Blue Cliffs Homestead Station Complex

Back Line Road, Blue Cliffs, St Andrews

  • Blue Cliffs Station Homestead Complex.
    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 7691 Date Entered 30th March 2007


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the Homestead, Stables/Carriage Shed, Laundry/Dairy/Apple Shed, and generator shed with their fixtures and fittings, and the part of Rural Section 10510 Canterbury Land District on which they stand. The garden, which forms the immediate environs on the homestead, is included within the boundary of the registered place.

City/District Council

Waimate District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

RS No. 10510 (CT CB8F/790), Canterbury Land District

Location description

Rapid Number: 2894, Waimate (Rural Address Property Identification)


Blue Cliffs Station is notable as one of the earliest runs taken up in South Canterbury. It has seen over 150 years of farming development with changes from the earliest years when pasturage licenses required an initial stocking of the extensive acres, achieved by some of the area's key pioneering figures. During the nineteenth century more intensive stocking, breeding and cultivation followed, with progressive improvements that continued in the twentieth century through to all the modern changes in techniques and a differing focus on new markets.

In 1855 Jeannie Collier, the first woman to acquire South Canterbury land, took up the vast Otaio Run, from which 10,120 hectares (25,000 acres) granted to Henry Poindestre in 1856, formed the original core of Blue Cliffs. For ten years the property was well managed by Poindestre with increased sheep numbers and good production that made it a fine investment for John Hayhurst who owned it from 1866 to 1870. It was Hayhurst who chose a site for a homestead at the foot of the Hunter Hills and this was where the Station's nucleus has continued to be centred. Charles Meyer was the next owner from 1870 to 1879. He might have continued with his dreams for the property's development had his young wife not died suddenly, causing him to abandon life in New Zealand.

It was in 1879 that Blue Cliffs was purchased by Robert Heaton Rhodes, beginning the distinguished family's association. The notable Rhodes brothers, Robert, William and George, had been pioneering farmers on Banks peninsula in the 1840s and then expanded their land holdings after the formal foundation of the Canterbury province in 1850. Robert Heaton Rhodes (Bob) was the son of George Rhodes who had established the first South Canterbury Sheep Station at the Levels in 1851. Rhodes farmed the Blue Cliffs property very effectively and was succeeded by his equally competent daughter Airini, who managed the Station with her husband Dr Philip Randall Woodhouse. As well as being recognized for their proficiency in many aspects of farming, all the owners of the property have demonstrated their civic consciousness, playing a prominent role in community affairs.

The Blue Cliffs Homestead (1890) is the dominating building of this early South Canterbury sheep station complex. It was the third to serve as the home of the Station owner. In its size, planning and appearance it is a typical example of the life style which the province's pioneering families had achieved within the first four decades of settlement. Its historic values are enhanced by its near intact condition and collection of original furnishings. The large garden environs featuring mature trees have been retained and combine with the homestead to indicate the status of a successful nineteenth century pastoralist in Canterbury. Included in the group which forms the historic residential heart of Blue Cliff Station are the stables/carriage shed (1870s), the former laundry/dairy/apple shed (1870s) and the generator shed (1907).

The Station, which now consists of 4,050 hectares, has been owned by the Rhodes/Woodhouse/Rolleston family since 1879, an unbroken link of 127 years. The historic domestic group that comprises the Blue Cliffs Station Homestead Complex illustrates the lifestyle of a late Victorian household as well as the status of a successful second generation pioneering farming family.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Blue Cliffs Station Homestead Complex has historic vales as an example of the life style achieved by early run holders in Canterbury and New Zealand. Canterbury's economic development was founded on the success of pastoralism and the Blue Cliff Station's farming history demonstrates how this developed. As the productivity of the land was increased to bring more profit from greater numbers of stock, the Station's owners improved their life style and living accommodation. The present Blue Cliffs homestead's scale and appearance demonstrates the success and status of its owner. In this regard it is typical of many built at this date by first or second generation settlers, confident of their future in a new colony.

While the first three owners of the vast Blue Cliffs Station are of historic interest, it is the connection with the Rhodes family that has the greatest significance. The Rhodes brothers were responsible for many farming 'firsts' after they settled at Purau on Banks Peninsula in the 1840s. Because of his involvement in public life and local affairs Robert Rhodes of Blue Cliffs from the second generation became a notable figure in his own right. His daughter Airini and her husband Dr Woodhouse were also prominent in the South Canterbury community, serving similar public spirited lives of achievement.

