The Old High Court building was designed by P.F.M. Burrows, an English architect who had emigrated to New Zealand in 1865 and later became Chief Draughtsman in the Public Works Department. Under his design, the court building was the first major Wellington building to be constructed in masonry (brick and concrete) instead of wood since the huge earthquake of 1855.
Construction began in 1879 and the foundation stone was laid with impressive pomp and ceremony on 1 December 1879.
In March 1881 the building was completed, although there would be a number of additions and minor modifications over the next 100 years.
The court building continued in use throughout the 20th Century but by the 1970s it was becoming increasingly cramped and tired and there was growing support for constructing a new building.
The old building was vacated and fell into decline. It was saved with the establishment of the new Supreme Court of New Zealand as the country’s final court of appeal.
Preserving our heritage
The restoration of the Old High Court Building saw Wellington’s earliest masonry building being carefully strengthened in its foundations, plastered inside and out, and timber restored to its original state.
Having been completely restored, the Old High Court Building has the functionality of a modern office building while remaining faithful to the original design.