Brandon Hall Homestead

Brandon Hall Road, Rd 1, Bulls

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List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7615 Date Entered 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes part of the land comprised in Certificate of Title WN48D/357, as shown on 'Extent of Registration Map' in Appendix 2, and the original (pre 1900) portion of the building, and its fittings and fixtures thereon.

City/District Council

Rangitikei District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 82099 (CT WN48D/357), Wellington Land District


Brandon Hall Homestead is located on the outskirts of present-day Bulls, overlooking the Tutaenui Stream. Named after the original Pakeha purchaser of the land, the house was completed in 1865 and remains in close to its original condition.

The Rangitikei Block was acquired from its Maori owners by the Crown in 1849, and in 1851 prominent Wellington lawyer and Provincial Secretary Alfred de Bathe Brandon purchased 624 acres (253 hectares) in the area. A Crown Grant was issued for the property in 1861. The land was purchased by speculators until 1864, when disputes between local iwi groups allowed the Bewley family to purchase the former Brandon estate cheaply.

That same year Bewley employed James Bull to construct a house on the property. Bull, a local carpenter and sawmiller, contributed greatly to the development of the local township from this period onwards and the town was later re-named in his honour. The homestead, for which the original plan and specifications survive, was completed for £260. The one and a half storey structure was made from timber and clad in weatherboards. It featured a verandah, and a lobby and five rooms on the ground floor. A narrow stair led to three bedrooms on the upper storey.

The Bewley family rapidly enlarged both the estate and their flock. Events turned against the apparently prosperous family when their greatly expanded flock of sheep developed scab. The infection was spread to neighbouring farms and the family was taken to court. The Bewelys lost their case and were required to pay for the treatment of their neighbours' flocks. During the same period, the price of wool dropped dramatically, possibly through over supply to the international market and the New Zealand Wars. Bewley became depressed about his future prospects in the area.

In 1867, just a year after the dispute between local iwi was resolved, Ngati Ruanui military leader Riwha Titokowaru [? - 1888] began his advance from Wanganui to Foxton. Rangitikei settlers were forced to re-mobilise and construct a series of defensive redoubt for protection. It may be during this period that a 'secret' room was developed for protection at the Brandon Hall Homestead. In 1868 the Brandon Hall Estate foreman Frederik Kornerup was fatally injured on the banks of the Ohau River by a Maori wielding a mere. The following year, Te Kooti Rikirangi Te Turuki (?-1893) and his forces killed over 60 Maori and 7 settlers at Mohaka. Financially destitute and in fear of their safety, the Bewley family made the decision to leave their new life behind, and return to England. The family left the property in 1870. The house and land passed to their mortgage holders, Johnston & Co.

After the departure of the Bewleys, the house served as the farm manager's home and then as rental accommodation. A subsequent owner broke up the estate in 1906, and most of the resultant properties were developed as dairy farms. The homestead block had regular changes of ownership, possibly due to the low productivity of the sandy soil. Ownership stabilised from the 1920s. Around 1960, additions were made to the exterior of the structure.

The Brandon Hall Homestead is significant as physically important as an example of a well-preserved, early colonial dwelling. It is historically significant for the connection to James Bull, and its social history provides insight into the flight of Pakeha settlers from New Zealand in the second half of the nineteenth-century. The property is held in high esteem by the local community and the descendants of its inhabitants.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The house is historically important for its link to James Bull. As a prominent local settler, and the man after whom the town was named, the link has intrinsic importance. The importance of the link is strengthened by the nature of the house and the date at which it was constructed. Bull was a sawmiller and a builder / carpenter, and it was through his work that the town of Bulls was developed. The Brandon Hall Homestead is an example of his work in this area. Bull was also responsible for constructing a number of private and public buildings in Bulls, and it appears that a large number of them were constructed in the mid-1860s, the date around which Brandon Hall was also completed. The house was therefore constructed as part of a 'boom' in the local town and thus provides insight into the town's history during this period. The building's historical interest is also enhanced by the name of the building, which recalls the original, Pakeha purchaser of the land.