The buildings which are included in the domestic complex also demonstrate the history of the era, when horses were a necessity for carriages and riding. The laundry, separate from the main house, illustrates the role of servants, the apple house reflects the self sufficiency of those living on rural properties and the generator shed is indicative of the owner's eagerness to provide electric light to his home at an early date.

The homestead is of architectural interest and significance as a fine example of the many domestic designs by architects Collins and Harman and also as an illustration of the type of home considered appropriate for the owner of a large New Zealand sheep station at the end of the nineteenth century. Though less opulent in appearance than Meadowbank, (1891), designed by Collins and Harman for R.H. Rhodes' cousin George at Irwell, the Blue Cliffs homestead clearly indicates the owner's social standing. In plan it has features typical of the period. From the large entrance foyer one can immediately enter the imposing drawing room while the dining room is directly opposite, with a serving room separating it from the adjacent kitchen. The ground floor office at the north-west corner has external access for both the owner's convenience and for workers to approach him here with enquiries or to receive their wages. Beside the office was the “smoking room”, later re-designated as the library. Overall, the house presents a suitably impressive but not ostentatious appearance, enhanced by its surroundings, the tree-lined drive and garden. The form, decorative detailing and finish of the interior and exterior ensured that the house was identifiable as the home of a man of status and good taste.

The architect of the auxiliary buildings is not known. Simple, functional structures, they were probably planned by a local builder engaged for the project. The form and detailing, typical of timber utility buildings of the 1870s, adds distinction to their design.

The early usage of an electrical lighting system in the house is a special feature of the homestead's history, and an aspect of technological importance. This is enhanced by the retention of the dynamo and the Hornsby oil engine in the purpose built generator shed.

The homestead and the associated buildings in their attractive environs have aesthetic values. The carefully maintained weatherboard homestead is well proportioned and features handsome detailing which particularly enhance the two principal facades. The setting contributes much to the total visual appeal of the property. The expansive lawn area to the north of the house and the surrounding garden with its many trees, shrubs and plants complement the house itself. The nearby auxiliary buildings, though simpler in appearance, also have appeal and are key components of the buildings which make up the Complex.

The Blue Cliffs Homestead Complex has social significance as a representative example of the lifestyle of a late nineteenth century sheep station owner. In the form and appearance of the main house and the nature of the associated buildings it is also typical of the properties owned and occupied by other major rural landowners at this time. The house has a fine appearance and quality of construction, finish and furnishing to reflect the owner's status.

The formal dining room is sufficiently separated from the potential noises and smells of the kitchen, the necessary servants were provided for, there are many bedrooms to accommodate a large family and visitors, and the externally accessed office was a typical feature of rural homesteads.

Despite its construction over a century ago, only minor changes have been necessary to keep this house suitable for contemporary living. The fact that it has remained in the ownership of the same family over this time has meant that the furniture and contents of the house provide a special insight into the house's history and the various lifestyle changes of its occupants.

The nearby stables were an important accessory facility for the larger homes at this time, essential in rural areas and very frequently included on urban properties. At Blue Cliffs the owners were especially interested in riding for work and pleasure, with hunting as a major pastime. The stables here make a particular addition to an understanding of the life they led. They remain as an illustration of the use of horses by the family for general transport and leisure activities.

The separation of the laundry from the homestead was an 1870's decision, reflecting attitudes regarding convenience and the use of servants at the time. This was changed by Jessy Rhodes in 1910 when the new wing incorporated a laundry to ease the work load for her servants. Apple sheds were a very common addition to farm complexes, large and small, to ensure that families could have the crop from their orchard stored for their use through the winter. This example typifies that practice. The generator shed is an instance of a forward-thinking owner making his own provision of electric lighting for his home, to enhance the family's comfort.

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

The group of buildings at Blue Cliffs is representative of the era of farming in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Pastoralism on large blocks of land like the Blue Cliffs Station was a major feature of New Zealand's economic development through this period. By this date, homesteads and associated buildings were often occupied by second generation settlers, now prospering as a result of the pioneering efforts of their fathers. The houses they built demonstrate, through their size and grandeur, their owners' status as principal figures in rural communities. All the necessary associated facilities were part of the homestead itself or in nearby structures as in this example. With a large staff to work the property and house servants and gardeners to maintain the requisite, planned 'English' environs, such homes typically demonstrate the life style of the farming elite through Canterbury.

