Royal Arcade, Timaru, New Zealand


Timaru’s Royal Arcade has a wonderful mix of quirky, rather unique shops and businesses in 2023, including the intriguing ‘genealogy services’ office of David Jack, the spiritual wellness centre and a doorway leading up to the Arcade Ballroom. There is also a hair salon, vintage clothes shop, barbers, and a workwear clothes shop.

The glass ceiling above this narrow walkway means it keeps its sense of being an arcade, but the glass is more modern than its 19th century beginnings. There is nice signage on an outside wall listing some of the businesses, though this suggests the arcade dates from 1892 (while first mentions of an arcade in Timaru go back five more years)

From the year 2000 there has been a series of banners hanging from the ceiling with artwork by local students from the Canterbury area.

My favourite shop today

Either the genealogy services place or the spiritual wellbeing centre, though I’d love to have seen the ballroom upstairs too…

My pick of the arcade’s past

Building work on Timaru’s first arcade began in 1885, but the arcade known at first as Ross’ Arcade – after the Mayor of Timaru who backed it – opened its doors in 1886, and went through a series of major changes over the next two decades. This was partly because Mr Ross got declared bankrupt, and partly because others invested in new sections and new frontages being built, including the Arcade Chambers in 1907.

Thanks to the WuhooTimaru website for the following story: When a smell was investigated they found rotting stumps of an old orchard below the arcade. In an old map you can see a stream running through Sophia Street across Stafford Street to the sea.

During the Spanish Flu pandemic after World War 1, Timaru Arcade had an ‘inhalation chamber,’ through which at its peak over 300 people a day would pass to check their breathing and to receive an antiseptic spray considered at the time as a preventative measure. The chamber was in the arcade for about a month through November – December 1918.

This arcade in films or books

I have yet to find any, but surely they exist. If you see any, let us know via the message box below.

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Timaru’s Royal Arcade in any film or book?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

Is there a website for this arcade?

I haven’t found any web presence for the arcade itself, though a number of the businesses in the arcade are active on social media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *