Woodlands

42 Whitikahu Road, Gordonton

  • Woodlands.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Gail Henry. Date: 21/11/2001.
  • Woodlands.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Gail Henry. Date: 21/11/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 155 Date Entered 24th November 1983

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Waikato District

Region

Waikato Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DPS 48035, Lot 1 DPS 62416 (CT SA55B/951), South Auckland Land District

Summaryopen/close

Woodlands is a large colonial dwelling, surrounded by extensive grounds and reclaimed agricultural land. Constructed before 1881, it is associated with the radical transformation of the low-lying Waikato landscape after the third New Zealand - or Waikato - War (1863-1864). The timber house was apparently built for Henry Reynolds (1849-1925), manager and part-owner of the 35,000 hectare Woodlands estate. The estate incorporated part of the Piako swamp, and had been controversially purchased from the government in 1873 by a group of Auckland entrepreneurs known as the Piako Swamp Company, later the Waikato - then New Zealand - Land Association. Aided by British investment, the association set about draining the land in what was claimed to be one of the biggest reclamations in the country. By 1902 it had converted roughly 11,000 hectares of swamp into pasture, running 40,000 sheep and 3,000 head of cattle, through the creation of an extensive network of roads and drainage ditches.

The residence was the headquarters of the association's activities in the area from the beginning of Reynolds' occupancy in 1880-1881. Acting as a showpiece for the company and its transformation of the land, it lay at the centre of the estate, surrounded by extensive gardens and agricultural buildings, including a sawmill and threshing plant powered by water from the swamp. Visited by colonial governors and premiers, the two-storeyed residence was modelled in a predominantly Picturesque Gothic style, although including some Italianate features. Prominent dormer windows and a wrap-around verandah looked out over the grounds, while extensive servants' quarters were located to the rear. Its gardens were laid out with exotic plants and trees, while the release of traditional British game on surrounding land allowed gentlemanly pursuits such as shooting parties to take place. These activities were particularly prominent when the house was occupied by John Gordon, who managed the estate from 1886. The house remained in use after the estate was dismantled in 1902-1905, although the ground floor servants' quarters and original farm buildings, including a barn and woolshed, were subsequently removed. The house and its garden have since been converted into a recreational reserve, with the former retaining some preserved original interiors. Several trees planted in the nineteenth century grow in its grounds, including reputedly the largest camellia, tulip and gum trees in New Zealand.

Woodlands is nationally significant as the centrepiece of one of the largest private reclamation projects of its time. It has important associations with the transformation of the colonial landscape through land drainage, the introduction of imported species and the imposition of a regular gridwork of fields and roads. It is valuable for demonstrating the scale and ambition of agricultural expansion in late nineteenth-century New Zealand, particularly in the Waikato region. It reflects the financial power of the nineteenth-century Auckland business community, especially that of the New Zealand Land Association. The building is significant for its connections with Henry Reynolds, who went on to become a pioneer in factory-made butter and creator of the renowned 'Anchor' brand. It is also of value for its links with John Gordon, in whose honour the surrounding district of Gordonton was named. It demonstrates the influential position of estate managers in nineteenth-century rural society and a gentlemanly ideal of estate life, based on precedents in Britain. The dwelling is of considerable value to the local community for having been the focus of pioneer settlement and social life in the area. It is highly significant for its setting, which includes exotic trees of national importance, drainage systems in the broader landscape and buried archaeological deposits linked to nineteenth-century outbuildings and other remains.

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Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The building is part of a broader archaeological landscape of late nineteenth-century date, which includes notable historic trees and buried remains.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1880 - 1881

Modification
1938 -
Removal of servants' quarters

Modification
1988 -
Demolition of laundry and replacement of other elements during renovation

Completion Date

15th November 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

pp.712-713 & 754

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

E.R. Doolin, 'Henry Reynolds', Vol.2: 1870-1900, Wellington, 1993, pp.418-419

Gordon, 1970

W.A. Gordon, 'History of the Woodlands Estate', unpublished typescript, 1970 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

Stone, 1973

R. C. J. Stone, Makers of Fortune: A Colonial Business Community and its Fall, Auckland, 1973

pp.17-20, 177-182 & 185-189

Waikato Museum of Art & History

Waikato Museum of Art & History

Harry Bullock Webster, My Diary in New Zealand, Vol 1 (July 1881-1882), Waikato Museum, p.12

Other Information

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.