The social history of the house is also important. The hardiness of New Zealand's early Pakeha pioneers has become part of the nation's memory and identity. The settlers who did not make it, the settlers who gave up and returned to their home country, are less often discussed. The story of the Bewley family brings this story to light, and gives some indication of the combined factors that contributed to a decision to leave. The Bewley family purchased their estate at a time of unrest between local iwi groups. Escalating tensions between the two caused settlers considerable concern in the Rangitikei, and prompted them to develop defensive strategies. The perceived threat to the settlers by Maori was increased by the local murder of Robert Stillingfleet Rayner, in which two Maori employees were implicated. This initial unrest may have initially worked to the advantage of the Bewley family by lowering land prices and enabling John Bewley to enlarge the estate to up to 10,000 acres (4047 hectares), making his property one of the largest in the region. However, the Bewley's sheep developed scab, and the family lost a court case over the infection of neighbouring flocks. The price of wool then dropped dramatically. At the same time, the threat of war increased with the daily advance of Ngati Ruanui military leader Riwha Titokowaru and the murder of the estate's foreman by a Maori. Financially destitute and in fear of their safety, the Bewley family made the decision to leave their new life behind. Reportedly not the only family to consider departure, the Bewleys left in 1870, having slaughtered their un-saleable 7000 flock for tallow.

Commissioned in 1864 and completed in 1865, the core of the Brandon Hall Homestead is physically important as an example of a well-preserved, early colonial dwelling. The house retains much of its original character and, when considered in conjunction with the original specifications and the original plan, the house provides valuable information on colonial building materials, techniques, and attitudes to house design in the nineteenth century. Although the original, simple, homestead is partially obscured from the exterior by extensions, it remains easily distinguishable from these, and the internal areas within the house retain much of their original character. Historic paintings and photographs document the additions and changes to the house, which are also reflected in the construction methods used.

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

The estate is named after its first Pakeha purchaser, Alfred de Bathe Brandon, who was an early Wellington settler, crown prosecutor and MLC.

The Brandon Hall Homestead was designed and constructed by James Bull. Bull, a carpenter trained in London, arrived in Wellington in 1857. He relocated to the Rangitikei district in 1858, after completing a contract working on the government buildings in Wellington. In 1859 he established a saw-milling business in the area, which led to the development of the settlement. Bull was employed to construct a number of houses in the area, including the Brandon Hall Homestead, and many of the public buildings in the township. In 1872 the town, which had originally been called Rangitikei, was officially renamed 'Bulls', in recognition of James Bull's contribution to it.

The house was constructed when the Rangitikei district was in a state of unrest. Tensions between local iwi groups Ngati Apa and Ngati Raukawa over the distribution of money made from illegal rental arrangements with settlers had escalated. Settlers were forced to develop defensive strategies and strengthen their militia. The dispute was resolved in 1866. The following year, in 1867 Ngati Ruanui military leader Riwha Titokowaru [? - 1888] had begun his advance from Wanganui to Foxton, forcing the Parewanui settlers to mobilise and construct a series of defensive redoubts. The year after that the Brandon Hall Estate foreman and former lieutenant in the Danish Army, Frederik Kornerup, was fatally injured on the banks of the Ohau River by a Maori wielding a mere. The threat may have prompted the construction of a safe area within the Brandon Hall Homestead, later described as 'a secret room' by former resident Laurel Brander. The threat contributed to the Bewley family's decision to leave the area, with relation Donald Dean Parker recording that due to the constant fear that the wars would spread to Rangitikei, 'all' of the neighbouring farmers wanted to sell their properties.

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

Since they moved into the house, the current owners, the Harrisons have had a number of former occupants visit the house. This includes people who lived there before T.R. Allan and family moved in, as in his father's day it was rented out, possibly to farm employees (i.e. 1937 - 1950s) and his father, who lived in Wanganui, only stayed at the house at weekends. The front room that is now part of the sitting room, was reserved for his use.

Several American descendants of the Bewley family have written to ask about the house. In recent years an email inquiry also notified the Bulls Library if the existence of two books covering the house (published in 1946). The Bulls Library now holds copies of these books.

