Rehutai Homestead

Menzies Bay

  • Rehutai Homestead 2009.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7501 Date Entered 7th December 2001

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 2862

Location description

Menzies Bay is one of the many bays on the northern side of Banks Peninsula. It is not easily accessed. From Christchurch the road is followed toward Akaroa, turning onto the Summit Road at Hilltop and then descending to Little Akaloa. At Little Akaloa a minor road turns left to Decanter Bay, and on to Menzies Bay where it ends. Rehutai is located on high ground before one descends into Menzies Bay itself. There was no road access here until 1929.

Summaryopen/close

In 1878 John Menzies (1839-1919) purchased some 567 hectares of land in what was then known as McIntosh Bay from Tom McIntosh. He increased his holding to 1215 hectares and was assisted in his farming activities by three sons, William, Stephen and Norman. William was responsible for farming the block called Rokonui in the upper Decanter Valley and when he married in 1894, the homestead Rehutai was built for him and his new wife Gertrude.

The house is of simple design but its significance is in the interior planning and decoration. Liverpool born John Menzies arrived in Lyttelton in 1860. He journeyed to Southland where land was cheaper than in Canterbury and began farming there. He was a keen carver and became fascinated by Maori art which he learned about from the local iwi. He gained considerable knowledge and skills tutored by local craftsmen in traditional techniques, styles and subjects.

A year after the family moved to McIntosh Bay he built a homestead Glen Mona to replace the exisiting simple cottage which had accommodated the McIntosh family. This house was elaborately decorated with carvings by Menzies, featuring Maori patterns and flower motifs. Rehutai was given similar treatment with a large central hallway fashioned to represent a wharenui, featuring both carved and painted decorations of traditional motifs that represent the passage of time. Menzies devoted his energies in 1905-6 to the construction and decoration of St Luke's Church, Little Akaloa (Category I Record no. 7094). This is a remarkable church, intended for European worship yet featuring a complete decorative scheme of Maori designs.

Glen Mona burned down in 1907 and its similarity decorated replacement was also destroyed by a fire in 1929. Rehutai is thus the only surviving domestic example of this early settler's understanding of Maori art and his integration of Maori design and decoration into a Pakeha dwelling.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Rehutai is significant as the only surviving domestic example of John Henry Menzies' integration of Maori design into a European building. It is (probably) the earliest surviving example of a European carver using Maori motifs to extensively decorate his home.

Menzies studied Maori art, acquiring considerable knowledge of the styles, patterns and motifs and their meanings. He was able to reproduce them with flair and skill, in both painted and carved work at Rehutai. The house's exterior is unremarkable but the interior decoration illustrates Menzies' endeavours to create a home that was based on European traditions yet acknowledged the new social and geographic lication. Maori motifs are taken from their traditional items and re-used on contemporary furniture and the various elements of this European dwelling.

The house has cultural significance because of its decorative schema. Menzies' enthusiasm for Maori art led him to create a home, first for himself and later for his son, that demonstrated a unique response to the New Zealand environment.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history.

There was great interest in Maori art amongst early settlers in New Zealand and this house is an especially complete example.

This interest was formalised with the formation of the Polynesian Society in the 1890s, a group to which many prominent NZ intellectuals, writers and cultural workers subscribed. The wide-spread perception that the Maori race was dying out (Social Darwinism) was particularly strong at the end of the C19th and early C20th and this prompted publications by people such as Elsdon Best and James Macdonald about Maori culture especially art. Rehutai is a superb example of a mingling of Celtic and Polynesian carved forms and can thus be placed in a continuum of Maori/Pakeha cultural interaction. It can be seen as a material example of this strong intellectual and cultural fashion of the period.

In addition to this interest in matters Maori, the development of a European national identity incorporated Maori elements as well as those such as the kiwi from the natural world. That NZ was known in Australia as 'Maoriland' reflects this use of unique cultural or natural signifiers by settler societies as markers of national difference and identity. The adoption of Maori design elements and names in art, design and advertising is illustrative of this component of national identity.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

Rehutai illustrates the trend among new settlers to put Maori imagery to European use.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

Despite lack of any formal training, Menzies had considerable skill as a carver and a great understanding of the intricacies and underlying meaning of Maori motifs and patterns. Rehutai demonstrates Menzies' technical accomplishment and his knowledge of Maori design.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

Many Europeans were interested in Maori art and collected small items or had decorative features in their homes. Menzies' interest was much deeper and this house illustrates his comprehensive incorporation of Maori imagery into a European dwelling.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Menzies, John Henry

John Henry Menzies (1839-1919) was born in Liverpool but of Scottish descent and immigrated to New Zealand in 1860. He farmed initially in Southland before settling on Banks' Peninsula.

