Various iwi inhabited the Manawatu, primarily along the rivers, for approximately 300 years before European incursion into the area began. The Upper Manawatu area encompassed parts of the Ahuaturanga and Rangitikei-Manawatu Blocks and featured riverside pa such as Raukawa and Ti Wi, near what would become Ashhurst and Palmerston North respectively. Despite the presence of these settlements the wider area 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.
As such by the late 1840s the sale of 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.
It has been said that 'in the field of state-aided colonization no other had proved such an unqualified success as the settlement of the Manchester Block in the Manawatu District.' This process began with the arrival of 23 immigrants from Britain who settled in Feilding in 1874. This settlement scheme had its origins in England during the 1860s when a group of influential men, imbued with a philanthropic spirit, formed the Emigrant and Colonists' Aid Corporation Limited. The corporation's chairman, the Duke of Manchester, and other members were motivated by their shared concern for the plight and living conditions of Britain's working and lower classes. This was not a completely selfless venture by Henry George Ashhurst (?-1882), the Hon. William Henry Adelbert Feilding (1836-1895), and the other directors of the corporation as they also endeavoured to make a profit if at all possible.
In late 1871 Feilding travelled to Australia and New Zealand to scope out possible land for the Emigrant and Colonists' Aid Corporation Limited to purchase. He found that the atmosphere in New Zealand at the time was more receptive to the aims of the company, especially because their plans coincided with a push by the New Zealand government, led by Julius Vogel (1835-1899), to undertake large scale public works programmes. The corresponding legislature, the Immigration and Public Works Act (1870), meant that thousands of assisted immigrants were brought to New Zealand to work on projects such as railway construction, and to settle in the vicinity of the works, therein furthering the growth of the European population and contributing to the development of the economy.
Feilding was sufficiently impressed with what he saw on his quick tour through the Manawatu and entered into negotiations to purchase approximately 100,000 acres of land straddling the boundaries of Ahatauranga and Rangitikei-Manawatu Blocks. In the presence of Vogel, the deed for what was called the Manchester Block was signed in 1871 between the corporation and Queen Victoria, represented by Feilding and Sir George Ferguson Bowen respectively. One of the clauses in the agreement was that the corporation would settle at least 2,000 immigrants in the area by 1877 and that the government, once they had provided free passage from Britain for the immigrants, would then endeavour to employ them on public works projects in the proximity, such as the railway which cut through the block.
As an acknowledgment of Feilding's role in the establishment of the Manchester Block, the main town was named after him and was the first settlement founded. By the turn of the twentieth century the population of Feilding had reached 2,000 people. Between 1901 and 1906 there was a substantial rise in the population, with the census showing an extra thousand people residing in the town which was described as 'the market town of a thriving farming district.' By this time Feilding had all of the municipal buildings and facilities one would expect of a well established and flourishing town, such as a large Post Office complete with clock tower, gas lighting, churches representing all of the major Christian denominations, a railway station, a public library, schools, and leisure facilities and clubs.
A beneficiary of the farming boom in the district was Norman Ballantyne St. George Gorton (d.1926). Norman Gorton was the eldest son of Colonel Edward Gorton (1838-1909). Colonel Gorton had a distinguished military career, serving in India before immigrating to New Zealand and taking part in the hostilities in Taranaki and militia duties elsewhere around the lower North Island during the 1860s. Eventually he married the sister of Percy Smith and in 1892 established Gorton and Son, a stock auction and land agent company. This company became important locally and prospered as it had sale yards in numerous places, including Awahuri, Bulls, Feilding, Hunterville, Marton, and Rongotea. In the early twentieth century Colonel Gorton's sons, Norman and Leslie, took over management of the firm after returning from Argentina where they had large farming estates which they sold and profited from substantially. On his return, Norman Gorton purchased a property on the outer edge of Feilding in 1903 on which Mahoe was to be built.
