Historic Place Category 1
Sec 4 Blk 66 Lawrence Town
In July 1861 A.C. Strode, formerly the first resident magistrate of Dunedin, became the first commissioner to be appointed to the Tuapeka goldfield. Strode and his successors, who were subsequently known as wardens, initially oversaw the administration of the field from a tent in Gabriel's Gully. After the township of Lawrence had been surveyed in 1862, however, a temporary wooden building was erected in Lawrence in the following year. This building also accommodated the gaol and the lands and survey, warden's and gold offices but as it stood on low ground it was often plagued by the floods which were caused by nearby gold sluicing. Thus a new Warden's Court and Post Office were erected in Colonsay Street in the early 1870s; probably from bricks which had been manufactured locally. While it is not known who was responsible for the execution of David Ross' design it is recorded that the colonnade collapsed initially after the formwork had been removed and it therefore had to be rebuilt.
Lawrence became the commercial and administrative centre of the Tuapeka district following the discovery of gold in Gabriel's Gully in 1861. The town's former courthouse stands as a visible reminder of the crucial role played by the goldfield's wardens during the gold rush era and of Lawrence's importance as a mining and farming centre in the late nineteenth century.
Within the context of late nineteenth century New Zealand public architecture this former courthouse is most unusual because it would appear to have been inspired by the Georgian and Regency style domestic and public buildings of eastern Australia. The courthouse in Windsor, New South Wales (Francis Greenway, 1819) may be cited as a particularly good example of the type of building which seems to have provided David Ross with a model, both with regard to planning and style, on which to base the Lawrence courthouse. Even the colour and treatment of the building's cement cladding recalls the sandstone commonly used for the construction of many early nineteenth century public buildings in the eastern states of Australia.
In addition to the singular style of this building, David Ross' use of mass concrete for the construction of the colonnade is particularly significant. The development of monolithic concrete construction was still in its experimental phase during the 1870s in New Zealand and Ross may therefore be considered as a pioneer in this field.
Standing within the Colonsay Street Conservation Area the former Warden's Court makes a major contribution to the Lawrence streetscape both because of its prominent siting and unusual appearance. The building's importance within the townscape is further enhanced by its proximity to the former Post Office building which was designed by R.A. Lawson (c.1870).
The concrete colonnade.
The former Warden's Court at Lawrence stands on an elevated site overlooking the town's main thoroughfare to the north. Designed in the Australian Regency style, the building is symmetrical about a central courtroom, formerly lit by a clerestory (see below), which is flanked by single storey wings at the sides and rear. Five Doric columns form a colonnade which extends along the front of the building and is terminated by pilasters applied to the inner walls of the side wings. The entire building is clad in cement which has been excised to imitate masonry construction and quoins are also used on every elevation to convey this effect. Simple sash windows light the building but its austere rectilinearity is somewhat relieved by the paired arched windows which are set into the front elevations of the side wings and the three-part arched windows which pierce the gable ends of the former clerestory.
External elements which give the building a vaguely domestic appearance include the eaves brackets beneath the gabled roofs of each wing and the panelled doors at the front and rear of the building which are crowned by arched fanlights. Access to the former courtroom is provided by two such doors at either end of the verandah which has a concrete floor and a timber lined ceiling. Beyond the courtroom two rooms are located in the rear wing, one of them a kitchen, and the intervening wall between these wings would appear to be constructed from a combination of brick and local schist. The east wing contains a single large room with toilet facilities at the rear, whereas the west wing is divided into three rooms, the front two of which have fireplaces. Projecting from the west end of the building are two small additions with lean-to roofs and in front of the former courthouse is a schist retaining wall with a concrete coping.
Ceiling lowered in former courtroom to create second floor at clerestory level.
- Original Construction: 1870 (circa)
Brick structure with cement cladding, timber window sills and frames, corrugated iron roof. Mass concrete colonnade.
- Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905
- J M Freeland, Architecture in Australia - A History, F.W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1968
- M Herman. The Early Australian Architects and Their Work, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1970
- Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988
- F & J Leary, Colonial Heritage - Historic Buildings of New South Wales, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1972
- Daphne Lemon, Stars in Orion, Tuapeka then and now, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1979
- W.R. Mayhew, Tuapeka: The Land and Its People: A Social History of the Borough of Lawrence and its Surrounding Districts, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Dunedin, 1949
- Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.
- D Saunders. (ed) Historic Buildings of Victoria, The Jacaranda Press, Melbourne, 1966
- John Stacpoole, Colonial Architecture in New Zealand, Wellington, 1976
- University of Canterbury,Index of New Zealand Architects, School of Fine Arts Reference Room
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.
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