Northern Hotel (Former)

11 Wansbeck Street And Tyne Street, Oamaru

  • Northern Hotel (Former), Oamaru.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/03/2012.
  • Northern Hotel (Former), Oamaru.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/03/2012.
  • Northern Hotel (Former), Oamaru. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: No Known Copyright Restrictions. Taken By: Karora - Wikimedia Commons. Date: 22/04/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2292 Date Entered 2nd July 1982 Date of Effect 2nd July 1982


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land in Sec 11 Blk II Town of Oamaru (RT OT198/8), Otago Land District, and the building known as the Northern Hotel (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 11 Blk II Town of Oamaru (RT OT198/8), Otago Land District


The former Northern Hotel, sitting amidst modern engineering works, has had a chequered history. The Hotel’s predecessor, the first Northern Hotel built for Andrew Baker in 1860, was the first hotel in Oamaru. It was a timber building which accommodated thirty guests and had three bars which catered for locals, guests, as well as the more colourful people associated with the port. The first meeting of the Oamaru Town Board was held in the Northern Hotel in March 1863. The red letter day for the building was Governor Grey’s two night stay in February 1867. The first railway station in Oamaru was opened across the road from the Northern in 1873. After a couple of further ownership changes in the 1870s George Amos bought the hotel in 1879.

By 1879 there were seventeen hotels in Oamaru, their ornate Victorian facades vying for attention. Amos joined the rivalry, engaging architects Thomas Forrester and John Lemon to draw up plans for a new building. Forrester and Lemon, who had earlier designed the Commercial and the Criterion Hotels in Oamaru, continued the popular Italianate style with paired pilasters flanking three sets of arched windows on the ground floor, and three sets of four-semi-circular windows on the first floor. The double entrance doors were placed at an angle on the street corner. The stone mason was John McCombe and the carpenter John Somerville.

In 1883 Amos sold the Hotel to Lewis Morton. Morton in turn sold to Thomas Proctor (formerly a proprietor of the Royal Hotel in Tees Street). Along with the growing town came an increasingly vocal campaign for prohibition led by the North Otago Prohibition Association. In1894 four Oamaru hotels lost their licenses, including the Northern. The Northern Hotel transformed into the Northern Temperance Boarding House run first by Mrs Pocklington and later by Mrs Landels. Mr Landels ran the Northern stables next door.

Further changes followed when the Oamaru Railway Station was moved to Humber Street, closer to Thames Street, now the main highway through the town. Guests found the hotels on Thames Street more convenient and could still imbibe, at least until 1906 when Oamaru went dry. The property had a succession of women owners, and traded under a number of names, into the 1940s, after which it was sold to Taylor’s Lime Company and in 1960 to Gillies Foundry Ltd. Gillies sold the property in 2006.

In more recent times, parts of the largely unoccupied building have been open to the public during Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage celebrations, with visitors admiring its striking staircase, stained glass windows, old wallpaper and elaborate ceilings. It has also housed a photography exhibition. In 2012 the Northern Hotel (Former) on the street corner, is surrounded by foundry and engineering works, looking across to the now quiet Oamaru Harbour.


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).

McCombe, J.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Somerville, John

Carpenter for Criterion Hotel in Oamaru, completed 1877.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1860 -
First Northern Hotel constructed

Original Construction
1880 -

Completion Date

7th May 2012

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McCarthy, 2002

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

Oamaru Mail

Oamaru Mail

18 Nov 2010; 9 Feb 2011

Muirhead, 1990

Syd Muirhead, Historic North Otago, Oamaru Mail, 1990

Other Information

A fully referenced Upgrade Report is available from the Otago/Southland Area office of NZHPT.

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.