Batchelor’s Building

Built: 1902-1903
Address: 145-155 Stuart Street
Architect: James Louis Salmond (Lawson & Salmond)
Builders: Woods & Son

Dr Ferdinand Campion Batchelor (1850-1915) arrived in Dunedin in 1874 and was something of a crusading pioneer in the medical profession here. The lecturer in midwifery and gynaecology at Otago Medical School, he introduced new pelvic surgery techniques from England and America and was an ‘ardent campaigner’ for hospital reform. He commissioned architect J.L. Salmond to design this Stuart Street building in April 1902. The first floor was to house medical consulting rooms for the large private practices of both Batchelor and his good friend Dr (later Sir) Lindo Ferguson, who has been described as New Zealand’s pioneering ophthalmologist. Ferguson (1858-1948) was a lecturer in diseases of the eye at the university and would later become Professor of Ophthalmology and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Batchelor and Ferguson took possession of their rooms in January 1903, before the building was completed.  The builders were Woods and Son and the contract price (June 1902) was £2,596.

In addition to the doctors’ rooms, a third consulting room was let to Swindley Bros, dentists. Also on the first floor were two nurses’ rooms, two waiting rooms, a dressing room, a laboratory, and a dark room. The last was for Batchelor, who was among the first in New Zealand to use x-rays in private practice. A balcony at first-floor level ran the length of the rear of the building, from which a curious attached timber structure containing toilets was accessed. This survives in largely rebuilt form. The ground floor comprised three leased-out shops, the original tenant of two them being the Unique Millinery Stores (Dorothy Reinhardt, proprietress), with the other taken by Crombie & Co. (tailors). The fall of the land means the rear wall of the building has an additional basement level.

Stuart Street c.1903. The building at the left was completed just a few months after Batchelor’s building and was also designed by J.L. Salmond. It survives but had been stripped of its ornamentation.

An advertisement for the Unique Millinery Store from ‘Corrigan’s Fourth Annual. Music Album for 1906’. They boasted of never having fewer than 200-300 hats. The store relocated c.1923.

Batchelor served in Cairo during the early part of the First World War, where he was Consulting Surgeon and responsible for efforts to control venereal disease among New Zealand troops. Sadly, he returned to Dunedin in broken health and died of heart failure during a walk in the sand dunes at Tahuna Park on 31 August 1915.  The maternity hospital in Forth Street was afterwards renamed the Batchelor Hospital in his honour. Dr Stanley Batchelor took his father’s old rooms and kept them until he died in 1942, while Ferguson occupied his rooms until about 1938, by which time he was in his eighties. Among the many medicos and dentists who had rooms in the building over the following decades was the celebrated surgeon Sir Gordon Bell.

The building became the headquarters of the Otago-Southland Manufacturers’ Association around 1971, when it was renamed Industry House. The Association left around 1983 and the first floor has since been used as legal offices, notably by David Brett and Michael Guest. Guest’s offices were here at the time he defended David Bain in his 1995 murder trial. The many ground floor tenants have included the Unique Stores (c.1906-1923) and Dunedin City Dealers (c.1955-1976). This floor is now occupied by Frendz Boutique (women’s fashion) and Metro bar (which also uses the basement).

This is one of few Dunedin commercial buildings in the Tudor revival style. The spare treatment includes oriel windows and a castellated/crenelated parapet (the latter built instead of a slightly plainer parapet with recessed panels shown on the drawings) and the arched ornaments may be a direct reference to Burghley House (Cambridgeshire, England). The brick and cement work on the façade was originally unpainted. A bullnose verandah with decorative posts and cast iron fretwork was added in 1904 and surviving plans suggest it was intended originally. It ran the length of the shop fronts but not the entire façade. It was later replaced by a hanging verandah running the length of the façade. Alterations have extensively altered the shop interiors and fronts and the original arched entranceway to the upstairs rooms has been replaced. The vestibule itself retains many original features as do the first floor interiors, including tiling (sourced through Briscoes), tongue-and-groove wainscoting, balustrading, a staircase feature window, plaster corbels, and other decoration.

The building’s architect, James Louis Salmond (1868-1950), was born in England but grew up in Dunedin and attended Otago Boys’ High School. He was apprenticed to Robert Arthur Lawson and opened his own office in 1893. He went into partnership with his old teacher, Lawson, and later with Newton Vanes. His most familiar designs include Threave (Watson Shennan’s house at 367 High Street), Burns Hall at First Church, Roslyn Presbyterian Church, and Queen’s Building. His practice was later continued by his son, grandson, and various partners, before it finally wound up in 2008. Elegant and understated, Batchelor’s Building is a fine example of his work.

Historic images: Hocken Collections S12-627a (view of three buildings), private collection (advertisement)

References: Dunedin City Council deposited plans, telephone directories, Stone’s Otago and Southland Directory, Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory, Salmond Anderson Architects records (Hocken Collections), Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago-Southland Biography

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