Marairua Farm Complex

70 Marairua Road, Tuturau

  • Marairua Homestead.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/12/2006.
  • Marairua Stables.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/12/2006.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7722 Date Entered 23rd November 2007


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes the land in certificate of title SL11C/569 (Lot 1 DP 14543) and the Homestead, Stables and Cart Sshed, and their fixtures and fittings thereon.

City/District Council

Southland District


Southland Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 14543, (CT SL11C/569), Southland Land District


Marairua Homestead and its outbuildings, constructed between 1866 and 1886 for Scottish immigrant Allan Galt and his family, are situated in inland Southland, about halfway between the small rural towns of Wyndham and Mataura, to the east of the Mataura River.

Marairua has special historical significance as one of the first and most significant farms in inland Southland, and represents the establishment of more intensive agriculture as opposed to the vast pastoral enterprises which characterised the first European presence in the inland regions of both Southland and Otago. The homestead is particularly notable for its Georgian design and its rare use of concrete for the central hanging stair which forms the core of the house.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Marairua has special historical significance. The farm was one of the first and most significant in inland Southland, and represents the establishment of more intensive agriculture as opposed to the vast pastoral enterprises which characterised the first European presence in the inland regions of both Southland and Otago.

Marairua has architectural, technological and aesthetic significance.

Marairua Homestead is an excellent example of Georgian design with its symmetrical principle elevation and hipped roof and simple detailing. The house illustrates the aspirations of the owner, with the simple elegant design of both the exterior and the interior representing a gentleman's residence of some significance. The substantial brick stable complement the house, with the design and materials indicating the connection between the two buildings. The group of buildings provide insight into the successful nineteenth century farm of Allan Galt with their architectural style indicating Galt's ideas of a gentleman farmer at that time.

The Homestead has technological significance with the use of concrete as the core of the building involving a hanging stair of particular interest. In addition the bricks burnt on site provide insight into a brick maker's work in the nineteenth century.

The Homestead has aesthetic significance, its simple and elegant design has been reflected in the landscaping of the grounds around the house.

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

The history of Marairua reflects the story of the establishment of closer settlement and agriculture in areas previously settled as pastoral runs. The history of the farm with its reputation for quality stock and breeding, as well as use of modern machinery and technology, also reflected in the architecture of the homestead with its use of concrete and its modern conveniences also tells part of that special story.

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

Marairua is associated with figures who are significant in the history of Southland.

Allan Galt and son James were notable for their contribution to the development of early agriculture in the region, giving Marairua a reputation as a model farm. He also led the way in the use of modern machinery and technology. Marairua became the leading farm in the district, and the centre for district activities, for example the first meeting to select a member of the House of Representatives in the district was held in a large shed at Marairua.

In its early years Marairua was also associated with pioneering Southland runholder and politician Dr James Menzies.

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

Marairua is held in high esteem by the community, and particularly by descendants of the Galt and Humphries families. Over three hundred descendants attended a family reunion at the property.

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

Marairua Homestead is a significant example of a colonial gentleman's residence designed in Georgian style showing the transplant of architectural ideas to the new colony. With its substantial brick stables Marairua Homestead illustrates the aspirations of a Scottish family in their new homeland and the kind of lifestyle to which they aspired.

The use of concrete for the core of the building, forming the hanging stair, is unusual and a sophisticated piece of design for a rural homestead.

Summary of Significance

The Marairua Farm Complex is of outstanding significance as an example of a nineteenth century farm steading, which illustrates the aspirations of the Scottish immigrant family for whom it was built. The Georgian style homestead and the substantial brick stables, with its sophisticated use of concrete in its central core and stair, is an especially significant residence. As an example of the buildings associated with agricultural rather than pastoral settlement of Southland Marairua provides particular insight into the development an important farm in the history of Southland.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Galt, Allan


McFarlane, Duncan


Todd Thomas


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Tuturau area, close to modern Mataura, was settled by southern Maori, and was on the inland river route, with small settlements dotted along the Mataura River between the coast and Wakatipu. The Tuturau settlement was about five kilometres downstream from Mataura, on the eastern bank of the river. The iwi had seen the defeat of Ngati Tama chief Te Puoho's northern raid in the mid 1836, a landmark event in the southern districts. In the 1850s chief Reko was settled at Tuturau, and nearby land known locally as Maori Bush was reserved from the Murihiku purchase.

