Opihi Hotel (Former)

492 Opihi Road, Rd12, Pleasant Point

  • Opihi Hotel (Former). March 2004. Original image submitted at time of registration .
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: P Wilson.
  • Opihi Hotel (Former) Rear. March 2004. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: P Wilson.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3144 Date Entered 10th September 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes: The Building, its fittings and fixtures, and the land on CT CB45C/547.

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 79411 (CT CB45C/547), Canterbury Land District


William Warne, the publican who had established the Pleasant Point Accommodation House in the 1864, applied in 1870 to the Canterbury Provincial Government for a conditional license to establish an accommodation house at Opihi. The government withheld the license however, as Warne did not pay the necessary fee to the Provincial Sub-treasurer.

In 1872 Henry John Le Cren, a merchant of Timaru, was granted 33 acres by the Crown near Collett's Ford, the Opihi River crossing of an early route to the Mackenzie Country. Le Cren sold this in 1875 to John William Jones of Kakahu. 'Bullocky' Jones (as he was known) was a local identity who had ranged the trackless territory as far as Lake Pukaki with his bullock team during the pioneering years of the 1850s and 1860s. In 1878 Jones had architect W. Upton design a hotel for his Opihi site. The limestone building was constructed by local stonemasons' Charles Morton McDougall and James Walker, and probably opened for business at the beginning of 1879. In March that year, the hotel (which was reported as 'doing a good up-country business') and 105 acres were offered for rent, with immediate possession. This action may have been prompted by financial problems, as Jones was bankrupt by July 1879. The hotel and 103 acres were put up for sale by Jones's creditors, and purchased by Timaru auctioneer Moss Jonas, whose firm was handling the sale. Jonas on-sold the property in August 1880 to George Crozier, a contractor of Pleasant Point.

Neither Jonas nor Crozier appear to have operated the hotel themselves, but let it to a series of licensees. In June 1880 Adam Gilmour was issued a license for the hotel conditional on carrying out repairs to the stables and sheep yards within two months. The license passed to Joseph Nelson in September 1880. In December that year, Nelson was fined 5 shillings and 7 shillings costs for allowing gambling with dice on his premises. In March 1881, the nefarious Nelson was charged with selling liquor after midnight. The charge was dismissed when a customer claimed that the refreshment was lemonade for his children. Nelson applied for the temporary transfer of his license to Thomas Butler in June 1881, but was refused. In September however, Nelson was permitted to temporarily transfer the license to G. Butler. Butler took over the license in December 1881, on condition that if any infringement of the Licensing Act occurred, the license would be cancelled at once.

Unfortunately the history of the hotel in the decades which follow is unclear as the licensing record is incomplete. Apparently it remained a social centre for the district, although it lost its license at some point before 1906. This was reputedly because a local farmer, who disapproved of his workers' patronage of the establishment, reported to authorities that the hotel's distance was a few chains short of the required five miles (eight kilometres) from the licensed establishments of Pleasant Point. The license was cancelled as a consequence. The most likely time for this to have occurred was in the mid 1890s, in the wake of the Alcoholic Liquor Sale Control Act of 1893. This provided for a local poll for licenses, and led to a period of 'general reduction' when many hotels throughout the country were closed. A 1957 article also relates that the licence was lost 'nearly 70 years ago'. The former hotel apparently served subsequently as a boarding house for fishermen, salmon having first been liberated in the Opihi in 1877.

George Crozier appears to have gone bankrupt in 1893, and his creditors sold the property to Elisabeth Caroline Malthus. Malthus in turn sold the property to Charles Bowker, a Timaru land broker in 1895. A new era for the former hotel began in 1906, when Bowker sold the property to Opihi farmer William Beedell. Beedell transmitted the property to Kingsdown farmer John Dunicombe at the beginning of 1907, but in June that year Dunicombe transferred it back to siblings Mary, Gertrude and William 'Billy' Beedell as tenants-in-common. The Beedells' named their new home “Walnut Grove', and the area became popularly known as Beedells' Corner. In 1939, following Mary's death, Billy and his cousin Cheldon Morkham Blackmore became tenants-in common. Accounts suggest the men did not get on, and lived separate lives within the building. The eccentric pair became local identities in their old age. Blackmore became sole owner in 1960, and remained there perhaps as late as the early 1980s. Following his death, the building was abandoned to the elements.

