Opou Station Homestead
95 Whakato Road, Opou Station, Manutuke
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
21st April 1994
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 1771 (GS3B/150), Gisborne Land District and the building known as Opou Station Homestead thereon and its fittings and fixtures
Lot 1 DP 1771 (CT GS3B/150), Gisborne Land District
The grand and imposing Opou Station Homestead at Manutuke was constructed in 1883 for Thomas Bloomfield. Bloomfield was the nephew of trader and land purchaser Captain George Edward Read (1814/1815? – 1878), who had purchased the land on which the homestead stands from Thomas Halbert in 1852. Halbert had bought the land, which was included in the Tahuniorangi Block, from Maori owners in 1839. Bloomfield used his inheritance from Read to commission and built the homestead and associated stables. Bloomfield was bankrupt within a year of the homestead’s completion in 1883 however; a love of horses and horse racing are popularly supposed to have contributed to his financial problems, and after his death in 1890 the property was leased for several years. From 1911 the homestead was leased by the owner of nearby Opou farm, John Clark who renamed the estate Opou. In 1934 the Opou estate was purchased by his son, William Clark, and it has remained in the Clark family ever since.
Opou Station Homestead was designed by noted Gisborne architect William Peter Finneran and built by Willliam Oswald Skeet, as were the stables. The two-storeyed homestead building is Georgian in style, with elegantly detailed classical colonial architecture. The south side of the building originally featured an imposing square tower which was removed in 1949. The building’s most striking remaining feature is the imposing pedimented balcony which wraps around three sides of the house.
Opou Station Homestead has aesthetic significance, being situated within a landscaped setting of mature trees and spacious gardens. The homestead is approached along a wide sweeping driveway, culminating in a view of the imposing and impressive homestead building. The Opou Station Homestead has architectural significance for its high quality, architectural design and as a fine example of the work of Finneran. The building also has historic significance in regard to the association of the Opou estate with the rapid pastoral development of the Tairawhiti district and the prosperity it brought to the region. It is the oldest grand home in the district still standing. Opou Station Homestead has social significance as the grandeur and size of the house directly reflects the relative wealth of its owners and of that period. It is associated with several prominent Gisborne residents who resided in the house, in particular with Captain George Read who owned the land and whose bequest to his nephew allowed the homestead to be built.
Finneran, W P
(1) William Peter Finneran (c.1837-1911) practised in Gisborne as an architect since 1878 and “designed and supervised the erection of a large number of public and private buildings in the district”. Several buildings known to have been designed by Finneran are still in existence, but records of his work are incomplete.
In 1879 Finneran was calling for tenders for building the hospital and in 1881 tenders for the brewery. The brewery with its four-storey tower was a significant landmark and lookout point over the town. It is assumed he designed these buildings. In 1901 he supplied designs for a new building. Some uncertainty existed around whether he designed the band rotunda, as entrants for the design competition had entered anonymously. However, it was disclosed at a council meeting that “Mr Finneran was the designer of the beautiful plan selected by the Council” even though he had submitted his design anonymously under Parnell & Co.'s name.
His other work includes the Masonic Hall, still standing but modified, in Childers Road, built 1895 and opened 2 January 1896. The Hall was enlarged in 1897 and is registered as Category II. The Poverty Bay Club is stylistically very similar to two of Finneran's better-known works, the Opou Station homestead (extant) and Whataupoko sheep station homestead (burnt down), the home of Percival Barker. Opou Homestead, Manutuke, (formerly known as Riverslea when built for owner Thomas Bloomfield in 1883; Register # 7170, Category I historic place) is described as “restrained Victorian classicism...[with] stately proportions and vast room heights”. Another more modest building attributed to Finneran [cited as P Fineran] is a “Two-way Bay Villa for Captain Martin” in 1900, the drawings for which “show a preoccupation with details such as the half-drawn blinds and curtains”.
Finneran was responsible for designing the enlargement of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church (subsequently the Anglican Church Hall) with the chancel and transept of the wooden church being added. However, these changes were not approved by all: “some details of decorative style were introduced by the Gisborne architect, Mr Finneran, which marred the “pure” Gothic style of the first stage of the building.”
