Colonial Architect - William Clayton

1823 - 1877

The office of the Colonial Architect formed part of the Public Works Department from the late 1860s to mid-1880s. William Clayton was the first and only official Colonial Architect 1869 – 1877, but his work was continued by his Chief Draughtsman, Pierre Burrows from 1877 – 1884.

Born in Tasmania, William Clayton travelled to Europe with his family in 1842. He studied architecture in Brussels and was then articled to Sir John Rennie, engineer to the Admiralty, in London. He returned to Tasmania in 1848 and worked in private practice until he was appointed Government Surveyor in 1852.

He resumed private practice in 1855 and was involved with surveying in the Launceston area. In 1857 he was elected an alderman on the Launceston Municipal Council. By the time Clayton immigrated to Dunedin in 1863 he had been responsible for the design of many buildings including churches, banks, a mechanic’s institute, a theatre, steam and water mills, breweries, bridges, mansions and villas, in addition to being a land surveyor and road engineer.

In 1864 he entered partnership with William Mason. Mason and Clayton were responsible for some important buildings in Dunedin including All Saints Church (1865) and The Exchange (1865). They were two of the most prominent architects of their day in New Zealand.

In 1869 Clayton was responsible for the design of Post and Telegraph offices, courthouses, customhouses, Government department offices and ministerial residences. His acknowledged masterpiece is Government Buildings, Wellington (1876). Although he was an advocate for concrete construction and built his own house in concrete in Hobson Street at about the same time, Government Buildings is a stone-simulated building and the largest timber framed building in the Southern Hemisphere.

Image: State Library of Tasmania :Photograph of W H Clayton. Ref: PAColl-0069. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Mew, Geoff & Adrian Humphris. “Raupo to Deco: Wellington Styles and Architects 1840 – 1940” (Wellington: Steel Roberts Aotearoa, 2014) 
NZHPT Glossary
WCC Heritage Inventory 2001


Last updated: 11/8/2016 9:47:23 PM