Elderslie Summer House

Oamaru Public Gardens, 39 Chelmer Street, Oamaru

  • Elderslie Summer House, Oamaru Public Gardens. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl . Date: 28/03/2021.
  • Elderslie Summer House, Oamaru Public Gardens.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Barnes-Wylie. Date: 28/06/2012.
  • Elderslie Summer House, Oamaru Public Gardens.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Barnes-Wylie. Date: 28/06/2012.
  • Elderslie Summer House, Oamaru Public Gardens.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Paulette Wallace. Date: 5/04/2018.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7150 Date Entered 24th February 1994 Date of Effect 24th February 1994


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 317966 (RT 70398), Otago Land District, and the structure known as the Elderslie Summer House thereon. (Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 11 February 2016).

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 317966 (RT 70398), Otago Land District


Built originally as a romantic retreat on John Reid’s Elderslie Estate, but later gifted to the Oamaru Public Gardens, the Elderslie Summer House provides a place of quiet retreat in the Oamaru Public Gardens and has historic and architectural significance.

In 1876 the Oamaru Public Gardens opened on a 34 acre reserve set aside in the 1858 town survey. With their mix of native and exotic plantings, formal lawns and garden beds set alongside the meandering Oamaru Creek, the gardens were a popular gathering and walking place. Over the years, various benefactors donated structures to the gardens for the pleasure of visitors. The Reid family were one such benefactor.

Scottish-born John Reid came to New Zealand in 1863. For ten years he was in business in Dunedin before retiring to his 17,000 acre Elderslie Estate in North Otago. Reid was a pioneering stock breeder and was involved in the beginnings of the frozen meat trade. He had the S.S. Elderslie built in 1883 for shipping to the London market. Elderslie, like its neighbour Windsor Park, was one of the ‘great properties’ of the Waitaki region. Reid built the first part of his grand house in 1868. He developed a large park – with exotic trees and artificial lakes – around the house. The house’s setting was described as ‘unsurpassed in New Zealand’. Within the gardens was a Summer House built around 1877, and known as a retreat for lovers and a recognised place for marriage proposals. John Reid died in 1912. Reid’s obituary recalled how important the Elderslie was to North Otago and Reid’s role in business. His wife Elizabeth died in 1924.

The Summer House was presented to the Oamaru Public Gardens by the Reid family (and with the cooperation of the new owners) and officially opened on 5 November 1947 by Miss Agnes J Reid. At the opening the newspaper reported that ‘[a]lthough the structure is about 70 years old, it has been built of extremely good lasting timber and, as it has just been painted, it looks as good as new and will be a great acquisition to the gardens.’ According to archival sources, Mr H E D Austin who was visiting Elderslie painted the images on the interior walls, depicting sporting activities including horse racing and polo. The gazebo is a simple timber hexagonal structure with one side lined in vertical boards and the other side an open-sided arrangement of trellises, arches and posts. The pointed roof is covered with slates. Pictures from the time at Elderslie show a far more rustic structure with timber in the round (small and larger branches) providing decoration. It is also possible the roof line has been altered.

In 2015, in its location close to the greenhouse (List Entry No. 7153), the Elderslie Summer House flanked by lush planting and looking out over green lawns provides shelter and retreat in the Oamaru Public Gardens.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1877 -

1947 -
Gifted to Oamaru Public Gardens from the family of the late John Reid.

1947 -
Officially opened 6 November 1947

Completion Date

11th January 2016

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Oamaru Mail

Oamaru Mail

6 November 1947, p. 4.

New Zealand Garden Trust

http://www.gardens.org.nz/waitaki-gardens/oamaru-public-gardens/ - Oamaru Public Gardens (Public), New Zealand Garden Trust

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern region office

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