In 1878 Menzies bought McIntosh Bay, renaming it after himself, and built a homestead there the following year. This house and the second Glen Mona homestead were destroyed by fire but the third homestead (1930) remains extant. He also built a house for his eldest son William at Menzies Bay in 1894 called 'Rehutai'.

Menzies was largely responsible for the design, construction, decoration and financing of St Luke's Church at Little Akaloa (1905-6). He had been obsessed with wood carving from an early age and was particularly fascinated by Maori decorative art. The interior of St Luke's Church is a permanent reminder of this fascination and the carving in both wood and stone is particularly fine given that Menzies does not appear to have had any formal training.

In 1910 he published a pioneering text, Maori Patterns Painted and Carved.

Menzies, John Henry

John Henry Menzies (1839-1919) was born in Liverpool but of Scottish descent and immigrated to New Zealand in 1860. He farmed initially in Southland before settling on Banks' Peninsula.

In 1878 Menzies bought McIntosh Bay, renaming it after himself, and built a homestead there the following year. This house and the second Glen Mona homestead were destroyed by fire but the third homestead (1930) remains extant. He also built a house for his eldest son William at Menzies Bay in 1894 called 'Rehutai'.

Menzies was largely responsible for the design, construction, decoration and financing of St Luke's Church at Little Akaloa (1905-6). He had been obsessed with wood carving from an early age and was particularly fascinated by Maori decorative art. The interior of St Luke's Church is a permanent reminder of this fascination and the carving in both wood and stone is particularly fine given that Menzies does not appear to have had any formal training.

In 1910 he published a pioneering text, Maori Patterns Painted and Carved.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

John Henry Menzies (1839-1919) was born in Cheshire, England. He studied at Edinburgh University for two years and then worked in an insurance office where he realised that his preference was for an outdoor life. He spent six months gaining farming experience in Yorkshire before migrating to New Zealand, arriving in Lyttelton on 1 December 1860. He found prices for land rather high in Canterbury and moved to Southland where he tried farming in three different areas before deciding to move north, away from the cold climate and rabbit problems.

He had married Francis Butler while in Southland and had a family of seven children by 1878. He left the family on their southern property while he sought a farm which would provide a better lifestyle. The property, which the McIntosh family had farmed since 1848, appealed because of the attractive sheltered bay setting and the quality of the land. The bay had been named McIntosh Bay in 1849 by the officers of the Acheron when they were surveying Banks Peninsula and received buttermilk and potatoes from the resident family.

When the Menzies family arrived in September 1878 they lived in a small cottage by the beach. A new home was a high priority however, and the larger, two storeyed house Glen Mona was completed before the following winter. John Menzies had always been keen on wood carving, spending all his spare time as a school boy engaged in this activity and developing a considerable skill. At Glen Mona he indulged his enthusiasm and decorated his new house with carvings, choosing native floral and fruit motifs as well as Maori patterns. Family tradition tells us that while in Southland he had developed a rapport with local Maori who appreciated his carving skills and taught him their own techniques. He is reputed to have gained an understanding of Maori design at this time and his interest in this expanded into a major preoccupation through the rest of his life.

Rehutai was begun in 1894 to serve as the home of William Menzies, John's eldest son who married Gertrude Thorpe in 1895. In this house, instead of just decorating the normal internal features of the residence, the large central hallway was designed to resemble a wharenui with carved and painted detailing. The other areas of the house were embellished with carvings around doorways, fireplaces and window sorrounds and many items of elaborately carved furniture were provided. In 1907 Glen Mona burned down and its replacement continued the theme begun at Rehutai. Menzies planned the second Glen Mona with the large wharenui styled hall opening directly from the entrance porch and embellished it with a full repertoire of Maori designs. When two of his daughters married, their homes too were decorated by John Menzies. In 1929 the second Glen Mona was also destroyed by fire and today the only surviving example of Menzies' domestic work is Rehutai.

