Ringway Homestead

165 North Road, Ringway Ridges, Otautau

  • Ringway Homestead.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 383 Date Entered 27th July 1988


City/District Council

Southland District


Southland Region

Legal description

Sec 2A Ringway Settlement (CT SL7A/641), Southland Land District

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

According to Geoffrey Thornton writing about the stables, Ringway was bought by John Henry Menzies in 1860 from a Scot called McCallum and sold ten years later in 1870 to Murray Roberts and Coy. In a typescript autobiography by Menzies, held by Mrs Greenhalgh, he states that he and his family lived in Riverton while he was adding to the house and that they moved there in 1874. Menzies had sold land at Spar Bush for three pounds an acre and was looking for Crown land at one pound per acre. He bought 3500 acres of downland and swamp and then considered 500 acres lying between his downlands and the Aparima, belonging to a sort of hermit called McCallum who lived by himself in a small stone house which he had built. McCallum had bought rabbits on to the farm and had carefully protected them until they had eaten the farm out. McCallum was a game keeper by profession and Menzies made shooting and trapping out of the rabbits part of the purchase price. McCallum killed about 4,000 rabbits and received thirty shillings per acre from Menzie.

To add to the house, Menzies wedged large blocks of limestone weighing about a ton out of the quarry, sledged them up the terrace to the house site and had to let them dry for about two months before they could be sawn, the occasional marine shall damaging the saws. Menzies had to keep steadily trapping the rabbits and built a stable/barn, the roof of which was always covered with rabbit skins drying on wire frames. He had a stud of English Leicester ewes which he crossed with Merinos. Menzies sold the whole farm to Murray Roberts and they replaced the stable/barn with the present stables, using the stone house as the manager's house.

When the government divided up the big estates of Otago and Southland, Ringway was divided in 1901 into about eight farms. A lease in perpetuity for the homestead block of 599 acres was granted to Samuel Saunders, flourmiller's assistant Otautau. The value of the house is given as 270 pounds and the stables 180 pounds (the land had a capital value of 2530 pounds). A sketch map with the 1901 deed of lease shows the position of gorse hedges and fences. The Saunders family and relations held the land until 1945 when it was bought by the husband of the present owner. The completed house has therefore had only four legal owners.


This is a typically Scottish rather plain farmhouse built without architectural embellishments. It is the only house known to have been built of the local limestone, other than one at Gummies Bush which has become a hay shed.


The farmstead is one of the oldest in the district but is not visible from the nearby highway.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Menzies, John Henry

John Henry Menzies (1839-1919) was born in Liverpool but of Scottish descent and immigrated to New Zealand in 1860. He farmed initially in Southland before settling on Banks' Peninsula.

In 1878 Menzies bought McIntosh Bay, renaming it after himself, and built a homestead there the following year. This house and the second Glen Mona homestead were destroyed by fire but the third homestead (1930) remains extant. He also built a house for his eldest son William at Menzies Bay in 1894 called 'Rehutai'.

Menzies was largely responsible for the design, construction, decoration and financing of St Luke's Church at Little Akaloa (1905-6). He had been obsessed with wood carving from an early age and was particularly fascinated by Maori decorative art. The interior of St Luke's Church is a permanent reminder of this fascination and the carving in both wood and stone is particularly fine given that Menzies does not appear to have had any formal training.

In 1910 he published a pioneering text, Maori Patterns Painted and Carved.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


The style is simple Gothic with no decorations.


The fa├žade is relatively unmodified except for the porch and northern extension. The porch was removed about 1912 and replaced by a long veranda which in turn gave way to the present smaller porch. The scalloped fascia boards have been replaced by plain boards. Windows at the back of the house have been enlarged. The interior has been mostly relined, fireplaces replaced with tapestry brick and the wooden ground floor with concrete and parquet has been laid in the sitting room. The house has been very well cared for and maintained.

Notable Features

Its age and construction in local limestone.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1874 -
The front half of the building was probably erected in the 1860s and the back half was finished in September 1874.

Construction Details

The house is a two storied limestone building, built of blocks about 60 x 30cm, quarried from the hillside nearby. The timber framing and panelling is said to have come from the Longwoods and the roof was covered with slates. These were finally replaced with corrugated iron about 1965. It has three dormer gables in front and two long lateral gables. The original front porch was a small, timber church-like porch with a corrugated iron roof. It has been replaced by pillars of bolstered Oamaru stone and a roof of the same proportions as the original. There was a wooden kitchen/wash house extension to one side which has been replaced with a concrete block and wood extension. The windows are wide and double hung with each sash divided vertically in two. Inside the house was lined with wide tongue and groove boarding, and the staircase and hall retain this original panelling. The staircase is a narrow cantilevered spiral retaining the original balustrade. Half way up the staircase there is a gas light left over from the time when there was an acetylene gas plant in a detached shed behind the house. There are four rooms on each floor and the bedroom ceilings are elaborately vaulted in dark varnished wood like a miniature church. Because the house was built in two vertical halves (the four front rooms first and the four back rooms next), there is an interior limestone wall dividing the house from ground to roof level.

The house is set above its farmyard and stables on a river terrace looking west across the Aparima River and Otautau to the Longwoods. The house would originally have had a good view, but is now surrounded by mature Oaks, Macrocarpas, Pines, Ash and Larch.

Other Information

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.