Star and Garter Hotel (Former)

13 -17 Itchen Street, Oamaru

  • Star and Garter Hotel (Former).
    Copyright: Bob Avis. Taken By: Bob Avis. Date: 29/07/2009.
  • .
    Copyright: Bob Avis. Taken By: Bob Avis. Date: 29/07/2009.
  • .
    Copyright: Bob Avis. Taken By: Bob Avis. Date: 29/07/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3219 Date Entered 22nd August 1991 Date of Effect 22nd August 1991


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 2 (RT OT194/26), and part of the land described as Pt Lot 2 and Lots 3-7 DP 2633 (OT194/27), Otago Land District, and the buildings associated with the Star and Garter Hotel (Former) thereon. (Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List / Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 12 November 2015).

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 2 (RT OT194/26), Pt Lot 2 and Lots 3-7 DP 2633 (OT194/27), Otago Land District


The grand Star and Garter Hotel, designed by Dunedin architect RA Lawson, and built between 1866 and 1868, set the standard for hotel accommodation in Oamaru, and is a good example of Victorian Italianate architecture in Oamaru’s outstanding historic precinct. It has historical, architectural and townscape significance.

Places for travellers to stay were among the first buildings to be built in Oamaru. H.C. Hertslet was a Moeraki storekeeper; he shifted to Oamaru in 1858 and built his timber Accommodation House on this site and ran the Government Store. Brothers Fred and Edwin Collis managed the business for Hertslet until 1860 when Hertslet sold the property to Christchurch man William Jones. Jones ‘improved the house inside and out’ and changed the name from “The Accommodation House” to “The Star and Garter”.’ William Jones offered the hotel and its associated property for sale in February 1864. The sale notice describes the hotel with 27 bedrooms, three sitting rooms, a bar, a billiard room and a store, as well as a kitchen, and associated stabling.

Richard Payne, along with partners Armstrong and Newey took over the hotel, and with the Loyal Oamaru Masonic Lodge looked to develop the site. The Loyal Oamaru Masonic Lodge bought the property and planned this grand building as Oamaru’s Masonic Hall and the Star and Garter Hotel. The Lodge formed the Masonic Hall Company to run the project, with lodge members as directors and shareholders in the company. Dunedin architect R.A. Lawson won the competition to design a Masonic Hall, incorporating a new building for the Star and Garter Hotel, in Oamaru, calling for tenders for the first stage on 12 October 1866. Dunedin contractors Macdonald and Serle were the successful tenderers. The first stage of the building cost £1450.

By July 1867, the first stage of the building was nearly complete. The first section was consisted of a two storey structure covering an area of 63 by 43 feet [19.2 by 13.1 metres]. The North Otago Times reported that the building was ‘Corinthian’ in style with a 30 foot [9.1 metre] high façade, divided into six bays. The six upper storey windows were flanked by Corinthian pilasters with floriated capitals. In the lower storey four of the bays had windows, with the remaining two bays occupied by the entrances. The main central doorway was flanked by double columns. Both doors were surmounted by projecting balustrades. The balustrade on the parapet had pedestals and floriated vases. The entablature above the main entrance had the words “Masonic Hotel” in raised block letters. The ‘basement’ (more likely ground floor) contained a dining room, billiard room, parlour and lobby. The Masonic portion of the building took up the whole upper storey, and consisted of two small ante-rooms opening into the Hall, over which was a gallery. The hall was 21 feet [6.4 metres] in height, with a stone interior. The ceiling included a moulded cornice, as well as recessed panels finished with floral ornaments. There was a recessed area at the rear of the hall, flanked by Doric pilasters. The ground floor was let to Armstrong and Payne of the Star and Garter, with a link to their proposed new building which formed part of the design. The Masonic Hall portion was ‘little more than one-half of the whole elevation’.

Lawson called for tenders for the second stage of the building on 31 May 1867. The second stage was completed in 1868, and the whole complex renamed the Star and Garter. The completed building opened on 14 July 1868. The major difference between the two parts of the building was that the extension had an additional floor with rooms lighted by dormer windows. At the time it was described as "the finest hotel building in the province if not the colony". As well as lodge meetings, balls and dances, the hall was used for a variety of functions and many travelling companies brought their shows to Oamaru.

In 1876 the Masonic brethren built a new Masonic Tabernacle in Wansbeck Street and the proprietors of the Star and Garter, Mr and Mrs G.L. Langford, decided to convert the former Masonic Hall into additional bedrooms, taking the total to 35. The Star and Garter changed hands many times over the years and continued to operate as a hotel until 14 February 1915 when the building was gutted by fire. The facade and surviving rooms were stabilised but left unoccupied until after World War I when the Oamaru Returned Soldiers Association occupied part of the ground floor. About 1920 the Regimental Band (Fifth Mounted Rifles, Otago Hussars) occupied the original Masonic Hall, converting it into a band room and renaming it Lyric Hall. Lyric Hall served Oamaru for 25 years. The building has had a variety of tenants over the years. The east wing is currently owned by the Oamaru Repertory Society Incorporated and comprises a theatre complex with stage, backstage, changing rooms and seating. The west wing was occupied by the Ministry of Works and Development until 1983 when it became vacant.

