Address: 57-65 Moray Place
Architect: T.B. Cameron (c.1837-1894)
Builders: Not known
This terrace draws attention to its history with the date ‘1880’ conspicuously displayed below a chimney stack. It was in August 1880 that architect T.B. Cameron called for tenders to build ‘three three-storey residences, in Brick, in Moray place and View street, for Mrs Muir’. The buildings were finished in 1881 and named Moray Terrace. By 1884 the corner residence was known as Gladstone House, presumably because Mrs Muir was an admirer of the British (Liberal) Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone. The building cost was £4,000.
Who was Mrs Muir? Amelia Muir (1814-1893) was one of Dunedin’s pioneering business women. She was the daughter of Thomas Allen, land steward (or senior gardener) to William IV and a prominent horticulturalist in South Australia from his arrival there in 1836. It is recorded that Mrs Muir’s godmother was King William’s youngest daughter, Amelia FitzClarence, and Dr Hocken noted that it was ‘said’ that she was the natural daughter of George IV. Although this last claim is very unreliable, it’s interesting to think of it as the subject of local gossip! Mrs Muir arrived in Dunedin in 1861 and soon opened Bedford House, a boarding house on Bell Hill. She was later compensated when the house was removed and the land excavated. She was active in the St Paul’s Guild, the Benevolent Institution, the Servants’ Home, and the Female Refuge. She was also a zealous supporter of Otago Girls’ High School where her daughter was the first dux. Her son was a photographer and the senior partner in the firm Muir & Moodie. Her property included houses further up View Street and some family connection remained over forty years after her death, when ‘Muir Court’ and ‘Allen Court’ were built at the top of the street.
The architect, Thomas Bedford Cameron (c.1837-1894), had worked in the United Kingdom, Ballarat and Auckland before coming to Dunedin in 1878. He is best known in Dunedin for designing Caversham Presbyterian Church and for winning the competition for the design of the town hall (though R.A. Lawson’s design was eventually used). He also designed a building similar in style to Moray Terrace at 83 Moray Place, which was replaced by the Stuart (now Kirkland) Chambers in 1947. Just a few years younger than Lawson, Cameron was a very accomplished architect to whom I’ll return in the next month.
Moray Terrace is an elegant, pretty, and well-preserved example of Cameron’s work, and another Dunedin example of the revival of the renaissance Italian palazzo. It’s unusual for a terrace – do any others in New Zealand have three-storey street fronts? The many interesting details include pilasters (some with Corinthian capitals and others with rosettes) that distinguish the separate houses. Lost detailing at the ground foor obscures that distinction to some degree, and ball finials above the parapet are also missing. Remarkably, the chimney stacks have survived more or less unaltered and the one facing View Street remains a focal point of the overall design. Few original features survive inside, at least in the apartments recently advertised for sale. In recent decades the exterior has had a variety of colour schemes: one predominantly blue, another brown, and now one in the ubiquitous fashionable grey.
Moray Terrace has had many interesting occupants. Braemar House girls’ school, run by Jessie Dick, was briefly housed here (before moving further up the street) and the pupils of this ‘Ladies’ Seminary’ included a young Frances Hodgkins. From the mid 1880s Caroline Wells ran a higher-class boarding house in the terrace. Residents in early years included a sharebroker, an artist, a gaol warder, a tobacconist, an engineer, and a bank clerk. In 1885 a con artist in the building posed as a theatrical agent and persuaded many to part with their money with the promise of getting them work on the stage in Australia. By the time his scheme was rumbled he had disappeared.
Shops were put in the ground floor at some point, their fronts projecting from the facade. The building was home to the Gladstone Milk Bar from about 1952 to 1965. In the 1980s a ghostly apparition, dressed in 1950s denim jeans and jacket, was rumoured to haunt the buildings.
Gladstone House was extensively renovated in 1987 when it became known as Shand House. In recent years the original name, Moray Terrace, has been reinstated.
Newspaper references: Otago Daily Times 31 August 1880 p.4 (call for tenders), 13 April 1881 p.2 (accident to contractor), 18 July 1881 p.1 (to let notice – Moray Terrace), 20 January 1882 p.1 (Braemar House advertisement), 25 July 1883 p.2 (cost), 1 October 1884 p.1 (to let notice – Gladstone House), 17 June 1885 p.3 (‘An Ingenious Swindle’), 28 November 1893 p.6 (Mrs Muir’s obituary), 16 December 1893 p.5 (corrections to obituary), 13 July 1985 p.29 (Lois Galer’s history).
Other references: Stone’s and Wise’s directories; F&J 11/27 (Hocken Collections); Jones, David and Ian Westergaard. ‘Whither the First ‘Botanical Garden’ for Adelaide: The Role and Contribution of Thomas Allen’ in Past Matters: Heritage, History and the Built Environment (Palmerston North: Massey University, 2006).