Tarureka Woolshed

38 Donald Street And Revans Street, Featherston

  • Tarureka Woolshed.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 31/08/2002.
  • Tarureka Woolshed.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 31/08/2002.
  • Tarureka Woolshed Drawing. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library. Taken By: Christopher Aubrey.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1300 Date Entered 2nd July 1987


City/District Council

South Wairarapa District


Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 DP 9139 (CT WN30C/406), Wellington Land District

Location description

38 Donald Street, Featherston


The Tarureka Cowshed in Featherston is a significant, physical reminder of the early years of the New Zealand dairy industry. James Donald, a Scottish carpenter, built the cowshed at the suggestion of his wife, Elizabeth, in 1868. It is a simple, two-storey building with a steeply pitched roof. The second floor was used as a loft. Two single storey lean-tos provide extra space on each side. It was constructed according to a multifunctional design commonly used in European barns. Erected before herringbone milking sheds were developed, its 38 cow-bails are based on the rectangular restraining posts used to milk cows in open yards. In the lean-to on the east, Clydesdales were fed from the hay shovelled down from the storage loft above. Horses were broken in a small room to the west. A small, decorated porch was built at the front of the building and used by the men to collect the hay and chaff that was once stored in the loft. The porch is a special feature of the building and shows a refinement unusual in utilitarian farm buildings.

As in most newly established farming settlements, outside labour was both scarce and expensive in Featherston in the 1860s. Elizabeth and her daughters undertook full responsibility for all aspects of dairying, from the purchase of cows to the time-consuming task of hand-milking the herd and making butter. Males were responsible for the horses and the hauling of hay into the loft. By 1881 farming success enabled James Donald to establish four more dairy farms. He was unable to persuade local settlers to form a co-operative dairy company and in 1881 Donald opened the private Tarureka Butter Factory to process the milk from his farms. Located a short distance from the cowshed, the factory began on a modest scale. By 1901 it was firmly established and processing milk from over 600 cows. The success of the factory was partially due to the innovative supervision of Bessie Donald who became manager of the factory in 1899. Bessie was responsible for introducing the first De Laval separator into New Zealand and successfully exported Tarureka butter until 1916, when war made its production uneconomical. The factory was eventually demolished. Milk from the Donald homestead was collected and turned into cheese at another Featherston dairy company.

The multiple functions that the cowshed was designed to accommodate made the building a versatile space, ensuring its survival long after other buildings associated with the dairy industry vanished from the Donald estate. Today the cowshed serves as excellent example of successful 'adaptive re-use'. In 1997 the owners, descendants of James and Elizabeth Donald, enclosed the east wall and converted the cowshed into a café and wine-bar. The lean-to on the right, originally built as a space in which yearlings could be kept, and later used as a garage, was converted into a kitchen and bar service area. The loft has been restored to its original state, the only addition being an internal staircase. It now serves as a function centre specialising in wedding receptions. Despite the dramatic change to the building's function, the original architecture has been carefully preserved, allowing its historical associations to provide valuable insight into early New Zealand dairying.

Tarureka Cowshed is both historically and architecturally significant. It is inextricably linked with the Tarureka butter factory, a contributor of national importance to the early years of the New Zealand dairy industry. Linked with the history of women in the farming community, the building provides insight into both the working conditions of these women and the running of the wider dairy organisation. It is noteworthy for its incorporation of early technological developments in the dairy industry, including the use of covered cow-bails and feeding troughs. As the last remaining utilitarian building connected with the early butter factory, the cowshed also has local significance. Although it was not the first dairy factory in Featherston, the cowshed is the last remaining structure associated with this early industry in the area and, as such, serves as a reminder of this important part of the town's history.


Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

A small decorated porch on the front of the building

The pigeon cote built directly above the porch

The names of the horses in the west wall of the eastern wing of the building

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1868 -

1997 -
Converted into a cafe / function centre

Completion Date

5th October 2002

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Bagnall, 1976

A. G. Bagnall, Wairarapa; An Historical Excursion, Trentham, 1976

Carle, 1953

C. Carle, Wairarapa; The First One Hundred Years of Development of a Great District, Masterton, 1953

Graham, 1990

D. Graham, From Tulliallan to Tarureka: the history of James and Elizabeth Donald, Papakura, 1990

Yerex, 1989

D. Yerex, Empire of the Dairy Farmers, Petone, 1989

Other Information

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.