The property was purchased by Kevin and Francis Schwass in 1994. The property was subdivided in 1998, and the block containing the derelict hotel building was sold to Struan and Fiona Sullivan, who are in the process of restoring and renovating it as their family home (March 2004).

Seen in broad perspective, accommodation houses and country hotels could be the key to the larger settlement pattern of a region - with many forming the kernel around which other settlements grew. This was particularly the case in Canterbury, where their importance in this region of rapidly expanding pastoral development over a more-or-less uniform landscape was apparently much greater than elsewhere. Pleasant Point was one such place; the township growing around the accommodation house established by William Warne in 1864. Most of these early accommodation house/hotels have been replaced with more substantial buildings. However, probably due to changing transport routes and the impact of more stringent licensing laws, the Opihi Hotel had a short life and was bypassed by later developments. Consequently it provides both in scale and situation, a good example of the first generation of rural hotels in New Zealand.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Opihi Hotel has architectural significance as a rare example of a domestic-scaled stone hotel building, and historical and social significance as an intact example of a modest first generation rural hotel. Its location close to a crossing of the Opihi River is a reminder of the route taken by early travellers journeying to the South Canterbury hinterland and to the use of these trails by the bullock wagons used in colonial times. The building's association with the legendary Bullocky Jones also adds to its social values

(a) represents the (often small) licensed establishments built across the country in the wake of the first wave of settlement.

(b) is associated with prominent local figure John 'Bullocky' Jones.

(c) provides evidence of an early (and now unused) route to the Mackenzie Country, and of the carriers who once used it to bring supplies in and wool out of the region.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Upton, W

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Walker, James

James Walker . Emigrated to New Zealand aboard the Canterbury in 1874, and was described as masons on the passenger list.

McDougall, Charles

Charles Morton McDougall. Emigrated to New Zealand aboard the Canterbury in 1874, and was described as masons on the passenger list.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

A small rectangular two-storey building of local limestone, facing east. A central front door originally opened from a veranda to a passage, which separated the two large principal living rooms. These were each lit by single east-facing casement windows. At the rear were the kitchen and associated service rooms. A narrow stairway ascended to the attic storey at the northern end of the building. This storey contained three timber-framed dormers with casement windows, with a further casement window in each gable end.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1878 -

2000 - 2004
Restoration after many years' lack of maintenance and several years when there was no occupant.

Three additional dormer windows (which exactly replicate those on the frontage) have been built into the rear western side of the roof.

A weatherboard 'conservatory' has been added to the north elevation. This is entered through new openings either side of the fireplace in the northern room.

Part of the central passage's southern wall has been removed to unite the space with an enlarged living area.

The front veranda, which was in a decayed condition and has been removed, will shortly be replicated.

Construction Details

Limestone blocks, corrugated iron roof, casement windows.

Completion Date

7th October 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Archives New Zealand (Chch)

Archives New Zealand (Christchurch)

CH24/201 CAHY Timaru Magistrates Court: Register of Licensed Houses 1880-1.

Australian Historical Archaeology

Australian Historical Archaeology

Jacomb, C. 'Bullock Wagons and Settlement Patterns in a New Zealand Pastoral Landscape', 18: 2000, pp 47-62.


N Guthrie, Memories Three; Roving Sketch Book.

Oliver, 1990

Oliver, O. Pleasant Point: A History 1990.

South Canterbury Museum

South Canterbury Museum, Timaru

Business Index

Timaru Herald

Timaru Herald

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region 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.