Lee Stream Hotel (Former)

2107 State Highway 87, Lee Stream, Outram

  • Lee Stream Hotel (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2349 Date Entered 9th December 2005


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land in Certificate of Title OT3A/147, and the building thereon. The registration applies only to the 1860s hotel, and not the later hotel building on the land with the same legal description and title (see plan in Appendix 4 of registration report).

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 11418, Mount Hyde SD (CT OT3A/147), Otago Land District


Lee Stream Hotel is on the Outram to Middlemarch highway, en route from near the start of what was known in the 1860s as the Mountain Trail from West Taieri to the Central Otago gold fields. As was common with other accommodation houses it was positioned next to the road near to what was first a ford, and which was in around the mid-1870s the site of the first Lee Stream Bridge. The Hotel, granted a bush license in November 1862, dates from the beginning of the rush to the Dunstan gold fields from August 1862 onwards. The hotel provided accommodation for miners on their way to the gold fields, and later to travellers taking the Old Dunstan Road (as the Mountain Trail became known). The single storey stone building finally ceased functioning as an accommodation house around 1947.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Lee Stream Hotel has historical significance. The building dates from the first few months of the use of the Mountain Trail as the main route to the Dunstan Gold fields, and is in its location typical of those wayside inns which sprang up to serve the steady traffic of miners and suppliers who paused there on their way inland. What is not typical is its long-running use. It operated from 1862 until c.1947 in the same building, surviving a number of fires, and the general decline of such out of the way accommodation facilities, as transport routes and technologies changed. It is an outstanding survivor of its type.

The Lee Stream Hotel (former) has architectural significance as an early surviving example of a building which operated on a bush license in what was then a relatively remote location. While only the exterior form remains it is an important example of this building type.

The Lee Stream Hotel has social significance. These facilities were the centre of community focus in isolated places. For around 90 years this building provided accommodation for travellers in the area. For an even longer period the 1953 building continued to offer a destination - mainly for weekend travellers and picnickers from the now nearby (by motor transport) Dunedin. The change from wayside inn to holiday weekend spot is indicative of the changes in transport, regional economy and leisure.

The Lee Stream Hotel represents the period of development in the hinterland of Otago associated with the 1860s gold rushes. In its history and location it shows the typical way that patterns of settlement developed in Otago. Settlement developed along major transport routes, in this case the Mountain Trail, and tended to be at junctions or river crossings. Lee Stream Hotel's history also provides insight into the licensing law. Its long life with an accommodation license provides particular insight, and provides context for other areas such as Canterbury, which have a slightly different history.

Lee Stream Hotel is associated with the rush to the Dunstan Gold fields in late 1862. Its establishment by the end of that year marks the period in which the Mountain Trail became the main route to this part of inland Otago. Its isolated site at a river crossing provides an illustration of how the rippling effect of the gold rushes rolled its way through the Otago, etching a network of routes, stopping places and settlements that is still evident in places such as Lee Stream today.

Lee Stream Hotel dates from within the first ten years of European settlement in this area of Otago, and is therefore important as a place dating from an early period of New Zealand Settlement. Pastoral runs in the area were taken up in the mid-1850s, and by 1860 still formed only a very sparse patchwork of a few stations scattered around the hills. It dates from the earliest use of the Mountain Trail to reach the Dunstan gold fields and is an important marker of that period of history.

Lee Stream Hotel is part of a network of places associated with the Mountain Trail (now known as the Old Dunstan Road), and is therefore part of the wider historical landscape associated with that road. In the 1860s the route was dotted with shanties, grog houses and other travellers accommodation. Lee Stream Hotel is possibly one of the only buildings dating from this period still standing associated with that route.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Simmers, Robert

Robert Simmers was the first licensee of Lee Stream Hotel, near Dunedin, and is thought to have built that building in c. 1863.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

From the mid 1840s the government recognised that it was necessary to provide accommodation for travellers to the interior regions. A "Bush Licence" was "A special licence, granted in respect of a remote accommodation house or public house, entitling the holder to sell liquor esp. as a convenience to the travelling public." The earliest reference given for the term was Edward Jerningham Wakefield's 1848 The hand-book for New Zealand. Wakefield states that under the amended Licensing Ordinance "bush licenses" were granted for the convenience of Travellers at rates fixed by the Governor and Executive Council, according to the traffic of the place."

