Clifton Homestead

316 Waiwera Farms Road, Clifton

  • Clifton Homestead.
    Copyright: Don Telford Limited.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5181 Date Entered 13th December 1990


City/District Council

Clutha District


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 DP 6500 (CT OT1D/1058), Otago Land District


The following text was prepared as part of an upgrade project and was completed 03 June 2003.

Clifton Homestead was built for William Telford junior (1857-1919) around 1917-1919. Designed by architect Edmund Anscombe (1874-1948) it is notable as one of the largest homesteads in Otago with 33 rooms and a hall 32 metres (105 feet) in length.

The Clifton estate was established by William Telford senior (1817-1888), who moved from Australia to South Otago in 1861. Telford became one of the largest land owners in the area and was well known for his flock of Romney Marsh sheep and for the large-scale drainage he undertook. From 1,708 sheep in 1861 Telford developed his flock to more than 18,000 by the time he died in 1888. Originally based at Clifton, Telford moved to Otanomomo in 1867 and remained there for the rest of his life. On his death in 1888 his eldest son, William, took over Clifton, while the younger one, Thomas (1863-1927), inherited Otanomomo.

At the time William junior inherited Clifton, the original house built for his parents was still standing. In 1913 he sold a large portion of Clifton (around 2,023 hectares or 5,000 acres) and the house to the government, who used the land to resettle returned soldiers after the First World War. William then contracted Anscombe to design the current homestead for himself, his wife, Margaret (nee Perry), and their two children.

Anscombe is most remembered for his design of the Dunedin and South Seas Exhibitions buildings (1925), the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition buildings (1939-1940) and as the architect of many of the University of Otago buildings. Born in Dunedin, he worked initially as a carpenter. In 1901 he moved to the United States to study architecture and returned to New Zealand six years later and established a practice in Dunedin.

His design for Clifton is a relatively rare example of his domestic work and combines the contemporary Californian bungalow style with a traditional interior layout. He designed a long low house of three wings constructed around a closed courtyard. Tenders for the building closed in October 1917 and the house appears to have been finished by 1919. The principal elevation faces north, overlooking a large garden and lawn. The fa├žade is symmetrical with a large central gable located over the main entrance, framed by bow windows with snub-nosed gable roofs. With walls of double brick, Clifton has 33 rooms in total, all on one level except for the former billiard room (never actually used as such), which is located above the main entrance. The interior is notable for its timberwork, especially for the extensive use of rimu (red pine), milled from the nearby Catlins district. Traditional features of the bungalow style include built-in furniture, timber panelling, the exposed timber beams in the ceilings, and the main entrance to the house with its long sloping gables and deep verandah. Broad eves with ornamental brackets are another feature typical of the bungalow style. The enclosed courtyard around which the house was designed was not altogether successful. Facing south it made a better ice-skating rink than a patio, according to the family.

Although unoccupied and unfortunately vandalised during the years between 1963 and 1975, Clifton Homestead was reoccupied by Don Telford and his wife in 1975. They restored the house, closing off the west or servants' wing and converting two bedrooms into a new kitchen and dining area. Clifton is now lived in by Ken and Kate Telford, the fifth generation of Telfords to live on the land and the fourth to live in the homestead.

Clifton Homestead is significant as one of the largest homesteads in South Otago. It has been owned and lived in by four generations of a family who made a notable contribution to the South Otago farming community. Despite the closure of the west wing and some modifications, Clifton remains an elegant home and a example of Anscombe's versatility as an architect.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

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

The Telford family had worked the land on which "Clifton" stands for nearly one hundred and thirty years, and the present owners are the fourth generation of the family to live in the house built by William Telford. It is a visible reminder of the importance of the family and the contribution it has made to farming in South Otago during that time. "Clifton" itself is historically a rare grand country house for the South Otago district.

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


One of the largest houses in South Otago "Clifton" is a spacious and carefully planned home which illustrates the architect's adaptation of the Californian bungalow style to traditional Victorian/Edwardian concepts of layout, and his ability to reconcile this style of domestic architecture with the needs of his client. Despite the modifications to the east wing and the abandonment of the west wing, "Clifton" remains a very elegant home which attests to Edmund Anscombe's versatility and to William Telford's taste and vision. As such the house extends our knowledge of Anscombe's domestic work.


"Clifton" is a large building, the principal facade of which complements its garden setting and the attractive plantings around the house.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Anscombe, Edmund

Anscombe (1874-1948) was born in Sussex and came to New Zealand as a child. He began work as a builder's apprentice in Dunedin and in 1901 went to America to study architecture. He returned to Dunedin in 1907 and designed the School of Mines building for the University of Otago. The success of this design gained him the position of architect to the University. Five of the main University buildings were designed by Anscombe, as well as Otago Girls' High School and several of Dunedin's finest commercial buildings including the Lindo Ferguson Building (1927) and the Haynes building.

Anscombe moved to Wellington about 1928 and was known for his work as the designer of the Centennial Exhibition (1939-1940). Anscombe had travelled extensively and had visited major exhibitions in Australia, Germany and America. The practice of Edmund Anscombe and Associates, Architects, had offices in the Dunedin, Wellington and Hawkes Bay districts, and Anscombe's buildings include the Vocational Centre for Disabled Servicemen, Wellington (1943), Sargent Art Gallery, Wanganui, and several blocks of flats including Anscombe Flats, 212 Oriental Parade (1937) and Franconia, 136 The Terrace (1938), both in Wellington. As well as being interested in the housing problem, Anscombe held strong views concerning the industrial advancement of New Zealand.

