The Greymouth Speights Ale House is situated in a category 1 historic building, opposite the railway station in the heart of Greymouth. The building, known as ‘The Brick House’, was built in 1909 by the Government to house numerous Government Departments.
In the 1990s as Government departments contracted in size, the building became vacant and fell into disrepair. It was earmarked for demolition until a local businessman saw its potential and in 2006 strengthened and renovated the building to enhance its beautiful character.
The land and building was then bought by two ‘Southern Men’ who commissioned a further high quality fit-out to accommodate the Greymouth Speights Ale House with the Public Health Organisation leasing the upstairs space.
The Brick House
In 1891, the Liberal Government instituted a progressive programme of social legislation. The resulting expansion of the public service required the construction of several new departmental buildings throughout New Zealand.Closely associated with this Government building boom was architect John Campbell who was responsible for the design of Government buildings throughout New Zealand for over thirty years (until his retirement in 1922) and established Edwardian Baroque as the official style for those buildings. The government building (“The Brick House”) was built in 1909 Officers of NZ Railways and the Public Work Department initially occupied the building. Over the years it has also housed officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and from the Mines and Geological Survey department. In 1990 the “Brick House” was registered as a category 1 historic place. The years following saw the building become vacant and fall into disrepair as Government departments contracted in size.
Situated as it is on Mawhera Quay this very solid brick building, now known as the Brick House, also has a distinctive maritime, watery flavour about it. Mawhera is a Maori name meaning “ bright running waters” and was the Maori name for what we call the Grey River. The floods that periodically erupt spectacularly in and around Greymouth stem from the Grey River bursting its stopbanks and flooding not only Mawhera Quay but often most of the town, usually in a cascade of bright running water, sometimes as high as the first floor. In 2006 a total renovation of the building was carried out in a way to maximise the building’s strength and characters. Upstairs has been retained as offices, being occupied by the West Coast Primary Health Organisation and the District Health Board while the downstairs portion of the building has had a high quality fit-out to accommodate the Greymouth Speight’s Ale House.
With acknowledgements to Donald Gordon’s Speight’s The Story of Dunedin’s Historic Brewery