Spence and Bee's Store (Former)

1 Itchen Street, Oamaru

  • Spence and Bee’s Store (Former). Image courtesy of www.maps.google.co.nz.
    Copyright: Google Maps 2012.
  • Spence and Bee’s Store (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 28/06/2012.
  • Spence and Bee’s Store (Former). William Bee’s Store c.1900 (used with permission, North Otago Museum Collection, Item 131).
    Copyright: North Otago Museum.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4693 Date Entered 25th September 1986 Date of Effect 25th September 1986


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes part of Lot 2 DP 6417 (RT OT330/113), Otago Land District, and the building known as Spence and Bee's Store (Former) and its fixtures and fittings thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 6417 (RT OT330/113), Otago Land District


Nestled in a cluster of small limestone buildings in the early business district of Oamaru, this shop was built for businessmen John Johnson Spence and William Bee in 1878.

Grain and wool production on the pastoral estates boosted the development of Oamaru as a port town. The early 1870s saw the town transformed from an ‘insignificant collection of stone and wooden buildings’ along the west side of Tyne Street to an ebullient show of Victorian architecture.

In 1872 William Bee and his brother James advertised their premises on the corner of Itchen and Tyne Streets, on what is still known as Bee Corner. The North Otago Times reported: ‘Messrs, J. and W. Bee have also improved their stores, in Tyne and Itchen streets, by the rearrangement of the building and putting in a new front.’ William Bee and John Spence subsequently entered a partnership as ‘Wholesale and Retail Grocers, Wine and Spirit Merchants’ in the premises previously occupied by J and W Bee and Company.

In February 1878 architects A.T. Brindley and Stewart (of Dunedin and Oamaru) advertised for tenders for the masonry and carpentry work for the construction of new premises for Spence and Bee.

The course of business did not run smoothly. James Bee was involved in bankruptcy proceedings in 1878 and John Spence and William Bee, trading as Spence and Bee, followed in 1879. Spence and Bee’s partnership was dissolved in 1884, with William Bee carrying on the business on his own account as family grocer, wine and spirit merchant, baker and confectioner.

In 1902 William Bee was still advertising as ‘family grocer, bread and biscuit manufacturer, and wine and spirit merchant. The advertisement indicates that the offices were located on the corner of Tyne Street and the retail grocery and other departments occupied the Itchen Street frontage. Behind the shop a two-storey building was used as a bakehouse, where bread, cake and biscuits were manufactured.’

Information provided by the North Otago Museum indicates that the store went through a variety of incarnations in the twentieth century, including general merchants Mercer and Mitchell in the 1940s.

In 2012, Spence and Bee’s Store (Former) remains a retail business in the historic Whitestone precinct of Oamaru.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Brindley and Stewart

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1867 -
General merchant on this site

Original Construction
1871 -
Construction of first building

Original Construction
Current building constructed

Façade detail removed

Completion Date

1st August 2012

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

William Bee entry

McCarthy, 2002

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

McDonald, 1962

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

Other Information

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

This building is part of the Harbour conservation area registered as the "Harbour/Tyne Street Historic Area" (7064) which was initially listed as the Harbour Street Conservation Area 2/7/82, BCC paper 65/1982.

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.