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

Miss Jeannie Collier was the first woman to take up a Pasturage License in South Canterbury in 1855. It was from her Otaio Run that the Blue Cliffs Run was formed and though she never occupied the area where the present buildings stand, her association with the property is significant. The history of this remarkable early woman settler, aged 62 when she arrived in Canterbury, is an important feature of South Canterbury's past.

Henry Poingdestre who first took up the 25,000 acre run and named it Blue Cliffs and his successors, John Hayhurst and Charles Meyer were also notable early South Canterbury pioneers. Robert Rhodes, the owner who made the greatest nineteenth and early twentieth century contribution to the property's development, was an important figure himself as well as being part of the Rhodes family who had begun farming on banks Peninsula in the 1840s. The Rhodes connection is the most notable of the associations of this place with people of importance in New Zealand history, especially as the family has retained the property for 127 years.

Rhodes' daughter Airini and her husband Dr Randal Woodhouse, who continued at Blue Cliffs from 1922 to 1970, were further people whose lives have been important not only for the continued development of the farm but also in South Canterbury's and New Zealand's history.

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

The Blue Cliffs Station is identified by the people of South Canterbury as one of the significant properties of the province. From its earliest days the rather scattered rural population in the area regarded the Station as a place of central importance, its owner always being a man of influence and social status. Blue Cliffs has had a succession of owners who were committed to supporting local activities and the provision of community amenities. Through the nineteenth century local perception of station owners was similar to that of an English squire and the community had a close association with the property and its owners. This association continued and Blue Cliffs is still held in high esteem by everyone aware of its history and present usage.

Knowledge of the property and its history was spread with the publication in 1982 of Airini Woodhouse's book, Blue Cliffs: the Biography of a South Canterbury Sheep Station 1865 to 1970. . The popularity of this widely read book is evidence of the public's high regard for the place. It continues to reinforce people's appreciation of Blue Cliffs' place in New Zealand's past.

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

The survival of the Hornsby oil engine and dynamo which it drove in their 1907 building is a significant feature of the property, demonstrating the technical accomplishments of the period when electricity was not universally available. Use of privately generated electricity was first largely restricted to lighting and many of those in the higher income brackets installed generating systems for their homes early in the twentieth century. The Blue Cliffs example is an early and important one.

The architectural design of the homestead is important as an example of the work by prominent Christchurch architects, Collins and Harman. It is also significant as a representative example of the scale, plan and design of the grander houses built in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The homesteads on the great rural properties were of varied design but were usually large, imposing structures, often quite ostentatious in appearance and finish. The Blue Cliffs example is a handsome, dignified structure, built of the best materials and finished with well designed detailing demonstrating the skills of the craftsmen of the period. The preservation of many of the homestead's original finishes and the continued use of the furniture which was first purchased for it in 1891 enhances its special, historic character.


The Blue Cliffs Station Homestead Complex merits Category II (Two) registration as an example of the buildings constructed for the owners of large farm properties towards the end of the nineteenth century. Its heritage values from the group's special historic, architectural, aesthetic and social significance. These well preserved buildings demonstrate the life style of the second generation settlers who had made a success of their farming practices and relates to the economic developments achieved in New Zealand by pastoralists. A special feature of the property is the continued ownership by one distinguished family and the retention in the homestead of original finishes and furniture.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Collins & Harman

One of the two oldest architectural firms in New Zealand, Armson, Collins and Harman was established by William Barnett Armson in 1870. After serving his articles with Armson, John James Collins (1855-1933) bought the practice after the former's death in 1883 and subsequently took Richard Dacre Harman (1859-1927) into partnership four years later. Collins' son, John Goddard Collins (1886-1973), joined the firm in 1903. Armson, Collins and Harman was one of Christchurch's leading architectural practices in the early years of this century.

Notable examples of the firm's work include the Christchurch Press Building (1909), Nazareth House (1909), the former Canterbury College Students Union (1927), the Nurses Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Public Hospital (1927) and the Sign of the Takahe (1936). Their domestic work includes Blue Cliffs Station Homestead (1889) and Meadowbank Homestead, Irwell. In 1928 the firm's name was simplified to Collins and Harman and the firm continues today as Collins Architects Ltd.

