Craig Memorial Fountain
Oamaru Public Gardens, 39 Chelmer Street, Oamaru
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Able to Visit
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 Craig Memorial Fountain thereon. (Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 11 February 2016).
Lot 2 DP 317966 (RT 70398), Otago Land District
The Craig Memorial Fountain, built from funds bequeathed by timber merchant James Craig is one of the centrepieces of Oamaru Public Gardens, and has aesthetic and historic 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.
Among the citizens who enjoyed to gardens was James Craig. Irish born Craig (1837-1912) had come to New Zealand via Victoria Australia. He arrived in Invercargill before following gold to the West Coast. As gold declined, he entered into business as a timber merchant and saw miller. His interests combined when one of his milling blocks – known as Craig’s Freehold’ – was found to be rich in gold. Craig moved to Oamaru in 1878, taking over the sawmilling business of Christopher Galbraith and Co.
Craig’s enthusiasm for the Oamaru Public Gardens was such that in his Will he bequeathed £500 for the purposes of erecting a fountain. The Oamaru Borough Council formed a Fountain Committee, including the executors of Craig’s estate, to give effect to Craig’s wishes. The Council supplied the funds for providing a large basin. John Crombie built the fountain, but the sculpture itself seems to have been imported. The Oamaru Mail reported in December 1913, that the ‘Craig Fountain’ was at Melbourne, having been held up because of strikes and cargo was embargoed from being lifted to New Zealand. Crombie was in the process of laying the foundations.
The fountain was opened during the Floral Fete (with over 6,000 people enjoying stalls and displays) on 13 April 1914. The Mayor told the gathering that the gardens had been one of Craig’s ‘favorite resorts. He had come there to rest and see the beautiful flowers and listen to the carolling of the birds.’ Craig had been so impressed by the beauty that he had ‘decided to erect the fountain for its adornment and to supplement it with drinking fountains.’ The £500 had been spent on the fountain itself, with the Council covering the other expenses.
Conservation architect Chris Cochran provides a description of the fountain. The fountain is an ‘intricate design’ in Carrara marble. It rises in three main stages which are separated by three large dishes that diminish in size towards the top. The base section is 1.7 metres high with an octagonal column supported by four griffins, and on top of the column are four naked maidens. The first dish has a diameter of approximately 1.8 metres, and it has a circular copper pipe with holes. The middle section features four dolphins, tails up, supporting the middle dish. The top section has a pillar-like stem supporting a small with a diameter of 520 mm. A fish forms the topmost portion of the fountain. Water comes from spouts in the mouths of the griffins, from the pipe above the first dish, from the mouths of the dolphins, and from the mouth of the topmost fish. The whole fountain is carved from Carrara marble, and it is presumed to have come from Italy. The fountain rests on an octagonal concrete base, and is surrounded by a circular concrete pool. The concrete base was built in 1989-90, replacing the original one in Oamaru stone. Early photos show the base to have been surrounded by a rockery with plants. The basin itself was also surrounded by rocks and plants. The two drinking fountains that used to stand in the perimeter of the basin have been relocated elsewhere in the gardens. In 1990 the fountain was renovated with the replacement of a plinth, the restoration of stonework and the replacement of plumbing.
In 2018, the Craig Memorial Fountain remains a centrepiece in the Oamaru Public Gardens.
No biography is currently available for this construction professional
One of two fountains gifted to the city of Oamaru by James Craig
Drinking fountains relocated
3rd December 2015
Report Written By
14 April 1914, p. 7.
C. Cochran, ‘Craig's Fountain, Oamaru: Conservation Report’, Report prepared by Chris Cochran, Conservation Architect for the Waitaki District Council, 20 July 2001
Williams and Middleton, 2012
Hamish Williams & Angela Middleton, ‘Oamaru Public Gardens Archaeological Assessment for GHD/Waitaki District Council’, Arch Hill Heritage Report No. 105 February 2012
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