Australian heritage conservator Chris Betteridge checks out
the attic of the former Dunedin Prison yesterday. Photo by
Australian heritage conservator Chris Betteridge has been
"knocked out" by the architecture of the former Dunedin prison.
Mr Betteridge is in Dunedin this week to begin a conservation
management plan for the prison on behalf of the Dunedin
Prison Charitable Trust.
"It's a beautiful building complex with the law courts and
the railway station, but once inside it's a different feel -
dark, dreary, sombre," he said.
He and his wife, Margaret, who also carried out the
conservation management plans for the city's southern and
northern cemeteries, will pull together all the information
on the prison, do additional research and consult other
heritage experts about the building and provide the trust
with a detailed plan.
Mr Betteridge said that the plan would primarily be driven by
the historical significance of the building, its rarity, its
architectural significance and its surroundings.
"It appears to be the only surviving courtyard prison of its
type in Australasia."
That would also encompass social values, which were the
hardest to assess, although the fact the building was on the
Historic Places Trust and Dunedin City Council registers of
historic buildings suggested there was value in it.
Other areas to be canvassed included constraints on
development, opportunities, condition of the building and
access as a "happy balance" between retention of its historic
aspects and becoming a viable tourist operation.
"It is a real opportunity to turn it into a model and
centrepiece for talk about the history of prisons in New
The 16-week project would involve the Betteridges returning
to Dunedin to complete the fieldwork later this month.
It was a challenge Mr Betteridge was looking forward to.
"You never know what will come out of the woodwork."