T.H. Brown and Co.'s Auction Mart (Former)

17 Tyne Street, Oamaru

  • T.H. Brown and Co.’s Auction Mart (Former). Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4687 Date Entered 25th September 1986 Date of Effect 25th September 1986


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land described as Lots 15-16 DP 88 (RTs OT413/83, 28201), Otago Land District, and the building known as T.H. Brown and Co.'s Auction Mart (Former).

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lots 15-16 DP 88, (RTs OT413/83, 28201), Otago Land District


This modest single-storey Oamaru stone building, built in 1883, housed the auction rooms of general merchant and commission agent T.H. Brown.

Tyne Street was one of the earliest commercial areas which developed in Oamaru. By the mid-1860s there were a cluster of commercial buildings. Thomas Hood Brown (d.1905) was not the first owner of the land – John McLean leased Lot 16 in 1877 and John Lemon took over the lease in 1879. Lemon sold the lease to Thomas Hood Brown and James Hassell the younger in 1883. Thomas Brown was a general merchant and commission agent. Brown had a store further down Tyne Street that was built in 1876 (Register No. 2289), designed by architect James Johnston.

In early 1883 Brown went into partnership with James Hassell the younger as auctioneers and commission agents. New premises were being built in March 1883. An 1884 advertisement names the building as ‘T.H. Brown and Co.’s auction mart.’ It is thought that James Johnston also designed the auction mart for Brown.

English born James Johnston had described himself as an organ builder (in London 1869), a builder (in 1871), and by the time he arrived in New Zealand (probably in 1872); he was describing himself as an architect. He made a strong contribution of Oamaru’s Victorian streetscape (issuing 26 of the 113 tenders in Oamaru in 1882 alone, comparing favourably with Forrester and Lemon’s 64). Around 1885 he moved to Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, where he died in 1890.

As with many other merchants of the mid 1880s the economic depression hit Thomas Brown and James Hassell hard: in January 1884 Brown filed for bankruptcy, Hassell following shortly after. Brown left Oamaru shortly afterwards and settled in the North Island. He died in Parramatta in 1905. The lease was sold by mortgagee sale to John McLean in 1884.

The building later had a number of tenants who often carried on a similar business to Brown. Auctioneer Robert Blair took over the lease in 1895. In 1917 the property was leased by Oamaru commission agent John Familton, and then to Wright Stephenson and Co. Ltd in 1919. In the 1960s the lease was held by MacEwans Machinery Ltd. Since the 1980s the Oamaru Operatic and Musical Society Incorporated has occupied the building.

In 2013 T.H. Brown and Co.’s former auction mart remains a significant element in Oamaru’s Harbour/Tyne Street historic area (Register No. 7064).


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Johnston, James

James Johnston, a mason by trade, was the main rival to Forrester and Lemon in Oamaru. He designed a number of large buildings in a Renaissance palazzo style. These include the Globe Hotel (1881), the Waitaki County Chambers (1881) and Smith's Grain Store (1882).

Watson, Mr

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1883 -

Completion Date

1st May 2013

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McDonald, 1962

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

North Otago Times

North Otago Times

30 Apr 1877, p.2.; 10 Mar 1883, p.3.; 12 Jan 1884, p.3.; 11 Feb 1884, p.3.; 16 Aug 1884, p.2.; 5 Jun 1896, p.3.

Oamaru Borough Council

Historic Building Catalogue

Item 4.

Otago Witness

Otago Witness

25 Jan 1905, p.33.

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.