned by far the largest number of signatures. After women won the right to vote in 1893, Hatton went on to initiate the National Council of Women, attending the inaugural conference in Christchurch in 1896. Marion would sit alongside other heavyweights of the suffrage movement such as Annie Schnackenberg, Margaret Sievwright and Anna Stout as vice-presidents of the NCW. Kate Sheppard was its first president.

Later History

In 1896, the lease of the property was offered up as a mortgagee sale: the unexpired lease to sections 28 and 29, Block XIV (a 99-year term from 1 September 1873 at £48 per annum) ‘together with substantial Building thereon known as “Choral Hall,” well let to permanent tenants.’ Men’s outfitter and mercer John Taylor (c.1839-1914) purchased the lease, with the Taylor Trustees managing the property after Taylor’s death.

In the early 1920s, the first floor hall was converted to a clothing factory for Messrs Butterworth Brothers. Butterworths was a well-known clothing manufacturer and retailer. They were known for the ‘Globe’ brand. Established in 1860, and given a boost by the gold rushes of that decade, the company was successful, with its warehousing in a substantial High Street building and its factory on Moray Place.

The first floor and roof were damaged by a fire on 16 March 1927. The ground floor was largely undamaged. The building was repaired, and the upstairs space was used by Sharland & Co. (wholesale druggists) and the Dunedin Frock Manufacturing Company.

In 1932, Taylor Trustees commissioned architects Miller & White to alter the building. Glue Construction Company carried out the £2,500 alterations which saw the removal of the lower hall, and the building of three shops on the ground floor. The new shops were sheltered by a verandah with Wunderlich pressed metal, while the shop fronts featured Australian rose mahogany woodwork, decorative leadlights, and orange and black terrazzo slabs. The Evening Star described the alterations as ‘ultra-modern’ in style. The main staircase was rebuilt and a lift was installed. A decade later, the building was given a new façade in the stripped-back style popular at the time. A new name ‘Oxford Buildings’ was added to the parapet in relief lettering, and it seems to have been known by that name from around 1934.

Modern Books (1943-1954)

A bookshop, Modern Books, occupied one of the ground-floor retail premises for eleven years from 1943. It was founded by the Dunedin Co-operative Book Society, which had explicit socialist ideals. The bookshop was part of the Popular Front movement in New Zealand, a left wing response to the rise of fascism in Europe. The co-operative movement developed out of existing left-wing bookshops with links to either the Communist Party or the Friends of the Soviet Union. The bookshops (there were shops in Auckland (1936), Wellington (1938) and Christchurch (1938)) were run by elected committees representing a range of liberal and left opinion. Dunedin’s Modern Bookshop articulated its task: ‘to foster the reading and writing and production of books, pamphlets, circulars and other publications of a nature that will promote an active and intelligent interest in progressive ideas and activities by the largest possible number of the reading public’ and noted a special relationship with the working class movement and their position in the world. John (Otago University Librarian) and wife Rita Harris were founding members and key figures in the bookshop. The shop was frequented by local literati - Janet Frame browsed there hoping to ‘glimpse one of the literary figures of Dunedin or one visiting from up north.’ Also significant was the role of Charles Brasch who headed the book selection committee from 1948 and was the chair of the society from 1949. After some conflict between Brasch and the bookshop manager Dick Reynolds, sales fell, and the shop closed in 1954.

The Society had socialist and progressive ideals and was frequented by local literati.

From 1956 to 1976 the same shop was occupied by Catholic Supplies.

Later Use (1960-2018)

In 1960 the upper hall became the Manhattan lounge, the space remaining largely unchanged. The gallery became first a coffee bar and then a licenced bar, with a dance area below. The Lounge was popular into the 1980s, and later became the Manhattan Theatre.

In 2018, the upper hall provides theatre/studio space, while the shops are occupied by the vintage clothing shop The Preservation Society, and the café/bar The Dog with Two Tails. In 2019 The Preservation Society Closed and the space they occupied became part of Dog with Two Tails and is utilised as performance space.

Physical Description

Current Description


The Temperance Hall (Former) sits on Moray Place, one street back from Dunedin’s town centre at the Octagon. Moray Place follows the same octagonal shape, accounting for the slightly wedge shape of the hall. Moray Place is notable for its historic buildings, which include on the same quadrant as the Temperance Hall: the Savoy (List No. 378, Category 1), the St James Theatre (List No. 7205, Category 1), the former Dunedin Synagogue (List No. 9606, Category 1), and the Moray Terraces (a terrace of shops with residences above, List No. 4710, Category 2). Notable buildings nearby include the Moray Place Congregational Church (Former) (List No. 2218, Category 2) former Dunedin Public Library (List No. 4707, Category 2), First Church (List No. 60, Category 1), among others. This is one of Dunedin’s most significant streetscapes.

