Historical Significance or Value
With its proximity to the harbour, the wharf and the railway station, Oxley's Hotel in its present and earlier forms has played a key role in the social history of Picton and the Marlborough Sounds.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
Oxley's Hotel Façade possesses aesthetic value in its composition and Classical detail. This is in a formal Italian Palazzo style, a distinctive and popular choice for prominent commercial buildings in the period around 1900. A building's facades are its public face, a public announcement about what one can expect to find within; and there is a parallel between the original use (bar with accommodation above), and the redevelopment of the Oxley's Rock (café, bar and restaurant, with residential use above). The intended effect of the Oxley's Hotel façade was to project an image of stability, luxury and wealth, and although this effect is diminished by the construction of the new five-storey structure, which envelopes the remains of the original building, it is not eliminated. The refurbishment of the façade, including the restoration of original leadlight windows and a paint scheme in heritage colours, contributes to its aesthetic value.
The location of the structure on the corner of two of Picton's major streets and opposite the town's wharf and Cook Strait ferry terminal, ensures that the façade is highly visible from land and water and has significant aesthetic value as a prominent feature in the streetscape of the town. It is a good period building, of impressive scale, and of intricate and interesting detail; it is visible to the public from streets in the central area of Picton, from Queen Charlotte Sound and the surrounding hills. The verandah in particular adds significant aesthetic value to the façade for its three-dimensional form and decorative cast iron lacework detail.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The distinctive Italian Palazzo style of Oxley's Hotel made the structure one of Picton's most imposing buildings, and an important part of the town's architectural heritage. The façade and verandah are now the only parts of the building remaining, and they have been incorporated into a new five-storey structure that surrounds the remains of the original building. These changes have diminished the façade's architectural value, but it still possesses some value, as assessed by Conservation Architect Chris Cochran:
'Oxley's Hotel has some architectural value, since the design intention is still fully legible. All important features of the façade remain, with the exception of the plain parapet above the cornice. The removal of the parapet gives a slightly 'clipped' appearance to the façade, but below the cornice the original architectural composition is intact.
Oxley's retains a three-dimensional presence, since the verandah forms spaces outside the façade, both for the public at pavement level and for private decks for apartments at first floor level.
The original relationship of the building to the public space of the street can be readily understood today. The façade remains as a very good example of the public architecture of a quality hotel from around the turn of the century.
The main space behind the façade takes on some of the character of the original bar etc because its form and height is partly determined by the shape and fenestration of the façade. Put another way, the façade is not tacked on but is integral with the new structure and helps define the main ground floor space.
The cast iron verandah is a very good example of such a structure, in reasonably authentic condition, and with high aesthetic and streetscape values. It is a functional element in providing sheltered space at pavement level and open space to the apartments above. The verandah casts patterned shadows and modulates the light to the ground floor spaces.'
Oxley's Hotel is the dominant architectural feature in the street fronting the harbour, making a significant contribution to the character of Picton as seen from the waterfront and the sea.
Social Significance or Value:
Oxley's Hotel Façade can be considered to possess social significance or value. The façade was the dominant architectural feature of Oxley's Hotel. The prominence of the façade in the Picton streetscape, and the length of time it has survived on the site make it an expression of cultural continuity, providing a physical link between early Picton and the Picton of today. In a town where there is a dearth of built heritage, Oxley's Hotel Facade can be considered to have significant value as a marker or physical reminder of the hotel that was an integral part of Picton's social history for many years, and that has noteworthy importance for its frequent employment as a landmark symbol of the town. Oxley's Hotel Façade has played a prominent part in the creation and marketing of Picton's visual identity.
The façade's social value is clearly demonstrated by the efforts of those who were involved in the campaign to retain the building and subsequently the façade, and the community esteem for the finished redevelopment. The significance of the building from which the façade remains is demonstrated by the wealth of opinion pieces and comment generated throughout the redevelopment process, which aimed to ensure that this fragment of history was appropriately honoured within the townscape. The social value of the façade and its importance to the community are also supported by the submissions received as part of the NZHPT public notification process.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:
The public esteem for the facade is clearly demonstrated by the efforts of those involved in the campaign to save the building and retain the façade in a manner complementary to its heritage values, and by the wealth of comment and published opinion pieces generated throughout the redevelopment process. As the remaining part of a building so important to Picton's social history as a gathering place and as a prominent landmark in the visual identity of the town, Oxley's Hotel Facade is held in very high regard by the community. This regard is supported by the submissions received as part of the NZHPT review of registration process.