In 2015, the building is occupied by the Oamaru Repertory Society, Musical Theatre Oamaru and other commercial tenants.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Occupying the site of Oamaru's first accommodation house, the Star and Garter operated as a hotel for 47 years (1867-1914). The building also incorporated a Masonic Hall (later Lyric Hall) which has catered for live entertainment since it was built. It continues to operate in that function as a repertory theatre.


While the interior was rebuilt following a fire in 1915, the exterior of the Star and Garter is a good example of Victorian Italianate architecture other than the windows which have been replaced. While the Italianate style was used repeatedly for commercial buildings in New Zealand, this building is distinguished by its Oamaru stone construction and long, symmetrical facade. It is also a significant part of the Harbour/Tyne Street conservation area, New Zealand's most important collection of Victorian streetscapes.


The Star and Garter is a prominent building, its facade dominating the Itchen Street streetscape.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lawson, Robert Arthur

Born in Scotland, Lawson (1833-1902) began his professional career in Perth. At the age of 25 he moved to Melbourne and was engaged in goldmining and journalism before resuming architectural practice. In 1862 Lawson sailed for Dunedin, where his sketch plans had won the competition for the design of First Church. This was built 1867-73. Lawson went on to become one of the most important architects in New Zealand. First Church is regarded as his masterpiece and one of the finest nineteenth century churches in New Zealand.

He was also responsible for the design of the Trinity Church (now Fortune Theatre), Dunedin (1869-70), the East Taieri Presbyterian Church (1870), and Knox Church, Dunedin (1874). He designed Park's School (1864) and the ANZ Bank (originally Union Bank, 1874). In Oamaru he designed the Bank of Otago (later National Bank building, 1870) and the adjoining Bank of New South Wales (now Forrester Gallery, 1881).

See also: Ledgerwood, Norman, 2013. 'R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin'. Historic Cemeteries Conservation NZ.

Macdonald and Searle

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


This two-storeyed building with basement below is Victorian Italianate in style and the street (north) facade is symmetrical about a pedimented entrance bay. The entrance consists of double doors with a circular column on either side bridged by a round arch. Each column is flanked by a pair of rusticated pilasters, the inner ones with two corbels supporting a dentilled stringcourse. At first floor this central bay has one double-hung sash window with a carved stone face fixed to the centre of the moulded architrave. The window is flanked by a pair of Corinthian pilasters on either side, directly above the rusticated pilasters at ground floor level. The inner pilasters have pedestals corresponding to the corbels below. Above this arrangement is a moulded architrave, a frieze with the inscription "STAR & GARTER", a cornice with dentils and modillions and a pediment which originally formed the central section of a parapet. The parapet, consisting of a series of carved stone urns, has been removed.

On either side of this central bay the street facade has a series of five similar bays. The ground floor is rusticated and of the five bays, the central one incorporates an entrance while the other four originally had a single round headed window. These windows are still in place on the east side but have been replaced with simple square-headed ones on the west side. Those on the east side have spikes at sill height to dissuade loiterers. At first floor level each of the ten bays has a single square-headed window with a Corinthian pilaster between. Two windows on the east side have been boarded over. At either end of the facade is a pair of rusticated pilasters at ground floor level and a pair of Corinthian pilasters at first floor level.

The interior of the building has been considerably altered.


c.1876 - Masonic hall converted to bedrooms.

1915 - Interior rebuilt following fire.

Dates not known:

- Parapet removed

- Balustrading of first floor balconies removed

- Two first floor windows boarded over

- Four ground floor arched windows replaced

Notable Features

Oamaru stone details including corbels, capitals, architraves and rustication.

Spikes at sill height of ground floor arched windows.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1866 - 1868

1876 -
Masonic hall converted to bedrooms.

1915 -
Interior rebuilt following fire.

Parapet removed. Balustrading of first floor balconies removed. Two first floor windows boarded over. Four ground floor arched windows replaced.

1867 -
Masonic Hall opened

1915 -
ire closes hotel

Construction Details

Oamaru stone masonry. Roof clad with corrugated steel.

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

5th August 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT DN 177/124; 194/25; 194/26

McDonald, 1962

K C McDonald, 'White Stone Country', Oamaru, 1962

North Otago Times

North Otago Times

North Otago Times, 12 Jul 1867, p. 3.

Oamaru Mail

Oamaru Mail

Oamaru Mail, 7 Mar 1867, p. 7.

Syd Muirhead Collection

Syd Muirhead Collection, Oamaru (Copy held at NZHPT)

Ledgerwood (2013)

Norman Ledgerwood, R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin, Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand, Dunedin, 2013

Other Information

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

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.

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