Temperance Hall

The Temperance Hall is a two-and-a-half storied brick building with its main façade to Moray Place. On two sides, it is built to the boundary – one side meets the Kaiapoi Buildings, while the other meets the St James Theatre. The third side is partly exposed, being the garden of the former synagogue. A veranda runs along the front of the building.

The façade is plain, the earlier detail having been removed. The first floor has four single paned double hung sash windows; with a string course separate these from four small rectangle windows. ‘Oxford Buildings’ is emblazoned in relief on the parapet of the building.

At street level, the frontage is decorative – marble with inlaid panels flank the shop fronts, the shop doors are recessed, and the windows are notable for their lead-lighting and timber joinery.

The façade has been altered a number of times, and reflects the changing use of the building.


On the ground floor are two shops. The larger is a café/bar named Dog with Two Tails. The smaller shop on the left is a performance space which is part of Dog with Two Tails, called Bark. Both businesses make use of the striking window areas and recessed entries. Both have coved ceilings.

At the north end of the shops is the entrance to the upper floor. The upper floor is currently unoccupied. This entrance has a tiled entranceway, the 20th century lift and a stairway with a turned timber handrail.

On the first floor, there is a small landing, off which is a restroom and a store room. Glass double-doors lead to the main hall.

The hall is notable for its coved ceiling in which a skylight provides a wash of natural light. The centre skylight has glazed coloured squares. There are additional skylights at the sides of the coving. The ceiling is lined with board and batten, while the walls are match-lined in places and plastered in others. The floor is timber in the main hall, and a composite board in the smaller room.

The hall has been partitioned at the street end. The smaller room is lit by the four sash windows, and off the room are another restroom and a small kitchen, both modern. In one corner of the room is the stair leading to the gallery that overlooks the main hall.

The gallery is lit by the small rectangular windows. It has a coved ceiling that is lined with board and batten.

Comparative Analysis: Buildings Associated with the Temperance Movement

Temperance was an outstandingly significant social and political reform movement in nineteenth and early twentieth century New Zealand. There are various building types associated with it: temperance boarding houses, temperance hotels and the related coffee palaces (hotels that did not serve alcohol), as well as temperance halls. All created an alternative alcohol-free network of places, a network that is largely forgotten and invisible.

The Disappearance of Temperance movement buildings

The lack of recognition of temperance-related heritage is not limited to New Zealand. Andrew Davison in his survey of the built heritage of the temperance movement in Britain, notes that while ‘the rise and fall of the temperance movement has been widely studied by social historians’ the architecture of the temperance movement and the buildings the movement left behind are little studied. He notes that in England, and this is also true for New Zealand, that most public meeting places in the nineteenth century were in public houses or hotels, and that a community’s social life revolved around the hotel. The abstinence movement met with a problem, the answer to which was to provide alternative facilities for meetings, for education and for appropriate refreshment.

The diverse facilities were typical of temperance societies that saw their role as educative and evangelistic with an emphasis on self-improvement. In England, as in the case of Dunedin’s Temperance Hall, the first flush of optimism (and money) often led to societies ‘saddled with buildings which were expensive to run and maintain’, and that this burden contributed to the decline in momentum of the movement, and the money needed was a diversion from the essential work of banning the demon drink.

Temperance societies, like those in Dunedin, combined their capital to build multi-purpose facilities. In England (and in New Zealand also) many towns had a temperance hotel or a hall. Davison writes that ‘halls and institutes of the mainstream temperance movement were generally to be found in the better parts of town, reflecting the respectable status of temperance in the later 19th century.’ This was in contrast to the Salvation Army, dedicated to work amongst the urban poor. Davison notes that the temperance movement ‘had a major impact on the political and social life of the country for over a century, yet today it has almost completely vanished.’ Notably in Dunedin there was little distance between the Temperance Hall on Moray Place, and the Salvation Army Fortress a block south on Dowling Street.

Total abstinence groups often linked together to provide support and gain converts to the cause. An outstanding example of such unity can be found at Crofton, a small Rangitīkei hamlet, established as a temperance settlement in the 1870s by former premier William Fox. The settlement was built round a cluster of buildings, including a meeting hall for the Order of Rechabites. Although ultimately a failure, the settlement illustrates the commitment to temperance as a way of life.

