This grand homestead, designed by prominent Dunedin architectural partnership Mason and Wales in 1876, was the centre of Robert Campbell’s vast Otekaike Station and reflects the wealth and status of nineteenth century runholders. The house has aesthetic, historic, architectural, and social significance.
In September 1853, Samuel Pike was the first to apply for Run 28 (later known as Otekaike) bounded by the Kurow and Otekaike Creeks and stretching as far back to the Saint Mary Range. By 1855, Pike had transferred the run to John Parkin Taylor (1812-1875), the later superintendent of Southland, who in turn sold it to William Dansey. William Dansey was established on Otekaike by May 1858. William Henry Dansey, the youngest son of a scholarly rector, was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. Dansey had a house on Run 28 by early 1859. A survey plan from April 1861 shows the Crown grant to William Dansey within Run 28 – a 92 acre block with his house, stable and futtah, and an adjacent 11 acre block with ‘men’s house’ and woolshed.’ Dansey laid the foundation for the next runholder who would make the property one of the most significant in New Zealand.
Robert Campbell, the Eton-educated son of a wealthy gentleman, bought the property in March 1865. Campbell deemed the homestead too small, sent his new wife back to his English home and set about building an appropriately grand mansion, what has become known as Campbell Park Homestead. An article in the Otago Daily Times describes Campbell’s grand residence – ‘one of the best country houses in New Zealand.’ The house was of ‘Scotch Baronial style, with battlemented gables and turreted angles’ built in locally quarried stone and roofed in Otepopo slates. The article goes into detail describing the many generous rooms and up to date service areas. Four of the seven bedrooms had dressing rooms. The house included servants’ quarters. As befitting such an estate homestead, the house was set within a generous landscaped park and surrounded by ancillary buildings that – stables, workers’ cottages, manager’s house, woolshed and the like.’ Stone stables were built at the same time. The Otekaike Estate was the economic and social centre of the Waitaki Valley, with all the characteristics of a feudal lord – Campbell funded buildings in nearby Duntroon and his wife’s will provided for the building of church buildings there.
In the early years of the twentieth century Otekaike Station was subdivided into seven small grazing runs, thirty seven farms and twelve smallholdings. Four properties were allocated as ‘preferential blocks’ and allocated to former employees of Robert Campbell and Sons Limited. Dickson (Dick) Jardine (the Company’s manager) was granted the homestead block.
The grand homestead, stables and other buildings along with 342 acres of land was handed over the Education Department as a Otekaike Special School for Boys. The school was a national institution providing for special education of developmentally delayed (‘feeble minded as initially labelled) boys. In 1925 it moved to the jurisdiction of the Child Welfare Division. It was renamed Campbell Park School in 1964. When the school was closed in 1995, the property was sold. In 2016, Campbell Park Homestead remains in private ownership.
In September 1853, Samuel Pike was the first to apply for Run 28. He was granted a 14 year lease from 11 September 1854. The original boundaries of the run were from Kurow and Otekaike Creeks back to the summit of the Saint Mary Range. Samuel Pike owned several runs in the lower Waitaki on the Canterbury side of the river. By 1855, Pike had transferred the run to John Parkin Taylor (1812-1875), the later superintendent of Southland, and Taylor transferred the run to William Dansey.
William Dansey was established on Otekaike by May 1858. William Henry Dansey, the youngest son of a scholarly rector, was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He arrived in Port Chalmers in December 1854 and after visiting Port Nicholson and Nelson, made his way to the Waitaki Valley. Dansey had a house on Run 28 by early 1859, as he is reported as an elector in the Waitaki District in April of that year. A survey plan from April 1861 shows the Crown grant to William Dansey within Run 28 – a 92 acre block with his house, stable and futtah, and an adjacent 11 acre block with ‘men’s house’ and woolshed.’ Dansey laid the foundation for the next runholder who would make the property one of the most significant in New Zealand.
After a high profile court case involving dubious transactions over the ownership of sheep, Cargill and Co. sold the station under bill of sale. In March 1865 Dansey’s pre-emptive rights were sold by the mortgagee. The advertisement in the Otago Daily Times described the properties: 92 acres with stone house, separate servants’ quarters, stone stable, carriage house, gardener’s cottage, two acres of garden, store, stockyards and next door a further 11 acres pre-emptive right with ‘a large well-built men’s stone HUT, with good dairy and coal-sheds’ and a ‘WEATHERBOARD WOOL-SHED, about 45 x 40 feet, with iron roof, and yards to work 10,000 sheep.’
Dansey moved to Oamaru where he became and auditor and later collector for the Oamaru Borough (as position from which he was later dismissed) before trying his hand at runholding again in 1893, at Minaret station, where once again he had to surrender the lease. He died in Kaponga in Taranaki in May 1909.
Robert Campbell, the Eton-educated son of a wealthy gentleman, bought the property in March 1865. Campbell owned Galloway Station in Central Otago, Benmore Station near Omarama, and three Southland runs. He was Oamaru’s member of the House of Representatives, though unpopular with his constituent and he resigned on his marriage. Campbell deemed the homestead too small and sent his new wife back to his English home and set about building an appropriately grand mansion, what has become known as Campbell Park Homestead. A newspaper report from 1876 indicates that an earlier residence was demolished to make way for the mansion. The earlier house was described as ‘without exception, the finest in Otago.’
Campbell employed managers to look after the daily running of the station. W.H. Ostler was probably the first manager. He was replaced by William Gilbert Rees at the end of 1868. Rees is a significant figure in Otago’s pastoral history, being a partner of a huge station near what would become Queenstown, a large part of which was declared a Goldfield, to Rees’ disadvantage. Rees became a manager, first at Otekaike and then across the Waitaki River at Station Peak. Malcolm McKellar became manager at Otekaike in 1871. The stations were part of an extended network, sharing tradesmen, knowledge and orders.
