Sumpter's Grain Store (Former)

8 Harbour Street, Oamaru

  • Sumpter's Grain Store (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • Sumpter's Grain Store (Former). Rear.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 3/04/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4885 Date Entered 25th September 1986 Date of Effect 25th September 1986


Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land described as Lot 4 DP 88 (RT18C/520), Otago Land District, and the building known as Sumpter's Grain Store (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 4 DP 88 (RT18C/520), Otago Land District


This 1878 ornately detailed two-storey grain store was built for prominent Oamaru businessman George Sumpter.

George Sumpter (1836-1900) was a significant figure in the commercial and political worlds of Victorian Oamaru. He was the first town clerk of Oamaru, later Member for Waitaki on the Otago Provincial Council. He was chair of the Oamaru Harbour Board for fifteen years. He conducted a large business as a grain merchant, land agent and auctioneer.

Sumpter erected a grain store on Harbour Street in February 1876 at a cost of £800. It was around 22ft [7m] high and had a storage capacity of 40,000 to 50,000 bushels of grain. F. Every completed the concrete work, and Mr Thomson the carpentry. He rebuilt it only two years later, replacing it with an ornately detailed two-storey building. The Timaru Herald reported that Sumpter had built a ‘fine Oamaru stone grain store of two flats…in connection with his concrete warehouse on the harbor block.’ The building could store 20,000 sacks of grain.

Art historian Conal McCarthy writes that the design was in a ‘brash, commercial vein’ with a ‘Venetian palazzo theme…with a rusticated ground floor, round-headed windows on the first floor, and Corinthian pilasters marking the end bays.’ McCarthy continues ‘the architect lavished attention on the decorative details, particularly the keystones, three varieties of which were used on the façade.’

In 1895 John Haddin Barr took over the lease of Lot 4. Scottish-born Barr (c.1828-1918) came to Dunedin in 1861 where he was elected to the first City Council. He later became a partner in Oamaru milling firm Hay and Barr. He remained in business there until he retired to Dunedin in 1906.

In 1916 the National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand Ltd and William Darling and Robert McDowell took over the lease. In 1936 Darling and McDowell took over the lease, and remained long term tenants. In 1989 the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust acquired the former grain store. Since that time it has housed a furniture manufacturer.

In 2013 Sumpter’s Grain Store (Former) remains a significant building in the 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
1878 -

Completion Date

13th 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

11 Feb 1876, p.2.; 13 Nov 1900, p.3.

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

16 Oct 1918, p.4.

Timaru Herald

Timaru Herald

31 Jul 1878, p.2.

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.