With a versatility and competence that betrayed the practice's debt to Armson's skill and professionalism, Collins and Harman designed a wide variety of building types in a range of styles.

Wood, John

Built the Blue Cliffs Station Homestead (1889).

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

European occupation of South Canterbury began in 1839 with the short-term whale station established by the Weller Brothers at what is now Timaru. No large groups of Maori were present in the area but a few artifacts have been found to demonstrate that they had passed through. With the organized settlement of Canterbury in 1850, large blocks of land could be taken up with depasturing licenses which required that a specified number of sheep or cattle must be placed on the run within a stated time. The difficulty of transporting stock south over the many rivers which crossed the plains caused the settlement of South Canterbury to begin more slowly than the more accessible regions. Undeterred though, were the three Rhodes brothers, Robert Heaton, William Barnard and George, who had established stations with sheep and cattle on Banks Peninsula in the 1840s. They applied for three runs between the Opihi and Pareora Rivers, drove some 5,000 sheep from their existing flocks to these new runs in 1851 and founded the first South Canterbury sheep station which they called The Levels. George Rhodes, who initially based himself in Timaru, settled near Pleasant Point in 1855 and managed the property.

The area that became the Blue Cliffs Station was first taken up in 1855 by Jeannie Collier, the first woman to acquire a Pasturage License in South Canterbury, as part of her Otaio Run. In 1856 25,000 acres (10,120 ha) of the run were granted to Henry Poingdestre who built a modest home opposite the blue clay cliffs flanking the Otaio River and named his Station Blue Cliffs. The stocking of the run with merino sheep began and was methodically increased yearly. After ten years Poingdestre gave up farming and the run passed to John Hayhurst of Temuka who chose a site at the foot of the Hunter Hills to build himself a single storey timber dwelling about 1865. This is the location of the present homestead. In 1870 the property changed hands again; by this date it was well fenced and carrying 25,000 sheep. The new owner, Charles Meyer, planted English trees and conifers around the homestead site and also experimented with plantations of differing species. It was during Meyer's ownership that the stable block and laundry/dairy /apple shed were constructed in close proximity to the homestead. The current form of the stables suggests that it was enlarged at a later date. It is possible that Meyer also had a meat-house constructed a short distance to the east of this house. The small building, which was demolished c.1990, had a decorative roof ventilator similar to that on the laundry/dairy/apple shed building.

The Station was further developed with more extensive fencing and tussock blocks were cultivated for crops of turnip, rape, oats and English grass. When Meyer married in 1874, concrete additions were made to the existing house and his wife established the preliminary layout of the present garden. As was commonly seen throughout Canterbury, there was an emphasis on planting English trees and introducing the popular garden plants from 'home'. In January 1878 Meyer's young wife died and he returned to Britain where he too died and the property was sold the following year to Robert Heaton Rhodes (1857-1918).

R.H. (Bob) Rhodes was the oldest surviving son of George Rhodes who had settled at The Levels and who died in 1864. He had spent two years at Oxford University but aged 22 was keen to engage in farming in New Zealand. His father's trustees arranged for the purchase of Blue Cliffs for him and early in 1879 he arrived at the property with little knowledge or experience. As lessee of 28,000 acres (11,330 ha) and owner of 8,500 acres (3,440 ha) stocked with 22,000 sheep and 31 cattle he could confidently commence his new role with the guidance of his competent manager. He settled comfortably into the homestead built by Hayhurst and improved by Meyer. Over the next decade Rhodes, realising the potential provided by the inheritance of his farming background, became a fully educated and efficient landowner who capably developed the Station.

In readiness for his marriage in 1890 to Jessy Bidwill, Rhodes planned that a new house should be built on the site of the existing homestead, so all but the concrete kitchen wing was demolished. He and his bride initially lived in what had been a cottage for the manager. Collins and Harman, from a notable Christchurch firm, were chosen as the architects of the new two storeyed timber homestead, following the example of Robert's brother Arthur who used the architects for his Christchurch residence Te Koroha, begun in 1886. They designed a grand but not ostentatious 25 roomed dwelling containing eight bedrooms, two with attached bathrooms and dressing rooms. Black pine was the principal timber used and the floors, doors and other fittings were of kauri. The total cost was 2,115 pounds. With the house's construction completed, Rhodes and his wife set sail for England in February, 1891 where they purchased furniture and wallpapers to finish their new home. Like her husband, Jessy was a keen and proficient horse rider and Blue Cliffs was the scene of hunts as well as other social events centred on the elegant homestead and its environs. Jessy had a keen interest in the homestead's garden, developing it and introducing many of the plants and shrubs which continue there today. In 1896 their only child, Airini Elizabeth, was born.