(f) The potential of the place for public education:
As one of the most prominent features in the Picton townscape and one with clear links to the historical past of the town, easily viewed by visitors and travellers using the ferry services and harbour, with interpretation the Oxley's Hotel Façade provides an excellent opportunity to tell the story of Picton's heritage.
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: e, f.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Historical Description and Analysis:
In the 1840s, European colonists selected the future site of Picton to be the major gateway by sea for the Wairau Valley. Originally the Maori settlement of Waitohi, an important pa of Te Atiawa, in 1850 the site was purchased from Te Atiawa chiefs with a deed drawn up by Major Richmond and Dillon Bell. Local Maori were relocated to a new village laid out at Waikawa Bay, and the colonial settlement of Waitohi, renamed Picton in 1859, grew steadily from the late 1850s onwards.
The first hotels in Picton were built during the late 1850s, providing an accommodation service for visitors, labourers and travellers. The building that became known as Oxley's Hotel was built on Picton's waterfront around 1870, on the site of an earlier timber hotel.
Picton builder William Pugh, the hotel's first manager, is thought to have constructed the 1870 building. Originally known as the 'Bank Hotel', the building was transferred to Allen Gulliver Divens (1831-1909) in 1881. Renamed the 'Pier Hotel', the building was leased to 'Newth and Andrews' until 1883 when Divens took over management. Divens upgraded the hotel's facilities, and the Marlborough Express reported that Divens had had 'everything in short done to convert the Hotel to a first class establishment'. The article indicated that the two-storey building featured ten bedrooms and a private sitting room on the first floor, and a bar, a bar parlour, a dining room with seating for eight persons, and a billiard room on the ground floor.
In 1887 Divens sold the hotel to his son-in-law Francis Allwood Oxley. Two years later Oxley is thought to have constructed a two-storey timber wing on the south side of the hotel. In 1899 Oxley appears to have employed George Alexander Smith to assist with major alterations and additions to the building. Over this three-year period, the original portions of the hotel were demolished, leaving only the timber portion (1889) constructed on the south side. Added to this timber portion was a two-storey masonry building with a curved façade in Italianate Palazzo style. The hotel, renamed Oxley's, included 29 rooms, of which 16 were bedrooms.
Oxley's Hotel continued to serve as an important gathering place throughout its history, until its closure in 2003. Especially in the earlier part of the twentieth century, community meetings were regularly held in the hotel. In 1911, for example, 'some sixty representative men of Marlborough' attended a meeting at Oxley's where the Mayor of Picton presided over a reception for the Hon. J.A. Millar (Minister for Railways) and MP for the district (John Duncan), to discuss Picton's economic progress in becoming the proposed 'Liverpool of the South'. Oxley's Hotel was also locally significant for being the first building in Picton to have its own electric power plant, a hydroelectric system driven by an 18-inch Pelton wheel, made and installed by engineers from Wellington.
Oxley's Hotel also served and continues to serve as a prominent visual symbol for Picton. Picton's position as a harbour and transport hub between the North and South Islands has long been of fundamental economic importance to the town, and Oxley's, due to its history and prime location in an area highly visible from land and water, became integrally associated with the visual identity of Picton. In 1986, Taylor noted that:
'The verandah, lace ironwork and façade of Oxley's Hotel [were] part of the extensive rebuilding of 1899. These have drawn a lot of attention to the hotel, there must be hundreds of photos taken each year by visitors to Picton. With Oxley's and the old Post Office both situated in the same area, makes this part of London Quay very historic'.
The old Post Office referred to here has since been demolished (Record number 5195, removed from NZHPT Register), leaving Oxley's as 'essentially the centrepiece of what remains of the old Picton'. As well as numerous postcard views and publicity shots, the hotel has featured in commercials for the Cook Strait Interislander ferry, and also as a backdrop for some of the action in the 1981 movie Goodbye Pork Pie, when one of the characters makes the 'pub-stop in Picton common to many ferry-goers'.
