Abbotsford Farm Steading

404 Allanton Road, Outram

  • Abbotsford Farm Steading.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • Abbotsford Farm Steading.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • Map from QuickMap®.
    Copyright: QuickMap®.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7579 Date Entered 10th December 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land in certificate of title OT405/158, the concrete farm buildings, and the fittings and fixtures thereon (as shown on Map A in Appendix 4 of the registration report). The registration does not include the homestead or the modern covered yards that are on the same title.

The registration includes the concrete farm buildings.

- Implement Sheds and Workers' quarters (former)

- Woolshed (former Cow byre)

- Stables

- Surrounding concrete wall

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 9342 (CT OT405/158). Subject to Lease in title 4842 to Ian Blair


The Abbotsford Farm Steading is a group of plain concrete farm buildings, partially enclosed by a concrete wall. The buildings were designed by prominent Dunedin architectural partnership, Mason and Wales in 1871. On construction the buildings included a cow byre, workers quarters/implement shed and stables. The cow byre was converted to a woolshed in 1888. The complex was built for prominent land owner, politician and businessman James Shand (1835-1889). James Shand was a director of The New Zealand Refrigerating Company Ltd; the company which built the first freezing works at Burnside (also designed by Wales) in Kaikorai Valley, Dunedin. The first sheep processed at those works were killed on Shand's farm. Following Shand's death in 1889 it was taken over by the Blair family, in whose ownership it remains.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Abbotsford Farm Steading has special significance in the history of the developing frozen meat industry in the early 1880s. Owner James Shand was a director of The New Zealand Refigerating Company, which was responsible for the building of the first freezing works in New Zealand at Burnside in nearby Dunedin. The first sheep processed at Burside were killed at Shand's Outram farm, and his sheep formed part of the first frozen meat shipment of the Dunedin in early 1882.

The Steading also plays a significant part in the social history of the Taieri Plain, being associated with prominent local politician and landowner James Shand and with a long term association with the Blair family, well known farmers and breeders. The scale of the farm buildings also represent the early history of the area characterised by large land holdings.

The Steading has outstanding architectural significance. According to Geoffrey Thornton the buildings form the first and most substantial complex of concrete farm buildings in New Zealand. It represents the early use of concrete for such a purpose, and was designed by prominent architectural partnership Mason and Wales. It is uncommon for farm buildings to be designed by architects in New Zealand.

As some of the earliest examples of this scale of construction, the steading contributes to the knowledge of a starting point of concrete technology in rural New Zealand.

A further layer of significance is the insight that the buildings provide into the operation of a large farm in the nineteenth century. The range of buildings represent particualr functions, associated with the working of a large scale operation. In addition the change in these buildings over time illustrates the change in farming operations, from the initial large holdings, to the later smaller farms, as well as the move from dairying to the meat and wool industries of the later nineteenth century.

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

The Abbotsford Farm Steading reflects the history of farming in New Zealand, particularly the initial development of large farms as land was taken up in outlying areas of large settlements like Dunedin. As settlement became denser, holdings were cut up, leaving remnants of that period such as this farm steading to represent the earlier history.

The steading also has important links with the development of the meat industry in New Zealand through its association with James Shand.

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

The steading has an association with early architectural partnership Mason and Wales, and is an unusual commission for them. In addition James Shand was a prominent local landowner and politician, involved in the establishment of local industries, including the meat and rail industries.

The steading has another special association with the frozen meat industry, particuarly through James Shand's ties with The New Zealand Refrigerating Company, and their landmark Burnside Freezing Works.

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

The design and technical accomplishment of the place has outstanding significance as it is a rare and early example of the use of plain concrete construction methods for farm buildings. Its design by prominent Dunedin architects, Mason and Wales, is an unusual feature of the steading.

The buildings are single-gabled with strong horizontal form, giving a sense of unity. Their composition and regular placement of the secondary gables running perpendicualr to the main gables, and of the four-pane sash windows are examples of elegant design. The simple materials are consistent with the simple detailing throughout the complex.

The relative structural stability of the buildings is a testament to their designers and contractors who were responsible for their construction.

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

Farm steadings, a relatively unusual building form in New Zealand, but noted in Otago, are associated with colder climate farming in the Britain, where animals had to be housed indoors in the winter.

This concrete steading is unique as the earliest and most complete example of such a building type. This steading's scale and construction adds to its significance.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mason & Wales Architects Ltd

Mason and Wales Architects Ltd is the oldest architectural practice in New Zealand, having been founded by William Mason (1810-1897) in 1862 Dunedin. Mason was born in England, studied under Peter Nicholson and worked under Thomas Telford and Edward Blore. In 1838 he immigrated to New South Wales, and came to New Zealand in 1840. Having spent 22 years in Auckland he went to Dunedin at the time of the gold discoveries and was elected the first mayor of Dunedin in 1865. He was active in politics as well as in architecture.

Mason was in partnership firstly with David Ross (1827-1908) and William Henry Clayton (1823-1877) and he took in N.Y.A. Wales (1832-1903) when Clayton left the firm to become Colonial Architect in Wellington. Wales had worked as a clerk of works and was very competent in all aspects of construction.

The firm was responsible for many of Dunedin's early important buildings such as the Post Office (later known as the Exchange Building), Princes Street (1864-68), the Exhibition Building (later the Dunedin Hospital), Great King Street (1864), St Matthew's Church, Stafford Street (1873), and the Wains Hotel, Princes Street (1878).

Mason and Wales designed the Abbotsford Farm Steading (1871) at Outram, Otago (NZHPT Reg. No. 7579). This farm steading was designed for James Shand, a prominent land owner, politician and businessman in the area. Mason and Wales designed another farm steading for Shand at his property Berkeley in 1881 (demolished 1981). In 1881, Mason and Wales also designed a plain concrete Chicory Kiln (NZHPT Reg. No. 3359, Cat II) at Inch Clutha, South Otago for Gregg and Coy.

Mason and Wales continues today. N.Y.A. Wales (b.1927) is a fourth generation director of the firm.

WALES, Nathaniel Young Armstrong (1832-1903)

Wales was born in Northumberland, England, and educated at Jedburgh, Scotland. He immigrated to Australia in 1854 and found employment as a carpenter working on the buildings for the first exhibition held in Melbourne.

He arrived in Dunedin about 1863, and was a clerk of works for William Mason on the old Bank of New Zealand Building (1862-64), the Post Office Building (1864-68) and the Port Chalmers Graving Dock (1868-72).

Wales entered partnership with William Mason in 1871. The firm of Mason and Wales was responsible for many fine buildings in Dunedin including Bishopscourt (1873), St Matthew's Church (1873), Government Life Insurance Building (1897) and Wains Hotel (1878).

Wales had military and political interests and was a Member of Parliament for some years. He occupied a seat on the Dunedin Harbour Board and was a Dunedin City Councillor. In 1895 he was elected Mayor of Dunedin. In 1900 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The crown grant to the land on which Abbotsford Farm Steading was later built was issued to gentleman Alexander Rennie in 1863. Prior to issue, in April 1862 James Shand had entered into a 19-year lease with Rennie at an annual rent of £312 10s. In 1872 Rennie sold out to James Shand. Shand, who paid £4,400 for 263 acres, turned the holding into a large model farm "Abbotsford", which grew to encompass most of the land in West Taieri on the south-western riverbank.

James Shand, the son of a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Otago with his two brothers and sister from Scotland in 1850. His father died soon after the family arrived, and his mother and siblings settled on a farm at Green Island, on the outskirts of Dunedin, earning money through involvement in carting supplies to the newly opened gold diggings in Central Otago. His holdings on the Taieri amounted to some 1500 acres, one of the largest farms in the area. He had a range of farming interests and also owned property near Henley (at the south-east end of the Taieri Plains), on the Dunstan Road, and a substantial holding at Edendale in Southland. He established an extensive, although unsuccessful, butchery business in High Street.

Shand was one of the representatives for the Taieri on the Provincial Council from 1866 until its abolition in 1876. He took an active part in the local government of the district, and had a substantial role in getting flood banks built for the Taieri River. He was a leading member of the county council and the road board.

Shand ran Abbotsford as a model farm, using imported modern machinery. After the destruction of the original farm buildings by fire, he had replacement farm buildings designed by Dunedin architectural firm Mason and Wales in September 1870. They were of concrete construction, and later praised by the Otago Witness as the finest in the colony, although it was subject to periodic flooding. He laid down vast crops, at one harvest employing eighty-two men. A nearby railway siding was named Shands after him. The small passenger shelter from the now disused siding stands adjoining the steading on Abbotsford Farm. In 1881 Shand built another concrete farm steading at his nearby holding at Henley.

James Shand was a prominent player in the frozen meat industry. He was a member of the Provisional Committee of Association for the Export of Meat and Dairy Produce which was formed to arrange a trial shipment of frozen meat to England from Dunedin. The committee developed into The New Zealand Refrigerating Company (registered 19 August 1881) of which Shand was a director, the first such company formed in New Zealand. The first 150 sheep processed at New Zealand's first freezing works, built by The New Zealand Refrigerating Company, at Burnside near Dunedin, were killed at Abbotsford before being transported to the newly-operating meat works in August 1882. There is a reference in the New Zealand Refrigeration Company Minutes of a promise of 1000 sheep from James Shand for the meat shipment from his Outram (Abbotsford) farm property. Two hundred and forty nine carcasses from James Shand were noted on the cargo of the Dunedin, which sailed for London in February 1882, part of the first shipment of frozen meat to leave New Zealand. In London his heavy sheep attracted particular attention.

According to the Otago Witness he extended his holdings to Edendale in Southland, spending close to £100,000, and found himself in financial difficulties. Shand was declared bankrupt in Janurary 1886. James Shand died in 1889, his death thought to be by his own hand, after his body was found a mile downstream from his hat, coat and stick, in the Taieri River close to his home.

The 1889 Deed Plan 230 (Appendix 4) show the L-shaped structures, with what could be the concrete wall in its current position (see detail of Deed Plan, Appendix 4). This plan was drawn up after Shand's death, presumably to aid in the settlement of his estate.

The extensive Abbotsford property was cut up into smaller farms, with the homestead block taken up by contractor John Bell Blair, who bought the Clydesdales and Border Leicester stock from the original estate. According to the Cyclopedia, Blair was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1837. When he was 16 he travelled to Tasmania, and later the gold fields at Ballarat. During the 1860s he moved to Otago and kept store at the Wakatipu gold fields. He moved to the Taieri and worked as a contractor on roads and bridges, before he took up Abbotsford Farm.

Several generations of the Blair family have since owned the property originally taken up by James Shand. Abbotsford Farm has been a well known breeding establishment on the Taieri Plains, noted as a model farm in competitions (as evidenced by the awards photographed in the appendices that paper the rafters in the wool shed), including best managed farm in the district in 1900. The Blairs were known for their association with Clydesdale horses, English breeds of sheep (particularly Border Lercesters) and Shorthorn cattle. It was a first choice for visiting farmers and breeders, its hospitality extending to international visitors as well as internal travellers.

Physical Description

Construction details:

The farm steading is made up of a three sections of concrete buildings:

A two-storey L-shaped implement shed with men's living quarters upstairs (now used for storage)

A unit comprising of stables for twelve draughthorses, with harness room, three stalls for riding hacks and two loose boxes.

At right angles to the stables - there is a wing originally having 38 stalls for cattle, but redesigned by the architects in 1888 to allow for a shearing board and catching pens.

The registration includes the buildings within the surrounding concrete wall.

Although reinforced concrete construction was used from the mid-1850s onwards, it was a long time before that method entered common use. Many structures were built of plain concrete (like those at Abbotsford Steading). Geoffrey Thornton considers that the use of plain concrete was more widespread than in most countries in the nineteenth century. He considered it remarkable that concrete was widely used for farm buildings.

Concrete was used in New Zealand for construction in the 1840s. According to Geoffrey Thornton, the earliest recorded use still evident is at Fyffe House at Kaikoura, where there is a primitive concrete retaining wall. The pioneer colonial example of a complete monolithic building is a two-storey house built in 1862 by John Gow at Invermay, near Mosgiel.

The use of concrete for farm buildings was notable from the late 1860s onwards. Another Taieri settler Alexander Campbell built a stable for their draughthorses using concrete (still standing). There were known concrete cow sheds contructed in 1868 in the Wairarapa town of Featherston. Concrete floors dating from the 1860s are also notable at Totara Estate near Oamaru. Thornton considers that the 1871 Abbotsford Farm Steading were "probably the earliest concrete farm buildings of any consequence," although noting other 1870s concrete farm buildings such as those those at The Elms, near Kaikoura, and Greenhills near Clarence Reserve. Thornton notes also that these farm buildings are relatively earlier survivors even in comparison to English concrete farm buildings, where the earliest surviving structure is a concrete barn dating from 1869.

Another substantial concrete farm steading designed again by Mason and Wales, was built for James Shand at his holding Berkeley, at nearby Henley in 1881. The steading consisted of cartshed, toolsheds, cattle stalls, stables, shearing shed and a killing shed. Following severe flooding, and associated foundation failure, these buildings were demolished in 1981. The comparable Glenmark Stables at Waipara in North Canterbury is registered by the Trust as a Category I historic place (No. 277).

In British farm stead antecedents, design related primarily to function, tradition and available building materials - where stock needed to be sheltered from the weather, and activities were brought under cover, and where increasingly specialised buildings were built for specialised functions, often arranged around a farmyard which served as the hub of farming activities. In addition the arrangement of buildings was reflected the connection between functions, and to enable ease of access between homestead and main buildings, with the farmyard a crucial element in the steading. This is a tradition followed with the Abbotsford Farm Steading, rather than the Australian model which had more spread out arrangement of buildings.

Notable Features

The registration includes the concrete farm buildings.

- Implement Sheds and Workers' quarters (former)

- Woolshed (former Cow byre)

- Stables

- Surrounding concrete wall

Registration does not include the homestead or the modern covered yards on the same title.

Construction Dates

1871 -
Mason and Wales

Original Construction
1871 -
Builder not known (thought to be Pilkington)

1888 -
Cow barn converted to woolshed (Mason and Wales), Contractor - Gregg, £110

Construction Details

Construction materials: Plain concrete.

Completion Date

27th January 2005

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Brunskill, 1981

R.W. Brunskill, Traditional Buildings of Britain: An Introduction to Vernacular Architecture, Victor Gollanz, London, 1981

Copland, 1972

Marilyn Copland, 'Refrigeration: its impact upon New Zealand 1882-1886', Unpublished BA Hons Long Essay, Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin, 1972.

Cuff, 1982

Martine E. Cuff, Totara Estate: Centenary of the Frozen Meat Industry, Wellington, 1982

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

Darley, 1981

Gillian Darley, The National Trust Book of the Farm, National Trust and Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1981

Knight, 1988

Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988

Loach, 1969

Cyril Loach, A History of The New Zealand Refrigeration Company, Caxton Press, Christchurch, 1969.

Otago Witness

Otago Witness

3 July 1880, 26 September 1889.

Scholefield, 1940

G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940

Shaw, 1949

Margaret Shaw and Edgar D. Farrant, The Taieri Plain: Tales of the Years that are Gone, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Dunedin, 1949

Thornton, 1986

Geoffrey Thornton, The New Zealand Heritage of Farm Buildings, Auckland, 1986

Thornton, 1996

Geoffrey Thornton, Cast in Concrete: Concrete Construction in New Zealand 1850-1939, Auckland, 1996

Hamel, 2001

Jill Hamel, The Archaeology of Otago, Department of Conservation, Wellington, 2001

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area 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.