32 Riverbank Road (State Highway 4), Whanganui

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 960 Date Entered 2nd July 1982


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 86075 (CT WN53D/390), Wellington Land District and the building known as Riverlands thereon, and the entrance gates to the property. Extent does not include the other buildings located around the homestead. (Refer to maps in Appendix 1 of the List Entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Whanganui District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 86075 (CT WN53D/390), Wellington Land District


Located just north of Whanganui, Riverlands is a homestead constructed in 1893 for merchant Joseph Paul (1839-1904) and his family. This sizeable timber residence has architectural and historical value as a representative example of a Classically-influenced late Victorian homestead, built to demonstrate the success and social standing of its owner. Its size and decorative trimmings are typical of late-Victorian residences of relatively well-to-do people, and notable features include deep eaves with corbels, veranda post detailing and moulded metal balustrading. This place also has local historical importance because of its association with Joseph Paul, a respected and popular businessman.

Joseph Paul moved to Whanganui around 1880 and established his drapery business. In the early 1890s he acquired a semi-rural property, named Riverlands, near the Whanganui River at Mateongaonga. As well as his business activities, Paul was a founding member of the Wellington Racing Club and its Whanganui equivalent, and kept his own small stable of thoroughbred horses at Riverlands. After Joseph Paul’s death his family continued to live there until 1981, although with smaller landholdings resulting from a 1918 subdivision.

Constructed by local builder John Randal with possible design input from Joseph Paul, Riverlands is a two-storey homestead. This rusticated weatherboard homestead features expansive, deep verandas and balconies, and bay windows. The general form of the building retains its integrity, although the servants’ wing was removed prior to the 1980s. Additional outbuildings have since been connected to the rear of house through a porch, and minor alterations to some windows were made in the late twentieth century.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Riverlands has historical value as for its ability to tell of a stage in New Zealand history where colonists were able to build large, comfortable residences to demonstrate their social and economic success, resulting from their endeavours since emigrating. After an initial period of growth, Whanganui, the New Zealand Company’s second planned settlement, was hampered by a period of military unrest and instability, but the town’s fortunes consolidated during the 1870s. Having tried business in several colonial towns from 1857 onwards, Joseph Paul eventually settled in Whanganui circa 1880 because of the business opportunities the budding city afforded. The growth and success of Paul’s drapery business is indicative of Whanganui’s coming of age and Riverlands demonstrates that he had prospered sufficiently by the 1890s to construct an attractive homestead which suitably reflected his family’s economic and social status.

Riverlands also has local historical significance because Joseph Paul was a well-known and respected Whanganui citizen, who made his mark through his business activities and property investments, and activities such as being a founding member of the Wanganui Jockey Club. Riverlands also has historical value as the base for Paul’s family – a longstanding early Whanganui family – for nearly 90 years.

Architectural Significance or Value

Riverlands has architectural significance as an intact example of a substantial country house of the 1890s. It is an excellent example of a large farmhouse, constructed with native timbers, where the underlying Victorian Colonial style has been lightly ornamented with other stylistic influences. Its design is specific to its location and purpose.

The house has particular distinguishing features: the symmetry and scale of its form, windows and verandas; its decorative timber work to windows, eaves and bays; and its lacework balustrading. The architectural value of the building is increased by the elegance and liveability of its interior spaces with easy access to gardens and courtyards.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

As a demonstration of commercial success and prosperity, Riverlands represents the fulfilment of the promise British colonies like New Zealand offered early immigrants, like Joseph Paul, who were prepared to work their way up the social and economic ladder.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

Community esteem for Riverlands has been demonstrated through various local historical association publications which document the property and Joseph Paul’s place in Whanganui’s history.

(g) The technical accomplishment, value, or design of the place

Riverlands is a representative example of a late nineteenth century New Zealand family home. Comparable in size and features to other late Victorian and early twentieth century houses built for owners of successful local businesses, its light Classical architectural influences are characteristic of late nineteenth century New Zealand colonial residential style. With limited modification since its construction, notable features such as deep eaves with corbels, veranda post detailing and moulded metal balustrading are intact, and complement the scale and symmetry of the design.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Randal, John

John Randal (d.1936) was a late nineteenth and early twentieth century Whanganui builder whose business, J Randal and Sons, was responsible for numerous local construction projects, including: St Mary’s Church (Anglican), Upokongaro (List no. 163); Riverlands near Whanganui in 1893; his large family home, Titchfield at Papaiti (constructed 1901-07); and St Oswald’s Church, Westmere in 1914 (List no. 956).

Source: List Entry Review Report for Riverlands, List No. 960 (16 Nov 2015)


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Current Description

Riverlands is sited well back from the road on river flats alongside the Whanganui River. Due to the presence of recorded archaeological sites in the vicinity, the property may contain undiscovered archaeological remains. The house is glimpsed from the road through maturing trees. It comes into view well past the stately posts and iron gates at the end of a sweeping drive through trees and shrubbery. The house, tall and square, presents a welcoming view of wooden weatherboards, sunny bay windows and decorative verandas.

