Ross & Glendining, High Street factory

Built: 1900-1901 (incorporating 1875 fabric)
Address: 167 High Street
Architect/Designer: Charles Lomax
Builders: Day labour (under Lomax)

An image from ‘Beautiful Dunedin’ (1906), taken when the building was relatively new.

My last post looked at Ross & Glendining’s 1866 warehouse on Stafford Street, and its later redevelopment as a hat factory. I briefly mentioned the adjoining factory buildings facing High Street, and this post expands on that part of the complex. Perhaps another time I’ll look at the company’s large warehouse further down High Street, demolished in 1970.

The High Street factory’s origins go back to 1875, when a warehouse and bonded store was built on the site. The building was on two levels, including the bluestone basement. The structure above was brick, with a cemented front. The architect was N.Y.A. Wales of Mason & Wales, and plans still held by the firm show a tramway connecting the building with the Stafford Street warehouse behind. James Hood was the contractor and the building cost £4,274.

Part of an original drawing for the 1875 building, reproduced courtesy of Mason & Wales Architects.

Between 1900 and 1901 two new floors, with extensions over the right-of-way, were made to create a new clothing factory. The designer was Charles Lomax, Ross & Glendining’s Building Inspector, who also supervised the construction work. According to an obituary, Lomax was originally from Blackburn, Lancashire, and as well as building the Roslyn Woollen Mills ‘carried out the erection of every warehouse belonging to the firm in New Zealand, also preparing the plans’. This description was not quite accurate, as others were also involved with building and design work for the company, but it would probably be true to say that no other person had a greater hand in the design and construction of the company’s buildings.

The rebuilt High Street factory was described in the Evening Star:

The factory operations are at present carried on in the two-storeyed building next the warehouse, but this is found to be inadequate for the trade. The new building will cover an area with a frontage of 66ft and 115ft deep. Including a spacious basement, of a uniform height of 12ft, there will be four storeys, the ground and first floors being 14ft high and the top one 12ft. The basement is to have a limer rock floor, the material for which has been imported from France. This makes a damp-proof floor, which is easier on the feet than one made of wood. It is used for the basement in the present warehouse, and has given every satisfaction. In the basement the engine for driving the machinery used throughout the factory will be located. The floors are to be supported by iron columns and steel joists, the building to be of brick with cement facings and slate roof. On a projection from each floor the lavatories and other conveniences are arranged for. The first floor is divided off into apartments for the office, finishing room, cutting room, pressing room, and dining room. The second and third floors are to be devoted to the operative departments of the factory, the different machines being driven by steam-power. A lift will travel from top to bottom of the building, connecting with all the floors. As was to be expected in a building of this description, ample provision has been made for lighting. There are six large windows to each floor in the front, and an equal number at the back, and these will ensure splendid light throughout the rooms. The front has been designed in no particular set style, but it will have an attractive appearance, although not being profusely ornamental, and will be in keeping with the effectiveness of the general run of large buildings in Dunedin.

Stephen Jones (whose history of Ross & Glendining I highly recommend) states that a nine horsepower Campbell oil engine replaced the old factory’s three horsepower Otto gas engine. This allowed the number of sewing machines to be increased, ‘there being over sixty Wilson & Wheeler and almost thirty Singer machines of various types installed in the factory by January 1902’.

The yard space and outbuildings separating the main Stafford and High Street buildings were eventually redeveloped. Additions in 1930 housed the company’s boot factory, relocated from Princes Street South, and a further two further storeys were added between 1937 and 1938. The architects for both stages of this work were Miller & White, with Thomas Ferguson the contractor.

The first stage of the boot factory additions, designed by Miller & White in 1930. Further floors were added 1937-1938.

Ross & Glendining was acquired by UEB Industries Ltd in 1966, and subsequently merged into Mosgiel Woollens Ltd, which retained a knitwear division in the building until it went into receivership in 1980. Later occupants included J. McGrath & Co, and in more recent years the building has been known as South Pacific House. Current occupants include NZ Fight & Fitness Academy.

The facade remains much as it did in 1901, although looking naked at the top where the balustrade and central pediment were removed in 1937. The fire escape likely dates from the 1940s, and 1941 work included the installation of louvre windows and the relocation of the main door from the centre to the side of the frontage. Sam Lind tells me that you can still identify the location in the basement where the engine running the belts would have been, and there is some evidence of the tramway that ran between the buildings. Some of the ironwork of the overhead shafts survives. Though most old fittings have been removed, the old stairs, floors, and brickwork all remain appealing interior features.

Newspaper references:
Otago Daily Times 20 April 1875 p.2 (description), 24 September 1906 p.4 (Lomax obituary); Evening Star 15 December 1900 p.1 (description of rebuilt premises)

Other references
Fahey, W.H. Beautiful Dunedin: its environs and the cold lakes of Otago (Dunedin: Evening Star Co., 1906)
Jones, S.R.H. Doing Well and Doing Good : Ross & Glendining, Scottish Enterprise in New Zealand (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2010)
Dunedin City Council permit records and deposited plans

Thanks to Mason & Wales Architects for access to early plans, and to Sam Lind for more recent information about the building.

6 thoughts on “Ross & Glendining, High Street factory

  1. Peter

    THE FIRST STATE HOUSE in Dunedin should be protected as an historical gem, thanks for pointing out this house in Pine Hill. It should have historical status and be preserved for the future…

    Reply
  2. Peter

    Where can one go to bring this to the attention it needs, not the Dunedin Council, something similar was done with Fletcher’s first house in Broad bay, it is now on the tourist track…

    Reply
    1. David Murray Post author

      I hope it is preserved, but I also like that it’s someone’s home and still owned by Housing New Zealand an used for the purpose it was originally built.

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