Because of his prosperity Gorton could afford to engage well-known architect Charles Tilleard Natusch (1859-1952) to design a large residence that befitted the status of the Gorton family. Natusch was born in London and, after travelling to Canada and the United States of America, immigrated to New Zealand at the age of 27. By 1890 he had established a practice in Napier and had offices in other districts including Palmerston North in 1908. Natusch specialised in domestic architecture and characteristically incorporated board and batten cladding, concrete foundations, generously sized windows such as square bay windows, as well as verandahs, into his designs.
Natusch seems to have been involved in a large number of projects in the Manawatu around the time Mahoe was completed in 1904. In fact Mahoe was one of three houses that Natusch designed in Feilding and the surrounding region for the Gortons, the others being Rangiatea (circa 1903) constructed for Norman's father, as well as another for his brother Leslie. However, in the case of Mahoe, its history could quite easily have been over before it began because soon after is completion there was a fire at the house. Fortunately this was extinguished before any major damage was done. Aside from the work he completed for the Gortons, Natusch had many other domestic architecture commissions in the area in the decade after the turn of the twentieth century, including the design of Westella in Feilding (1901), as well as Shalimar (1906) and Atawhai in Palmerston North (1908), and Natusch also completed substantial additions to the grand Johnston family homestead of Highden in Awahuri (1908).
Mahoe remained in the Gorton family until the early 1950s when a Henry Goodwin, a local school teacher, and his wife purchased the property. It seems likely that the major alteration to the house, the enclosing of the upper balcony through the extension of the northern gable, happened while still in the Gorton's ownership. Upon occupation of Mahoe the Goodwins planned to use it as a boarding house, but this venture was not sustainable for long. The Goodwins also added further plantings in the orchard to supplement the fruit, native, and exotic plantings that were the hobby of Gorton. His interest in gardening is still recognised locally with the annual presentation of a Norman Gorton horticultural trophy which has been competed for since 1919. Mahoe's gardens also had significance because it is said that the first chinese gooseberries in the Manawatu were grown there after Gorton obtained plants from Wanganui when they were initially introduced into New Zealand.
The Goodwins owned Mahoe for 40 years. Since 1991 the property has had three sets of owners.
Mahoe is situated on a large flat section at a prominent corner on the outskirts of Feilding. Once, the pre-eminent spaces of the house looked out in the north east direction to the intersection of South Street and Aorangi Road. The house, stepped back slightly from the centre of the section, is nowadays screened from the road by the mature exotic and native trees. The drive enters the section at the corner, veers left, and winds around the large lawn, through the high and lush tree border to approach the house from the east side. Here, on the south-east side of the house, with a large asphalted forecourt in front, is a modest entrance to the house. Around the north corner is the extensive lawns and gardens at the north-east of the house. Further, on the north-west, a formal parterre and raised kitchen beds have been laid out between the house and the trees and boundary. On the south-west side are garages and utilities, a large turning area and border lawns and smaller trees.
Mahoe is a moderately large two storey timber house, built a few steps up off the ground, with a broadly steep tiled roof. The style of the building shows influences of the revival in Tudor architecture in the nineteenth century, the use of materials of the Edwardian period, and the English cottage style in New Zealand. The house is irregularly shaped but can be seen to be based on an underlying rectangular plan form. The main roof gable runs north-west to south-east. Two secondary gables, one smaller, lead out on the north-east face. The northern most of these gables is an extension of the original. At ground level are many attachments to the main two storey form: a long lean-to at the front door; two small lean-tos on the east corner; verandahs on both the north-west and north-east elevations; and leant-tos (one hipped) at both levels on the south-west side. The effect of these adjuncts to the main structure is to soften the visual effects of what is otherwise a compact and upright form. Like the main expanse of the roof, originally the verandahs and the lean-tos were tiled. However, by 1993 these areas had corrugated iron roofing which was in need of replacement.
