Colonial Bank of New Zealand (Former)

1 Thames Street And 8 Itchen Street, Oamaru

  • Colonial Bank of New Zealand (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 28/06/2012.
  • Colonial Bank of New Zealand (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 28/06/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2279 Date Entered 2nd July 1982 Date of Effect 2nd July 1982


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 31-32 DP 88 (RT OT15C/1041), Otago Land District, and the building known as the Colonial Bank of New Zealand (Former), thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lots 31-32 DP 88 (RT OT15C/1041), Otago Land District


The Colonial Bank of New Zealand was a Dunedin institution formed to compete with the Bank of Otago. It spread throughout New Zealand. The Colonial Bank of New Zealand opened its first premises on Tyne Street in 1876. It quickly outgrew its temporary premises and arranged to lease Harbour Board land on the corner of Thames and Itchen Streets. The building has architectural, historical and social significance for its role as a provincial financial institution and for its strong visual contribution to the character of the centre of Oamaru.

The Oamaru Mail provides a detailed description of the new buildings. Thomas Forrester designed the new ‘temple of mammon’ which presented ‘a very pleasing appearance’, though marred by its ‘isolated situation’ marooned on the corner between Itchen Street and Oamaru Creek. The 44 foot high building had a 46 foot frontage to Thames Street and a 50 foot front to Itchen Street. Though not elaborate, it presented a ‘solid and substantial appearance, indicative, no doubt, of the nature of the business to be transacted within its portals.’ The main entrance from Thames street led to the banking hall (30 feet by 23 feet [9.1 by 7 metres], with a ceiling height of 19 feet [5.8 metres]) with its ‘massive cornice and centre ornament of 5ft. in diameter.’ The fittings were cedar. Other rooms included the manager’s room, next to it the strong room (14 feet by 20 feet [4.3 by 6.1 metres]). Behind the strong room were the caretaker’s apartments, consisting of a bedroom and sitting room. Upstairs were five offices, to be let separately. Some 18,000 cubic feet of Oamaru stone were used in its construction. The article indicated that the bank building should be completed in January 1878. Wilson, Roxburgh and Co. were the stone masons, while West and Sinclair completed the carpentry work.

The Colonial Bank is a ‘rather plain interpretation of the palazzo style.’ Art historian Conal McCarthy describes the building: ‘The ground floor is rusticated, with an order of very severe, paired Doric pilasters flanking round-headed windows, while the top floor has an order of Ionic pilasters. The façade is capped by a plain parapet.’ A small Doric portico emphasises the main entrance.

Offices were built to the east of the Colonial Bank for the South British Insurance Company in 1881. The North Otago Times reported that the new buildings ‘while improving the appearance of the bank premises will also fill up an unsightly gap in the main thoroughfare.’

In 1895, the Bank of New Zealand purchased the Colonial Bank. The Bank of New Zealand occupied this building until 1969. After the bank vacated the building, the Oamaru Operative Society moved in.

In 2015, the former Colonial Bank is home to Oamaru’s I-Site information centre.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Forrester & Lemon

The architectural partnership of Forrester and Lemon was established in Oamaru in 1872.

Thomas Forrester (1838-1907) was born in Glasgow and educated at the Glasgow School of Art. Emigrating to New Zealand in 1861 he settled in Dunedin and 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 from 1870 he became involved with the supervision of harbour works. Some time after 1885 he became Engineer to the Oamaru Harbour Board and in this capacity 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.

John Lemon (1828-1890) was born in Jamaica and travelled to England before emigrating to New Zealand in 1849. He settled in Oamaru in 1860 and with his brother Charles established a timber merchant's business. By 1869 he was in partnership with his father-in-law, George Sumpter calling themselves "Timber and General Merchants, Land and Commission Agents". This partnership was dissolved in 1872 and Lemon entered into partnership with Forrester. Lemon had no architectural experience at all, but had a wide circle of business contacts and was an efficient administrator.

Buildings designed by the partnership of Forrester and Lemon include 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), all in Oamaru. Forrester and Lemon 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).

Wilson and Roxburgh

Stonemasons for AH Maude's 1876 addition to the 1875 grain stores on Harbour Street in Oamaru.

West and Sinclair

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1877 -

1881 -
offices built on east elevation

Completion Date

14th August 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McCarthy, 2002

Conal McCarthy, Forrester and Lemon of Oamaru, architects, Oamaru, 2002

Other Information

This registration is also included in the Harbour/Tyne Street Historic Area (Record no. 7064).

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.

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