Historical Significance or Value
This property has been an esteemed feature of the west Manawatu landscape since 1900 and has remained in the possession of the McKelvie family who are prominent locally. It is still the centre of Manawatu's largest full production farm and is renowned in the province, and throughout New Zealand, for the quality of its design and accompanying terraces and gardens.
Pukemarama has historical value because it contributes to the understanding of practical social and farming requirements at the turn of the twentieth century for people who had prospered in the rural environment.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
Sited on rising ground above magnificent terraces and sunken gardens, whose formality is contrasted with the untamed forest on its western side, Pukemarama has a landmark quality almost unmatched by other rural New Zealand homesteads. The topography elevates the main house, and when combined with the form, size, and external ornamentation of building, enhances the dignified elegance and aesthetic value of Pukemarama.
Architectural Significance or Value
Although enhanced by its magnificent setting, Pukemarama Homestead is in its own right a very fine example of a New Zealand country villa. Constructed by well-known Wanganui firm, Russell and Bignell, its innovative design, featuring an elliptical plan and unusual central room, is characterised by a very high standard of workmanship and decoration, both internally and externally. The pleasing symmetry and fine proportions add to the quality of this domestic design.
The Stables are an excellent example of this class of building and complement the Homestead through its decorative features, which also distinguish it from other purely functional stables. Like the Homestead, the Stables also has architectural significance because of its interesting and unusual design.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
New Zealand’s economy has been predominantly based on rural industries since planned European settlement began, and Pukemarama is reflective of the continuance of this as the early twentieth century homestead of family that had farmed in the Manawatu from the early period of sustained settlement. Through amassing property to farm the McKelvie family was able to prosper and Pukemarama is indicative of the affluence that this family, and other contemporaries, were able to acquire in this way.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The Homestead at Pukemarama is an exemplar of late Victorian villa design and decoration with an added individualising twist due to it spaces being formed around the nucleus of its central oval room. The elevated site of the Homestead was a deliberate decision, and in combination with it’s the formal garden, and the eminently fit-for-purpose positioning and form of the other Pukemarama buildings, the overall design of the place has formal elegance and impact, as well as practicality.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
Pukemarama and its associated family are an integral part of a larger historical landscape that documents the transformation of the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block, in the western Manawatu, into a farming district from the late nineteenth century.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
Pukemarama is an outstanding example of a typical set of rural buildings from the turn of the twentieth century. The scale, proportions, form, and ornamentation of the Homestead and Stables befitted the social status and requirements of the longstanding Manawatu family, the McKelvie’s, who had been farming in the area since the 1870s. What sets Pukemarama Homestead apart from other impressive late-Victorian villas is its unusual form and the high level of immaculately preserved craftsmanship. The residence and gardens are widely famed as some of the grandest and most elegant in the district, and the McKelvie family, who have owned Pukemarama since its construction over a century ago, have continued to be influential within that community.
Various iwi inhabited the Manawatu, primarily along the rivers, for approximately 300 years before European incursion into the area began. Of the several fortified pa of the Upper Manawatu area, which encompassed parts of the Ahuaturanga and Rangitikei-Manawatu Blocks, only Awahuri was situated inland of the river amongst a heavily forested and swampy landscape. Despite the presence of many riverside settlements the region was not heavily populated, but it was known as a wonderful hunting and gathering ground for eels, waterfowl, and other native birds and fruits. There were instances of dispute between the various Manawatu iwi and hapu, perhaps the most significant sustained period of conflict occurred in the early nineteenth century as a result of the southward movement of some Waikato tribes and Te Rauparaha.
Because of the various periods of conflict and displacement, by the late 1840s the right to sell the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block to the Crown was contested between several iwi and ‘…there raged for years a storm of litigation around the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block which not only strained the relations between [iwi and] European settlers, but at one time threatened to break out in inter-tribal war.’ Therefore, it was not until the conclusion of several Native Land Court cases in the late 1860s that the European settlement of the block was able to progress to any extent.
Soon after the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block was formally acquired by the Crown in 1866 the property on which Pukemarama was later constructed was purchased by Thomas McKenzie. McKenzie bought the land for his son Robert Bruce McKenzie (d.1914) to farm and a small cottage was constructed to service the farming of the rich grazing land.