Bulls local historian, Greg Bradley, has been contacted twice in recent years by members of the Bewley family in the United States. The first was an email that included a picture of the house, which Jane Bewley had painted when they lived there. The sender asked if the house was still there. The second contact was a cousin of the email-sender who arrived on a tour bus and contacted Greg. As a result, the tour bus visited Brandon Hall Road to enable one person to have an impromptu long distance view of the old house where his forebears once lived. Bradley has since lost the contact details, but he thinks the man who emailed him was the son of Donald Dean Parker who wrote the family books.

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

Brandon Hall Homestead is technologically significant as an example of early house construction in the Rangitikei region. Much of the original portion of the house is extant, including the steep, winding stairs to the three small, upstairs bedrooms, wall claddings, and internal doors. Although the original, simple homestead is partially obscured from the exterior, it can be easily identified both internally and externally.

(i) The importance of the identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

The Brandon Hall Homestead was commissioned in 1864 and completed in 1865. All the characteristic parts of the original areas remaining indicate the earliest forms of construction used by the settlers in New Zealand.

The house shows clear, transitional adaptations to different phases in building and social history. Although the original, simple, homestead is partially obscured from the exterior, it can be easily identified internally. Historic paintings and photographs document the additions and changes to the house, which are also reflected in the construction methods used.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Bull, James

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The Brandon Hall Homestead is a one and a half storey farmhouse constructed from timber and clad in weatherboards. The building contract for the Brandon Hall Homestead is dated 8 December 1864. The contract included a plan, which portrays a building constructed in an 'L'-shape. The building depicted in the plan featured five rooms on the ground floor. It included a lobby, which was four feet wide. To the left of the lobby was a large room which measured 14 feet by 15 feet (4.3 metres by 4.6 metres). It featured a large cupboard and closet. Between the cupboard and closet was a double chimney, which served the room with the closet and another room on the other side. This room measured 14 feet by 12 feet (4.3 metres by 3.7 metres). James Bull was contracted to complete this portion of the house by January 1865.

The remainder of the house was to be completed by the end of March 1865. This second portion, which was built at right angles to the original portion, included a steep, narrow stairway that led to the upper storey. The upper storey, which is not depicted in the plan, featured three, slope-roofed bedrooms. To the right of the stairs was a hallway, and three small rooms. The largest of these measured 10 feet by 10 ½ feet (3.1 metres by 3.4 metres).

Although much of the original house remains intact, it is unclear whether the house was built exactly according to plan. For instance, former inhabitants of the house recall the presence of a 'secret room' or cellar under the house, which was not shown on the plan, and is not now evident.The exterior of the one and a half storey house featured a verandah, which is still extant, that extended along at least two sides of the building.

Later alterations and additions conceal some of the original layout. The Bewley family constructed a one-storey room under the verandah which now serves as a bedroom. The room has since been re-clad in modern materials. Further additions to the house were made after 1960. The one-storey addition made by the Bewley family was added to, and the kitchen was modernised. In addition, a carport was built over part of the original verandah at the front of the house and the end of the verandah was partially closed in and connected to an extension. Despite these additions, the original house remains clearly visible.

Construction Dates

1864 -

Original Construction
1865 -

1865 - 1870

1960 - 1961

Completion Date

11th February 2005

Report Written By

V. Burr

Information Sources

Wilson, 1976

James G. Wilson, 'Early Rangitikei', (first published Christchurch, 1914), Capper Press, Christchurch, 1976

Manawatu Branch Committee, nd

Manawatu Branch Committee of NZHPT, New Houses from Old, photocopies from this document (booklet) outlining the house during the Allans' occupancy, including the 1961 alterations. (Copy held in the house's file at NZHPT)

Parker, 1946

Donald Dean Parker, 'Some English Country Gentlemen and their Families' (published by the author, Brooking, South Dakota, US, 1946) Contains details of documents, letters, sketch maps, plans etc. Photocopy held at Bulls Library since 2004.

Parker, 1946 (2)

Donald Dean Parker, ' The Bewley and Related Families' (published by the author, Brooking, South Dakota, US, 1946) Contains a family narrative. Photocopy held at Bulls Library since 2004.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the Central Region 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.