Life at Blue Cliffs involved hard work in farming, but the Rhodes family also enjoyed the life style of the country gentleman with much entertaining and frequent social events. Bob Rhodes' life developed in a manner similar to that of his very distinguished, slightly younger cousin, Robert Heaton Rhodes (Heaton) of Otahuna, who was also educated at Oxford and then trained as a lawyer before returning to New Zealand. He too was able to purchase a large farming estate with the wealth inherited from his father and became highly respected for his special abilities as a farmer and stock breeder. He became a member of parliament in 1899 beginning an illustrious political and public service career which led to his knighthood in 1920. The grand homestead Otahuna, completed in 1895, was the scene of occasions that paralleled those at Blue Cliffs, though with more elite visitors.

In the new century many changes occurred at Blue Cliffs. Roads had improved and by 1906 the Rhodes family had a Panhard car (driven always by the chauffeur). In 1907 electric lights were installed in the house with power generated by a dynamo driven by the Hornsby oil engine. This remains in the generator shed behind the laundry/dairy/apple-house. In the same year a telephone line was brought in from Timaru to connect a group of neighbouring stations. At this time the Station itself employed a large work force, while for the family there was a cook, parlour maid and housemaid along with a groom, chauffeur and two gardeners. In 1910 Jessy decided that the three maids should not have to share a bedroom and that working conditions should be improved for all. The old 1870s concrete kitchen block was demolished and replaced by a substantial new timber wing this time constructed from oregon, rather than the earlier black pine. A larger kitchen, scullery, larder and staff sitting room were included on the ground floor with four bedrooms above.

The 1914-18 war years caused difficulties in the management of activities on Blue Cliffs Station, as they did throughout the country. Rhodes' role in public life increased while he continued his farming commitments. His wife's and daughter's community involvement increased too, with their fund raising and Red Cross activities. Rhodes had decided that a hydro electric scheme was needed and in 1918 a reservoir was constructed at a nearby creek to supply water to a pelton wheel. While supervising this work during a severe mid-winter snow storm he caught pneumonia and died on 11 August. The Station's management was arranged by his Trustees. Closely following this, the armistice was signed, the servicemen began to return, the influenza epidemic was endured and the very unsettled Jessy and Airini had a two year 'interlude' travelling through the United States and Europe.

Rhodes' will stated that the Trustees should offer the property to Airini who had clearly established to her father her knowledge and great interest in all aspects of farming activity. In 1921 Airini married Dr Randal Woodhouse, a decorated World War I surgeon, and by early 1922 they had returned to Blue Cliffs where the doctor began his 'apprenticeship' as a farmer before the decision was made that he should take over full management. Over the following years he was ably assisted by his wife who managed the Station when he was overseas during the Second World War. While the Station continued to run sheep, the numbers of cattle increased with the breeding of Red Poll cattle becoming a major component of the property's operation. During their years living in the homestead they made a few minor changes to it but nothing altered its existing character.

Like R.H. Rhodes, both Dr and Mrs Woodhouse were not only committed to the successful running of the Blue Cliffs property but were also deeply involved in local affairs. Dr Woodhouse was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Coronation medal in 1953 and an OBE in 1958 for services in local government. Mrs Woodhouse had a special interest in local history and published several books, most notably a substantial history of Blue Cliffs Station in 1982. The skills she had developed at the Station were demonstrated in 1932 when she was the first woman to judge stock at a royal show and then in 1969, aged 70 she became the first woman to gain the New Zealand Wool Handling Committee's Certificate. She was Chair of the South Canterbury Branch Committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust for 16 years until the late 1970s. Thirty years later she is remembered with affection and appreciation for her numerous achievements in that role. In 1981 she was awarded the Queen's Service Medal and passed away in 1989.

Dr and Mrs Woodhouse had one son, Heaton and two daughters, Paulette and Carne. From 1970, with Paulette in residence at the homestead, a manager ran the property. In 1989 when Mrs Woodhouse died, Carne Rolleston's sons William and John took over the responsibility for the Station which currently consists of some 4,050 hectares. Now, 127 years after Robert Heaton Rhodes took up the property, his great grandson and his family live in the homestead he built. Over these intervening years the farming practices carried out on the Station have changed considerably. Blue Cliffs is also now the base for his great grandsons' innovative South Pacific Sera Company which produces top quality donor animal blood, serum and protein products for use in therapeutic, cell culture, microbiology and immunology applications around the world.