In 1991 the colonial style verandah, which was a popular feature of the building but in poor condition, was removed from the façade of the hotel and put into storage. The following year the owners were informed that the building was an earthquake risk by the Marlborough District Council. Proposals for strengthening the building were obtained and funding was sought. Yet by 2000 little had been achieved and schemes to demolish the hotel building began to surface, eliciting some response from the public who were 'concerned about the future of one of our few historic buildings'. By 2003 firm plans for demolishing the structure, with the exception of the masonry façade (protected by a listing in the Marlborough District Plan), had been developed in the form of a 17-metre high modern commercial and residential building designed to surround the facade. The loss of heritage and threat to Picton's unique character that the scale of the development would involve concerned the local authority, the public, and the NZHPT, who advocated for retention of the whole building and opposed the proposal in a hearing in 2003. Local paper Seaport News also commented on the significant implications of modern development for Picton, stating that 'few other places have so much of their town's visual identity tied up in such a confined and prominent location', and that:
'That old view of Picton, the Quay as seen from the Harbour, has been quite a resource for the town over the years ... an enduring image shared and enjoyed by many over the last century, of significance for its visual tenacity and continuity if nothing else'.
In light of criticisms expressed in the submissions the developers presented revised plans before the hearing, however the owner's application for resource consent to erect the new building was declined. The owners then appealed the decision and filed a demolition notice. An Environment Court mediation in 2004, in which NZHPT joined the proceedings as an affected party, resulted in a Heads of Agreement with regard to revised plans prepared with the input of the NZHPT. These plans involved modification of the proposed development and retention of the brick masonry façade in a scheme more appropriate to the heritage values of the structure. With the exception of the façade, the rest of the building was demolished in its entirety in 2004. During this process a shell midden and the foundations of the pre-1889 version of the building were identified along with other evidence of early European occupation, however the archaeological value of the site was destroyed in the course of the demolition and redevelopment.
The retained façade has since been incorporated into the new development, in which a new five-storey building has been constructed around it. This has resulted in modifications to the façade, including the removal of the parapet and alterations to the windows. However, the lace ironwork verandah has been reinstated, a popular feature that many in Picton were happy to have restored to the townscape. This adds a significant three-dimensional aspect to the façade.
The final design for the building, renegotiated as part of the Environment Court mediation process to attain a result more complementary to the remaining heritage values of the retained Oxley's Hotel Façade, resulted in a number of modifications. These involved increasing the setbacks of the upper storeys of the building to allow the façade more prominence as a feature, and a distinct treatment for the new development which saw the whole building being redesigned to give the appearance of three adjacent yet related buildings - a treatment helped by the corner site and the curved nature of the Oxley's Hotel Façade. Consequently, this tripartite design also communicated a stronger identity for the Oxley's façade, and design elements from the façade (Ionic pilasters) were also carried over into the design for the new redevelopment. The façade was refurbished in a colour scheme based on original heritage colours, and original stained glass windows in the portals above the bar area were restored and reinstalled, enhancing the aesthetic value and integrity of the façade. The new building has a café, bar and restaurant on the ground floor and apartments above, echoing the earlier functions of the old hotel.
Since construction of the new Oxley's Rock development was completed in 2006, the Picton community has shown its support for the new building, largely because of the heritage it represents due to the incorporation of the Oxley's Hotel Façade. In a town where little built heritage remains, the Oxley's Hotel Façade represents one of the most visible remaining links to the past history of the town and the identity with which Picton has marketed itself. Community esteem for the façade is most strongly evidenced by the wealth of opinion pieces generated during the redevelopment process, and the submissions received as part of the review of registration process initiated by the NZHPT. Submitters to the NZHPT felt that the combined façade and verandah retained character of earlier times, and with interpretation had the potential to provide an excellent story on the heritage of the town, and that:
'After a somewhat controversial start many of the project's original detractors have since 'softened their stance' and locals and tourists alike have praised the initiative of all involved (including the Historic Places Trust) in preserving one of the few remaining structural examples of Picton's early heritage.'
The Marlborough Express echoed its support by stating: 'The ornate Oxley's façade resurrected and completely restored ... is still a landmark of merit on the Picton landscape and continues to represent old-world charm...'
Although the original heritage values of the façade have been diminished by the surrounding redevelopment and loss of the majority of the fabric of the old building, much of the aesthetic and architectural value of the original Oxley's Hotel façade remains in place, and has been enhanced by the refurbishment and reinstatement of the verandah. The façade remains a very good example of the public architecture of a quality hotel from the 1890s. Most importantly, the continuity that Oxley's Hotel Façade represents, as a rare remaining link to the historic heritage of the town and as a prominent visual symbol of Picton, ensures its significance to the local community as well as the many travellers who pass through on their journeys between the North and South Islands.
Architect: Insufficient information to establish. Although William Pugh was the original owner of the Bank Hotel which comprises the older section of the present Oxley Hotel. As one of Picton's early builders he may have been responsible for the design and construction of this section of the building.
Builder: George Alexander Smith
The remains of Oxley's Hotel, which consist of part of the façade, are constructed from brick with plaster finish and a cast iron verandah with new timber decking.