The only other architects known to be working in Gisborne in the 1880s-early 1900s are W J Quigley from 1882 , James O Barnard , and Andrew Y Ross.
Little is known of Finneran's life and family. In an 1881 New Zealand-wide directory, W.P. Finneran is listed twice, once as a carpenter in the Napier electorate with freehold qualification in Gisborne; and again as an architect with residential qualification in Gisborne, in the East Coast electorate. His name is listed in directories for 1883-84, 1894, 1896 (in Gladstone Rd) and 1898-99. He and his wife Margaret are listed on the Waiapu electoral roll for 1902, and in the Borough of Gisborne Roll 1901 as being at 34 Lowe Street, Gisborne, but are not listed for 1900 or 1903. However, in 1904 he is again listed as being architect, Gisborne, but is not in the nationwide directories for 1906, 1908 and 1909.
William P Finneran died on August 25, 1911, at Ponsonby, Auckland, aged 74 years and survived by his wife Margaret Ann. The funeral cortege was to leave from his former residence at Mason's Rd, Herne Bay for the Waikumete Cemetery.
Skeet, W O
William Oswald Skeet established the City Timber Yards in Gladstone Road in 1880. W.O. Skeet, builder, was listed on East Coast electoral roll in 1881 and 1887. His 1896 directory listing is a large notice for Skeet as “Builder and Timber Merchant, Gladstone Road and Cobden Street” as well as an advertisement. Another advertisement at the time the Club was being built shows the business was a timber merchants, building and contracting, as well as supplying ironmongery. Skeet worked with Finneran as builder on several of Finneran's projects.. He designed as well as built the alterations to the Club building in 1903 and 1905.
Opou Homestead is a large two storeyed homestead. It is Georgian in style and is characterised by restrained classical detailing, symmetry, double height verandahs, regular fenestration and a hipped roof.
The front facade of Opou is symmetrical about the main entrance. The frontispiece is given emphasis by means of a pedimented portico at first floor level. At both the ground and first floors, the supporting pillars are weighted to resemble pilasters. A stilted arch spans the distance between the two pilasters at ground floor level and is echoed on the wall behind by an arrangement which derives from the Serlian motif/Palladian window. The arrangement consists of a double door with an arched fanlight and arched side-lights. At first floor level, the pediment-like gable of the portico is echoed on the wall behind by a small pediment above a set of double doors.
The verticality of the frontispiece is balanced by the horizontal lines of the first floor balustrade, the lean-to roof of the verandah, and the roof proper which is hipped parallel to the front facade. The roof proper is U-shaped in plan and has a central gulley. The verandah roof is distinct from the hipped roof and between the two, eaves brackets appear in groups of three about the entire building envelope.
The verandah returns on both sides of the building. It is supported on paired pillars at ground floor level and single pillars at first floor level, other than at the corners where they are three. Many of the ground floor double doors are segmental headed and first floor windows are square headed, double hung doors, single and square headed.
Other than the removal of its tower, the updating of its service areas and some window alterations, Opou appears to be largely in its original condition. In place of the tower, the roof is now hipped. As is often the case with Georgian buildings, the interior is more lively than the exterior. Many rooms retain scrim and wall paper and some have panelled ceilings with ornate centre pieces. The marble fireplace surrounds in the living and dining rooms have corbelled mantle pieces.
The quality of the verandah and frontispiece detailing
Some wooden piles replaced with concrete piles
Tower removed from south side and replaced with a hipped roof.
Bow window in front room replaced with plate glass
Two new windows installed in nursery/breakfast room
Original Welsh slates removed from roof and replaced with asbestos sheathing
Kitchen area reconstructed, including lower ceiling (Loach and McCormick).
15th October 2012
Report Written By
Linda Pattison; Damian Skinner, Gail Henry
Poverty Bay Standard
Poverty Bay Standard
'Mr T.E.R. Bloomfield’s residence’, 17 Mar 1883, p.2
Joseph A McKay, Historic Poverty Bay and East Coast, 1966
Blackburne and Robinson, 1994
James Blackburne and Sheila Robinson, ‘Three grand homes’, New Zealand Historic Places, n.45, Jan 1994, p.5
A fully referenced report is available from the Lower Northern Area Office of the NZHPT.
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.