Physical Description

In rolling country at the foot of the Hunter Hills some 244 metres above sea level, the homestead is sited on flat land within a large grouping of mature trees. To the north-east the land slopes down across the plains to the coast some 17 kilometres distant and the Hunter Hills rise at the south-west into the foothills of the Southern Alps. There is a considerable collection of farm, storage and residential buildings around the homestead and in its near vicinity. This makes a grouping that is almost village like, but the proposed historic Station Homestead Complex has its own cohesive character to which the other buildings make no contribution. A curving tree-lined drive gives access to the homestead, sweeping around its northern frontage to the main entrance at the east.

An expanse of lawn extends to the north and east of the house terminating in garden borders and trees, following the line of a small stream which creates a partial garden boundary. There is a denser concentration of English trees towards the west and these have an historic under-planting of woodland bulbs and flowers. On the eastern side near the homestead entrance there is an ornamental pond.

The north facing façade of the large, two storey, weather board villa presents an almost symmetrical elevation. It features two projecting bays connected by a central verandah. This extends around from the western bay in front of the drawing room's bay window to the eastern entrance porch. On the upper floor a balcony, now partly enclosed, connects the two bays. These bays are of differing widths and have dis-similar fenestration on the upper floor. On the eastern façade, the termination of the verandah beside another projecting bay is extended to form a pitched roofed entrance porch. It and the three gables are decorated with timber bracketing. A pitched roof was used on the original section of the house with brick chimneys providing minor accents on the eastern and western sides. At the rear, the large two storey weatherboard service wing, added in 1910, features a hipped roof and its design is simpler overall.

A spacious entrance hall opens to the staircase that rises from it at right angles. Of relatively modest proportions and form, the stair has a timber balustrade with decorative panels along the base. The drawing room opens to the right; the dining room with connections through to the kitchen, is on the left. Both of these rooms are particularly notable because of their close to original condition, with many items of furniture and furnishings from 1890 retained. The dining room still has the wallpaper brought back from England by Jessy and Robert Rhodes in 1891 and throughout the house are items of special significance to the family. The timberwork through the house is of a high quality, demonstrating the skilled craftsmanship of the builders. This is well illustrated by the numerous kauri doors and their surrounds.

To the west of the homestead across the rear courtyard is the building which served as the laundry, dairy and apple-shed from the 1870s. The three parts of the rectangular weatherboard structure have separate pitched corrugated iron roofs. In the middle was the dairy, a narrow open area with a deep porch providing good cross ventilation. This section of the building has a lower pitched roof, which gives an interesting overall appearance to the simple structure. Centrally placed over the laundry is a shallow pitched ventilator. The building's earlier date from the 1870s is illustrated by the six paned sash windows which remain in the laundry, compared with the homestead's single paned double hung sashes. The laundry's chimney and copper remain along with some shelving. The apple shed has long been used as a gardening shed with little to reflect its original important storage use, common in farming complexes of all sizes from this date.

Adjacent to this building is the generator shed, another simple rectangular, weatherboard unit with a pitched corrugated iron roof.It is divided into two unlined rooms, each lit by two paired casement windows. At the western end the door opens into the space where the dynamo and the Hornsby oil engine which drove it are located. The inner room was used for storage of the accumulators and fuel.

Across a roadway from these buildings is the 1870s stable building, similarly constructed of weather board with a pitched corrugated iron roof. On the north side the principal door to the stable area is distinguished by its arched transom. It is flanked by a pair of double doors on one side and the six paned double hung sash windows of the adjoining tack room on the other. In the roof an interesting accent is provided by two gables, one with a window and the other with the typical door access to the feed loft. An interior chute enabled direct provision of grain to the horses housed below. The four stalls are floored with hatched concrete of unknown date, and the tack room has a timber floor.

Three loose boxes with separate doors are in a lean-to at the eastern end. The somewhat awkward rear roof junction of this section of the stables suggests that it may be a later addition. The rear lean-to was the shelter for carriages.

