Robert Lawson

Born Jan 1, 1833

Robert Arthur Lawson was one of New Zealand's pre-eminent 19th century architects. It has been said he did more than any other designer to shape the face of the Victorian era architecture of the city of Dunedin. He is the architect of over forty churches, including First Church for which he is best remembered, but also other buildings, such as Larnach Castle, a country house, with which he is also associated.… Read More

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Robert Lawson.


1833 Birth Born in 1833.


1854 21 Years Old 1 More Event
Born at Newburgh, in Fife, Scotland, he emigrated in 1854 to Australia and then in 1862 to New Zealand. … Read More
1858 25 Years Old In Steiglitz he designed the Free Church school and in 1858 a Catholic school. … Read More
1862 29 Years Old Lawson entered the competition, using the pseudonym "Presbyter". If this pseudonym was designed to catch the eye of the Presbyterian judges, it was well chosen: his design was successful. Thus Lawson was able in 1862 to move to Dunedin and open an architectural practice. … Read More


1864 31 Years Old In his work on First Church, Lawson had met Jessie Sinclair Hepburn, whose father George Hepburn was the second session clerk of the building. The couple married in November 1864 and subsequently had three daughters and a son. … Read More
1871 38 Years Old 1 More Event
Lawson designed several large private houses, the best known was at first called "The Camp". Today it is better remembered as Larnach Castle. It was built in 1871 for William Larnach, a local businessman and politician recalled for his bravura personal style. … Read More


1874 41 Years Old Between 1874 and 1884 Lawson worked on the design and construction of the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, designed to house five-hundred patients and fifty staff. … Read More


1890 57 Years Old 1 More Event
…  After a short period assisting the Wellington architect William Turnbull in 1890, he returned to Melbourne. … Read More


1897 64 Years Old Commercial buildings which survive from Lawson's Melbourne years include the Moran and Cato warehouse in Fitzroy and the College Church in Parkville, which were completed in 1897.
1898 65 Years Old …  While serving as New Zealand's Minister of Finance and of Mines in 1898, he committed suicide in a committee room of the parliamentary building in Wellington, not because of the financial stresses of the Colonial Bank, as previously thought but because of circulating rumours about an affair between his eldest son and his third wife. … Read More
1900 67 Years Old In 1900, at the age of 67, Lawson came out of his ten-year-long self-imposed exile from New Zealand and returned to Dunedin. … Read More
1902 69 Years Old The Lawson - Salmond partnership would not last long. In 1902 Lawson died suddenly at Pleasant Point, Canterbury, on 3 December. … Read More
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