Pen-y-Bryn

41 Towey Street, Oamaru

  • Pen-y-Bryn.
    Copyright: James Glucksman. Taken By: James Glucksman.
  • Pen-y-Bryn. Entryway.
    Copyright: James Glucksman. Taken By: James Glucksman.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 356 Date Entered 14th February 1991

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Waitaki District

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 DP 3256 (CT OT328/3) Otago Land District

Summaryopen/close

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 in 1991.

Pen'y'brn, which means "top of the hill" when translated from the Welsh, was built for John Bulleid (c.1853-1910) by the local contractors Rosie and Tait. Bulleid was a local merchant who had previously commissioned Forrester and Lemon to design his business premises in Thames Street. Following the construction of Pen'y'brn he travelled around Europe and England buying furniture and fittings for the house, including the bookcase and plaster ceiling which are still the principal features of the former drawing room. After his death Pen'y'brn remained in the Bulleid family until 1920 when it was sold by auction along with most of its contents. James McDiarmid, who owned the local footwear manufacturing business, bought the house and most of its surrounding land at that auction. Pen'y'brn is still owned by the McDiarmid family, and is currently occupied by James McDiarmid's daughter-in-law and his grandson's family. [Pen'y'bryn remained in the ownership of the McDiarmid family until the mid-1990s, when it was sold to new, private owners.]

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Pen'y'brn stands as a visible reminder of the relationship which existed between North Otago's foremost architectural practice and Oamaru's leading businessmen in the late nineteenth century. The house also illustrates John Bulleid's desire to proclaim his success and status in New Zealand by recalling the taste and architecture of Great Britain.

ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY:

The most ambitious and opulent of Forrester and Lemon's houses, Pen'y'brn is remarkable within the context of North Otago domestic architecture both for its style and construction.

In a town known for its Oamaru stone buildings Pen'y'brn's timber construction is unusual and its Old English style is also uncharacteristic of Thomas Forrester's work and of Oamaru houses in general. Contemporary homes such as Meadowbank (Collins and Harman, 1891), Leslie Hills (England Brothers, 1900) and Daresbury (Seager, 1900) are stylistically similar but, whereas they were designed by some of the leading residential architects of the day, Pen'y'brn is the work of a conservative provincial architect specialising in commercial designs. The fashionable styling of the house would therefore seem to suggest John Bulleid's involvement in the design of Pen'y'brn and/or that of John Forrester, who as a younger man may have been more aware of contemporary architectural styles than his father. Indeed a line drawing of the house printed in the Cyclopaedia of New Zealand would appear to be credited to J.M. Forrester and thus there may be an element of confusion as to whether the father or the son was ultimately responsible for Pen'y'brn's design.

Regardless of attribution Pen'y'brn is an outstanding domestic design with a scale and quality of interior decoration to rank with the best of New Zealand's late-Victorian residences.

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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).

Forrester, John Meggett

John Meggett Forrester (1866-1965) grew up in Oamaru where his father Thomas Forrester (1838-1907) was practising as an architect. Having been educated at Oamaru Grammar School, he entered the architectural profession and in 1890 took over his father's practice, Forrester and Lemon, following the death of John Lemon (1828-90).

He was responsible for the Oamaru Opera House (1907), the Borough Council building, the World War I Memorial and the Waitaki Boys High School Hall of Memories, all in Oamaru. In 1919 he was joined in partnership by Ivan Steenson and he retired in 1931.

Forrester was prominent in Oamaru public life. He was a Justice of the Peace for many years, an Oamaru Borough Councillor (1913-33) and Mayor of Oamaru (1931-33). When he died in 1965 he left a bequest for the establishment of an Art Gallery in North Otago. The Forrester Gallery was opened in 1983 in the former Bank of New South Wales building.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

Pen'y'brn is a very large, single-storeyed house which stands on an elevated site south-west of Oamaru's town centre. Approximately 830 square metres in area, the house is designed in the Old English or Tudor Revival style which became popular amongst architects in New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for the design of large houses and homesteads (see below). Pen'y'brn has a U-shaped plan with an extension to the west and an enclosed courtyard which opens off the entrance hall. The exterior of the building is clad in board and battens and the eaves of the hipped roof forms which shelter each wing are bracketed and sheathed in corrugated iron. The north, west and east facing elevations feature decorative half-timbering and within the cross gables which shelter each major window this treatment is highlighted by the use of a contrasting paint. Nearly all of the gable ends have been given a different half-timbered effect and this ornamental device adds considerably to the picturesque asymmetry of the exterior composition.