The vertical visual effect of the house is further increased by Tudor-style vertical timber board-&-batten cladding, creating a striking sight. The boards and battens are broad, and here have been painted in contrast which allows the patterns to be seen. Horizontal battens tie around the house at upper floor level and at upper window sill level. Further horizontal battens mark the window head level and the pronounced collar-tie line. The upper level floor (coinciding with the lean-to points of attachments) is further marked by additional mouldings and spouting. Below ground floor window sills horizontal lapped weatherboards skirt the house down to floor level, corners capped. Below, broad ventilating boards are set against the foundations, splayed. Around the early 1990s many of the wooden piles at the front of the house were replaced to stop subsidence. The roof exterior has several flues and one brick chimney.
All four facades of the house have an exterior doorway. The formal entrance, somewhat understated, is double-leaf timber doors with stained glass leadlighting with monogrammed panels referencing the initials of the original owners. The doorways on the north-west and north-east are positioned under the verandahs. On the south-west, a 'back door' leads out to the garage and utilities.
The placement of windows around the exterior shows attention to appearance. Generally, and especially on the north-east and north-west sides windows have been symmetrically or centrally placed. Windows are timber and predominantly double hung sash windows, clear glazed, singly or in groups of two or three, depending on the room within. The scale of the windows has been reduced beneath the verandahs and large multi-paned windows feature in spaces with a sunroom function.
The verandahs are similar but distinct. Both are similar in length, timber-lined with slender posts and a delicate shaping to their lintels. The north-east verandah is deep with additional internal bracketed posts, endwall glazing, two single doors to the interior, and solid matching timber balustrading to the wall cladding. The north-west verandah is half the depth, open ended, with its balustrading removed. A single door leads inside.
Ground Floor Interior
The ground floor interior contains living rooms and services rooms arranged for their purpose around a long hall and to take advantage of sunny aspects. Living rooms face north; the stairs and service rooms face towards the south. Walls and ceilings are plastered or timbered. Ceilings are simple fibrous plaster panels and timber battens, generally flat; scotias are modestly moulded. These are generally characteristic of Natusch's Tudor style houses and are an aspect which differs from many contemporary houses where mass produced plaster ceilings and other ornamental surfaces are common. Instead, Natusch extensively showcased the beauty of local native timbers in his interior linings. Timbers used in the house include matai, totara and rimu. The deep skirtings are simply bevelled. Joinery is generally clear-finished. Where flooring is uncarpeted the matai boards are polished. Doors are distinctively formed with vertical (lower) and symmetrical diagonal (upper) match lining.
Entrance Hall, Lobby and Study
The main entrance, through the stained glass panelled doors leads into a small painted board and batten lobby. A further leadlight panel door leads into the main Hall of the house. The Hall is divided into three sections by angular arches (a motif designed into the house originally and subsequently replicated in a few locations). The first section, just inside the front door, has plastered wall linings above a board and batten wainscot and a deep bevelled skirting. Immediately to the right is a small room presently used as a study where the Hall wall finishes continue. This section of the Hall is short and wide. Beyond, the Hall lengthens and narrows. In the second section, the walls are lined full height with board and batten. Doors lead to rooms left and right and a stairway rises to the left. In the distance the exterior door to the garaging end of the house allows light in.
From the timber-lined Hall, the first major room to be reached is left to the Dining Room. This is a large room with fireplace in an arched alcove at one end. At the other end three double hung sash windows are centred in the bay of the lean-to. An arched lintel forms an opening between the lean-to and the main body of the house. Two side windows face the south-west. The walls are plaster however a high level band of horizontal timber sarking runs around the room above the windows. The sarking is vertical where a chimney once stood. The fireplace alcove is deep and book lined. The fire surround is brick and tile with a timber mantelpiece. A modern fireplace is installed.
