St. Dominic’s Priory is located on the south island of New Zealand, in Dunedin; the supposed Edinburgh of the south. It was designed and constructed in a relatively small period of time by Francis William Petre, between 1876 and 1877. Following completion it was reportedly the largest un-reinforced concrete building in the southern hemisphere. Petre subsequently obtained the nickname ‘Lord Concrete’ for his success. In 1878 Petre also set upon the construction of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, a Gothic style structure which he also designed himself, and this is positioned adjacent to St. Dominic’s. It is unknown as to why the Cathedral was designed this way, in contrast to the priory which is loosely based on an Anglo-Saxon style of architecture; or Petre’s interpretation of such. In describing how it met these characteristics Petre simply drew attention to the double triangular window apertures. The building has served as a convent and, for a time, also may have functioned as a girls grammar/boarding school; although the evidence supporting this is substantially weak. The site ceased to function as a priory and convent in around 1983, but continued to house local artists and homeless people up until more recent years. As it stands, however, only one person currently continues to reside within one small section of the dilapidated building. The site, though, does also continue to operate a small chapel, which is regularly used for Sunday services; this is located is the more preserved section of the building which can be viewed in the last photograph of this report. Although there were rumours that the site would be redeveloped into apartments, or a hotel complex, no such work has ever commenced and plans for any to be undertaken look substantially doubtful.
Our Version of Events
So, here we go… I’d arrived in New Zealand, very much on my own and very much without the ‘WildBoyz’. Nevertheless, in conjunction with learning about my new surroundings and the people, I decided to go exploring; pretty much immediately. I was keen to see what’s on offer over here and my first explore certainly didn’t disappoint. After wandering for a considerable amount of time, trying to figure out where a certain street was located (without the use of google maps I hasten to add!), I finally fell upon this fine example of a crumbling priory/convent. Access wasn’t particularly difficult, with a little bit of imagination, and I soon spent the next hour exploring the labyrinth of corridors, staircases and rooms. The place is much bigger than it looks from the outside! Whilst exploring though, I’d noticed that a certain room was locked, and a light could be seen peeking through the crack at the bottom of the door. At that point I realised that the site was probably to some extent occupied by someone, but I continued with the explore, treading a little more carefully to avoid making an unnecessary amount of noise. Things got even more interesting, however, when I went in search for some sort of basement (priories surely have basements, right?), and for this I’d decided to explore the grounds outside, to stairs which led to sections of the building that I deemed had potential. As I pondered, wondering how to get past a door that looked as though it had stairs descending downwards, I heard rustling on the walkway above me. As it turned out New Zealand’s tactical police had also decided to visit that day, looking at the site as a potential site for training purposes. ‘Oh, shit!’ I thought, as I assumed my stay in NZ had suddenly become a lot shorter than I’d anticipated. To my surprise, however, they were pretty tolerant with me being there, and let me continue with my explore. I didn’t find the basement though and to my disappointment, on my way out, the police informed me that that’s a crypt and a small series of catacombs beneath the building. I will have to return and find them at some point!