Temperance buildings, as well as the streets themselves, were, McAllister argues, significant stage sets for playing out temperance beliefs. Temperance buildings ‘acted as a constant public declaration of the power of the temperance movement.’ They also gave total abstainers alternative places to meet, eat, stay, and carry out their political activities. Buildings were ‘some of the earliest public presences of the temperance movement’, the first physical sign of an alternative world. ‘The public buildings, events or practices…whether intended for a teetotal or general audience, all worked to inscribe the power of the temperance movement in the centres of cities, towns and villages.’

Temperance Hotels and Coffee Palaces in New Zealand

Temperance hotels and coffee palaces were international phenomena – and some were very grand indeed. Temperance hotels and coffee palaces served a similar function – alternatives to licensed premises – places to lure working folk away from intemperance. These buildings functioned as meeting rooms, offered leisure facilities and accommodation, and provided food. They were places to meet and to conduct business. They were very much of their time, and were a short-lived movement. The peak influence of the temperance movement was around World War One. Many temperance hotels and coffee palaces had later reincarnations as licensed premises as temperance became unfashionable by the mid-twentieth century.

In New Zealand, some temperance hotels were large, for example the Salvation Army’s People’s Palace Hotel (List No. 3626, now the Comfort Hotel) in Cuba Street, Wellington, built in 1907. It was one of three such hotels opened by the Salvation Army (the others being built in Auckland in 1903, and Christchurch in 1912), and is the only one that remains. Some were modest, particularly those in small towns, like the now demolished Temperance Hotel in Levin – some were even converted private homes. Others were already existing hotel buildings, like Werry’s Temperance Hotel in Tīmaru (List No. 3153) that had been built (and initially run) as a regular licenced premise, but then, under new management, became a Temperance establishment.

Additional hotel buildings on the Heritage New Zealand List have known links to the movement: Simmond’s Boarding House (Former) in Alexandra (List No. 2080, Category 2) began life as a temperance hotel, as did Miller’s Temperance Hotel in Lawrence (List No. 9709, Category 2).

Temperance Halls

A brief survey of New Zealand newspapers indicates that as early as 1844, the Port Nicholson Total Abstinence Society petitioned Governor Fitzroy to grant land on which to build a temperance hall. Such total abstinence societies met in churches and school rooms before they had their own meeting places. In 1866, The City of Wellington Total Abstinence Society (which replaced the Port Nicholson group) bought Mr Orr’s hall on Herbert Street for their use. The Christchurch Total Abstinence Society was formed around January 1860, meeting first in the town hall. In 1869, they requested tenders for alterations and additions for converting an existing building into a hall, and by August of that year, were advertising meeting in the hall.

By the 1860s, many communities had temperance halls, including Nelson (on Bridge Street) – replaced in 1866 with a new temperance hall on the corner of Bridge and Collingwood streets. In Auckland the society met at the hall of the Mechanic’s Institute. A survey of newspapers indicates that the majority of temperance halls were built in the 1870s and 1880s, in both small towns and large centres like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Tracking their history is difficult – some organisations used existing halls (for example Dunedin’s Odd Fellow Hall), some bought existing halls, and many temperance organisations were short-lived, combining and recombining according to need. There are no surviving temperance halls identified on the New Zealand Heritage List, although the former Temperance Union Hall in Ōpōtiki survives as a structure.

Other types of Temperance Society building

Buildings associated with prominent temperance organisations are also under-represented. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, involved in both temperance and suffrage is an example; this organisation’s headquarters building is on Elizabeth Street, Mount Victoria in Wellington.

The Dunedin Women’s Christian Temperance Union purchased the Star and Garter Hotel on Albany Street and fitted it out as a home ‘Leavett House.’ The building was used as a boarding house, and for meetings, as a teaching space, and services. The focus was on the ‘poorer classes’ around nearby Pelichet Bay. The building has been demolished.

There appear to be no listed buildings that relate directly to the politics of temperance. And from the survey of newspapers, it would seem that Dunedin’s Temperance Hall is the oldest surviving structure, and one of the grander halls. As such, the Temperance Hall has special significance.

Construction Dates

First floor hall converted to clothing factory

- 1927
Fire damages first floor

- 1932
Alterations to shops

- 1944
New façade – ‘Oxford Buildings’ in relief on parapet

Construction Details

Concrete, brick, corrugated iron, timber, leadlight

Completion Date

27th August 2019

Report Written By

David Murray and Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

The Journal of the Brewery History Society

Andrew Davison, ‘Try the Alternative’: The built heritage of the temperance movement. The Journal of the Brewery History Society, Issue 123, Summer 2006, pp. 92-109. URL http://breweryhistory.com/journal/archive/123/Temperance.pdf

Built in Dunedin

David Murray, ‘Temperance Hall (The Choral Hall), Built in Dunedin: A city’s buildings and their stories’. 10 April 2013.

Other Information

A fully referenced List Entry report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.

Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.