Built in 1866 and situated amidst farmland in the rural district of Appleby, Stafford Place is an elegant timber homestead, and an important example of the Carpenter Gothic style. It was constructed as Henry (1794-1873) and Mary Redwood's new residence on their farm which they developed after immigrating with their large family to Nelson as part of the New Zealand Company scheme. The house is reflective of, and a testimony to, their high social status within the Nelson community.
Early Maori recognised the potential for crop production in the area around what would become Appleby, and if a New Zealand Company settler in the early 1840s was allocated land there they considered themselves lucky. The fertility and form of the land was ideally suited to farming and when the Redwoods arrived on the George Fyfe in 1842, although at first dismayed, they were able to establish themselves relatively quickly as a result. This large family of staunch Catholics centred their activities around their original farm in Appleby producing beef, dairy, mutton, and some horticultural produce for the Nelson market. Henry in particular has been singled out as a key figure in the foundation of the Catholicism in Nelson and continued to be a prominent person within that community and Nelson in general until his death in 1873. The initial homestead built in the early 1840s was a modest pisé house. However, in 1866 the Redwoods constructed a new Stafford Place, which was much more opulent, befitted their status locally, and was reflective of the enhancement of their economic situation since their arrival in Nelson some 20 years earlier. Like its predecessor that was located immediately next to the new house until 1929, the new Stafford Place became the centre of many local social activities and also a family base for the couple's adult children, several of whom are distinguished and noteworthy people nationally.
Stafford Place is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic style. Since it was first constructed using locally sourced timber, such as totara and matai, the stately homestead has only undergone a few alterations. Characteristics of Carpenter Gothic include high levels of ornamentation and craftsmanship, and the retention of these aspects, including the extensive use of foliate bargeboards and the impressive carved staircase balustrading, at Stafford Place is remarkable. The dynamism created by multiple steep gabled peaks, and the elegant concave verandah, are also representative aspects of this style.
By the time they built Stafford Place the Redwoods had become affluent and distinguished among the early families of Nelson, with exceptional standing within the Catholic community. Carpenter Gothic was used for Stafford Place because it befitted the social standing and economic prosperity of the people who built it and the stylistic features, such as the intricate decorative features, were a means of exhibiting this. This considerable historical significance is supplemented by the fidelity of this building to the guiding tenets of the Carpenter Gothic style. The remarkable retention of these original aspects within Stafford Place contributes to its outstanding architectural value.
Stafford Place is historically important being the residence of one of Nelson's preeminent New Zealand Company immigrant families who went on to form the social and religious core of their rural community. Mary and Henry Redwood were well-known and respected in Nelson and several of their children became prominent people nationally in their respective fields.
This large family travelled from England in the hope of a achieving a self-determined future and were rewarded for their hard work farming their original 1842 allotment of rural land with prosperity by the mid 1860s. This success led to the construction of Stafford Place, whose grand appearance befitted their social status. This status was historically documented on the site of Stafford Place through the family first living in a tent, then a modest cob homestead, and culminated in this statement of the affluence they had accrued over a twenty year period.
The use of the house, or disuse by Mary, is also important because it demonstrates that while this style of house was popular among the New Zealand's elite during the period, and particularly those in Nelson, such residences were not a universal comfortable fit with the self image of settlers who had been accustomed to living modestly, and that their change in circumstances, no matter how gradual, was sometimes not easy to navigate.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
Stafford Place is a family farmhouse picturesquely located in the spacious openness of a rural setting and has considerable aesthetic value. Moreover, as was the tenet of New Zealand's Carpenter Gothic style, the elegant exterior ornamental features and dramatic gable peaks of this distinguished house elevate its appearance above that of an ordinary dwelling and create a sense of contained grandeur.
Architectural Significance or Value
Stafford Place has architectural significance as a large country farmhouse from an early period of New Zealand's rural community. It is an outstanding and representative and rare example of the Carpenter Gothic style which was a significant development in New Zealand residential building and represented a period of architecture nationally which was influenced by domestic nostalgia and Gothic Revival. In particular, the decorated steep gables and curving verandahs show the form and ornamentation of the style. The design and craftsmanship of the bargeboards, lintels and the stairway inside are especially fine. The relaxed spacial qualities of the rooms and their design are a blend of both formality and comfort. Stafford Place's rarity as a Carpenter Gothic house is enhanced because the design integrity of the dwelling has been remarkably well maintained and Stafford Place is particularly noteworthy for this prevalence of essential original features and spaces.