In the same period a contemporary of McKenzie, Scotsman John McKelvie (1818-1893), was issued a grant of just over 5265 hectares (13011 acres) of land in the district, and he and his family continued to amass land holdings in the area. At one stage the McKelvie's owned 16,000 acres. This has since been reduced to 5,000 acres, but remains the largest property holding in full production in the Manawatu. While several members of the family still farm the property, some have also branched out into other areas. For example, Ian McKelvie, who resides at Pukemarama, has had several consecutive terms as Manawatu Mayor.
In 1900, Robert Bruce McKenzie sold the, by now well-established, farm to McKelvie's eldest son, James McKelvie, with McKenzie moving to a larger property further north. Upon acquiring the property James McKelvie immediately set about constructing a grand villa to replace the old farm cottage as the main residence, as well as large accompanying stables and other utility buildings. The Homestead, its outbuilding with washhouse and other facilities, and the Stable were constructed on the highest point between the coast and Palmerston North, and the farm’s old cottage was relocated down the hill. Following the fashion of the times, McKelvie bestowed a Maori name, Pukemarama, on his new house, which translates as 'hill of light' or 'hill moon'.
McKelvie and the Wanganui based firm Russell & Bignell, then managed by another Scotsman Robert Russell, jointly designed the double-bay villa. Constructed on brick piles and roofed in corrugated iron, the timber villa was made from native hardwoods and clad in rusticated weatherboards. The layout of the building was unusual. Pukemarama's 17 rooms were arranged around a central, oval room that McKelvie had originally intended as a courtyard. Reflecting the clear cultural distinctions then made between public and private space, service rooms were located to the rear, bedrooms to the east and public rooms to the west. The villa featured elements of the Queen Anne style, such as a deep verandah with elaborate fretted brackets and turned verandah posts. The house was made from high quality materials and was distinguished by the excellence of its craftsmanship.
This level of ornamentation and the general dignity of the property befitted the social position of its owners, as did the large contemporary stable that was constructed to the rear of the Homestead. Despite its utility function, the Stables also featured decorative elements. The beauty of the house and grounds soon gained local renown and was the setting for many social occasions including many wedding receptions for couples associated with the McKelvie family.
Pukemarama has been carefully maintained and remains in excellent condition. The property, which has remained in the McKelvie family since its construction, has become a landmark in the district and remains one of the area's most impressive residences. It is set amongst landscaped gardens that were initially laid out in 1919 by George Agate, who was trained at Kew Gardens, and then were extensively developed in the 1930s. However, Pukemarama supported an on-site gardener from the time it was constructed, and Tom’s Hut is named after the gardener who originally resided in it. Since this time successive generations of the McKelvie family have demonstrated their continued horticultural interests by maintaining the gardens, and for many years the original McKenzie cottage was also used as a residence for the property’s gardeners.
Another family tradition is the continued association with equestrian pursuits. The initial interest in horses, as demonstrated by the requirement for the Stables, probably derived from the transport and agricultural necessities of the early twentieth century. However, the family also has a long history of involvement in polo locally and the Saville Cup Polo Tournament has been held several times on Pukemarama’s farmland.
Pukemarama is a collection of predominantly timber buildings and formal garden structures within the homestead portion of a larger farm, just east of the Rangitikei River. The landscape is characterised by gently rolling farmland, with the hill which Pukemarama stands upon being an exception. The hill marks the highest point between the coast at Tangimoana and Palmerston North, which is approximately 20 kilometres southeast of Pukemarama.
The approaches to Pukemarama’s Homestead are through the impressive formal garden that occupies a road level plateau and also the sloping site which the Homestead surmounts, or else by a driveway which snakes through a bush area and is announced by substantial brick gateway on Rosina Road. This large wooded area, which dominates the west side of the residential section of the farm, forms a contrast with the control and formality of the main garden, and indeed the Homestead. The forest encloses the driveway, and then upon emerging from it picturesquely frames the first glimpses of the Homestead.