The surrounding district was further settled by European pastoralists in the mid 1850s. The land on which the Marairua estate now stands formed part of Run 66, known as Marairua. It was first selected by Dr James Menzies (1821-1888), who took over the run probably in the first half of 1854, although little is known about any developments to the property at this time. Menzies had arrived in New Zealand in late 1863, and traveled to Dunedin in January 1854. He met W.B.D. Mantell who had negotiated the Murihiku purchase, and was about to travel south to make the final payment for that purchase. Menzies seized the opportunity to travel with Mantell, and eventually selected a block of 38,000 acres on the east bank of the Mataura River, near Wyndham, naming it Dunalister.

Menzies sold to Captain Fulton about 1857, who on sold it relatively quickly to Messrs Shanks Bros for £1500. It was a relatively small run for the time, only 28,000 acres. It is not known what buildings existed on the run between 1854 and 1862. In 1862 however there were two Manxmen Mr Chubbin (possibly carpenter William Chubbin brother of runholder John Chubbin from nearby Run 119 Reaby, who arrived in the area in December 1861) and Mr James Kewish carpentering at Marairua. Kewish and Chubbin built many properties in the area, including Reaby Homestead (burnt down 1908). There were around 1500 sheep on the run during this time.

Allan Galt purchased the homestead block of the run in 1866. Allan Galt (1819-1898) arrived at Port Chalmers on 28 January 1861 aboard the Lady Agidia, with sons Allan (b.1843), James (1848-1911) and daughter Jane (d.1911). Allan Galt, born in Fenwick, Ayrshire in Scotland, is recorded in the 1841 Fenwick Census as a joiner. For six years James and his father were involved with a timber merchant company in The Octagon, Dunedin, trading as Allan Galt and Sons. Allan Galt was also in business in Dunedin for about three years, and afterwards for a similar period at Port Molyneux in the ironmongery and timber trade.

When the Tuturau area in Southland was opened for closer settlement, a local history describes how the ''day of the farmer dawned and that of the runholder closed.' The first to purchase freehold land were the runholders, buying their homestead blocks. Allan and James Galt bought land at Tuturau in 1866, and were among the first of the farmers, as opposed to runholders, to establish themselves. By the end of 1867 some 8,125 acres had been taken up for farming in 30 holdings. They named the farm Marairua after the stream which wound its way through their property. The first house, constructed of timber, was built for Allan Galt, his son James and daughter Jane.

Fellow farming pioneer Alex Dickie recalled that the Galts were the only settlers to 'make any pretence of farming'; others just relied on grazing rights. He recalled that:

'most of the Tuturau settlers started agricultural operations on a very small scale. Mr Galt Snr gave us all a lead, getting in a stock of horses, cattle and sheep; and he always improved them by getting sires and additions from the best strains procurable until Marairua stock had a reputation all over New Zealand. Everything he took in hand did well. It was as good as going to agricultural college to work under his supervision.'

He also led the way in the use of modern machinery and technology. Marairua became the leading farm in the district, and the centre for district activities, for example the first meeting to select a member of the House of Representatives in the district was held in a large shed at Marairua.

The woolshed was built circa1866, and eventually formed part of the large complex of farm buildings. The shed was in use until at least 1977. In 1977 it accommodated three shearers. It is thought the shed originally had four stands. The only alteration in 1977 was the raised floor. Some weatherboards have been covered by corrugated iron. The woolshed has since been demolished. The stables have a plaque ‘established 1866' and are built of brick. Along with the cart shed and the cowbyre they formed the original outbuildings of the farmstead. The cart shed is said to have been constructed at the same time as the woolshed.

According to local historians Muir and Dickie, James Galt managed the farm enterprise and organised the building of the homestead designed by his father. The homestead was built from bricks manufactured on the property, as evidenced by the farm day book. The 60,000 bricks were made by Waikiwi brickmaker Thomas Todd. It was completed in 1886 (40,000 common bricks and 20,000 ‘pressed' brick). When local NZHPT Branch Committee researched Marairua, the excavation site for the bricks was still visible. According to Maureen Fox, local historian/Branch Chair, it epitomises the ‘pinnacle of the success, high prestige and standing of the Galt family.' The family developed the 2000 acre estate into an important and diversified farming enterprise. Daughter of James Galt, Mrs M.M. Humphries believed that there were few places built at the same time as Marairua with which it could compare, and the local history of the region noted that it was a rare house for its time because of its use of modern conveniences. The area around the house was in orchard, rose garden and planted in trees of European origin. In 1884 James Galt married Mary Howe of Wyndham. ‘Allan Galt established the estate as a significant farm. For 36 years he was engaged in forming a fine block of 1778 acres of freehold. During this time the property was brought from a state of nature into a high state of cultivation.' He was well known in connection with Ayrshire cattle of which he was a successful breeder. In addition he bred Clydesdales, and ran in excess of 2,000 sheep.

In 1886 when the new homestead was completed the first house was used by Jane Galt entirely for cheese making. The milk was processed into butter and cheese. When the dairy factory opened at Edendale, the milk was ferried over the river. When the Mataura factory was opened (run by the Mataura Dairy Company Ltd) the milk was sent there.

James Galt was a significant local figure. He was connected with pastoral and agricultural societies throughout Southland, and served on a number of committees. He acted as judge of Ayrshire cattle at shows, and served on the local road board.

Allan Galt senior died in 1898. James Galt sold the property in 1903, and settled in Invercargill. James and Jane Galt both died in 1911.

The estate was broken up into blocks for sale. James Galt's daughter, who had married into the Humphries family, farmed on Marairua until the late 1930s.

After the 1930s the property changed ownership several times. The homestead was for a time unoccupied, from about the mid 1960s and into the 1970s. The McGrouther family in the 1970s were responsible for a extensive restoration, moving into the house to prevent further vandalism. While the house was unoccupied for ten years vandals caused a great deal of damage. Lead flashings had been removed from the roof; toilets and windows were smashed; hall and stair carpets and chandeliers were removed; and a marble fireplace was damaged. The McGrouthers reroofed the homestead, and added an extension with windows in the third storey attic. Major internal restoration was carried out.

In 1997 the property was purchased by descendants of James Humphries. Further restoration was carried out assisted by a loan granted by the then recently established Southland Heritage Building Trust. The loan enabled three plaster ceilings to be reinstated. Overwhelming interest was shown by descendents of the Humphries and Galt families. In February 1998 more than 300 descendents attended a reunion at the property. The current owners have undertaken a substantial landscaping project, and continue to work to restore the property to its original state.

Marairua Homestead and its outbuildings, constructed between 1866 and 1886 for Scottish immigrant Allan Galt and his family, are situated in inland Southland, about halfway between the small rural towns of Wyndham and Mataura, to the east of the Mataura River. Marairua has special historical significance as one of the first and most significant farms in inland Southland, and represents the establishment of more intensive agriculture as opposed to the vast pastoral enterprises which characterised the first European presence in the inland regions of both Southland and Otago. The homestead is particularly notable for its Georgian design and its rare use of concrete for the central hanging stair which forms the core of the house.

Physical Description


Marairua Homestead and its outbuildings are situated in inland Southland, about halfway between the small rural towns of Wyndham and Mataura, to the east of the Mataura River. They sit amongst rolling country, which has long been established pasture land. To the north of the house is a stand of mature bush.

Entry to the homestead is down a long drive through a park-like garden setting, complete with a stream, ponds and formal gardens, surrounded by mature trees. The landscaping was completed by the current owners, and provides a magnificent setting for the handsome two storey brick residence. The house is approached from the north by a formal gravelled drive which crosses the pond.

The cart shed and the stables are separated from the Homestead by a line of mature trees. The cart shed sits parallel with the trees, while the Stables sit perpendicular to the cart shed, across the farm yard.


Exterior Appearance

The house is a Georgian-style triple brick two-storey residence with a hipped roof, and contrasting stone quoins and facings. The main house is rectangular in plan, with a perpendicular two storey servants' wing as well as a single storey service wing both on the south elevation, forming a courtyard between them.

As is typical with Georgian-style dwellings the principle façade is symmetrical, with a centrally placed panelled front door with side-lights, and classical detailing in the entranceway - pilasters and a pediment over. The roof is hipped with minimal overhang at the eaves, and the chimneys are paired. Also typical of a Georgian building is the setting which when it was built would have had a commanding presence overlooking the surrounding farmland. The mature trees on the boundary of the modern garden now enclose the view.

The main (north) elevation is formally composed with a central door and symmetrically flanking windows on the ground floor, with three windows on the first floor. The windows are paired two-light double hung sashes. The formal entrance is through a recessed porch, flanked by two pilasters, and topped with a pediment. The front door is panelled, and is flanked with side and top lights with coloured glass.

The house has sixteen major rooms, including separate servants' quarters.

Interior Appearance

The front door enters into a wide, high hall. Directly in front a large curving formal stair leads to the first floor. A notable feature is the large round-headed window on the landing glazed with etched and coloured glass. A hallway to the left leads to the back door and kitchen. From the main entrance hall panelled doors lead to the main living rooms of the house (two of which were used as bedrooms in the past).

These rooms are well-proportioned, and are notable for their marble fireplaces. The east room has the original gold leaved wallpaper. The other rooms are plastered and painted.

The main stairs are a notable architectural feature of the house. They are hanging stairs constructed of cast in situ concrete and form the central core of the house. The main stairs have decorative cast iron balustrades cast in situ, capped with heavy moulded timber handrails. Brass carpet runner rod retainers, cast into the stair, are still in place.

On the first floor the smaller concrete stairways lead to service areas of the house, and at the rear of the servants wing there is a small winding concrete stair linking the servants quarters with the ground floor kitchen and service areas.

Upstairs are the main bedrooms. These rooms too have marble fireplaces.

Small stairs on either side of the main stair lead to what is now a bathroom (previously a service area housing a header tank) on the east, and on the west to the 'Vanity'' which was a small storage room where the residents' linen was collected for the servants' remove. There is access from the upstairs hallway to the servants' wing. There is a large room with windows to the east and west, with a small hallway leading to the servants' stairs, with doors on either side to the servants' bedrooms.

From the servants' stair there is access to the kitchen and service areas. The kitchen has been modernised, but the baker's oven, including oven, fire box, ash box, and a cupboard for keeping the yeast starter are still in situ. The chimney is capped, so the oven does not function.

The former meat safe is at the end of the porch outside the servants' entrance, but no longer has mesh on the small windows.

The single storey wing to the east edge of the south elevation has an open storage area, a workroom and the lavatories. There was a women's toilet, and a men's toilet and urinal. The urinal has been removed. These were flush toilets, fed by a water tank above, supplying water to the house as well. The tank is no longer in use.


A large group of utility buildings was located to the south of the homestead, separated from the house by mature trees. These included a woolshed, cow byre, and the original timber homestead (used later as a dairy). Only the substantial brick stables and a dilapidated timber carriage shed remain.

The cart shed is a timber building, single storey, rectangular in plan. It is only part of the original structure, which was longer and partially blew down. The shed is timber framed with weatherboard cladding, and originally had a weatherboard roof, still evident under the later corrugated iron. It had several open bays, but these have been filled in. The construction was well detailed and thought out, evidenced by the remaining timber work, but it is now in poor condition.

The stable sits perpendicular to the carriage shed. It is rectangular in plan, with several separate bays, with stalls for around 20 horses still intact. The building shows signs of its various uses, with one door punched out to allow cars to be parked in the building, and interior walls holed to allow passage for pigs when the building was used for a piggery. Other than these signs the building is relatively intact.

Comparative Analysis

Marairua was one of the early and notable farms in inland Southland, as distinct from pastoral runs or stations. It is unusual because of its design, technology (use of concrete) and brick construction. It originally had a larger collection of outbuildings, of which remain are the circa1866 cart shed (in poor condition) and the circa1880s brick stables.

Brick farm buildings are comparatively rare because of their relative isolation from commercial brick works, bricks in isolated areas tended to be burnt on site. Geoffrey Thornton mentions that Te Waimate station had bricks burnt for chimneys in 1860, and that the homesteads of Mt Peel (Record Number 318, Category I) and Glens of Tekoa (Record Number 1746, Category II), were brick and dated from the mid-1860s. At Homebush there is a collection of farm buildings of brick, including a homestead, but the bricks were burnt commercially. In Otago the former stables at Telford (Category II, Record Number 5199) are brick; in Southland the substantial Five Rivers Homestead is also brick (Record Number 2547, Category II currently under review to include the other farm buildings in the registration).

