224 Rhodes Road, Tai Tapu

  • Otahuna.
    Copyright: © 2008 Otahuna Lodge. All Rights Reserved..
  • .
    Copyright: © 2008 Otahuna Lodge. All Rights Reserved.. Date: 26/04/2007.
  • .
    Copyright: © 2008 Otahuna Lodge. All Rights Reserved.. Date: 26/04/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1
List Number 5327 Date Entered 17th September 1992


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 1 and 2, DP 301691 (CTs 6976 and 6977), Canterbury Land District and the buildings/structures known as the stables (former) and walled courtyard, hay barn (former), brick appleshed, pig sty (former), game house (former) and stone vegetable shed (former) associated with the Otahuna homestead thereon, and its fittings and fixtures, and the daffodil lawn (Refer to map and photographs below for further information).

City/District Council

Selwyn District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lots 1 and 2, DP 301691 (CTs 6976 and 6977), Canterbury Land District


The following text was prepared as part of an upgrade project and was completed 30 May 2002:

Otahuna was designed and built for Sir Robert Heaton Rhodes (1861-1956), a prominent Canterbury lawyer, runholder and politician. Born at Purau on Banks Peninsula, Rhodes attended the University of Oxford and completed his MA in 1887. He returned to New Zealand in 1888, where he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court in Christchurch. The early death of his father, in 1884, enabled Rhodes to give up the law and adopt a new career as a farmer and country gentleman. He began to buy farmland near Taitapu, nine miles (approximately 14.5 kilometres) south of Christchurch, and after his marriage in 1891 he commissioned prominent Christchurch architect Frederick Strouts (1834-1919) to design a grand country house. The result, completed in 1895, was a two-and-a-half-storeyed timber house with a slate roof, Otahuna.

Strouts, noted for his design of Ivey Hall at Lincoln College, had designed two earlier houses for the Rhodes family in Christchurch as well Rhodes Memorial Home (1885-1887) built in memory of Rhodes' father. Otahuna is arguably one of Strouts' finest works. Queen Anne in style, the house's notable features include the complex roofline, the tall brick chimneys, the hexagonal corner tower and the sprawling asymmetrical elevations. One of the chimneys bears the date the house was completed and Rhodes' monogram (RHR). The interior of the house is notable for the fine woodwork and for the surviving wallpaper in the entrance hall, living room and dining room.

Rhodes and his wife Jessie (1865-1929) had no children and after his death in 1956 Otahuna was sold. The government acquired the bulk of the estate in 1957 to subdivide into farms for returned servicemen. Otahuna, including its garden was sold to J.E. Boyd, who ran it as a guesthouse. It was then owned by the Christian Brothers, a teaching fellowship who used Otahuna as their national headquarters between 1961 and 1972. For a time the house was occupied by the Otahuna Christian Community, who established a therapeutic community there, before it went back into private ownership in 1975. It remains a family home today.

Otahuna is one of the largest and most complete Queen Anne style houses in New Zealand and is arguably Strouts' most important domestic work. The house has retained its substantial garden and much of the house is in near-original condition. The house and garden stand as a memorial to Rhodes, a noted runholder, politician and philanthropist, who is remembered as the 'outstanding public figure' of twentieth century Canterbury. Otahuna is described by Rhodes' biographer, Geoffrey Rice, as 'his most tangible monument'. More broadly the house and grounds illustrate the late nineteenth and early twentieth century lifestyle of Canterbury's elite.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

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.

Otahuna was built for Robert Rhodes, who was a prominent member of the community, MP, and benefactor for the local region.

There is a connection between the Rhodes family, and Frederick Strouts, Otahuna's architect. Strouts was responsible for several residences and buildings for the Rhodes family, as well as other buildings constructed as memorials to members of the family.

In near original condition, Otahuna serves to illustrate the luxurious lifestyle of Canterbury's aristocracy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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.


Otahuna is one of the largest and most complete Queen Anne house in New Zealand. The house is remarkably original in both materials, and some decor and furnishings. The quality of design and workmanship is exemplary. Many of the interior rooms are spectacular, whilst the exterior presents a picturesque appearance in the sixteen acres of garden.

Otahuna is a fine example of the work of Strouts, one of New Zealand's notable colonial architects. Otahuna is one of his finest works. Characteristic of the Queen Anne style is the romantic asymmetry, variety of window treatments and the use of shingles and stucco to provide a contrast in surface texture.


Otahuna is a magnificent example of the Queen Anne style, and the grand house is set in sixteen acres of garden. The trees were planted to complement and highlight features of the natural landscape.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Jamieson, J & W

Samuel Jamieson established the Jamieson's building and contracting business in 1864 at Canterbury. His sons James and William were innovative and progressive builders. They were the first in New Zealand, for example, to use steam cranes for lifting heavy masonry during the construction of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (1901-5). They were also responsible for the Christchurch Press Company building (completed 1909) and Government Buildings, Cathedral Square (1909-13).