(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 Stafford Place is reflective of this as the homestead of an early immigrant family to the New Zealand Companies Nelson settlement. Through the farming of their original allotment of rural land the Redwood family was able to prosper and Stafford Place is indicative of the affluence that this family, and other contemporaries, were able to acquire in this way.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
Henry and Mary were important people within early Nelson society, and Stafford Place is also closely associated with two of their children who were important on a national level. While Henry Jnr, who is known as 'the father of New Zealand turf,' lived in his own residence the fact that it was on a section of the family land which was allotted to them upon their arrival in New Zealand ensured his close connection to Stafford Place was not only based on his proximity but also his role in managing and working the family land with his father.
Francis, the youngest son of Mary and Henry, became a Bishop and then Archbishop, and was therefore important as the head of the Catholic Church in New Zealand. His link to Stafford Place was primarily familial since he was based in Wellington, but he is known to have sojourned at Stafford Place when visiting the Nelson region. Because Henry and Mary were prominent persons within the Catholic community in the region, they also hosted events at their residence which included other nationally important religious figures such as Garin, who was among one of the first Catholic missionaries to New Zealand and Nelson's first priest.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
Accentuated craftsmanship was a characteristic of Carpenter Gothic architecture and is a defining feature of Stafford Place that is demonstrated in the exterior decoration, as well as on the interior in features, such as the impressive staircase balustrading. The remarkable maintenance of these original elements and the continued fidelity to original design is an outstanding feature of Stafford Place.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
Stafford Place is an integral part of a larger historical landscape that documents the Redwood family's prominence in the establishment and development of the Appleby area. Aside from Stafford Place this importance is also demonstrated through the naming of Redwood Valley, Redwood Road, the retention of buildings associated with Hednesford which was part of the original allotment of land and became the property of Henry Redwood Jnr, as well as other Redwood connections such as the family plot in the cemetery at St Peter and St Paul's Church, Waimea West.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
Stafford Place is an excellent representative example of the Carpenter Gothic style. Other noteworthy examples of this style on the NZHPT Register of historic places that are Category I historic places and are comparable to Stafford Place include Highwic in Auckland, Oneida Homestead at Fordell, and Broadgreen in Stoke. Stafford Place is rare because of the remarkable fidelity to the original design it maintains, in its form, materials, and features. The exceptional architectural significance of this building is comparable with its historical value as the residence of one of Nelson's most prominent and influential early New Zealand Company settler families, the Redwoods. This family was integral in the establishment and development of the local farming community, as well as Catholicism in the Nelson region, the legacy of which was carried on by two Redwood children, Henry Jnr and Francis, who became national leaders in their respective fields of horse breeding and religion and had a close connection Stafford Place. Therefore, Stafford Place has outstanding heritage significance.
Timber, brick, corrugated iron, glass.
The settlement of the Nelson region is said to have begun with the landing of the prominent early iwi, Waitaha, in the waka Uruao. This travelled from Hawaiki and the voyagers made landfall on the Boulder Bank circa 850, near what would become Nelson city. From there scouting parties set out to explore the interior while others continued their sea journey down the east coast of the South Island. The settlement of the Nelson region then ensued and was driven by the fact that the area was found to be rich in resources, such as minerals for fashioning tradable items like adzes. Food, in the form of seal, moa and shellfish, was plentiful too and the district also had large tracts of land with fertile soil, or soil whose fertility could be manipulated, suitable for growing kumara and other garden produce. It was because of this abundance of resources that the district is said to have been 'one of the most fought over in New Zealand.' In the vicinity of the Waimea River and what was to become known as Appleby, there is evidence of Maori occupation and agricultural activity dating from the thirteenth century. In particular, in 1828 there was a large fortified pa situated where Appleby was to be established, that is until it and its residents were destroyed by a war party led by Te Rauparaha.
A European association with the Nelson area was first established in 1642 when Abel Tasman anchored in what was to be called Murderer's, then Massacre, and now Golden Bay. The result of this first visit was a lethal exchange between the Dutch sailors and Ngati Tumatakokiri. It was centuries after this initial encounter that European interest in the area began in earnest with explorative visits from Captain James Cook and Dumont D'Urville and a few others. Then in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century flax traders and sealers began to frequent the coast around Nelson. However, because there were few whaling stations in the immediate area there was no substantive European settlement until the New Zealand Company's establishment and settlement of Nelson from 1841.