The heart of Pukemarama is it’s a large late-Victorian country villa. Elliptical at its centre and symmetrical in design, it features deep verandahs on the front facade, twin gables flanking the front entrance with wings adjoining, and was inspired by the Queen Ann style of architecture popular at the time of its construction. Immediately behind this is the Homestead’s outbuilding. The substantial Stable is located towards the back of the residential section of the farm and a driveway beginning at it western corner leads down the hill to a collection of buildings, which include Tom’s Hut and the leant-to.
The formal garden has two distinct areas; the lower flat area, which includes structures such as the summer house, and the brick terraces that flank each side of the central steps which lead up to the main house.
The impressive roadside prospect of Pukemarama’s garden and Homestead is viewed beyond an elegantly simple white post and rail fence with pickets. The formal garden’s central axis was defined around the same time as the Homestead was constructed (circa 1900) with a concrete pathway that travels from the entrance gate and around two small round feature planting areas on either side of the central pergola. The path divides large grass areas which are said to have been used for crochet and other leisure activities such as tennis. Towards the east boundary of the property is an early twentieth century summer house which has an octagonal roof the curves up to form a central spire. Many of the mature trees of the lower garden were also planted in the early twentieth century and among them are notable cedars, birches, elms, and oaks, as well as a horizontal beech. The path continues up a set of approximately 50 concrete steps. The path is aligned with the main entrance of the Homestead, and at the top of the steps another small circular garden area, that contains a sundial, is passed before reaching the door.
The brick terracing which flanks the steps was created in the 1930s by a local company called Brick and Pipe Limited. The terraces either side of the steps each have three tiers of substantial retaining walls created with red brick laid in a stretcher bond. The north side of each entrance to every terrace level is defined by a short concrete wall which has a gentle concave curve between two brick posts.
The unusual shape of the house is derived from a central oval room which is said to have been originally intended as open garden/courtyard, but was also substantially piled to accommodate a billiard table. Neither of these functions came to fruition and it has been used as a central living space. This area is lit by a lantern along the roof ridge and has a much higher stud than the rest of the house. The rear of the house is made-up largely of service rooms. Interior features of note are the elaborate entrance arch and accompanying clock stand, smaller carved passageway arches, as well as the retention of original lincrusta dado in both the passageway and the central room. There is also a proliferation of skylights throughout the house which are original features, as are the pressed metal ceilings.
The verandah features some elaborate decoration, particularly the timber-fretted brackets and valances. The verandah has a fine balustrade interrupted by verandah posts arranged in groups of three. The verandah bays have large sash windows while above, the gable ends are capped with decorative cast-iron finials. The building is clad with rusticated weatherboards.
There have been few significant modifications to the building aside from early conservatories on either side of the house being converted into a bathroom and sunroom respectively in 1931, and the loss of several of the building’s seven large chimneys as the result of earthquake damage.
Immediately to the rear of the homestead is the original outbuilding which contained the washhouse and ablutions area, as well as the meat safe, which is distinguished from the other areas of the building due to its thick brick walls. All of the rooms of this L shaped building are now used for storage or auxiliary accommodation. The outbuilding is connected to the main house by a carport.
The stable is directly associated with the Homestead being located at its rear across a short gravelled area. Like the house, the Stable is of an unusual design, being shaped like an H, which could suggest it was also designed by James McKelvie. Its construction is believed to be contemporary with that of the house.
The stable was constructed from native timber and is clad in rusticated weatherboards. On the western wing of the building and its perpendicular gable there are dormers that accessed the large fodder loft. The ground level of this west side of the building has several sections; a series of stable stalls and areas for cart and carriage equipment, as well as separate rooms used to store garden supplies and tools, and a garage with a roller door.
The carriageway links the west and east wings of the building and features a catwalk beneath its gable, which is accessible from ground level by ladder.
The east wing contains an exceptional aspect of the stables, the comparatively elaborately decorated stalls with their turned kauri balustrade partitions. This demonstrates both the prosperity of the owners and perhaps their adoration of, and preference for, the animals to be housed within this section. The flooring is also notable in that it is made-up of a series of squared timber (probably totara) blocks. The southeast corner of this section of the stables shows considerable signs of subsidence. However, a recently constructed retaining wall has arrested this.
