379 Oruawhara Road, TAKAPAU

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The Oruawharo Homestead, garden, stables and coach house, Takapau, Central Hawke’s Bay, is a representative, intact example of a Victorian rural homestead constructed of native timbers in 1879. Oruawharo is a special place with significant historic, architectural and social values that tell a story of the fortunes of the colonial landed gentry that maintained many of the traditions of English upper class society and never severed its ties to the ‘Mother’ land. Its significance derives from its link to the Johnston family which was an important New Zealand settler family, and its familial association to other important historic homes including ‘Homewood’ in Wellington and ‘Highden’ in the Manawatu. Oruawharo is of historic significance for its association with John Johnston, who was part of the mercantile elite of Wellington in the early years of the establishment of the New Zealand colony. Johnston’s wealth led him to invest in the rural economy. He brought the Oruawharo run in the 1850s when Governor Grey released land for freehold from the old depasturing leases that formed the basis of settler landholding in the Hawke’s Bay. His son, Sydney Johnston, was sent to manage his father’s land holdings and he lived on the Oruawharo Station in the 1860s. After his son’s marriage, John Johnston commissioned a homestead for the couple that would be befitting of the family’s wealth and status. The Oruawharo Homestead was constructed in 1879 and is significant for its architectural value as an extant example of a design by Charles Tringham, a notable architect of Wellington. Tringham’s design is in the Italianate Style with quoined corners, pediments and large windows that are reminiscent of stone construction but built of timber, a material that defines New Zealand as a vast forested land that fell to the axe and the saw to create the built heritage of today. The timber for Oruawharo was probably milled on site and the homestead is notable for the craftsmanship of the local trades people who were responsible for the ornate exterior and interior. Additions in 1899 saw the compatible construction of the two-storey south east wing that is home to an apartment upstairs and the intricately carved and panelled billiards room downstairs. The surrounding farm buildings, including the stables and the coach house, are other surviving examples from the Victorian period. A significant feature of the Oruawharo Homestead is its setting in a vast garden with hundreds of large established trees, many of which were planted by the Johnstons and other notable guests, including a pine tree that was planted by Lady Jellicoe that is said to be a seedling from the Lone Pine at Gallipoli. Another notable feature is the ha ha which allows for an unimpeded vista of the surrounding farmland to the east. The history of the establishment of the Oruawharo Station and the Homestead is closely linked to the creation of the Takapau township which was surveyed out for Sydney Johnston in 1876. The Johnstons were benefactors to the township with financial support and gifts to many of its civic and religious institutions. The Johnstons also had close links to the Catholic Church and were patrons to the works of Mother Suzanne Aubert and the homestead itself was gifted to the Catholic Church in 1965. Oruawharo was also host to the largest territory training camp in New Zealand during World War I, with many of its trainees shipped to the battlefields of Europe not long after their stay. The fortunes of Oruawharo waned with the death of its heir Christopher Rolleston and the inability of the Catholic Church and successive lessees to maintain and care for the homestead and the property. With its sale in 2000 to Peter and Dianne Harris, Oruawharo has once again regained its status as a showpiece of Hawke’s Bay heritage and as an enduring physical memory to the pastoral elites that defined the economic, political and social history of New Zealand.

Oruawharo Station Homestead & Garden, Takapau | Alison Dangerfield | 24/11/2011 | Heritage New Zealand
Oruawharo, Takapau, probably taken soon after the house was completed in 1879. It remains the original dark red colour and the ballroom-billiard room which was added to the left of the house in 1899, is yet to be built. http://www.oruawharo.com/index.html | Oruawharo.com
Oruawharo, Takapau. North elevation with garden shed and croquet lawn in foreground | Alison Dangerfield | 24/11/2011 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Able to Visit

List Number


Date Entered

4th April 1983

Date of Effect

4th April 1983

City/District Council

Central Hawke's Bay District


Hawke's Bay Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 14970 (RT HBG4/506), Hawkes Bay Land District and the buildings known as the Oruawharo Homestead, Stables, Coach House, dairy, and sporting equipment shed thereon, and their fittings and fixtures, and the grounds including ha ha, gravesites and plantings such as notable trees. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 14970 (RT HBG4/506), Hawkes Bay Land District

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