Whare Ra

2 Tauroa Road, Havelock North

  • Whare Ra.
    Copyright: Alan & Diana McDonald.
  • .
    Copyright: Alan & Diana McDonald.
  • .
    Copyright: Alan & Diana McDonald.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4407 Date Entered 28th June 1990


City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 19613


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.

In Havelock North in 1908 a circle of prominent local personalities known as the Havelock Work was established. They published a monthly literary magazine called 'The Forerunner' and held regular cultural gatherings. Whare Ra was built on land donated by Mason Chambers, one of a group of these Havelock intellectuals who were searching for enlightenment through a Christian based, esoteric form of teaching. To aid their search Dr R W Felkin (1853-1926) and his family were brought out from England.

Felkin had been a missionary and explorer in Africa. He was the first European to visit all the Great Lakes of Central Africa and return alive and the first to measure the pygmies of the Congo. He became an expert on tropical diseases, writing several books and lecturing extensively on the subject. His wide interests tended toward the supernatural and included astrology, theosophy and Rosicrucianism. He had been the chief of the London temple of a secret spiritual society known as the Stella Matutina Hermetic Order and had come out to provide instruction in its beliefs and rituals, at first for a few months in 1913 and again in 1916 when he settled permanently.

The house was purpose built to both house the Felkin family and as a lodge which was to be the New Zealand Headquarters of the order. The lodge was named Smaragdum Thalasses and teaching was conducted in the basement temple. From the 1916 addition Dr Felkin also ran a successful practice as Havelock North's first medical doctor.

Although Dr Felkin died in 1926 his work in the order was carried on by his wife Harriot and daughter Ethelwyn who were also chiefs in Stella Matutina. They continued to live in the house until the death of Ethelwyn in 1962, Harriot having already died in 1959. The building was later administered as a Trust until the order was finally wound up in 1978.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

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.

Whare Ra is most closely associated with the establishment in Havelock North of the secret Stella Matutina Hermetic Order and its remarkable leader Dr R N Felkin. Comparatively little known in his adopted country Felkin was an outstanding Victorian scholar and traveller and expert on tropical diseases who devoted the last ten years of his life to the spiritual and physical well-being of a small Hawkes Bay town.

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.


The house represents a significant departure from the style of the architect's other commissions both before and after the construction of Whare Ra. Chapman-Taylor generally used a pure Arts and Crafts style for his houses, following the ideas of English architects and designers such as Charles Voysey, William Morris and M H Baillie Scott. While Whare Ra is largely of Arts and Crafts design, it also reflects the influence and peculiar requirements of Dr Felkin.

In addition to its function as a residence, Whare Ra was designed to serve as New Zealand Headquarters of the Stella Matutina Hermetic Order of which Felkin was the head. This dictated the construction of the basement temple. Certain features were required for mystical reasons, for example the building's orientation along an east-west axis because this was the same direction in which Moses cast his tent.

Felkin's personal influence over his architect led to other unusual features including the linear nature of the plan, the large false roof and high arched ceiling of the main living space. None of these conform to Chapman-Taylor's ideals of rational and economic use of space and are a distinct variation from the other work by the most faithful of New Zealand's Arts and Crafts architects.


Whare Ra is hidden from the road and therefore has little townscape or landmark significance, particularly since the sub-division in 1979-80 of the formerly spacious and well planted grounds.



Construction Professionalsopen/close

Chapman-Taylor, James Walter

Chapman-Taylor (1878-1958) was born in London and his family came to New Zealand in 1880. He was apprenticed to a builder in Stratford, and there he studied architecture by correspondence.

In 1909 Chapman-Taylor went on a voyage to England where he acquainted himself with the English vernacular and the Arts and Crafts movement. This trip had a profound effect on Chapman-Taylor's future work as he followed the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, a movement with origins in the English Gothic Revival. Chapman-Taylor adhered to the Arts and Crafts principles of permanence, honesty, simplicity and beauty as espoused by architects C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941), Baillie Scott, Parker and Unwin whom he met on this trip to England. He adapted the English movement to local conditions. His is an honest architecture which remained popular despite changing fashions. Chapman-Taylor adhered to Arts and Crafts principles over the 50 years of his career and showed a keen awareness of local forms and materials. He designed the furniture and fittings for many of his houses, including details such as wrought iron door and window fittings.