The company explored the potential of several sites for its settlement but Nelson was chosen as the nucleus, despite the generally swampy nature of the low lying areas, because of its harbour and the plentiful supplies of game and fish. It was then a matter of Captain Arthur Wakefield meeting with the various iwi of the region to persuade them to agree to the proposed settlement. This was essentially a confirmation and extension of a land sale organised by the Tory expedition in 1839. The meeting took place at Kaiteriteri and Wakefield eventually negotiated a deal with those in attendance. However, subsequent events demonstrate that in regard to this and some later transactions there were discrepancies in what each party believed they had agreed to. This led to several instances of conflict in the Nelson region during the 1840s, in particular. Perhaps the most well-known occurrence was the 'Wairau Affray' in 1843.
It was not until the 1850s that the Nelson community and other towns in the area began to coalesce. Provincial government was established in 1853, and most of the farm land from Wakapuaka to Brightwater was occupied by this date. By the 1850s all of the major Christian denominations could also boast of clergy and associated buildings in and around Nelson. Between 1853 and 1858 the European population of the district had risen from 4,587 to over 7,000 and continued to grow and prosper into the 1860s and 1870s with the aid of the local gold rushes and the nationwide demand for the areas produce. This growth in population can be seen in the coinciding increase in churches and school buildings which were necessary to supplement those already established.
The extension of settlement beyond Nelson town and the established of farms was a recognised necessity in order for the town to progress. However, this was problematic because much of the surrounding district was mountainous, densely forested, or was covered in fern or swamp, and of inconsistent levels of fertility. Like other places in the Nelson region, Appleby is said to have been named by an early local settler's home town in England. Its name was changed from Lower West Waimea in the 1850s. When more people came to Appleby they found that the fertility of the soil, which had been proven through the extensive gardens that local Maori had had in the area, meant that the establishment of farms and orchards in the area was not as arduous as elsewhere. The condition of access roads and the barrier of the Waimea River meant the community was quite isolated though. Through the perseverance of early settlers, by the 1870s Appleby, like other places in the district, was a well established farming community, but it differed in that its main focus was dairy farming. Many of the famers also had close familial links with the majority of other local households.
The Redwood family immigrated to New Zealand as part of the New Zealand Company's planned Nelson settlement, and became a very prosperous and prominent early settler family within this community. The family, which included Henry and Mary Redwood and nine of the couple's ten children, travelled from England on the George Fyfe, arriving in Nelson in December 1842. They soon settled on their selected land in West Waimea, which would become the site of Stafford Place, while Henry set up the family's butchery business on their allocated town acre in Nelson. The family lived in a tent for the first six months of their residence and then were able to move into their 'comfortable farm house' constructed from either cob or 'peasy'. Aside from establishing dairy and sheep farming on this original piece of land, hops and corn were grown on the property and horses were also bred. Through this agricultural and horticultural produce the family firmly established themselves as one of the leading families in the district. They also quickly asserted themselves into the social networks of the new colony and Henry, in particular, was very active publically. At one point he was the Nelson Provincial Council representative for Waimea West for much of 1859.
Henry's passion is said to have been sport but his leisure activities did not distract him from business, and as such the family were reasonably affluent. Henry was a racing enthusiast and consequently had a large stable of thoroughbreds which he imported from Australia. His son, Henry Jnr (1823-1907) inherited this love from his father and built what is thought to be the first horse racing stables in New Zealand on the section of the family land that he called Hednesford. Henry Jnr became nationally known in horse racing circles and was labelled the 'Father of the Turf' on account of his efforts in establishing the sport in New Zealand and as one of the preeminent early breeders. There was also another house on the property which was built by Joseph Ward (1817-1892), the surveyor whom Ward's Pass is named after, who was married to Martha Redwood and came out to New Zealand with the family. Ward was also involved in the Redwood family's butchery business as was Henry Jnr.