The 1844 ordinance does not refer specifically to a bush licence. But it does state

"whereas the establishment of Licensed Houses in the interior of the country, as well as on the sea coast, would promote the convenience of the public, and would greatly facilitate communication between various settlements, and as the terms and conditions on which the same should be Licensed may be determined by the Governor in Council....to License any House for the purpose of the said Ordinance mentioned at such times and in such manner, upon such terms and conditions, and either with or without any annual payment....provided that no House to be Licensed under the authority of this Ordinance shall be within three miles from the nearest limit of any town."

This is what E.J. Wakefield understands as a bush license, and what seems to be understood as an Accommodation House, a term dating from the mid-1840s. Each of the Provinces probably had their own ordinances defining and licensing such houses.

In Canterbury, for example, few of the original accommodation houses are still standing, and from an archaeological point of view the remains of those no longer standing are recognised, by archaeologist Chris Jacomb as having considerable regional significance as a "tangible reminder of the role of accommodation houses in the settlement of remote pastoral landscapes." He also notes that "accommodation houses along with their associated ferries and roads of the early colonial period have both historic and archaeological significance that may not have been widely appreciated previously." Of the 69 accommodation houses in Canterbury noted in Jacomb's paper only five are noted as still standing. Along with Acheron Accommodation House on Molesworth Station, Lee Stream Hotel seems to be one of the earliest places that operated as an Accommodation House (or in Lee Stream Hotel's case) or with a bush license on the NZHPT Register. Lee Stream Hotel is also the only one associated with gold mining.

In gold fields Otago an Accommodation House was described as the name "popularly applied to a description of unlicensed rough public-houses occasionally to be found on the roads." It was a sort of rendezvous for travellers of all sorts. Accommodation houses were a feature of mid-century travel in the more remote areas of the provinces, and there were some early attempts to regulate their form and use. In Canterbury, for example, the first public house ordinance dated from 1856 and specified a range of conditional licences. In Otago the first Accommodation Houses appear to have been associated with ferries. The 1854 Ferries Ordinance allowed the superintendent of the provincial government to "reserve or appropriate on each side of the water frontage and an adjoining piece of land not exceeding 50 acres for the use of the ferryman and family", "and for erecting and maintaining thereon a house or inn, with stockyards, stables, and other accommodations for the convenience of the public." The superintendent could conditionally license such accommodations.

By 1861 with the deluge of shanties, grog houses and travellers accommodation springing up along the route to the Gold fields the Otago Provincial Government became more involved in legislating to control the trade through the Licensing Ordinance of that year. By 1862 applications for bush licenses were published in the Otago Provincial Government Gazette, and by the middle of that year future applicants were required to provide evidence to support of their application. With the gold rushes there were many applications for bush licenses. By 1862 the provincial government required that future applications for Bush Licenses or for Wine and Beer Licenses be published in the Gazette. Applications for these licenses were also required to "state what accommodation they have for travellers, and give a sketch of the building for which the license is asked." The application was to be supported by respectable inhabitants (householders) not in any way connected with the traffic. No private interviews to be granted to applicant or agent of applicant. Unfortunately this information does not seem to have survived, nor the conditions under which licenses were granted.

Settlement in the area of Lee Stream had preceded the gold rush by less than ten years. The first pastoral runs were taken up in the Lee Stream area in the mid-1850s. Edward Lee, his depasturing license granted run no. 57 Jun 1854, gave his name to Lee Stream. The run lay between Whare Creek in the south and Lee Stream in the north, with the homestead at the base of Maungaatua Ranges. Lee expanded his holdings and in 1858 Lee took over Lee Stream Station Run that lay between Deep Stream in the north end and in the south extended some way along the north bank of the Lee opposite Run 57. The land to the east and west of Lee Stream Station were runs 75 and 260, and they were taken up by the Boyd brothers in 1856. Run 260 west of Lee Stream Station run was taken up 1858 by John Healey. Most of the land to the west (Run 48) was taken up by Robert Fulton and his brother.

Roads developed even later. It was not until 1860 that money was available to form a dray track from West Taieri to the Black's Station in Manuherikia. By April 1861 the track was sufficiently completed to allow drays to pass, although there were no inns or accommodation houses on the track as late as November 1862, with the isolated stations supplying meat and flour to travellers.