The original Oxley's Hotel stood opposite the Picton Wharf on the corner of London Quay and Wellington Street. The building was mostly demolished in 2004; the curved street façade was retained and temporarily supported while a new structure, known as Oxley's Rock Development, was built behind it. The façade was strengthened, and incorporated into the structure of the new building. The cast iron verandah, a prominent feature of the building that extended the full length of the street facade, had been removed in 1991; the components of the verandah had been stored at this time, allowing it to be reconstructed as part of the redevelopment. The verandah is an example of Victorian lacework in style, made from cast iron and timber supported by eight posts, each with a cast-iron base.
Oxley's Hotel therefore survives today as a street façade and verandah, part of a modern development of shops and apartments rising to five storeys. The new building, known as Oxley's Rock Development, is designed as three 'parts', each being given a distinct treatment that means it can almost be read as three buildings. This is emphasised by the street boundary curving around the corner of London Quay and Wellington Street, the parts of the building having not only different architectural treatment but different orientation. The curved nature of the original Oxley's Hotel façade is complemented by this design.
The central part is comprised of the old Oxley's façade, with two floors added above; these are set back from the face of Oxley's, and have open decks behind the old (lowered) parapet. To the left (or south) is a narrow five storey high part to the building, and to the right (or north) is a much wider part, again of five storeys. This three-part division of the building is reflected in the rear elevation, where there are three separate stair and lift wells.
The Oxley's façade itself retains its integrity in most of the detail - Ionic pilasters dividing the façade into seven bays, windows with alternating segmental and triangular pediments, and strong cornice and pediment. The design is based on the Italian Palazzo style, which was a popular choice for hotels in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century. The window frames and the lead-light glass in the fanlights on the ground floor are in place, while the main sashes have been rehung and rebuilt (with moulded profiles) to allow the installation of double-glazing. The inner face of the facade has been strengthened with a 300mm thick concrete wall with dowels at 200mm centres both ways into the old masonry.
The original cast iron verandah has been fully reinstated. Some 90% of the balustrade is original, and new matching castings were made to make up for the lost material. The base of two of the cast iron posts had been lost too, and these were made up from the verandah of the shop next door, which was demolished as part of the redevelopment. The timber roof/deck framing of the verandah is new.
Exterior: Paired casement windows have replaced the original sash windows on the principal elevation of the older wooden section of the building. Part of the surmounting parapet on the hotel's main facade has been removed. The precise date of these modifications is not known.
Interior: Over the years the ground floor has been extensively renovated, the grand central stair has been removed and there have been modifications to the bedrooms. Most recently the first floor rooms have been converted to living quarters for the lessees of the tavern.
The cast iron lace work and the "Art Nouveau" styled leadlights over the ground floor windows.
Removal of surmounting parapet
Removal of verandahs
Oxley's Hotel classified as an earthquake risk under section 66 of the Buildings Act 1991.
Demolished - Redevelopment
2004 - 2005
Oxley's Hotel partially demolished and redeveloped.
2006 - 2007
Façade refurbished, repainted in heritage colour scheme; original stained glass windows restored.
Bank Hotel upgraded
Construction of timber portion of Hotel
1899 - 1902
Alterations and additions to Hotel (Construction of brick portion of Hotel)
Name 'Oxleys' added to Hotel façade
Bank Hotel constructed on site
Older Section: Timber with corrugated galvanised iron roof.
Main Section: Brick masonry with plaster finish, corrugated galvanised iron roof; timber flooring for verandah with cast iron posts and balustrades.
19th September 2008
Report Written By
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906
'Picton's Progress', 19 May 1911, p.2.
A D McIntosh et al (eds), Marlborough: A Provincial History, Marlborough Historical Society, Blenheim, 1940
J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
'Oxley's Hotel, Picton', NZHPT Files 12011-026, vols.1-6
'Archaeological Authority 2005/41’, NZHPT file 11036-031 Vol. 5, held at NZHPT Central Region office.
Taylor, M. J., 'The Bank Hotel; History of Oxleys Hotel’, (unpublished), 1986 (copy on NZHPT File 12011-026, vol.1).
C. Cochran, 'Words for Oxley’s Registration Form’, 30 March 2007, NZHPT file 12011-026 vol.6.
New Zealand Listener
New Zealander Listener
B. Ansley. 'Closing time', October 25-31 2003
Picton Borough Council
Picton Borough Council
Early photographs held by Picton Borough Council
A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
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.