Comparative Analysis

On the NZHPT Register there are a number of rural homestead groupings of similar date. The homestead itself is of the scale and grandeur typical of the homes built by the 'aristocracy of the plains' in the last decades of the nineteenth century. In each example there are variations in the materials used, and the ages and purpose of the surviving associated buildings. Most frequently seen are groups where a homestead has registered farm buildings - woolsheds, barns, implement shed, stables for working horses, etc. - within its environs. The Complex at Blue Cliffs is a well preserved representative group that includes buildings related to the homestead's use rather than the farming activities.

In size, style and planning the homestead is similar, though with its own individual character, to others designed by architects Collins and Harman for both city and country clients. The prominent firm worked in a range of styles but frequently repeated or made minor changes to the decorative details applied. For instance, at Northwood in North Canterbury the unregistered house they designed in 1885 for another second generation runholder, Arthur Chapman, has a stairway of similar form and decoration. Much more elaborate is Te Koroha, (registered Cat.II) the home they designed in Merivale, Christchurch , for Robert's solicitor brother Arthur. It was begun in 1886 with a series of additions over the next two decades which turned it into one of the most prestigious homes in the city. It features Tudor Gothic details, as does Meadowbank (registered Cat. I)) at Irwell. This romantically styled farm homestead was designed by the firm for the brothers' cousin George in 1891, built at a cost of £2,753. It is more imposing than the handsome, restrained residence at Blue Cliffs with picturesque outlines featuring mock half timbering, a tower, repeated pitched roofs and gables.

The property's continuous ownership by the Rhodes family descendents since 1879 gives it special significance. The homes owned by other members of the prominent pioneering family have long lost that distinction. Meadowbank homestead continues as a residence on a reduced rural holding, Otahuna functions as a residence and commercial property and Te Koroha is part of Rangi Ruru School. The features of the Blue Cliffs Station homestead and associated buildings are that it continues as a large functioning farm property, it is occupied by a family member and contains original furniture, archives and artifacts.

Notable Features

The buildings included in the registration are notable features.

Homestead: original wall paper in dining room and original furniture.

Generator Shed: Dynamo and Hornsby Oil Engine.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1870 - 1879
Stables/Carriage Shed and Laundry/Dairy/Apple Shed constructed and garden developed.

1889 -
Homestead designed.

Original Construction
1889 -
Homestead constructed.

1890 - 1899
Garden and homestead developed; 3 loose boxes may have been added to stables at this time.

Original Construction
1907 -
Generator Shed constructed.

1910 -
Addition of new two storeyed service/staff wing to Homestead.

Bay window added to the morning room, bathrooms extended to include WCs beside western bedrooms on both floors, first floor middle bedroom extended to take in passage access to the balcony and include most of the balcony.

Minor modifications to the Stable/Carriage Shed; Laundry/Dairy/Apple Shed building largely stripped of original fittings except for the copper.

The decorative timber balustrade on the main stairs was enclosed by panelling, with some of the interspersed supports removed.

Demolished - additional building on site
1990 -
Meat house demolished- 1990s

Construction Details

Homestead: Construction and cladding: black pine. Floors, doors and other fittings, kauri. Roof, corrugated iron.

1910 addition: construction and cladding: Oregon, roof corrugated iron.

Other buildings: Weatherboard and construction timber not identified. Roof corrugated iron.

Completion Date

9th March 2007

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Acland, 1975

L.G.D. Acland, The Early Canterbury Runs, 4th ed., Christchurch, 1975

Alexander, 1990

Mark Alexander, Christchurch: a city of light: only the M.E.D. could light the Christchurch darkness . Southpower, Christchurch, 1990.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Patterson, Brad. 'Rhodes, William Barnard 1807-1878', updated 7 April 2006. URL:; Pinney, Robert, 'Rhodes, George 1816-1864', updated 7 April 2006. URL:; Geoffrey W. Rice, 'Rhodes, Robert Heaton 1861 - 1956', Volume 3, 1901-1920, Wellington, 1996, pp.426-428

Woodhouse, 1982

A. Woodhouse, Blue Cliffs: the Biography of a South Canterbury Sheep Station 1865-1970, Reed, Wellington, 1982.

McLintock, 1966

An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966

Thornton, 1986

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

Timaru Herald

Timaru Herald

Drake, D.E. 'Mrs Airini Woodhouse writes biography of Blue Cliffs Station', 14 August, 1982, p.6.

Porter, 1983

Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Southern 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.