All these circumstances changed in 1862. The West Taieri runs were in the path of the diggers, as in August 1862 gold was discovered on the Dunstan, and the Mountain Trail became a main route to the Dunstan gold fields. The Mountain Trail was the most direct route to the gold fields. The Trail ran via West Taieri, the Lammermuir Range, across the Rock and Pillar and so on to the Maniototo - a treeless and bleak route exposed to severe weather. One traveller in 1863 remembered the route

"An outstanding recollection is the crowds travelling along the 'road,' which, except where confined by cuttings, was spread out to three or four chains or more in width, each man picking his own track through the tussock along the main leading spurs. There was a small 'accommodation house' on the Lee kept by one Simmers, and another where the Strath Taieri track turned off...Another shanty was at Deep Stream, half a mile or so from Rocklands Station. From here the track rose steadily till the dip into the Sutton..."

Robert Fulton described the conditions: "To get up the Cutting to Harvey's Flat and further on past the "Stone Man" through the clay and snow was a superhuman task. We have seen snow banked on each side of the road in that locality over 10 feet deep, many portions of the Maungatua bridle-tracks being impassable." Historians Shaw and Farrant described the track as having the "insignificant appearance of a length of string lying loosely upon a vast area of crumpled brown paper...[which] at every possible bend or valley flat there appeared an accommodation house, a shanty or a sly-grog shop." Within the West Taieri pastoral area there were stopping places at Harvey's Flat, Whare Creek, Lee Stream, El Dorado, Pegleg Creek, and Glengarry Creek.

According to one writer the majority of the accommodation and liquor selling houses were of a temporary nature - with some 42 licensed (and published in the Otago Provincial Government Gazette) up till 1871. Of these 29 lasted no more than two years (and most no more than one). The initial 14 licensed in 1862 signified the Provincial Government's attempt to bring down some sort of control over the explosion of wayfarer's grog shops springing up en route to the diggings. By November 1863 the rush of building was over, marking the change in the gold diggings to a capital intensive industry. Those hotel licenses which remained valid until 1871 (on the Taieri Plain at least) coincides with areas which remained economically viable and became centres of localised population.

Historian and geographer Ray Hargreaves writes that restrictions were imposed by various licensing ordinances, but it was not until the 1864 Licensing Ordinance that hotels were required to have at least two bedrooms for the accommodation of guests and to provide decent toilet facilities on or near the premises.

The first official record of an accommodation house or hotel in the vicinity was the application of a Robert Simmons for a bush license in November 1862 for a "House on Dunstan Road near Mr Fulton's Station." The vagueness of the location was typical of applications in sparsely populated area. As the provincial government encouraged applications were published and concern was expressed that this was a grog-selling premises not accommodation for the public. Simmers was from Bendigo in Australia and arrived in the vicinity of Lee Stream in 1862, staying there for four years. The stone hotel is thought to date from this time. While it has been suggested that reports from early 1862 state that an accommodation house was granted a conditional licence in February of that year, as the building was incomplete, Otago Provincial Government Gazette show that the application was made in November of that year, and that it was deferred until December 1863 (with the name changed to Robert Simmers).

The first title to the fifty acre section was issued to the land was to William Dermer, described as a settler of Mount Hyde District, in 1873. The title plan shows the road to the crossing at Lee Stream as part of Section 1, Block IX, Mount Hyde District.

Local histories argue that former carter Dick Snow took over the bush license in 1862, although land title indicates that Dermer sold the land to Richard Snow in 1875 (OT7/51). The Snows were a well known West Taieri family, arriving from Victoria in 1862, with brothers William (who owned a store in Outram), Jonathan (who worked along side William and later owned a hotel in Mosgiel) and Richard (Dick). The property was managed after his death by his widow who leased it to various tenants. Title for the fifty acres was issued to Jane Snow, widow, of Lee Stream, in October 1879 (OT47/162). Snow married William Wallace an Outram carrier in 1879.

By the 1890s the Lee Stream Hotel was trading under an Accommodation License. The 1881 Licensing Act defines an Accommodation License:

"An accommodation license shall authorize the licensee to sell and dispose of any intoxicating liquor on the premises therein specified, and such license may be granted on the terms of repairing or keeping in repair any road or bridge in the vicinity of such premises, or providing good accommodation for travellers, or on such of the former or such other terms as the Licensing Committee shall think fit, including the payment of a fee not exceeding twenty pounds."

In addition

"No accommodation license shall be granted in respect of any premises situate within five miles by public road of any other premises for which either a publican's license or an accommodation house has already been granted and is in force at the time of the hearing of the application for the license first mentioned. (Section 32)"

The Snows sold the property to Cecilia Smith in February 1894. In 1894 while it was managed by a Mrs Johnson there was a fire, although no reference is made to the extent of the damage. In 1903 there was another fire. After the 1903 fire the interior of the hotel was rebuilt. A succession of owners and leasees followed.