As an architect and a craftsman, Chapman-Taylor designed and then built his houses himself - approximately 80 of them dated between 1904 and 1953. While most of these houses are situated in Wellington and Heretaunga, there are others throughout the North Island and one in the South Island.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

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.


The style of Whare Ra broadly follows the Arts and Crafts movement favoured by Chapman-Taylor, but with adaptations to meet the requirements of his client. The house is aligned along an east-west axis and is long and low, with a large hipped roof. The front elevation is characterised by an irregular arrangement of gables. Between the two main gables is a deep, shady verandah.

The interior has an extensive central hallway panelled with jarrah crafted by Chapman-Taylor himself, as were the adzed jarrah beams exposed in the ceilings. In plan there is an unusual separation of the family and formal living areas of the house, the living room being divided from the family room by two bedrooms and a passageway. The dark rooms behind the terrace are ingeniously lit by sliding panels in the roof which open onto glass tiles, allowing light from above to enter. Ventilation is provided by a portion of the casement hinged separately to open without having to open the whole window.

An important feature of the house is the basement temple of reinforced concrete designed for Dr Felkin, the first owner. It was to be the New Zealand headquarters for the mystical order which he established in Havelock North. It contains a main temple, outer sanctuary and octagonal inner sanctuary. The walls are painted in a series of coloured squares, each containing a different symbol relating to the rituals of the order.

Notable Features

Basement temple.

Roof lighting and ventilation systems.

Early use of reinforced concrete in residential work.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1913 -

1916 -
Two storey addition made to west end of house as rooms for Dr Felkin's medical practice

1980 -
Kitchen modernised. Fireplaces altered to have five stoves installed

1989 -
Lounge fireplace stripped back to original state

Construction Details

Floors and some ceilings, reinforced concrete. Walls of cavity brick with rough cast exterior finish and plaster interior. Roof of Marseilles tiles with French glass tiles inset to admit light to darker rooms.

Completion Date

15th March 1990

Information Sources

Evening Post

Evening Post

'Chapman-Taylor - Architect', 8/4/78

'Passed in at Auction', 19/2/86

'The Cottage that Jarra-Taylor Built', 23/12/78

Niven, 1975

Stuart Niven, 'J. W. Chapman-Taylor; Architect and Craftsman', Bachelor of Architecture, University of Auckland, 1975

Niven S, 'J W Chapman-Taylor, Architect and Craftsman Vol I and II, 1975', Sub Thesis BArch 72: 27(07) N 734 School of Architecture, Auckland

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal

New Zealand Institute of Architects Journal (NZIA)

Siers J, 'J W Chapman-Taylor, Architect, 1878-1958', 20 Apri1 1968

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Grant, 1978

SW Grant, Havelock North: From Village to Borough 1860-1952, Central Hawkes Bay Printers/Publishers 1978

Grant, 1980

SW Grant, In Other Days: A History of the Chambers Family of Te Mata, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay Newspapers Limited, 1980

Herald Tribune

Herald Tribune

'Havelock's Historic House, Whare Ra Sold, Subdivision Planned', 26/6/79

'Havelock Turned it Down', Herald Tribune 26/6/79

New Zealand Obituaries

New Zealand Obituaries

Vol II 'Robert William Felkin M.D.' RF VII, p120-l2l

Von Dadelszen, 1984

J. Von Dadelszen, The Havelock Work 1909-1939, Havelock North Artifacts, 1984/2, June 1984

White, 1978

M White, Chapman-Taylor Architect and Craftsman, Research Report, 1978

Other Information

NZIA Local Architecture Award Winners 2010, Category: Heritage

A copy of this report is available from the NZHPT Central region office

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.