An article in the Otago Daily Times describes Campbell’s residence. The foundation stone was laid in May 1876 of what would be ‘one of the best country houses in New Zealand.’ The house was of ‘Scotch Baronial style, with battlemented gables and turreted angles. The stone was quarried from a nearby limestone outcrop, the roof clad in Otepopo slates. The detail is worth noting:
‘The principal entrance is from a spacious portico of segmental form, with columns and arches springing from the angles of two large bay windows….The hall measures 20ft. x 17ft. [6 by 5.2m], and at the farther end of which, and separated from it by and archway, with columns on either side, is the staircase, 7ft. x 14ft. [2.1 by 4.2m] Opening from these are the drawing room and library, each 20ft. x 25ft [6 by 7.6m], with two large bays in each; and the dining-room, bath room, and office, en suite, to which there is a porch and side entrance.’
A serving room adjoined the dining-room with a passage to the kitchen. Behind the staircase was a strong room and a servants’ stair. The kitchen was 22 ft. by 17 ft [6.7 by 5.2m], with a large laundry, scullery and offices. Upstairs was a landing with a lantern light above. From the landing there were seven large bedrooms, four with dressing rooms, with bathrooms and other conveniences. Three servants’ bedrooms were on this floor too. There was an underground concrete cistern for storing roof water. The grounds were laid out and planted with evergreen and deciduous trees.
The stone stables look to have been built at the same time as the house.
The Otekaike Estate was the focal point of the region – economically and socially. The North Otago Times reported a pre-Christmas visit in 1877 describing Campbell’s grand residence and stables, but also mentioning the more modest structures at the Estate: ‘the comfortable stone residence of the station manager, Mr McKellar, close by which is a pool containing some monster trout; the cook-house and bakehouse for the hands, of whom there are now 70 to be housed and fed; and the store and the shearing-sheds, just now the busiest of busy scenes. ‘
For all his wealth and privilege life did not go well for Campbell. Family scandals and heavy drinking took their toll on his performance and reputation. Campbell’s involvement at Otekaike declined. The property was transferred to a family holding company (Robert Campbell & Sons Ltd), the seventh-largest corporate landholder in New Zealand in 1882. Robert Campbell died in 1889 and his wife a year later. Otekaike Station leases were due to expire in 1911 but the Company surrendered them early and the station was broken up for closer settlement in 1908, after considerable public pressure.
The Otekaike Station was subdivided into seven small grazing runs, thirty seven farms and twelve smallholdings, the largest ballot for settlement sections held in North Otago. Four properties were allocated as ‘preferential blocks’ and allocated to former employees of Robert Campbell and Sons Limited, though this caused vocal protests. Dickson (Dick) Jardine (the Company’s manager) was granted the homestead block – with the ‘large stone house, woolshed, scouring shed, blacksmith’s shop, men’s hut, cook house, two small cottages and a slaughter house.
The grand homestead, stables and other buildings along with 342 acres of land was handed over the Education Department as a special school for boys. The Otekaike Special School for Boys was initially housed in the grand homestead, but a need for more space meant the school’s facilities were extended – many new structures were built, including the principal’s residence (1912), cottages, a laundry and kitchen block, classroom blocks, houses for staff. The trees around the estate were felled to allow for the expansion of facilities.
In the 1960s the name of the school was changed to Campbell Park School. This heralded a programme of rebuilding and demolition of some of the older structures on site, including the old day school. The grand homestead was declared unsafe and closed in 1972 and plans made for its demolition. Local opposition saw the building saved. Campbell Park School closed in 1987 and the property was sold into private ownership. In 2016 the extensive Campbell Park Complex is privately owned.
ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION (Style):
This massive three storied house of about 30 rooms is built in Elizabethan gothic style with high castellated gables and corner turrets with conical roofs. The blocks of the wall have been set in arched courses over some windows as a decorative effect, and there are keystones, arches, pillars with capitals, cornices and a balustrade providing classic touches to the general gothic effect.
Modified for use as a school for mentally retarded boys in 1908. The exterior has had a small fire escape added at the front and larger ones at the back. There are some slates missing from a front turret. The conservatory windows were coloured glass and are now plain. The front door has been repaired but probably to the original form. There is some weathered stone work on the bay windows and some small pieces of stone have been removed. Inside heating and sprinkler systems were installed for the school. Some fireplaces have been removed and some small bedrooms converted to bathrooms, toilets and showers. Some of the bedrooms have lowered ceilings.
The size and grandeur of the house and its degree of preservation, its association with one of the big landowners of the nineteenth century.
Public NZAA Number
14th December 2016
Report Written By
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
D. C. McDonald. 'Campbell, Robert', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/2c4/campbell-robert (accessed 13 December 2016)
K C McDonald, 'White Stone Country', Oamaru, 1962
Gwennyth McLay 1985. N Y A Wales- Architect.
An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966
New Zealand Journal of History
New Zealand Journal of History
Bob Hall, ‘Land for the Landless: Settlement of the Otekaike Estate in North Otago 1908’ in New Zealand Journal of History, 19, 1, 1985
R. Pinney, Early Northern Otago Runs, Auckland, 1981
Geoffrey Thornton, The New Zealand Heritage of Farm Buildings, Auckland, 1986
Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.
Peter Petchey, ‘Campbell Park Heritage Assessment: History and archaeology of Otekaieke Estate, grounds and gardens’, 2003
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 Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand.