Flock House Homestead and McKelvie Flagpole

Parewanui Road, Parewanui

  • Flock House Homestead and McKelvie Flagpole.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: R O'Brien.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: R O'Brien.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Registered List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1
List Number 7576 Date Entered 10th December 2004

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City/District Council

Rangitikei District

Region

Manawatu-Wanganui Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 81900 (CT 48B/812), Wellington Land District

Summaryopen/close

Located 14 kilometres out of Bulls at Parewanui, the grand nature of the Flock House homestead is emphasised by its entrance, a long curving driveway lined with old trees and waterways. Constructed in 1908, the homestead has been associated with prominent landowners in the Rangitikei district, and a unique movement that assisted the dependants of veterans from World War One.

The land at Parewanui was sold to the Crown by Ngati Apa as part of the Rangitikei Purchase in 1849. From the mid 1850s, farmers from the overcrowded Wellington settlement travelled up the country and began settling in the area. The land on which the Homestead was later constructed was purchased from the Government by Thomas McKenzie in 1853 and named 'Poyntzfield'. In 1907 the McKenzie family sold the land to Lyn McKelvie, who amalgamated it with his own estate 'Flock House' to create an estate of over 3000 acres. The following year, Lyn McKelvie contracted the Wanganui based firm Russell & Bignell to construct a homestead on the property. The firm had been responsible for both designing and building Pukemarama (Category I, Reg #1191), the home of Lynn McKelvie's brother, in 1901.

Completed in 1908, Flock House is a three-storey, residential structure designed to an 'L' shaped plan which features early elements of the Arts and Crafts style that became popular in New Zealand in the 1930s. Erected on a concrete foundation, with a timber frame, the building has a tiled roof and is partially roughcast. The layout of the homestead clearly separates public and private spaces. The form of the building is complex and ornate. The L-shape plan of the house features numerous porches, entry foyers and gable windows. These are oriented to maximise access to sun and light, and to frame views across the formal gardens.

In 1918, just prior to the end of World War One, a new fund known as the 'New Zealand Sheep Owners Acknowledgement of Debt to the British Seamen Fund' was created. Established by the Farmers Union from surplus profits from wool sales, the fund was designed to assist dependants of veteran seamen from the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine who had been disabled, or lost their lives during the war effort. Towards this end, the Fund purchased the McKelvie property, including Flock House Homestead and 34 lots of land, in 1923 for use as an agricultural training farm. Shortly after the sale Lynn McKelvie, the former owner of the estate donated a flagpole, which was erected at the front of the house, in commemoration of the event on 1 March 1924. Flock House was officially opened as a training farm for the sons of British seamen on 19 June 1924. The school provided education in all branches of farming and was also intended to build character and provide an general understanding of farming as an occupation. In 1931 the economic depression resulted in the cancellation of boys being transferred from Britain. It was then used to train sons of New Zealand servicemen, whose education was subsidised by the First Labour Government. In 1937 Flock House was sold to the Government. In 1947 the school was opened to all 'New Zealand boys of from 14.5 to 18 years of age who have passed the necessary medical examination and are of good character'. Flock House was operated under the Department of Agriculture and continued to serve as an Agricultural Training Centre until the 1980s. In 1995, Flock House was transferred into private ownership and until late 2003 was used a conference facility. The house then went into receivership and its future is currently uncertain.

Flock House Homestead is significant on both a national, and a regional level. The history of estate is intimately tied to the early settlement of the Rangitikei region and the house, one of the grandest homes in the region, has both aesthetic and architectural significance as a very early example of the Arts and Crafts style. The 1924 purchase of the Homestead and Estate drew it into the nation's story of war relief. Flock House Homestead is culturally significant as a symbol of the close links between New Zealand and Britain during the First World War and New Zealand's acknowledgement of the part played by the British Seamen in concluding the conflict. The support by New Zealanders of this 'living war memorial', also gives it social significance. The purchase of the building by the newly appointed Labour Government in 1937 also reflects the growing historical trend towards the development of New Zealand's agricultural training facilities.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Flock House Homestead is significant on both a national, and a regional level. The history of estate is intimately tied to the early settlement of the Rangitikei region. Purchased by Scottish settlers shortly after the sale of the Rangitikei land block from Ngati Apa to the Crown, the site reflects typical settlement patterns by wealthy pakeha in the mid-nineteenth century. The sale of the Rangitikei block allowed settlers from over-crowded Wellington to move up the country and acquire large-scale tracts of land. Large sheep-farming estates were common throughout the lower North Island, and allowed a few successful families, such as the McKelvies, to construct grand homesteads that would reflect their wealth and success.

When the estate was sold after almost seventy years in the hands of the same family, its history became one of national importance. It was purchased by the 'New Zealand Sheep Owners Acknowledgement of Debt to the British Seamen Fund', a fund that enabled the surplus profits from wool sales to assist dependents of veteran seamen. The 1924 purchase thrust the Flock House estate from the regional to the national stage, and it became part of a national story of war relief.

This purchase was prompted by Edward Newman (1858-1946). At the time of the purchase, Newman had represented the Rangitikei District in Parliament for 7 years and had been chairman of the Lands Committee for six years. The involvement of this significant figure in the development of the Flock House Agricultural Training Centre reflects his beliefs that 'New Zealand should remain an agricultural and pastoral country' and his desire, expressed through his involvement in a number of similarly focussed projects, to assist returned servicemen. The scheme was one of Newman's major successes as a politician, and the Flock House Homestead stands as a monument to his vision.

The purchase of the building by the newly appointed Labour Government in 1937 reflects a growing historical trend towards the development of New Zealand's agricultural training facilities. The cessation of transfers of British trainees caused by the Depression allowed the Government to expand the use of the building from that of a war relief facility to one with a more general educational focus. The school was opened to all New Zealand males of the correct age, and served alongside the newly opened Massey University (1931) to provide agricultural training. It should be acknowledged of course, that the government did continue to assist dependents of New Zealand men that had served in World War Two through the college, consolidating the school's name as a 'living war memorial'.

The property, one of the grandest homes in the region, has aesthetic significance. Carefully situated to ensure maximum impact upon the visitor, the homestead was designed to impress. The form of the building is complex and ornate. The 'L' shaped plan features numerous porches, entry foyers and gable windows. These are oriented to maximise access to sun and light, and to frame views across the formal gardens. The leaded windows, deep eaves and steeply pitched roofs all add to the intricate visual effect of the architecture.

Built in 1908, Flock House Homestead is of architectural importance as a very early example of the Arts and Crafts style; a style that became popular in New Zealand approximately 20 years later. The building's layout and design is also of cultural interest due to the clear separation between public and private spheres and the division of spaces for hired service and those in residence within the home.

Flock House Homestead is culturally significant as a symbol of the close links between New Zealand and Britain during the First World War and New Zealand's acknowledgement of the part played by the British Seamen in concluding the conflict. These ties are reflected in name of the fund established by Newman - the 'New Zealand Sheepowners' Acknowledgement of Debt to British Seamen Fund', and their strength is demonstrated by the contribution by more than 2,600 New Zealand woolgrowers of approximately £237,000 to the fund.

The support by New Zealanders of this 'living war memorial', also gives it social significance. The building served as a means by which New Zealanders could and did provide practical aid to those left in need by the war. This social significance is strengthened by the school's association with prominent New Zealanders, such as Newman, and 'war heroes' such as the second headmaster, Charles Guy Powles, who served with distinction in the First World War.

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

Flock House Homestead provides valuable insight into the lifestyles of early Pakeha land proprietors in New Zealand history. The layout of the home indicates the clear separation between public and private spheres and the division of spaces for hired service and those in residence within the home.

The association with the New Zealand Sheep Owners Acknowledgement of Debt to British Seaman Fund makes the house a strong symbol of the gratitude felt by New Zealander farmers towards the men that served in World War One, and reflects a time in New Zealand history when there were still very strong connections with Britain.

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

Flock House Homestead is associated with the McKelvie family one of the most prominent families in Bulls in its early settlement stages. This prominence of the McKelvies is reflected in the elegant design of the home, with its decorative style accentuating the wealth of the owner.

The homestead is also representative of the way that farmers rallied to assist the families of British seamen that had served in World War One and how the New Zealand Government continued this legacy through assisting dependants of New Zealand soldiers after this time.

(d) The importance of the place to tangata whenua:

The lands around Flock House are within the rohe of Ngati Apa, whose kainga was located around what is now Parewanui Road. Ngati Apa sold the land to the Crown in 1849 and established relations with the Scottish immigrants who settled in the area.

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

Communities at both a local and a national level hold Flock House Homestead in high regard. At a local level, the house and site are linked to local iwi and early settler families. The homestead is known throughout New Zealand for its role as a national agricultural training facility and as a means of assisting dependants in the war effort. Those that have been trained within its facilities also hold it in high esteem.

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

Flock House Homestead and its setting are notable for their design attributes. The homestead is carefully situated in grounds designed to ensure that the building is prominently displayed. Flock House Homestead is of architectural importance as a very early example of the Arts and Crafts style; a style that became popular in New Zealand approximately 20 years after its construction.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Russell & Bignell

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Registration includes the building, its fittings and fixtures, and the land on which the building is placed, and the McKelvie Flagpole.

Construction Details

The Flock House homestead was constructed in 1908 and is erected on a concrete foundation with a timber frame clad with roughcast and covered by a tiled roof.

Historical Narrative

Located 14 kilometres out of Bulls at Parewanui, the grand nature of the Flock House homestead is emphasised by its entrance, a long curving driveway lined with old trees and waterways. Constructed in 1908, the homestead has been associated with prominent landowners in the Rangitikei district, and a unique movement that assisted the dependants of veterans from World War One.

The land at Parewanui was sold to the Crown by Ngati Apa as part of the Rangitikei Purchase in 1849. To preserve the land on which their primary pa, kainga and urupa were located, Ngati Apa retained a reserve of 647.5 hectares [1600 acres] in the area. From the mid 1850s, farmers from the overcrowded Wellington settlement travelled up the country and began settling in the area. Many of the settlers were Scotish Presbyterian faith, and included the Scotts, Frasers, Keirs, McKenzies, Amons, McDonnells and Campions.

In 1855, John McKelvie settled on 2000 acres of land in Parewanui, later receiving a grant for the area from the Crown. He named his new estate 'Flock House'. No record has been found as to why he gave his property this title. John McKelvie's estate was described as 'one of the best in the district' due to its rich flats and drained swamps which carried six sheep per acre. By 1883, the McKelvie holdings had increased to 2170 acres. In 1907, the Flock House estate was sold to Lynn McKelvie, son of John McKelvie. Once amalgamated with Lynn McKelvie's own estate, the property amounted to over 3000 acres.

The estate added to that of Flock House in 1907 by Lynn McKelvie, was originally known as 'Poyntzfield. It was purchased from the Government by Thomas McKenzie in 1853. The McKenzie family's first home on the land was a whare made of totara slabs and clay that was constructed for them by members of Ngati Apa. In 1868 family constructed a new wooden two-storied homestead with ten rooms. This was lost in a fire in 1897 and was replaced by a smaller cottage. This in turn was replaced by Flock House, which was constructed at a cost of £10,000.

Completed in 1908, Flock House is a three-storey, residential structure designed to an 'L' shaped plan which features early elements of the Arts and Crafts style that became popular in New Zealand in the 1930s. The Wanganui based firm Russell & Bignell constructed it. This firm had been responsible for both designing and building Pukemarama (Category I historic place), the home of Lynn McKelvie's brother, in 1901.

Erected on a concrete foundation, with a timber frame, the building has a tiled roof and is partially roughcast. The layout of the homestead clearly separates public and private spaces. The front area closest to the entrance on the ground level has large public rooms, whilst the rear has a number of bedrooms, which could have either been service areas or family rooms. The second level of the homestead appears to have been a private dwelling area and the third level, which was recently used as an archive, could have been used as the service quarters. Public spaces on the building interior, including the entranceway, the main drawing room, the staircase and the hallway on the first floor, are elegantly and sumptuously decorated in the Arts and Crafts style. The form of the building is complex and ornate. The L-shape plan of the house features numerous porches, entry foyers and gable windows. These are oriented to maximise access to sun and light, and to frame views across the formal gardens. The leaded windows, deep eaves and steeply pitched roofs all add to the intricate visual effect of the architecture. Carefully carved, wooden arches and curves are a particular feature of the house, and a number of entranceways and windows have received this treatment. Dark-stained timber board and batten panelling is a feature in the public rooms, as are the fireplaces, each of which has been individually designed. Windows feature Arts and Crafts style nine-pane lead-light uppers, and most have original hardware. While the majority of the public spaces are in close to original condition, the plainer, private spaces, such as the bedrooms, the bathrooms, and smaller living rooms have had some alterations.