Across the Hall is the double-door entrance to the Living Room, a room which structurally fits beneath the smaller secondary gable. It is a rectangular room with three bays. Two bays are situated within lean-tos - one facing northeast, the other facing northwest - incorporating a set of three double hung windows and single windows in the projecting lean-to sides. The third bay of the room is the fireplace alcove which is deeply recessed with a high timber mantelpiece over a tile and brick surround. The chimney is a solid form within the bay. The lintels over all three bays are delicately reinforced with curving timber trim and a window within the bay looks out under the verandah. All trim timber is similarly light, simple and (in this room) painted. A single door with a large leadlight panel leads onto the northeast verandah.
The middle section of the Hall widens to incorporate the Stairway and access around under the Stairway to the Bathroom and Kitchen areas. The Stairway is a solidly timbered but simply detailed stair: timber board and batten panelling continues up the stair; handrails have an easily grasped tight curve; balusters are chamfered; stringers are undecorated and cantilevered. Newel posts feature at all changes of direction and are large, square with chamfered edges, and mitred newel cap that supports a melon-shaped timber ball. The curtail step is circular. Newel drops are bevelled to points.
Further down the Hall, off to the right from the third section of the Hall, is the Smoking Room. This is a small living room that structurally fits beneath the larger secondary gable. Its walls are board and batten lined with a timber panelled ceiling. The fireplace is set at an angle and is timber lined with a timber mantelpiece. A leadlight-paned door and a single window face out to the lawn underneath the verandah. The three double-hung windows facing the parterre are recent replacements of smaller windows.
Flower Room & Maid's Room
Across the Hall from the Smoking Room (and past the leadlight door leading onto the verandah) is a recently-added opening, through what was once a small Flower Room. While the Flower Room is the smallest of spaces, the Maid's Room beyond (that it is now part of) is a generous northwest-facing living room with two single windows, a panelled ceiling and a fireplace in the style of the other fireplaces in the house. The chimney above is intact. All windows face out under the verandah to the northwest.
At the far end of the Maid's Room a door leads directly into the kitchen, an expansively long space that runs the length of the lean-to with both features of its original construction and recent joinery additions: openings are arched; walls and ceilings have been relined; original windows feature; other joinery and fittings are new. A high alcove no longer has a coal range but has a modern oven beneath the timber surround. The alcove backs onto the Fireplace in the Maid's Room.
Bathroom and Back Hall
Connecting the kitchen areas and the main Hall is a timber-lined Back Hall with a Bathroom. The Back Hall has a lower ceiling level corresponding to a half-level landing with two side rooms above but otherwise the finishes of the Hall are carried through to the Back Hall. The bathroom is a small room with new finishes and fittings and a south facing single window.
Bathrooms at the Mid-Stair Lobby
A third way up the stairs, three stairs lead away through an arched lintel to a board & batten Mid-Stair Lobby. The Lobby has the only decorative metal ceiling in the house, which may indicate it is a later addition. The Lobby also has windows facing south, and doors to three small rooms - two left and one right. Each is match-lined with a window. Trim timbers are minimal. All rooms are fitted for bathroom activities: to the left a shower room and a toilet; to the right a bathroom with a basin. The Bathrooms and Lobby all fit beneath the upper level lean-to.
Upper Level Interior
The upper level comprises a mid-level landing and bathrooms (on the south side) and the Upper Hall. Single doors lead to six bedrooms - different in shape, size, orientation and features. Their windows are generally large and with low sills, having been positioned for their exterior appearance. Doors follow the diagonal and vertical panelling motif. The rooms are match-lined and fit into the ceiling space. Horizontal ceiling sections correspond to rafter collar tie sections while the sloping ceilings follow the roof line. While most walls have been lined with plaster, ceiling boards are painted. Most rooms have original built-in joinery. Three have fireplaces similar in styling to ground floor fireplaces.
From the mid-landing the stairway turns, rises and splays out to a large Upper Hall. Timber wainscoting lines a section of wall where cupboards have been removed however elsewhere the walls are full height board & batten. The ceiling is flat plaster. One set of cupboards remains.