The house is a two storey timber dwelling with an underlying Victorian Colonial style, touched with influences of Classical and Moorish decoration which were popular in the nineteenth century. It has a corrugated metal roof which impresses with its height, bracketed eaves and verandas. The hipped gables extend past the main 'box' of the house either side of the verandas. The use of verandas and their metal arabesque balustrading are special features of the house. The visitor is presented with two equally important facades at once. The sunny northwest face of the house has a long expanse of veranda, at both levels, and a squared projecting hipped bay to the left. The front entrance is here, up a few steps, and with its arrangement of glazed panel door, toplights and sidelights establishes a distinctive formality on arriving at the house. Above, the upper level has windows and doors which repeat the rhythm of those on the ground floor.

The south west face is largely a mirror of the north west entrance side, with the verandas, building form and bay window, but without the main entrance. It is a distinctive characteristic of the house that the two facades together show symmetry either side of the corner. Both facades have windows which look out from primary living rooms of the house and include in their gaze the splendid forecourt (to the north west) and lawn (south west). In doing so, the aspect for the main living rooms is maximised for midday, afternoon and evening (in summer), making warm and sunny living and leisure activities possible from inside to outside.

On the remaining two facades, the configuration of windows and doors is without the formality of the visitor approach. The north east façade includes a kitchen entrance. On the south east facade there is a matching bay window. A large leadlight window indicates the stairway of the house.

The house is constructed with timber framing, clad with rusticated weatherboards. The cladding materials are entirely consistent with the age of the house and are in very good condition. The foundation system includes a reinforced concrete perimeter foundation wall. The verandas are wide and at the upper level have an unusually flat-curved canopy that mitres at the corner, and timber soffits. Veranda posts have decorative detailing and the metal balustrading and timber handrails increase the decorative effect. The veranda floor at the upper level is timber; at ground level it is concrete with concrete steps. Windows are rimu double-hung sash windows, arrayed symmetrically in pairs on the two primary facades. Clear glazing predominates and some panes are original. There is also modern glazing that is antiqued, obscure-coloured and leadlight.

The interior of the building could not be fully viewed for this assessment process. However, through the windows can be seen interiors which are consistent with the age of the house using native timbers including rimu: panelled ceilings, timber floors, timber doors, skirtings and scotias and windows. Walls have a plaster finish.

Repairs to the house are apparent and have been carried out as necessary to keep watertight and material integrity. There have been additions constructed later than the original house construction – for toilets, and other service rooms - connecting to the house. Nearby there is a small old shed and a modern three bay garage close by to the north. Other structures at the site include a relocated early twentieth century house and a swimming pool.


Riverlands is comparable in size and features to other late Victorian and early twentieth century houses built for owners of successful local businesses. Examples in the wider Whanganui/Manawatu region include Awatea (List no. 2826, constructed in 1893) and Mahoe (List no. 1229, built in 1904) in Feilding, and Rangiatea (List no. 1213, constructed in 1904) near Bulls, which are all entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero (‘the List’) as Category 2 historic places. While comparable with Riverlands in size and display of status, these buildings show an engagement with popular architecture, such as the Queen Anne and Tudor styles. On the other hand, Riverlands’ Classical design aspects, including the general symmetry of its form (especially the northwest and southwest facades) and Classical references such as corbelling, are a more orthodox approach with a long tradition in late nineteenth century New Zealand architecture.

However, Riverlands’ Classical detailing is muted when compared with Sarjeant House in Whanganui (Category 2 historic place, List no. 985, built 1909), which is an ostentatiously decorative version of this type of house, replete with quoins and an arcaded veranda with pediment above the front entrance. Riverlands and Sarjeant House demonstrate the spectrum of contemporary Classical ornamentation, which can be attributed to different motivating factors. Riverlands was a relatively secluded and private family home, whereas a prime consideration for Sarjeant House’s town dwelling owners appears to have been the public display of wealth and status.

Riverlands is a rural homestead which stands out among its remaining regional contemporaries architecturally because it is a relatively large, timber two storey homestead. With some exceptions, regional examples of contemporary historic country houses are generally timber single storey buildings cottages or villas. Rangitawa in Halcombe (Category 2 historic place, List no. 1199, constructed in 1895) and Bushy Park northwest of Whanganui (Category 1 historic place, List no. 157, built in 1906), are expansive homesteads but are only single storey.

Some other examples of New Zealand places of a comparable type, size and with architectural attributes similar to Riverlands include Category 2 historic places, Coldstream Homestead (List no. 3791, original construction 1860) and Mt Nessing Homestead (List no. 3143, original construction 1878). The current form of these Canterbury homesteads was the result of late nineteenth or early twentieth century second storey additions, unlike Riverlands whose general form is original. Like most buildings of their age, all of these two storey houses have subsequently undergone periods of interior upgrading and modification which contribute to their story, as well as some exterior changes to accommodate changing family space and utility requirements. For example, like Riverlands, Coldstream Homestead has a large rear addition, while at the Mt Nessing Homestead a balcony has been enclosed. Despite these alterations, which in the case of the two Canterbury homesteads are considerable, these places are valued for their underpinning architectural merits as characteristic examples of late nineteenth century buildings.

Therefore, Riverlands is important because this large country homestead is a representative yet distinctive local example of a late nineteenth century New Zealand family home with Classical architectural influences.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1893 -

1897 -
Earthquake damage to chimneys and foundations, water damage from burst cistern

Demolished - Other
Demolition of servants’ wing

Completion Date

16th November 2015

Report Written By

Karen Astwood, Alison Dangerfield and Vivienne Morrell

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.1, Wellington, 1897

pp. 1414-15

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1908

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 6, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1908

p. 606

Other Information

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List Report is available from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.

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.