By the 1940s hotel was apparently one of the few remaining at this time still conducted under the old accommodation licenses. In 1942 while run by licensee M. Moylan, and owned by Mrs R.M. Bond of Dunedin, the hotel was again burnt out.

Returned Serviceman R.O.C. Shiel purchased the property for £900. In order to regain the licence he needed a new building, which he set about constructing himself. He initially worked strengthening the old hotel - the sagging stone wall was strengthened with a 10-inch reinforced beam, heavy roof beams were added, an iron roof replaced the thatch, and a concrete floor replaced the clay. Partitions were built inside the building. In 1947 excavations were begun for the new hotel, built to accommodate 12 people. It was a double-storey brick building which included a private owners' suite. Construction was nearing completion in April 1952. It had a kitchen and dining room, several bedrooms, water to each room, and electricity generated from its own power plant. The work was done by Shiel in between tending customers in the old hotel, developing a picnic ground, completing flood works and maintaining the grounds, conditions which would been typical of an accommodation license.

The old stone building ceased to be known as Lee Stream Hotel and ceased operating as a hotel on the completion of the new building in 1953. The 1953 building, still operating as Lee Stream Hotel, stopped trading as a hotel in 1971.

The stone hotel is one of the few survivors of the type of accommodation houses that sprung up along the routes to the gold fields. In 2005 it is largely unused.

Physical Description

The Lee Stream Hotel (former) is a single-gabled, single-storeyed stone building with a rectangular plan. The external walls are stone, and largely unaltered, except for one section where a petrol tanker collided with the building, and that has been rebuilt. The building is 14m long by 5.8m wide. One cross partition exists in the building. The joinery is timber, with one of the original doors remaining. The windows are double-hung, and a variety of styles.

What was the elevation to the main road has a central door, flanked by rectangular eight-light windows. There is another door on this side of the building, at the extreme right, which early photographs show as a window. Originally the building had clay floors and is variously reported as having either a thatched or shingle roof. A wooden annex was added at a later but unknown date, probably after the 1960s as it does not appear on a survey plan dated 1966.

In the 1940s the thatch was reportedly replaced with iron, and the building strengthened with the addition of beams. Interior partitions were added. A concrete floor replaced the clay.

There are four buildings registered as accommodation houses on the NZHPT Register. It is possible, however, that other buildings which operated in the same manner, but which were called hotels, are now registered as houses or hotels (for example Springbank No. 5241). In other regions were the term was more clearly defined, and more research has been done, it is possible to establish a picture of the spread of these places.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1862 -

1894 -

1904 -

1947 -
Ceased use as a hotel

Construction Details

Stone with corrugated iron roof, timber and iron addition.

Completion Date

21st June 2006

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Anon, 1997

The Dictionary of New Zealand English: a dictionary of New Zealandisms on historical principles, Oxford University Press, Auckland, 1997

Davis, 1973

G.F. Davis, 'Old Identities and New Iniquities: The Taieri Plain in Otago Province 1770-1870', MA Thesis, University of Otago, 1973 [Dunedin Public Library, Hocken Library]

Hargreaves, 1992

Ray Hargreaves, Barmaids, Billiards, Nobblers and Rat-pits: Pub life in goldrush Dunedin 1861-1865, Otago Heritage Books, Dunedin, 1992.


Hocken Library

Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin

Catherwood, Lorna, 'Lee Stream - Black Rock, Hindon District - Schools - Hotels - Communication: AG-650-4, unpublished manuscript

Jacomb, 2000

Chris Jacomb, 'Bullock Wagons and Settlement Patterns in a New Zealand Pastoral Landscape.' Australian Historical Archaeology, 18, 2000 (47-62)

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

Lovell-Smith, 1931 (2)

E. Lovell-Smith, Old Coaching Days in Otago & Southland, Lovell-Smith & Venner Ltd, Christchurch, 1931

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

NZHPT File 12011-118 - Lee Stream Hotel

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

22 April 1952, 8 July 1942, April 1952, 14 January 1991

Otago Witness

Otago Witness

6 December 1862

Tyrrell, 1996

A.R. Tyrrell, River Punts and Ferries of Southern New Zealand, Otago Heritage Books, Dunedin, 1996

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area office

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.