Menzies' passion for carving and painting Maori designs raises the question about where he gained the knowledge of these. Jessica Halliday considers it improbable that Menzies would have sourced his patterns from South Island Maori, because she states carving and painting was a distant memory for South Island Maori in the latter half of the nineteenth century. However, others believe that carving abilities continued in the South and were practiced on minor items. Painted motifs were also used. It seems probable that Menzies' associations with Maori in Southland introduced him to indigenous art forms and that what he learned there was expanded by further experiences in Canterbury. It is significant that Rev. James Stack, who had a considerable knowledge of Maori culture, was the relieving clergy at Little Akaloa in 1879. he was then appointed to the parish from 1881-1883.

In 1874 the Maori house, Hau-te-ana-nui-o-Tangaoa at Canterbury Museum was completed and on display to the public. On 5 August 1875 Rev James Stack presented a lecture about the house's history and its decoration to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury. Considering Menzies' interest in the subject it is likely that he would have attended and visited the house itself to see the various patterns in detail. This building was probably a major source of inspiration for him. He recorded whatever designs he saw and would have found early postcards a further source of information. In 1904 he completed a book. 'Maori Patterns, Painted and Carved', and in 1905-6 his passion for Maori design was most fully realised in the building of St Luke's Church at Little Akaloa. Menzies designed the building and its decorative scheme and undertook much of the building and carving himself. It provides a unique combination of Arts and Crafts design principles with Maori patterns and motifs.

William's wife Gertrude died in 1903 and when he remarried two years later his relationship with his father deteriorated and he left Rehutai. The next brother, Stephen, lived in the house for some years until he too fell out with his father and the youngest son Norman became the occupant until his death in 1921. From 1924 to 1926 the house served as the local vicarage. With access only available by horseback at this time this must have been rather inconvenient for the vicar. In 1930 William Menzies son Ian purchased the property and with his wife Dorothy lived at Rehutai for over 50 years. It has been in the ownership of Te Rehutai Otohuao, a family Trust, since 1991 and has been unoccupied since then. Recently it has been sold to Mr Paddy Cotter of Christchurch. Plans for its future are uncertain.

Physical Description

The house is a large, single storeyed, weatherboard cottage with deep verandahs, some of which have been enclosed. Central to the house is the large hall oriented roughly NW/SE which is planned and decorated to closely resemble a traditional wharenui. It is lit by windows set in the gable end and there are eight doors which link the hall to the entrance and surrounding rooms. The motifs have been selected to represent the passage of time. Panels around the walls are painted red with carved faces at the bases and zigzag patterns at the top. The rafters (heke tipi), ridge pole and door frames are painted with kowhaiwhai and the free standing ridge post (pou tuarongo) contains a basal figure. Encircling the hall a top plate is inscribed with Maori proverbs in the southern dialect. They are lettered in gold on a red background. It is thought that Rev. Stack would have assisted in the provision of these proverbs. The ceiling and wall linings are machined to simulate tukutuku.

Other features of the house are the four carved fireplaces. In the dining room the decoration is based on Maori motifs and an inscription is included; 'Na te waewae I kimi'. The fireplaces in the sitting room and the small bedroom feature thistles along with the Menzies crest (missing from one fireplace). The principal bedroom's fire surround is decorated with roses and has the Gaelic welcome, 'Cead mile failte,' inscribed.

Doors are panelled with machined 'tukutuku' styled timber and there are further examples of carved door and window frames. While the house was the family residence it was filled with carved furniture which has now been shared around various members. All of this work was achieved by the one man who worked deftly and quickly at his all-absorbing hobby. Despite the lack of any formal training he became a skilled carver.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1894 -

Modification
-
minor alterations to kitchen area, bathroom added and verandahs enclosed

Construction Details

Timber construction and cladding, (rimu and kauri). Corrugated iron roof.

The house has been unoccupied from some ten years and is now in need of general maintenance throughout.

Completion Date

15th November 2001

Report Written By

NZHPT

Information Sources

Mair, 1974

Mair and Hendry, More Homes of the Pioneers and Other Buildings. Christchurch, 1974

Ogilvie, 1991

Gordon Ogilvie, The Port Hills of Christchurch, Auckland, 1991

Menzies, 1970

The Story of Menzies Bay, Christchurch 1970

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The assessment below is the text from the original registration 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.