J and W Jamieson Ltd was acknowledged to be one of the leading building firms in New Zealand in and around the turn of the century.

Strouts, Frederick

It is thought that Frederick Strouts (1834-1919) was born at Hothfield, Kent, England in 1834. He trained as an architect with John Whichcord and Son in Maidstone and then under the partnership of Arthur Ashpitel and John Whichcord junior. He arrived in New Zealand in 1859 and set up business in Christchurch with his future brother-in-law as 'General Importers & Ironmongers, Architects, Surveyors & Land Agents'.

Strouts and his family returned to England, in 1868, where Strouts was elected an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Upon his return to New Zealand Strouts resumed his architectural practice. He became noted for his houses, which he designed for the elite of Canterbury, including a number for Robert Heaton Rhodes. In 1871 he was appointed supervising architect for the Church of St Michael and All Angels.Two years later he acquired the commission for the Canterbury Club, after W.B. Armson fell ill. Other commissions included the former Lyttelton Harbour Board building (1880) and the Rhodes Convalescent Home in Cashmere (1885--87). He is described as being a versatile and prolific architect, and one who helped to raise the professional status of architecture in Canterbury. One of his most notable Canterbury buildings was Ivey Hall, now refurbished as part of Lincoln University.

Strouts seems to have retired from practice in 1905. He died in Christchurch on 18 December 1919.

(Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, 'Strouts, Frederick 1834-1919' in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol 2, 1870-1900, Wellington 1993)

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Sir Robert Heaton Rhodes was noted for his interest in horticulture and the vast informal garden he established at Otahuna was one of the major attractions of the estate. He planted numerous trees, including silver birches, pines, and a fine collection of oaks, as well as shrubberies of rhododendrons and azaleas. A large lake was created in front of the house, with two bridges leading to an island in the middle. The more formal parts of the garden included a rose garden, a 'Dutch garden', and a vegetable garden that provided food for the house. Rhodes became one of the foremost breeders of daffodils in New Zealand and the bulbs were naturalised in the paddocks beyond the garden. From 1928 to 1954 'Daffodil Days' were held every year, to raise money for charity. These open days proved popular with the Canterbury public and thousands took the opportunity to visit Otahuna. The public library at Tai Tapu (1932), also registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga, was financed from the proceeds of the Daffodil Days. The Daffodil Days were revived in 1995 as part of the celebrations of Otahuna's centenary and continued to run on a bi-annual basis until 1999, with thousands of locals taking the opportunity to visit the grounds.

The substantial stables at Otahuna were built around three sides of a walled courtyard, with a two-storeyed hay barn behind. These were later converted into sleeping quarters. Other buildings on the property include a brick appleshed, pig sty, game house and stone vegetable shed.

Construction Details

Timber shingles and lapped weatherboards, slate roof, brick chimneys.

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.


Otahuna was built in 1895 for Sir Robert Heaton Rhodes (1861-1956) and his initials appear in a pedimented plaster panel inset on the building's exterior north wall. Rhodes was a leading member of one of Canterbury's pioneer families. Born at Purau, Banks Peninsula, Rhodes trained as a lawyer and went on to become MP for Ellesmere from 1899 to 1925.

Rhodes married Jessie Cooper Clarke in 1891 and built Otahuna shortly after. He subsequently developed a paternal interest in the nearby village of Tai Tapu. He built the Anglican church in Tai Tapu as a memorial to his wife who died in 1929, and donated the land on which the local library was built. The latter building was paid for by the sale of daffodils from Rhodes' estate. In 1914 Rhodes gave 14 acres of land to the City of Christchurch for the extension of the Summit Road and he is also remembered for his keen interest in gardening.

Completion Date

30th May 2002

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Apperley, 1989

Richard Apperley, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds, A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture: Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present, Sydney, 1989


Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Geoffrey W. Rice, 'Rhodes, Robert Heaton 1861 - 1956', Volume 3, 1901-1920, Wellington, 1996, pp.426-428

Rice, 2001

Geoffrey Rice, Heaton Rhodes of Otahuna: the Illustrated Biography, Christchurch, 2001

Strongman, 1984

Thelma Strongman, The Gardens of Canterbury: A History, Wellington, 1984


Historic Places in New Zealand

Historic Places in New Zealand

Mane J. The Architect of Ivey Hall, March 1989; Christine Dann, 'Memories of a Classic Estate', 35, December 1991, pp.38-41

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.