(See also )

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

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


"Clifton" was built for William Telford who was born in South Australia and came to New Zealand with his parents in 1861. Telford's father, also called William, developed the property in the early 1860s before building a homestead at Otanomomo in 1869. Upon his father's death in 1888 William junior took over the running of Clifton, whilst his brother Thomas assumed control of the Otanomomo run which is now occupied by the Telford Farm Institute.

At first William Telford lived in his parents' original home at Clifton but after this had been sold with a large proportion of the estate to the government in 1913 he decided to build the present homestead. Standing on approximately five hundred hectares of farmland, the homestead was unoccupied between c1963 and 1975 but it is now owned and occupied by Ken and Kate Telford who are the fourth generation of Telfords to live in the house.

Physical Description

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


Located approximately 18 kilometres west of Balclutha, "Clifton" is an outsize bungalow style building within which thirty rooms are arranged around an internal courtyard in a symmetrical U-shaped plan. The principal elevation faces north and overlooks an attractive garden and large lawn. The facade is symmetrical about a broad verandah supported on brick columns. This verandah shelters the centrally-placed front door and is framed by bow windows with snub-nosed gable roofs. Above the verandah a centrally-placed broad gable breaks through the roof line, serving both to assert the symmetry of the elevation and its length. The main roof forms of the house are hipped but these are articulated by snub-nose and regular cross gables which nevertheless reinforce the essential horizontal appearance of the building which is characteristic of its overall bungalow style. Also characteristic of the style is the manner in which the roof timbers extend externally below the wide eaves, creating a decorative effect.

The central gable of the facade encloses a large room which, with its large window and bordering infill of vertical exposed timbers on the background of the brick wall, fulfills an architectural function within the facade composition, rather than a practical one within the house. Overlooking both the front garden and the internal courtyard, it was to have been a billiard room. It was never used as such, and now serves as a guest bedroom. Access to this room, and the adjacent box room, is by way of a half-turn stair which rises from the hall below.

On the ground floor of the house the front door opens into an entrance foyer which is flanked by a smoking room and a guest bedroom, and which in turn opens into a very large entrance hall which is thirty-two metres in length. As well as serving as an informal meeting and circulation space, the hall leads on to the two passageways which run at right angles to the main wing, providing access to the rooms of the east and west wings. The hall, which is panelled in red pine to door height, has a beamed ceiling also of red pine, and features two large arched windows filled with coloured leadlights, which is executed to an outstanding Art Nouveau design which is unusual because of the large size of the two windows and the brilliance of the colours used. These windows face the courtyard between the two wings of the house. On the south side a covered walkway acts as the fourth wall of the courtyard, shielding the nearby outbuildings from view.

The west wing originally housed the servants, and it has a dining room, servery, kitchen scullery, pantry and four bedrooms. The east wing has been modified to create a new dining room, kitchen, pantry and laundry from three of the eight bedrooms in the wing, thus allowing the west wing to be abandoned in favour of the rooms with more modern amenities. Elsewhere the house is as built, including in the north-east corner of the house, a master bedroom with an en-suite dressing room which features a finely crafted built-in wardrobe and dresser unit.


c1975 - Bedrooms (3) in south-east corner of house converted to serve as a dining room, kitchen and pantry/laundry. Darkroom in east wing, converted to a shower.

Notable Features

One note on file states that the gardens at Clifton had been laid out by noted Canterbury landscape gardener Alfred Buxton. Author Rupert Tipples, in his book on Buxton, mentions that Buxton was working in the Telford area around 1926, but offers no further details. It is worth taking the suggestion that Buxton designed the gardens at Clifton with a degree of caution, however, until further evidence comes to light, as he did design the gardens for 'Clifton' at Hawarden in North Canterbury - and there may be some confusion due to the similarity of the names.

Red pine woodwork; decorative leaded windows.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1917 - 1919
Tenders closed October 1917

1975 -
Bedrooms in south-east corner of house converted into kitchen, dining room and pantry/laundry. A darkroom in the east wing, apparently built for William's wife, Margaret, was converted to a shower.

Construction Details

Concrete foundations, double brick walls and slate roof. Totara, oregon, jarrah and red pine woodwork. Plaster ceilings.

Completion Date

3rd June 2003

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Greg Bowron, 'Anscombe, Edmund 1874-1948', Volume 4 (1921-1940), Wellington, 1998, pp.16-17

Galer, 1981

L. Galer, Houses and Homes, Allied Press, Dunedin, 1981

Knight, 1988

Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988

Thomson, 1998

Jane Thomson, (ed)., Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography, Dunedin: Longacre Press/Dunedin City Council, 1998.

Tipples, 1989

Rupert Tipples, Colonial Landscape Gardener: Alfred Buxton of Christchurch, New Zealand 1872-1950, Lincoln, 1989

University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury

Files: Index of New Zealand Architects

Griffiths, 1974

G J Griffiths (ed), The Advance Guard, Series 3, Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, 1974

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.