5 Willis Street, Whanganui

  • Haslemere, Wanganui.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7513 Date Entered 31st May 2002


City/District Council

Whanganui District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

CT 318/63, 318/64, DP2490, Lots 16-18 Blk 11


The following text is from the original proposal report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

"Haslemere" is a property of considerable architectural and aesthetic quality. The house is characteristic of the work of one of Wanganui' s most prolific architects, Robert Talboys, and was built for well-known Wanganui botanist, James MacGregor (1859-1925). After James' death, his widow, Florence, lived in the property. Since the I970s, the property has been owned by Mrs Eleanor Burgess, one of Wanganui's best-known gardeners. The garden is largely Eleanor Burgess' work, though mature trees survive from earlier periods of occupation.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


"Haslemere" was built in 1924 for well-known Wanganui botanist, horticulturalist and plant collector, James MacGregor (1859-1925). MacGregor's name is associated with the formation of the Wanganui beautifying society, the planning and planting of Virginia Lake and the park that lies along the east bank of the Whanganui River, now called the James MacGregor Memorial Park and Kowhai Park in Wanganui. Florence, his widow, carried on living at "Horoeka" and maintained the property for over 50 years between James's death and her own. From 1974, Mrs Eleanor Burgess, one of Wanganui's best known gardeners continued to develop "Horoeka" but changed its name to "Haslemere".

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


"Haslemere" formerly known as "Horoeka" is in the Tudor Revival style with a garden setting of many fine tall trees of indigenous and exotic English varieties. The owners of the property have maintained an Edwardian garden which together with the house has made this a property of considerable note in Wanganui East. The recent owner, the late Mrs Eleanor Burgess, inherited a legacy of mature trees which included liquidambar, maples, a big Eugenia Myrtifolia and an old

totara. Rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias also thrive at "Haslemere". James Stirling, well known for his television gardening programmes, supervised the relocation of several garden highlights for Mrs Burgess to "Haslemere", in particular a large Cedrus Atlantica "Glauca", moved from her former home 'Abingdon'.

The garden at "Haslemere" has been opened informally to the general public for many years, whilst remaining as a private residence. A whimsical message on a large stone greets visitors to the front door. It reads - "So when your work is finished you may wash your hands and pray for the glory of the Garden that it may not pass away."


"Haslemere" is characteristic of Robert Talboys' houses in the Tudor revival style in its individual form and detail. One of Wanganui's most prolific architects, Talboys practised in that city between 1919 and 1963. The features of "Haslemere" are the folded roof gable, the interlocking hips or separate gables which are linked, the rear bay window which is a Talboys later addition; the rear sleeping porch with 2 arches; the half timbered detail on the end gables; the 75mm soffit bracket with the concave curve; the serif type iron work on the outside of the chimney and the 'staggered' profile of the outside chimney on the south east wall.

The house is roughcast with half timbered decorative elements, (konka board- for the substrate - a building product pioneered and manufactured in Wanganui by Basset and Co for over 50 years). Other key features of the house are its casement windows with leadlight glazing bars in rectangular pattern, marseille tiled roof, tudor trim, plaster board linings, windows with double sunk sills.

Style Indicators of neo tudor design are:

1 .Asymmetrical massing

2. Gable

3. Imitation half timbering

4. Catslide roof

5. Casement windows

6. Lead light glazing

7. Bay window

8. Tall chimney

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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


Robert Talboys, the architect of "Horoeka" later renamed "Haselmere" was one of Wanganui's most renowned architects and designers. He began his early working life with Basil Hooper in Dunedin. Hooper designed many significant homes in that city. At the end of World War One, Talboys moved to Wanganui and formed an association with C Reginald Ford, with the company becoming known as Ford and Talboys. This partnership was dissolved in 1922 when Ford moved

to Auckland to join William Gummer. During his time in Wanganui, Talboys used many designs, not only Tudor, but also Arts and Crafts, and, in the 1930s the Moderne/Art Deco style. He was a very versatile architect designing a number of significant public buildings.

The old Fire Station building in Wilson St in Wanganui was designed by the Ford and Talboys partnership. The civic building in Wanganui that Robert Talboys is remembered most for is the Central Post Office building in Ridgeway St. This building has strongly vertical stripped

Classical proportions - the restrained detailing is Maori with koruru heads, vestigial moulded pilasters and canoe prow spiral motifs mark the stepped parapet. Robert Talboys' son has described this building as his father's "piece de resistance".

Further significant Talboys' buildings are the Friends School (Quakers), St Georges School and the Wanganui Regional Museum building, built in 1928. (Category II).