Despite being a utility building the stable block has other decorative elements which reflect its close proximity to the villa and the desire to create a complementary building that would not detract from the elegance of the Homestead. The ornamentation includes decorative bracketing in the carriageway opening, and finials that surmount the gables of each of these wings and their dormers.
This level of decoration is relatively unusual among surviving examples of late-nineteenth and early twentieth century stables, even those associated with grand residences. However, other comparable examples include the Aramoana Station Stables and the Bushy Park Stables which were both constructed in conjunction with rural homesteads built a few years after Pukemarama. All of these buildings feature finials and other exterior decorative aspects, as well as refined interior detailing, such as ‘elegant balustrade divisions’ for the stalls. Another example, albeit dating from an earlier period, is the stable included in the NZHPT historic place registration of Brancepeth Station.
Tom’s Hut and Lean-to
Located in a valley down a driveway which begins at the west corner of the Stables is a collection of buildings, including Tom’s Hut and the lean-to. There is also a modest-sized circa 1960s house close-by.
The stand-alone lean-to is thought to have been an addition to the cottage before it was destroyed by fire several decades ago. It is unclear how the lean-to survived since it is also constructed from timber. The opening that would have connected to the main house is still evident on the north side. This simple building is accessed from the west and is currently used as a shed.
The other building in this area is a small, simple, gabled, timber framed and clad, building known as Tom’s Hut. The building was named after the Homestead’s original on-site gardener, is where he and subsequent employees lived, and is thought to be contemporary with the Homestead and Stables. The building is raised slightly above the ground and has a small set of simple steps at its access point on the east side. This eastern side, as well as the north side, have the building’s only windows. On the west side the brick chimney is centrally positioned. This building contains several sets of bunk beds and some other furniture and is used as further auxiliary accommodation to the Homestead. The interior has a distinctively circa 1930s feel to it due to the light switches and wiring, and also the latticed ceiling.
Original interior fabric including the pressed metal ceilings, timber detailing and fireplace surrounds
Layout of rooms
The elliptical plan and windowless centre room
Tile fireplace and timber surrounds in dining room
Outstanding landscape quality
Homestead and outbuilding, and Stable constructed. Tom’s Hut constructed. Central garden path and steps constructed.
Formal garden developed.
Conversion of Homestead’s conservatories into bathroom, and sunroom.
1930 - 1939
Brick terracing in garden constructed.
Brick, concrete, corrugated iron, glass, timber.
21st July 2010
Report Written By
Karen Astwood and Rebecca O'Brien
B. Arapere, 'Maku ano hei hanga I toku nei whare; Hapu Dynamics in the Rangitikei Area, 1830-1872', A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment for the requirements for the degree of Master of the Arts in History, The University of Auckland, February, 1999
B. Brookes (ed.), 'At Home in New Zealand', Wellington, 2000
Buick, 1903 (1975)
TL Buick, 'Old Manawatu', Christchurch, 1903 (1975)
Cyclopedia of New Zealand
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908
D. A. Davies & R.E. Clevely, Pioneering to Prosperity 1874-1974: A Centennial History of the Manchester Block (Feilding & Oroua Borough Councils, Feilding 1981)
Manawatu Evening Standard
Manawatu Evening Standard
'A House from the Era of Crinoline Dresses', 5/6/1976; 10 January 1992; 21 November 2003
G. Petersen, Palmerston North; A Centennial History, Wellington, 1973
Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen
B. Saunders, Manawatu's Old Buildings, Palmerston North, 1987
Geoffrey Thornton, The New Zealand Heritage of Farm Buildings, Auckland, 1986
14 August 1903; 11 January 1906; 25 February 1909.
M H Holcroft, The Line of the Road - A History of Manawatu Country 1876-1976, John McIndoe Ltd, Dunedin, 1977
Ian Bowman, 'A Heritage Inventory for the Manawatu District Council,' February 2000, Manawatu District Council
This historic place was originally registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. It was reviewed in 2010 and the text in this report is from the review report.
Copies of the original registration report and the fully referenced review report are available from the NZHPT Central Region Office
Tours of this private residence and landscaped garden are by appointment only.
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.