In Southland's architectural history it is one of the earliest and most outstanding farm homesteads. Its interior is significant; some of it little altered, with the notable features including the marble fireplaces, the still extant baker's oven in the kitchen, and the use of concrete in the main hanging stairs and the small servants' stair, which form the core of the house. The Georgian style is noted for its elegance and simplicity, and was a conservative style noted for its use in country houses in other places, including Australia, possibly reflecting the aspirations of the owners.

While concrete was used in New Zealand from circa1840s, it was not until the late 1860s and 1870s that it was used more routinely. Notable farm buildings were constructed from concrete, those in Otago and Southland include the Abbotsford Farm Steading (1870, Record Number 7579, Category I) and Invermay (1862, Record Number 2350, Category I), on the Taieri Plains, just outside Dunedin). By the 1870s a number of both residential and public buildings were constructed of concrete, or concrete combined with other materials such as brick (the Warden's Court at Lawrence is of brick construction with a concrete colonnade (1875, Record Number 5184, Category I). The use of concrete in the Marairua Homestead seems sophisticated and a relatively unusual treatment in a brick house of that period.

Category I farm homesteads include: Waimahaka (Record Number 381), constructed 1929 in Georgian style; Fairlight Station Homestead (Record Number 380), a simple plainly detailed Georgian style timber residence constructed 1869 for Captain John Howell who was associated with the early settlement of Southland; Ringway Ridges Homestead (Record Number 383), a small Gothic style homestead probably constructed from the 1860s onwards and associated with John Henry Menzies; Edendale Homestead (Register Number 7704) constructed in 1883 as the manager's house for the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, and associated with the development of the early dairy factory development in New Zealand; Wantwood (Record Number 7705) with its homestead, farm office, men's quarters and woolshed.

Five Rivers Homestead (Record Number 2547, Cateogry II) is another brick homestead in Southland, currently under review to include the other farm buildings in the registration.

Local Category II examples include Waikaia Plains Homestead (Record Number 3270, Category II), associated with pioneering European explorers and pastoralists, the McKellar Brothers (Peter, John and David), is a smaller but no less impressive stone homestead dating from 1870. It is registered as a Category II historic place. This house was designed by David McKellar who had studied both architecture and surveying, and is among the earliest of the grand runholder houses in inland Southland. This house has been modified, in particular the two distinctive steeply pointed Gothic gable dormer windows have been replaced with a series of pent dormers, and the veranda has also been altered. The external appearance is now more of a bungalow style.

The associated buildings at Marairua are significant, and together with the homested provide insight into a successful farm from the late nineteenth century. The substantial stables, also constructed from brick an excellent example of their type, with the stalls still in place, but stables are not rare on the Register (there are 77 stables on the Register. The Cart Shed is a significant building dating from the 1860s, but is in poor condition. It is not possible to find how many comparative examples there are as there is no Cart Shed use category on the Register.

Notable Features

Concrete hanging stairs; marble fire surrounds, intact baker's oven

Construction Dates

Original Construction
- 1866
Construction completed

Original Construction
1866 -
Original Homestead, woolshed and cart shed built

Original Construction
1886 -
Brick homestead and stables constructed

1960 - 1970
Homestead vacant

Restoration of brick homestead

Demolished - Other
1970 -
Demolition of woolshed- c. Late 1970s

Demolished - Other
Demolition of original homestead (after its later used as dairy)

Further restoration of brick homestead and landscaping

Construction Details


Brick, with Oamaru stone facings, concrete stairway, decramastic tile roof (originally slate, but this was removed)


Brick with corrugated iron roof

Cart Shed


Completion Date

2nd August 2007

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Anderson, 1998

Atholl Anderson, The Welcome of Strangers: An ethnohistory of southern Maori A.D. 1650-1850, Otago University Press in association with the Dunedin City Council, Dunedin, 1998

Beattie, 1979

JH Beattie, The Southern Runs, Gore Historical Society, Invercargill, 1979

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

John Hall-Jones, 'Menzies, James Alexander Robertson 1821 - 1888', updated 7 April 2006, URL: accessed 13 April 2007

Muir, 1995

D.C.W. Muir and L.W. Dickie, Tuturau, a history of the district to 1995, Updated 1995 by Edith McKay), Tuturau School 125th Reunion Committee, Makarewa, 1995

Thornton, 1986

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

Other Information

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