Waitaki Girls' Junior High School Building (Former)

276 Thames Street And Ouse Street, Oamaru

  • Waitaki Girls’ Junior High School Building (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 28/06/2012.
  • Waitaki Girls’ Junior High School Building (Former) June 2012. Image courtesy of Bill Caelli.
    Copyright: Bill Caelli. Taken By: Bill Caelli.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2312 Date Entered 2nd July 1982


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 5 Blk XVI Town of Oamaru (CT OT231/293) Otago Land District and part of the land described as Pt Sec 6 Blk XVI Town of Oamaru (CT OT231/293) Otago Land District, and building known as Waitaki Girls' Junior High School Building (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 5 and Pt Sec 6 Blk XVI Town of Oamaru (CT OT231/293), Otago Land District


The Waitaki Girls’ Junior High School (Former) was built in 1928 as part of the government’s policy of establishing Junior High Schools (later known Intermediate Schools) to better prepare children for high school.

Waitaki Girls’ High School was established in 1887 after local lobbying to establish a high school for girls in Oamaru. After three years of debate a block of land was chosen – the central part of a block bounded by Thames, Trent, Ouse and Reed Streets. Oamaru architect John Meggatt Forrester designed the first school building (three classrooms, an assembly hall (which doubled as classroom space), and staff room) which was opened on 10 February 1904. In the age of more independent women, particularly after World War One, girls’ education evolved. More facilities were needed as subjects expanded. In 1923 a second storey was added to the main building. More changes were to come.

In the 1920s the government was experimenting with reorganizing primary education, introducing an Intermediate/Junior High School system. Junior High Schools had already been set up in Canada, Britain and the United States, and it was hoped that these schools would prepare pupils for secondary school. In 1922 a separate Junior School at Kingsland in Auckland was among the first to open. Oamaru was chosen as an experiment of ‘attached’ junior schools – with Waitaki Girls’ High and Waitaki Boys’ High Junior Schools added to these schools’ existing departments (rather than functioning as independent schools as was the case in larger centres).

The Waitaki Girls’ Junior High School (for Forms 1 and 2) was established in 1925 with a roll of 120 girls, housed in the former Severn Street Middle School, but there were problems with the school being on a separate site. A purpose built Junior High School building on the corner of Ouse and Thames streets was designed by architect Ivan Steenson of the partnership Forrester and Steenson, and opened on 10 November 1928. The Oamaru stone building contained domestic science facilities, science and art rooms, classrooms and a junior library. Although Junior Schools were later designated Intermediate Departments, Waitaki Girls’ retained the Junior High School title until the Junior High was disestablished.

Waitaki Girls’ High School itself, including the attached Junior High School, grew throughout the twentieth century – the school owned most of the block bounded by Trent, Thames, Ouse and Reed Streets, but there was pressure on space. Wilson Park pavilion opened in 1956. A new science block (now E-Block) opened in 1958 and a new administration block opened in 1961. By 1963 the school roll was 829.

With the establishment of independent intermediate schools, the Junior High School was closed at the end of 1962, providing much needed extra room for the senior school. A major building project completed in 1973 was the construction of a lunchroom in the Junior High School basement. The oldest existing Waitaki Girls’ High building – the Senior School building – was demolished in 1980. Further alterations were made to the former Junior High School in that year as well.

In 2013 the former Junior High School Building remains part of Waitaki Girls’ High School.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Forrester and Steenson

The architect was William Ivan Cunninghame Steenson (1889-1967) (known as Ivan) of Forrester and Steenson. The architectural practice was established by Thomas Forrester and John Lemon in 1872 and John, the only son of Thomas Forrester, took over the business in 1890. Forrester worked on his own until 1921 when he entered into partnership with Ivan Steenson as Forrester & Steenson. Forrester retired in 1931 and Ivan Steenson carried on the firm. Steenson had joined the practice in 1904 and studied carpentry, stone masonry and plumbing, before serving in World War One. After the war he returned to the firm before becoming a partner. The practice was continued by his son Harry until 1993.

Source: Information Upgrade Report for Waitaki Girls' Junior High School Building (Former), Oamaru (Register No. 2312), Heather Bauchop, Aug 2013

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1928 -
10 November: building opened

1962 -
Junior High School disestablished

1973 -
Alterations to basement – to be used as a lunch room

1980 -
Room 20 of the former Junior High School converted to a physics laboratory; rooms 18 and 19 renovated for social studies; rooms 14 and 15 for typing.

Completion Date

13th August 2013

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Ramsay, Stead and Ludemann, 1987

Atholea Ramsay, Helen Stead and Elspeth Ludemann, The Honour of Her Name: The Story of Waitaki Girls High School 1887-1987, Waitaki Girls’ High School Centennial Committee, Oamaru, 1987

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from Otago/Southland Area Office of the NZHPT.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.