The Redwood's were Catholic converts, exceptionally devout, and have been singled out as a key family in the establishment of the Nelson Catholic Parish. Father Antoine Marie Garin (1810-1889), Nelson's first Catholic priest who arrived in 1850 and became a pillar not just the Catholic community but the Nelson community in general, said that at 'Waimea West there was a truly patriarchal Family, The Redwoods - one would have thought they had been born in the Church.' Henry is recorded as saying that if he could not succeed in bringing a priest to Nelson then he would have to pack up the family and move to Tasmania where there was one, and it was largely as a result of Henry's campaigning that Garin and others eventually came to Nelson. The family was heavily involved in establishing the Catholic community in Nelson and were ardent supporters of the church at Waimea West. Given the devotion of the family it is perhaps not surprising that the youngest child, Francis William (1839-1935), became Garin's protégé, studied and was ordained in Europe and on his return became a bishop and later Archbishop of New Zealand. Garin was a close family friend and it is said that the homestead, including the new building, was considered a parish centre.
In 1866 a new house, or 'The Castle' as Mary termed it, was constructed alongside the original house and this then became known as Stafford Place. By this time Francis had completed his schooling, been ordained and was living and lecturing at a university in Dublin, Henry Jnr had built Hednesford, and their other siblings were living on or in close vicinity to the farm or in Marlborough. The house then, is representative of the head of the family's decision to upgrade their home, and no doubt the design is reflective of the change in their fortunes and social status since their arrival on the land over twenty years earlier. The materials for the timber, two-story house with large rooms and ornamental finishing touches, would have been milled locally, and it is believed that the brick foundations were made on site in a specially built kiln. With its steep pitched gables and elaborately decorated bargeboards the style of the building is described as New Zealand Carpenter Gothic of which Stafford Place is classed among the finer examples. The distinguished Nelson architect William Beatson built several residential buildings which share this style, but it is unclear who designed Stafford Place.
The new house's opulent and grand appearance was juxtaposed against the old modest and inherently practical homestead by being located immediately next to each other. The two buildings were connected through adjoining doors and Mary, being more comfortable with the home she had lived in since 1843, is said to have continued to live in and use the original residence and insisting on continuing to use the kitchen in that building rather than the new one.
The Redwoods connection with Stafford Place was severed only a few years after Henry died at the age of 79 in June 1873. A requiem mass was held for him and he was described as one of the leading lights of the province. One lengthy account of his funeral finished by saying:
Henry Redwood has been laid in his grave, after a long life passed honourably, faithfully, and without blemish. The inheritance of character which he leaves behind him is a thing of the highest social value. We shall not look upon his face again but the memory of his truthfulness and good sense, of his industry and discharge of duty, will long remain a beacon to our community.
It was following her husband's death, that Mary uprooted to go and live with her son Charles in Marlborough in 1877, and most of the Redwood land in the Nelson area was sold. However, the names Redwood Valley, Redwood Road, Redwood Crossing, and Ward Pass, are all testaments to the prominent place that the family have in the early history of the Nelson region and their impact on it. Their removal from Stafford Place was a blow to the local community and its social scene because as a prominent local family there were often social occasions held at the property, such as church meetings but also large picnics like one held in February 1875 which involved about 100 guests and included adult members of the family such as Francis and Ward, as well as other well-known Nelson residents like Garin.
Several families have owned Stafford Place subsequent to the Redwoods. Despite Mary continuing to use the earlier homestead after Stafford Place was constructed, the next owners of the property, the O'Connor's, only used that building occasionally. The cob homestead was demolished as a result of the severe damage it received during the 1929 Murchison earthquake. Stafford Place continued to be occupied throughout the twentieth century with the only significant structural change to the building was made in the early 1980s. This included extending the kitchen area out into the existing verandah area to create a dining nook. By the turn of the twenty-first century a garage had been erected at the southeast corner of the house, and the house, while structurally sound, was in need of repair. The Livingston's, whose early relative worked for the Redwoods in the 1850s, undertook this and also removed any unsympathetic interior fitting accretions. The existing kitchen was renovated and an ensuite for the northeast upstairs bedroom was installed, but no major structural interior changes were made. This work was recognised in 2002 with a Tasman District Council heritage award. The land surrounding the house, which has been subdivided several times over since the time of the Redwoods, now encompasses five hectares and is used for olive production.
17th September 2009
Report Written By
K. Astwood, A. Dangerfield
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906
Lash, Max D., Nelson Notables 1840-1940: A Dictionary of Regional Biography, Nelson, 1992
Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997
J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004
J N W Newport, A short history of the Nelson Province, RW Stiles ad Co Ltd, Nelson, 1966
Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen
H Best, Appleby, Wellington, 2006
L Burgess, Historic Houses: a visitor's guide to 65 early New Zealand houses, Auckland, 2007
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office