Kenway House

233 Harris Street, Kaiti, Gisborne

  • Kenway House, Gisborne.
    Copyright: Gisborne District Council.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3512 Date Entered 5th April 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 1 DP 2923 (CT GS 131/54), Gisborne Land District, and the buildings known as Kenway House thereon.

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 DP 2923 (CT GS 131/54), Gisborne Land District


Kenway House, situated overlooking the Waimata River in Gisborne, is a well-executed Arts and Crafts residence, constructed in circa 1925-6. It was designed by the regionally pre-eminent architectural firm of Burr and Mirfield, who erected many other significant buildings in the Gisborne district. The house was created for wealthy farmer and locally prominent public figure Howard Kenway (c.1863-1939), and his wife Elizabeth. It is one of a group of residences within its immediate neighbourhood that reflect variation in architectural style and social status in early twentieth-century suburban Gisborne.

Tūranganui-a-kiwa, now known as Gisborne, has a long history of Māori occupation. The earliest European settlers moved to the area in the 1830s and the government laid out the town of Gisborne in 1870. Located to the east of the early township, the Kaiti Block remained in Māori ownership before being partitioned in 1888. After multiple subdivisions, the land that Kenway House was later built on formed part of the property of Willock House (List No. 3510, Category 2 historic place) before being subdivided in 1925. By 1928, Howard Kenway and his wife Elizabeth were living on the section in a new residence - Kenway House.

Howard Kenway was a prosperous sheepfarmer and businessman who worked in Waimata north of Gisborne and then managed the Kiore Sheep Farming Company during the 1890s. Farming was a significant industry in the New Zealand economy and the advent of refrigeration in the late nineteenth century had led to an agricultural revolution in New Zealand as access to new markets for goods had made smaller farms profitable. Howard also became a prominent figure in public life as the chairman of the Cook County Council and Cook Hospital Board among other positions. Howard and Elizabeth moved to Gisborne in later life, first erecting a very substantial Arts and Crafts style house for themselves on Cheeseman Road, Kaiti, in 1920 before building Kenway House to a more compact design.

Kenway House was erected as a two-storey residence of timber construction, designed in a aesthetically striking Arts and Crafts style by Burr and Mirfield. Burr and Mirfield were regionally notable architects during the interwar period, designing a number of significant buildings that helped to shape the visual character of Gisborne. Joseph Burr, in particular, was considered a skilled draughtsman and innovative architect.

Arts and Crafts style originated in England with a focus on craftsmanship and ‘the honest expression of function’, and was commonly used in residential designs. Major elements of this style used for the exterior of Kenway House included prominent, steep-pitched roofs with very wide eaves and locally produced concrete tile cladding, roughcast chimneys and walls, and an overall asymmetrical appearance that conveyed informal living. Internally, the main rooms were arranged around L-shaped hallways both upstairs and downstairs, connected by a central staircase. Larger rooms within the house included a downstairs drawing room and two substantial upstairs bedrooms. Several of the smaller interior spaces were purpose-designed, including a sewing room, office, dressing room and maid’s room. The widespread use ‘Dreadnought’ linings throughout the house typifies the use of imported plasterboard before New Zealand-based manufacture of such products began in the mid- to late 1920s. Other buildings associated with the house included a detached workroom and laundry, also of Arts and Crafts design, and a garage in the southern part of the property.

After Howard Kenway’s death in 1939, the residence was held in trust for Elizabeth until her death in 1952 at which time the property was sold to John Hawksworth, a dental surgeon. Hawkesworth subdivided and sold the southern portion of the property, which included the garage, in 1958. A new garage was built against the south wall of the residence in possibly the 1960s. Kenway House subsequently had a number of different owners, who undertook various changes including removing some internal walls in the 1980s and 2017, enclosing the area between the detached workroom and main house, and converting the maid’s room into a bathroom. In 2018 the house remained a private residence. It forms one of several notable residences in close proximity within the same neighbourhood, which reflect architectural and social variation in the development of Gisborne’s early twentieth-century suburbs through the construction of homes of differing size and styles for owners of varying status.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Burr & Mirfield

J H Burr became an Associate of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1905. Mirfield began his career as a clerk of works before entering into partnership with Burr in 1912.

Burr and Mirfield were responsible for many buildings in the Gisborne district including the Masonic Hotel (with Rene Natusch), the New Zealand Insurance Building, the Kaiti Memorial Church (with Clere and Williams, 1925), the Public Trust Office and some large residences in Gisborne.

Buildings designed by the Gisborne architectural practice of Burr and Mirfield - other than the Rangatira Hotel - include the New Zealand Insurance Building (1915), 50 Childers Road, Gisborne (NZHPT Registration # 3553, Category II historic place); the Public Trust Building (1922), 40 Childers Road, Gisborne (NZHPT Registration # 3552, Category II historic place); a house (1925) at 233 Harris Street, Gisborne (NZHPT Registration # 3512, Category II historic place); the Kerridge House (1935), 75 The Esplanade, Gisborne (NZHPT Registration # 4421, Category I historic place); and the M. Zemba Ltd Building (1937), 63 Peel Street, Gisborne (NZHPT Registration # 3542, Category II historic place).

George W. Aitken

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

R. Crosby

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1925 - 1926

Alterations to porch and verandah

Attached garage built and changes to porch and fenestration

Removal of bedroom fireplaces, some interior changes.

Changes to interior layout - some walls removed and new doors added

2017 -
Further interior changes, including conversion of maid’s room to bathroom

Completion Date

29th June 2018

Report Written By

Alexandra Foster

Information Sources


The Press

Press, 5 June 1939, p. 10.

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Soutar, Monty, “East Coast places – Gisborne”, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,

Blackburne, James, 2018

Blackburne, James, ‘Heritage Value Assessment/Impact Report for Proposed Alterations to 233 Harris Street Gisborne’, Architects 44, Gisborne, March 2018.

Burr and Mirfield

Burr and Mirfield, ‘Residence Harris Street Kaiti for H Kenway’, BDG 628T, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, Tauranga.

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.