National Mortgage and Agency Company Limited

11 Tyne Street, Oamaru

  • National Mortgage and Agency Company Limited Building (Former).
    Copyright: North Otago Museum.
  • National Mortgage and Agency Company Limited.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 3/04/2008.
  • National Mortgage and Agency Company Limited. Tyne Street in the 1970s, the building is the second from the right. Image courtesy of the North Otago Museum.
    Copyright: North Otago Museum.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2275 Date Entered 2nd July 1982 Date of Effect 2nd July 1982


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land described as Lots 20-21 DP 88 (RT OT18C/646) Otago Land District, and the building known as the National Mortgage and Agency Company Limited Building (Former), thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lots 20-21 DP 88 (RT OT18C/646) Otago Land District


This single-storey Oamaru stone building, a smaller version of neighbouring Exchange Chambers (Register No. 2276), was probably built in the late 1870s or early 1880s. It was the office of Oamaru’s Evening Mail until 1884 and the National Mortgage and Agency Company (NMA) took over the building in 1889. The former NMA Building is a significant element in the nationally renowned Harbour/Tyne Street Historic Area (Register No. 7064).

In 1876, a group of local businessmen, including the merchant George Sumpter, started the Evening Mail. A photograph shows the paper’s premises – a single storey building with two windows and a central door punctuated by pilasters, with another door to the left. The Evening Mail’s premises are very similar in form to Sumpter’s Exchange Chambers, suggesting Thomas Forrester also designed them. The Oamaru Borough Council’s rate books record offices and a printery for George Jones on this section from 1881 to 1885.

The Evening Mail was not initially a great success. George Jones (1844-1920), an experienced printer and publisher, rescued the paper. He published his first issue on 12 May 1877. Jones, born in the Hutt Valley and educated in Geelong, was involved in the printing business from the age of fourteen. After returning to New Zealand in 1863, he founded the Waikato Times, the Echo in Auckland and the Evening News in Dunedin before buying the Evening Mail in 1877.

Jones changed the Evening Mail’s fortune, although in an unexpected way. Reporting on land speculation, Jones implied that the Attorney General had a conflict of interest. Summoned to the House, Jones was recalcitrant. The House ordered a criminal libel prosecution – Jones was tried and acquitted. This was the first State trial by order of Parliament and vindicated the right of the press to comment on matters of public interest. The Evening Mail became notorious and prospered.

In March 1879, Jones renamed the paper the Oamaru Mail. The newspaper shared the building with the North Otago Permanent Building Society – they had offices, a store and bond at 11 Tyne Street from 1882. Needing more space, Jones built new premises on the opposite side of Tyne Street in 1884 (Register No. 3365).

The NMA took over the building in 1889. The North Otago Times reported that the NMA had secured temporary offices in Tyne Street, ‘those recently occupied by Mr W.J.A. Sanderson, next Exchange buildings.’ The ‘National Mortgage and Agency Co. of New Zealand Limited’ and ‘1889’ are picked out in relief on the pediment. The NMA grew out of Dunedin’s gold rush wealth, exporting wool and providing finance to farmers. They leased the property until 1937.

The association with farming continued in the twentieth century. It was home to stock and station agents Dalgety and Co. Ltd, and then Darling McDowell Ltd. Since 1995, the building has been home to Slightly Foxed Secondhand Books.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Forrester, Thomas

Born in Glasgow and educated at the Glasgow School of Art, Thomas Forrester (1838-1907) emigrated to New Zealand in 1861 with some experience in building construction, particularly plasterwork.

Settling in Dunedin he worked under William Mason (1810-97) and William Henry Clayton (1823-77) and later Robert Arthur Lawson (1833-1902). In 1865 he superintended the Dunedin Exhibition and in 1870 was employed by the Otago Provincial Government to supervise borings for the Waitaki road and rail bridge.

In 1872 Forrester entered partnership with John Lemon (1828-90) in Oamaru. Forrester was responsible for most of the design work while Lemon administered the practice. Among their many designs were St Paul's Church (1875-76), the Harbour Board Offices (1876), Queen's (later Brydone) Hotel (1881), Waitaki Boys' High School (1883), The Courthouse (1883) and the Post Office (1883-84). They contributed greatly to Oamaru's nineteenth century character. On Lemon's death in 1890 the practice was taken over by Forrester's son, John Megget Forrester (1865-1965).

From 1870 Forrester became involved with the supervision of harbour works and some time after 1885 he became Engineer to the Oamaru Harbour Board. In this capacity he designed the repairs to the breakwater following storm damage in 1886 and later the Holmes Wharf. On his death in 1907 he was still in the employ of the Harbour Board.

Forrester is also believed to have prepared the first geological maps of New Zealand under the direction of Sir James Hector (1834-1907).

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1876 - 1880

1891 -
Façade refaced with National Mortgage and Agency Company name and additional embellishments.

Completion Date

17th April 2014

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Muirhead, 1990

Syd Muirhead, Historic North Otago, Oamaru Mail, 1990

Parry, 1964

Gordon Parry, N.M.A.: The story of its 100 Years, National Mortgage and Agency Co. of N.Z. Ltd. 1864-1964, National Mortgage and Agency Co. of New Zealand Ltd., Dunedin, 1964.

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available from the Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand.

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.