Criterion Hotel

3-5 Tyne Street And 3 Harbour Street, Oamaru

  • Criterion Hotel, Oamaru. View from corner of Harbour and Tyne Streets. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 10/04/2013.
  • Criterion Hotel, Oamaru. Harbour Street elevation.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 3/04/2008.
  • Criterion Hotel, Oamaru. Rear of Connell and Clowes’ Store.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 3/04/2008.
  • Criterion Hotel, Oamaru. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shelley Morris . Taken By: Shelley Morris – Shells . Date: 13/11/2016.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4689 Date Entered 2nd July 1987 Date of Effect 2nd July 1987


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes the land described as Lots 25-28 DP 88 (RT OT18C/648, 311067), Otago Land District, and the Criterion Hotel and the former Connell and Clowe's Offices (also known as Doherty's Building.) which visually form what is recognised as the Criterion Hotel, thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lots 25-28 DP 88 (RT OT18C/648, 311067), Otago Land District


Oamaru’s Criterion Hotel, opened in 1877 and designed in elaborate Italianate style on a prominent corner site by architectural partnership Forrester and Lemon. The building has special architectural, historical and social significance as an ornate reminder of Oamaru’s prosperity.

William Gillespie built the Criterion Hotel. The Criterion was opened at the end of 1877. The North Otago Times described it as ‘the most ornamental of the recent additions to our street architecture.’ Designed by Oamaru architectural partnership Forrester and Lemon and built of Oamaru stone from the Cave Valley quarries, it was built in an elaborate Italianate style. The completed portion had a frontage of 96 feet [29.2 metres] to Tyne Street, and a 90 foot [27.4 metres] frontage to Harbour Street, ‘forming a very handsome corner.’ The façade was 35 feet high [10.7 metres]. The lower storey was ‘ornamented with rusticated pilasters dividing the two facades into eleven bays[,] the spaces being filled in with double circular headed windows, with the exception of the corner and two centre bays which are occupied by doorways of a more or less ornamental character.’ The upper façade was similar, with panelled pilasters, ‘enriched with drop ornaments and carved capitals.’ The windows had a flat arch, ornamented with a shield keystone, and the architraves had a scroll at the base. The whole of the building was surmounted with a balustrade, with the centre bay finished with a sold tympanum, ‘having the name of the hotel highly enriched with shield and scroll ornaments.’ The writer also praised the interior for its ‘well lighted and lofty rooms’ – the ceilings on the lower floor being over 13 foot [13.9 metres], with those on the upper floor being 12 foot [3.6 metres]. On the ground floor was a bar, a smaller bar parlour and a private parlour, a small sitting room and a dining room. The staircase was built of white pine. There were twelve rooms on the first floor – three sitting rooms and nine bedrooms, both single and double.

The Criterion Hotel incorporated rooms above Connell and Clowes premises that were being erected at the same time. A further ten rooms, located over Connell and Clowes offices were to be added in a few days, making a total of 28 rooms. This was Connell and Clowes’ first store and offices with the design forming part of the Criterion’s façade, although the businesses and the buildings were separate, as made clear by the entrance which has ‘Connell and Clowes’ on the pediment on the first floor (See List Entry No. 2283). The offices and wool store have never been part of the hotel operation. In later years the hotel rooms were closed off and were unused.

Gillespie sold the hotel to Peter Alexander. Alexander sold to William Manning around 1888. John Marshall Brown, who had run the nearby Star and Garter Hotel, owned the hotel. There was a steady change of owners throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. After Oamaru voted for Prohibition in 1906, the Criterion survived as a Temperance Hotel. By the 1930s, it was in a poor state of repair. In the 1940s, Gillies Foundry and Engineering Company bought the building and used it as a store for the material from their Tyne Street foundry until the mid-1990s. In later years the Whitestone Civic Trust took over the building. The Trust has since restored the Hotel, returning the parapet detailing to its original form. The hotel has been refurbished and in 2015, it once again offers accommodation for travellers and hospitality to travellers and locals alike.

Assessment criteriaopen/close


The Criterion was built for proprietor William Gillespie. Connell and Clowe's occupied the ground floor of the southern section of the building until 1881 when they shifted to new premises nearby. Their office was later occupied by Bruce Christie, Auctioneer. The elaborate appearance of the Criterion is symbolic of the great rivalry between hotel proprietors, and the town's growth in prosperity. Oamaru became notorious for its 15 hotels and 32 'sly grog' shops. Public concern lead to the town being declared dry between 1905 and 1962.


The Criterion is a very elaborate architectural composition which Forrester and Lemon used as the pattern for all their hotels and many other commercial buildings. A luxurious, comfortable establishment, it was described by the North Otago Standard in 1877 as 'one of the most ornamental of the many recent additions to our street architecture'. It is the best example of the lavish Victorian Italianate style popular for hotels at the time, and set the standard for later commercial architecture in the Harbour/Tyne Street area.


The Criterion occupies a pivotal position in the Harbour/Tyne streetscape. In its corner position it forms the first part of a fine sequence of Victorian Italianate facades of national significance.


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).

Somerville, John

Carpenter for Criterion Hotel in Oamaru, completed 1877.

Given and Watson

Stonemasons for the Criterion Hotel in Oamaru, completed 1877.

John Brownlee

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


The building was designed in a Victorian Italianate style and comprised at its south end the premises of Connell and Clowes. The first floor of the latter formed part of the hotel (bedrooms). Entrance to the hotel is at the corner of Harbour and Tyne Streets. The ground floor is plainer and monumental in appearance in comparison to the richly decorated first floor with floral drop ornaments in panelled pilasters, unusual window frames and shield keystones.


The original balustrade parapet, urns, tympana and chimneys have been removed. Otherwise in largely original condition.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1877 -

1998 -
Reinstatement of detailing at parapet level

2011 -
New bedrooms upstairs in Connell and Clowes portion

Construction Details

Oamaru Stone from Cave Valley quarries.

Completion Date

9th September 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

North Otago Times

North Otago Times

North Otago Times, 27 Nov 1877, p. 2.

Oamaru Borough Council

Historic Building Catalogue

Oamaru Mail

Oamaru Mail

Oamaru Mail, 27 Nov 1877, p. 2.

Muirhead, 1990

Syd Muirhead, Historic North Otago, Oamaru Mail, 1990

Other Information

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.

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