The Green Bedroom & Sunroom
The largest of the bedrooms is the Green Bedroom. It is directly across from the stairway and occupies the smaller of the secondary gables. The two gable windows are large. Smaller side windows fit under the roof form. At one end of the room an alcove with an arched timber lintel houses an offset fireplace styled similarly to other fireplaces in the house. A window looks onto the next room. Alongside, and a step down, is a Sunroom set within the larger secondary gable. It has series of windows of long diamond-pattern leadlighting. At the far end is a large multi-paned window.
The Red Room & Pale Blue Room
To the right of the Green Bedroom (eastwards) are firstly the Pale Blue Room and the larger Red Room. These fit within the main gable at the east end of the house. Both have double windows. The Pale Blue Room has built-in furniture and the Red Room has the fire surround of a fireplace.
The Eggshell Blue Room, the Gold Room and the Steel Blue Room
To the left of the Green Bedroom (westwards) are three rooms facing out to the west garden parterre. They are smaller rooms and fit beneath the main gable at the west end. The Eggshell Blue Room has a single window over the parterre, two internal windows onto the Sunroom, and a fireplace with painted timber surround. The Gold Room has built-in joinery and a single window. The Steel Blue Room has a single window over looking the garden.
Natusch is considered the most prolific proponent of Tudor style domestic architecture in New Zealand and it is said to have reached its 'highest pitch' in his work. There are several examples on the NZHPT Register of historic places, including the grand and elegant homesteads, Matapiro Station Homestead and Maungaraupi Homestead. There is also a house in Gisborne which is of a similar scale to Mahoe and echoes the exterior forms of Matapiro and Maungaraupi.
However, these places differ to Mahoe which has been described as 'a decidedly rigid example of Elizabethianism' and a building which is 'compliantly plain and not given to frippery.' In this sense Mahoe is comparable with the house created for Colonel Gorton, Rangiatea. These residences were designed around the same time, and the commissioning of Natusch by Norman Gorton to create a smaller version of his father's home was most likely the result of his seeing and appreciating Colonel Gorton's house. This selection of Natusch's Tudor style architecture is representative of the variety achievable within the set language of an architectural style and how it could be manipulated depending on the requirements of the client. The result of this is that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Natusch created a group of related Tudor style buildings, but all of these houses had their own individual character.
Front timber piles replaced, Corrugated iron on lean-tos and verandahs replaced
Corrugated iron on lean-tos and verandahs replaced
Brick, corrugated iron, glass, Marseille roofing tiles, timber
20th November 2009
Report Written By
Karen Astwood and Alison Dangerfield
Buick, 1903 (1975)
TL Buick, 'Old Manawatu', Christchurch, 1903 (1975)
D. A. Davies & R.E. Clevely, Pioneering to Prosperity 1874-1974: A Centennial History of the Manchester Block (Feilding & Oroua Borough Councils, Feilding 1981)
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dalziel, R. 'Vogel, Julius 1835 - 1899,' updated 22 June 2007; URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/
Natusch, G.K., 'Natusch, Charles Tilleard 1859-1951,' updated 22 June 2007
T A Gibson, An Account of the Settlement of the Feilding District (First published Feilding 1936, this copy: Capper Press, Christchurch, 1983)
G. Petersen, Palmerston North; A Centennial History, Wellington, 1973
B. Saunders, Manawatu's Old Buildings, Palmerston North, 1987
Shaw, 1997 (2003)
Peter Shaw, A History of New Zealand Architecture, Auckland, 1997
Waitangi Tribunal Report, www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz
Anderson, R. and K. Pickens, 'Rangahaua Whanau District 12 -Wellington District: Port Nicholson, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Rangitikei, and Manwatu,' Waitangi Tribunal Rangahaua Whanua Series, August 1996. Updated 14 August 2009
Terence Hodgson, E.R., Charles Tilleard Natusch, A Folio of Houses, Eastgate, 1979
Papers Past, www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz
Feilding Star, 25 March 1904, 31 December 1909
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.