The Cenotaph on Queens Park (Category II), was designed by Robert Talboys in 1923. The original Pavilion in Cooks Gardens is also the work of Talboys. On the residential front, Robert Talboys is also well-known for show homes built for Harold Jones in Parsons St (1936) and the Rennie House (1937) built for the parents of Wellington Barrister and QC Hugh Rennie. Both properties are Moderne in style. There are numerous other examples of his work including Rivercroft (1927) on Riverbank Rd, the Farley House (1923) at Makirikiri. The Surf Pavilion at Castlecliff (1959) was designed by Talboys. Michael Talboys, Robert's son who joined his father's practice after 1950 designed the Morrison home on Great North Rd, (1955), adjacent to Virginia Lake. Both properties have featured in a recent publication entitled 'Looking for the Local', a New Zealand commentary on the Moderne architectural design period by Justine Clarke and Paul Walker (VUP).

The Museum, Broadway and Ridgway Post Office, and, the Old Fire Station all feature in a Wanganui heritage study commissioned by the Wanganui District Council in 1990.

Robert Talboys is also remembered throughout New Zealand as associate architect for Woolworths (NZ) from 1937 to 1963. He retired to Rotorua in 1963 and died in 1971 aged 79.

James MacGregor, a leading botanist and horticulturalist and his wife, Florence were the first residents of "Horoeka" ("Haslemere"). He was raised on the family property at Aird and Matarawa, near Wanganui, and educated at Whanganui Collegiate. In 1876, he inherited with his

brother Donald, the farm at Aird. James MacGregor developed his interest in horticulture at Aird and began plantings of native and exotic species. He is noted for the planning and planting of Virginia Lake and the park that lies on the east bank of the Whanganui River, now called the James MacGregor Park. MacGregor travelled widely overseas bringing back seed from China, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay and India. He was the first to introduce the Chinese gooseberry (kiwifruit) to New Zealand, following his travels to China in 1896.

He had a special love of camellia and rhododendron. In 1910, James MacGregor and his older brother Gregor founded the Wanganui Beautifying Society and together with Gregor's wife Pura, they were responsible for the planting of Virginia Lake in Wanganui. In 1919, James MacGregor planted the Esplanade along the Whanganui River between the two bridges which remains as a thickly wooded park. In 1924, the year he married, he planted the garden and had the Tudor style house built for his young bride, Florence, ("Horoeka") in Willis St, Wanganui East.

In September the following year, James MacGregor died. Florence, his widow, also an enthusiastic gardener continued to plant and maintain "Horoeka". The MacGregor family history mentions trees planted by James at Aird: these are sequoidenron, quercus uber, pinus ponderosa/wallichiana, and at Horoeka - Liquid Amber, Lady St Clair camellia, Eugenia Myrtifolia and Mackaya Bella.

When Florence MacGregor passed away, the new owner of the property was Mrs Eleanor Burgess. Mrs Burgess became known as one of Wanganui's most creative gardeners. She rejuvenated both the house which she renamed "Haslemere" and the garden to surpass their former beauty. Eleanor Burgess said she wanted a garden of natural charm, gay, carefree and without lawns. "Those of us who cultivate small gardens sigh daily for all those plants we would like to grow. We who love everything can never be satisfied."

(Eleanor Burgess passed away recently).

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:

The residents of Wanganui and visitors to the area have long admired the beauty and presence of this property. The Tudor style house and garden are inseparable. Even though it has been in private ownership throughout its existence, the garden at "Haslemere" has been informally

opened up to the public to visit for a number of years. Friends of the Burgess family and visitors to "Haslemere" have always enjoyed the message that greets them on the stone at the front door that exhorts them to wash their hands after a day's work and to pray for the glory of the garden that it may not pass away.

The house and garden at "Haslemere" are both intrinsically significant for their aesthetic, historical and cultural contribution to the community of Wanganui.

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

The house, in the main, is original. It follows the architectural specifications laid down by Robert Talboys, in particular the exterior half timbered Tudor detail, and, the use of Konka board for the substrate and the stucco finish on the outside. (Konka was a local product manufactured by Basset and Co in Wanganui for over 50 years). It also follows the specifications for the use of heart rimu timber for the interior flooring and Oregon wood staircase. The house has an elegant simplicity and fine use of craftsmanship in terms of its detail and proportions.


Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Registration only applies to the house. It does not apply to the garden.

Construction Dates

Completion Date

10th March 2003

Report Written By

Helen McCracken

Other Information

A copy of the original 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.