J.G. Flett's Bookstore (Former)

19 Itchen Street, Oamaru

  • J.G. Flett’s Bookstore (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 4628 Date Entered 25th September 1986 Date of Effect 25th September 1986


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 4109 (RT OT246/159), Otago Land District, and the building known as J.G. Flett's Bookstore (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 4109 (RT OT246/159), Otago Land District


This modest Oamaru stone shop built in 1871 for bookseller James Grinton (JG) Flett (1841-c.1902?) was designed by well-known Oamaru architectural partnership Forrester and Lemon.

The 1870s saw Oamaru’s retail premises expand. Larger two-storey premises were built on Thames, Itchen and Tyne Streets. Scottish-born J.G. Flett’s two storey shop was among the earliest of the larger buildings which replaced the first small shops. In September 1871 the North Otago Times reported that Flett would ‘open those new and central premises in Itchen Street’ the following week. He advertised as a ‘Bookseller and Stationer’ and also stocked ‘fancy goods’ and ‘Berlin Wool.’

In 1877 Flett returned to England, and moved to Edinburgh, where he died around 1902. Flett sold his business to W.H. Ronayne (‘formerly of the North Otago Times’) and W.H. Cotterell in July 1877. With the economic slump of the 1880s William Ronayne shifted to Auckland and then to San Francisco.

Flett seems to have leased the land/and or the premises to a number of tenants. The land was leased on a 99 year term to George Snadden in July 1880. George Snadden was a tailor and clothing retailer.

In the 1930s the building was owned by a firm of Oamaru land, grain and stock agents, Stringer and Co. Ltd. The Royal Alfred Lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows acquired the property in 1958 and owned it until 1991. The upper floor provided residential accommodation, and the Lodge met on the ground floor. The Independent Order of Oddfellows was a Friendly Society started during the Californian gold rush and which came to New Zealand during the goldrushes of the 1860s, and existed to provide insurance related benefits to members and their families. The Oamaru lodge held its first meeting on 1 July 1868 at the Royal Hotel in Tees Street. It recently celebrated its 140th anniversary of signing its charter.

Architectural historian Conal McCarthy describes Flett’s bookstore as a having a ‘narrow, plain façade’ which ‘presented groups of three windows repeated through two storeys which were flanked by pilasters and capped by a cornice.’ Plans show that the original ground floor layout included a kitchen, parlour, hallway, and shop.

In 2013 this modest building remains a significant element in Oamaru’s Harbour/Tyne Historic Area (Register No. 7064).


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).

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1871 -

Completion Date

9th May 2013

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McCarthy, 2002

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

North Otago Times

North Otago Times

22 Sep 1871, p.3.; 2 Jul 1877, p.3.; 19 Sep 1896, p.3.

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.