In July 1918, four months prior to the end of World War One, Edward Newman (1858-1946) put forward a proposal to the Farmers Union for the spending of surplus profits from wool sales. He suggested that money be put into a fund for the benefit of dependants of veteran seamen from the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine who had been disabled, or lost their lives during the war effort. Due to the surplus profits from wool resulting in sales from England, it was suggested that they be the beneficiaries of such a fund. The proposal was supported by a large number of farmers and lead to the formation of the 'New Zealand Sheep Owners Acknowledgement of Debt to the British Seamen Fund'.

On 9 May 1923, the McKelvie property, including Flock House and 34 lots of land, were put up for sale. The 'New Zealand Sheep Owners Acknowledgement of Debt to British Seamen Fund' purchased 1052½ acres including Sections 24 to 28 and part of Section 30, which included the homestead, for the sum of £36,000. The Flock House estate was chosen by the Fund because it was an ideal site for a training farm. The land was rich and well watered with an extensive acreage of river flats and was perfect for mixed farming purposes. Shortly after the sale Lynn McKelvie, the former owner of the estate, donated a flagpole. The flagpole was erected at the front of the house, in commemoration of the event on 1 March 1924.

On 19 June 1924, the Governor General Viscount Jellicoe officially opened Flock House as an agricultural training school. Nine days later the first group of 25 boys arrived. Approximately 100 students were trained each year. Retired military professionals, including Colonel Charles Guy Powles, ran the school. Powles, the school's distinguished second principal, was originally a sawmiller and had fought in the South African War. He served with distinction in Palestine and France during the First World War and was chief of staff of the New Zealand Army from 1923. The house was run by house and office staff, which included a fully qualified nurse as matron, and farm staff of approximately 14 people. The students were technically employed under the conditions of the Master and Apprentices Act. Part of the students' wages were paid immediately, while the remainder was added to the Fund until they reached 21 years of age.

In 1931, the impact of the economic depression within the farming community resulted in the cancellation of boys being transferred from Britain. The first Labour Government then subsidised the training of New Zealand boys who were sons of New Zealand servicemen. Upon assurances that Flock House would continue its role as an agricultural training facility, the estate was sold to the Government in 1937, who continued to assist dependants of New Zealand men that had served in World War Two. A prospectus released by the Government the following year shows that the school was taking in approximately 50 boys per year. The twelve-month training course remained free. The school provided education in all branches of farming and was also intended to build character and provide an general understanding of farming as an occupation. In 1947 the school was opened to all 'New Zealand boys of from 14.5 to 18 years of age who have passed the necessary medical examination and are of good character'.

Until the 1980s Flock House was operated under the Department of Agriculture and continued to serve as an Agricultural Training Centre. However, its focus changed in the late 1980s when the Flock House Agricultural Centre began to market itself as a conference facility. By 1988, around 50 percent of the business at Flock House was generated by non-Ministry and agricultural based business. This, along with the availability of 120 beds in surrounding buildings and facilities for management training, meant that Flock House could promote its facilities within the hospitality industry. In 1995, Flock House was transferred into private ownership and until late 2003 was used a conference facility. The house then went into receivership and remained empty for a period. Negotiations for its purchase as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre are currently underway.

Completion Date

27th January 2004

Report Written By

NZHPT

Gambrill, 1948

T. Gambrill, Flock House: Reminiscences of 1948, Waikanae, 1948

Goodall, 1962

V. C. Goodall, Flock House; A History of the New Zealand Sheepowners Acknowledgement of Debt to British Seamen Fund, Palmerston North, 1962

Knight, 1975

R. Knight, Poyntzfield: the McKenzies of Lower Rangitikei, Lower Hutt, 1975

Parewanui Centennial Committee, 1979

Parewanui Centenary Committee, History of the Parewanui District and Schools 1819-1857-1979, Parewanui, 1979

Slatter, 1989

E. Slatter (ed.), Memories of Flock House 1939, Greenhith, 1989

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office