Rototawai Homestead

Kahutara Road, Featherston

  • Rototawai Homestead. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: C Cochran. Date: 7/12/1984.
  • Rototawai Homestead water tower. Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: C Cochran. Date: 7/12/1984.
  • Rototawai Homestead. Image included in NZHPT Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection. Taken By: Unknown. Date: 12/08/1994.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3954 Date Entered 2nd July 1987


City/District Council

South Wairarapa District


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 48601 (CT WN34D/464), Wellington Land District

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Bidwill family settled in the Kahutara area in the early 1840's and were first settlers on the west side of the Ruamahanga River. The original large property has been cut-up into many small farms until the Rototawai block was reduced to only a few hectares. In 1928 the timber homestead at Rototawai was destroyed by fire. The owner, W E Bidwill, commissioned Stanley Fearn to design the present house. Plans were prepared in April 1928 and the house was completed in July 1929. Judd and Russell of Masterton were the builders. The lofty water tower which is such a distinctive feature of the building, with its associated dairy and meat room at the foot, was part of the original home and has been skilfully integrated into the new complex. Mr W E Bidwill sold the property to Mr Richmond about 1978.


Rototawai is an interesting and sizeable example of Stanley Fearn's work and in this respect it must be regarded as a valuable statement of his own personal interpretation of the English neo-Georgian theme in domestic architecture.


The building with its tower, set 700 or 800 meters back from the Kahutara Road amongst old established trees and lawns, makes a distinctive note in the rural surroundings.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Fearn, Stanley

Stanley Fearn was a contemporary of Gary Young and at one time was in partnership with Gary Young and Austin Quick. Fearn's work is distinguished for his houses in the English Vernacular style.

Stanley W. Fearn (1887-1976) was a British-born, Wellington based architect who had a long career spanning a large part of the 20th century and incorporating a wide range of styles. He was still working as late as the 1960s. Most of his work was domestic but he designed a range of buildings, both in the capital, where he designed over 70 buildings, and further afield. In Wellington he is best known for the William Booth Memorial Training College in Aro Street (1913), which he designed with Austen Quick. This building won the first ever gold medal of the NZ Institute of Architects in 1927. His other Wellington buildings included Cambridge Pharmacy (1932) and the Dominion Arcade (1959).

Among his houses was the Frederic Wallis House, Lower Hutt (1927), the grand country house Rototawai, near Featherston (1929), as well as houses in Hobson Street, Thorndon. He was involved in the rebuilding of Napier and Hastings after the Hawkes Bay earthquake and among his surviving designs is the former Bestall's Building, Napier (1932). His son Detmar was also an architect.

Judd & Russell

Judd & Russell builders from Masterton.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


Neo-Georgian. The fa├žade is balanced by bay-windows on either side of a porte-cochere supported by doric columns. Window shutters, roof tiles and brick wall under ground floor bay-window, emphasise the neo-Georgian aspect.

Notable Features

An enclosed paved kitchen court and a tall water tower which marks the corner of the court.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1929 -
House was completed in July 1929

Construction Details

Reinforced concrete double skin outer walls. The inner walls and the ceiling of the lower floor rooms are also of reinforced concrete. Rototowai has floors of Jarrah wood and a tiled roof.

Information Sources

Fowler, 1971

M Fowler, Country Houses of New Zealand. A H and A W Reed, 1971.

Fowler, 1983

M Fowler, The New Zealand House, Lansdowne, 1983.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Wairarapa Regional Committee, NZHPT; notes supplied by T H Daniell, NZHPT File.

Wairarapa Daily News

Wairarapa Daily News

Oct 1928 - March 1929: insert, 'The Featherston Chronicle'.

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.