Inside the house the east and west wings have been modified to provide separate accommodation for the two generations of the McDiarmid family who live at Pen'y'brn (see modifications listed below). The principal rooms remain largely unaltered, however, and on the north side of the building the entrance hall is flanked by two very large living rooms, formerly the dining and drawing rooms, which are lit by square bay windows. In the north-west corner of the house the former drawing room features a wooden fire surround, a glass-fronted bookcase manufactured in England, and a plaster hanging ceiling which was made in Florence to the architect's specifications. Other features of note in this room include the original encrusted wallpaper dado and the fanlights set within the shallow west-facing bay window which are copies of those found in Alfred Lord Tennyson's home in England.

Pen'y'brn's interior walls and floors are lined throughout by oak and rimu woodwork. Phillip Godfrey, a member of the renowned family of Dunedin carvers, is reputed to have executed the carving within the house. It seems more likely, however, given the lack of evidence to support this claim, that John Forrester was responsible for carving the fire surrounds and the composite pilasters which decorate the wall panelling and the internal window jambs as he was known for his interest and skill in this field. In addition to the panelling in the halls and former dining room, oak is also featured in the parqueted and inlaid floors of the living rooms, the entrance hall and the passageways which provide access to the living quarters in the east and west wings.

The west addition designed by J.M. Forrester for John Bulleid's son Bim, also features the extensive use of timber. The built-in wardrobes in this room provide evidence of its original function as a bedroom, and interestingly they have their own leaded windows which were intended to prevent dampness. The adjoining room, which was once the library, also has a timber lined ceiling and as in the rest of the house the internal doors in this addition have the brass door handles which are another individual feature of Pen'y'brn.

The only outbuilding associated with Pen'y'brn is the former stable, on the south side of the house, which is now used as a garage and workshop. Built from Oamaru stone, this building was originally painted so as to complement the half-timbered appearance of the house, but having been gutted by fire in 1921 it was rebuilt without this effect.

MODIFICATIONS:

- c.1912 - West addition designed by J.M. Forrester - library and bedroom have since been converted for use as a bedroom and billiard room respectively.

- c.1935 - Verandah partially enclosed.

- Post 1950 - North-west bedroom converted to second kitchen - french doors installed to provide external access. Door added in drawing room to provide easier access to the new kitchen.

- Door installed in bay window of billiard room to provide external access.

- East-facing window in former dining room altered to give uninterrupted view of sea - single pane of glass replacing three windows.

- Scullery converted into a laundry, original kitchen in east wing divided in two and converted for use as a kitchen and small sitting room.

- Box room adjoining maid's room in west wing converted into an en suite bathroom.

- Original bathroom in west wing divided in two - converted for use as a bathroom and another small sitting room.

- East wing bedroom with pressed zinc ceiling divided in two.

Notable Features

Interior decoration of the principal rooms including the west addition.

The internal courtyard which introduces an informal element to the house's design.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1889 -

Addition
1912 -
West addition designed by J.M. Forrester - library and bedroom have since been converted for use as a bedroom and billiard room respectively.

Modification
1935 -
Verandah partially enclosed.

Modification
-
North-west bedroom converted to second kitchen - french doors installed to provide external access. Door added in drawing room to provide easier access to the new kitchen.

Modification
-
Door installed in bay window of billiard room to provide external access.

Modification
-
East-facing window in former dining room altered to give uninterrupted view of sea - single pane of glass replacing three windows.

Modification
-
Scullery converted into a laundry, original kitchen in east wing divided in two and converted for use as a kitchen and small sitting room. East wing bedroom with pressed zinc ceiling divided in two.

Modification
-
Box room adjoining maid's room in west wing converted into an en suite bathroom. Original bathroom in west wing divided in two - converted for use as a bathroom and another small sitting room.

Construction Details

Brick foundation walls and chimneys; heart rimu structure with oak interior woodwork; corrugated iron roof; plaster, pressed zinc or timber lined ceilings.

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

Galer, 1981

L. Galer, Houses and Homes, Allied Press, Dunedin, 1981

Plans

Architectural Drawings/Plans

Forrester Gallery, Thames Street, Oamaru

University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury

Files: Index of New Zealand Architects

Porter, 1983

Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.

Other Information

Received an Enviro 'Silver' Award in 2012 from Qualmark in recognition of the numerous environmental improvements made to the property

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.

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.