50 Homewood Avenue, Karori, Wellington

  • Homewood .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: A Dangerfield. Date: 3/12/2012.
  • House and grounds, Homewood, Karori, Wellington, 1936. Crown Studios Ltd: Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/1-038571-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23175208. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Taken By: Crown Studios Ltd.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1368 Date Entered 28th June 1990 Date of Effect 28th June 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 83090 (RT WN49C/934), Wellington Land District and the building known as Homewood thereon.

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 83090 (RT WN49C/934), Wellington Land District


The summary below is from the Upgrade Report for Homewood, completed in 2013.

Homewood, in Wellington’s northern suburb of Karori, is one of the city’s celebrated houses. Its associations since 1847 with high profile persons from the legal, political, commercial, social life of Wellington and New Zealand, and important Commonwealth connections as the residence of British High Commissioners since the mid twentieth century, give it special historical significance. Homewood has architectural value as an impressive house combining characteristic aspects of several different popular early Edwardian styles, particularly Scottish Baronial, with some fabric remaining from the early colonial cottage it grew out of.

In 1844 Henry Samuel Chapman (1803-1881), the Supreme Court for the Southern Division of New Zealand’s first judge, bought 118 acres in Karori. In 1847 he designed a cottage for the property, which was built by Samuel Duncan Parnell. The building was a typical early colonial house with verandah, constructed in native timbers and with an upper storey within a steeply pitched gable featuring dormer windows. When Chapman accepted the position of colonial secretary of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1852, Homewood was sold to John (1809-1881) and Henrietta Johnston.

John was a successful merchant who became involved in public affairs. He was a member of the Wellington Provincial Council (1855-72) and of the Legislative Council from 1857. On his death the property was transferred to his son, Sir Charles John Johnston (1845-1918), also a merchant. Charles was elected Mayor of Wellington in 1889 and became a member of the Legislative Council in 1891. Befitting their social and economic status the Johnstons commissioned a substantial enlargement of Homewood in 1903.

This building project integrated the early cottage into the now dominant section of the building. Homewood is a mix of common early Edwardian architectural styles constructed in timber. Architect Joshua Charlesworth incorporated characteristic aspects of Scottish Baronial style architecture at Homewood, including a tower and repeated use of crenellations. Italianate influence is present in stylized Corinthian capital columns and corbelling under eaves and some upper storey windows. The stickwork on some gable ends is an aspect of American Eastern Stick style. Interior features, such as the carved archways and main stairwell balustrade, demonstrate the superior craftsmanship of Frederick Hunt’s building company.

While the Johnstons had sold some of the original land, the current residential section was mostly formed through Charles Francis Pulley subdividing the property from about 1925. In 1932 Benjamin and Lucy Sutherland took ownership of the remaining two acre house section. It was then that Homewood’s impressive landscaped gardens largely took shape, although features such as the Croquet Pavilion (Category 1 historic place, Register no.1369) already existed.

Sutherland's Self Help Co-operative Limited was a successful New Zealand grocery stores chain. Open days and other events were often staged at Homewood as part of the Sutherlands’ charitable efforts. Sutherland’s widow sold the property to the British Government as the residence of the British High Commissioner to New Zealand in 1958 and this use continues.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The information below is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Homewood from its beginning has been associated with a succession of leading figures in the legal, political, commercial, social and diplomatic life of Wellington and New Zealand. It is now the official residence of the British High Commission.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The information below is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The earlier portion of Homewood, which is believed to have been built in 1847, would be one of the oldest surviving examples of domestic architecture in Wellington.

Homewood represents a vernacular interpretation of a standard set in England by Edwardian architects and proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement. Being in New Zealand its design is expressed not in brick, plaster and stone but in wood. It is an eclectic design in which regular elements are consciously put together in an irregular fashion. Neo-classicism is reflected in the use of columns, interior and exterior, while such interior features as the stained glass in the inglenook, the dado panelling and the carved staircase reflect the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. The baronical feeling of the Norman crenellations express the wealth and self image of the Johnstone family who erected the 1903 additions. The main entrance hall is one of the finest such spaces in New Zealand domestic architecture.

The house reflects the skills of the builder of the 1903 portion, Frederick Hunt, and its architect Joshua Charlesworth who created a similar style at Brancepeth in the Wairarapa where he was again responsible for substantial additions to a timber house.


Extensive planting hides the building from the street. The grounds increase the feeling of grandeur exuded by the house.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Charlesworth, Joshua

Charlesworth (1861-1925) was born in Yorkshire and the first record of his practice in Wellington was in the New Zealand Post Office Directory of 1885-87.

He won a competition for the design of the Home for the Aged and Needy in June, 1887, and in the same year won another for the design of the Nelson Town Hall. Charlesworth set up practice in Wellington in his early twenties, designing many institutional buildings and showing command of the revival styles of architecture.

His work includes the Wellington Town Hall (1901), Brancepeth Station Homestead addition, Wairarapa (1905), Te Aro Post Office (1908), St Hilda's Church, Upper Hutt (1909), and seventeen branch banks for the Bank of New Zealand, situated throughout the country (1907-17).

Charlesworth was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1905, and became a life member of the Institute. He was its vice-president in 1909-10, and was the first chairman of a society of architects which was formed in 1912. Charlesworth also belonged to the Yorkshire Society in Wellington and was its president for many years.

Chapman, Judge Henry Samuel

Henry Samuel Chapman (1803-1881), the first judge of the Supreme Court for the Southern Division of New Zealand, in 1844 bought 118 acres in Karori. Homewood, the first portion of which he designed in 1847, stands on a residual 2 acres of this land.

Information added from NZHPT paper HP197/1990 - Proposal for Classification, Buildings Classification Committee Report, Homewood Residence. (Christen McAlpine, NZHPT, 23 June 2010)

Parnell, Samuel Duncan

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

F. Hunt and J. McDonald

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The information below is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


Homewood is a large timber house, partly crenallated and incorporating Norman and Arts and Crafts features. It consists of two distinguishable portions. The smaller of these, an L shaped wing at the south west of the house, is believed to be part of the original 1847 Homewood cottage. Like the second and larger portion, built 1903, it is two storeyed, but has a more steeply pitched roof and noticeably lower ceiling studs.

Some unity between the two portions is achieved through their both being clad in rusticated weatherboards with pressed steel tiles. A verandah on the north-west facade also adds continuity by running from one structure to the other without a change in height. Identical coupled posts support the verandah at both ends.

The 1903 portion of the house is dominated by a square three-storeyed crenellated tower. A crenellated porte-cochere, supported by wooden columns with Corinthian capitals, echoes the tower at a lower level. The battlement theme is reinforced by crenellated bays on three facades both at ground and upper storey level. In contrast to these Norman characteristics, pitched roofs punctuated by chimneys, run in the direction of both axes of the building giving height and interest to the roof line.

The porte-cochere gives formality to the south-east entrance. The vestibule has rimu panelling and doors, with windows of stained glass and handpainted pictures of English cottages, also on glass.

The fine staircase hall has carved wooden columns, flat arches, extensive rimu panelling, coloured leadlights and an inglenook complete with classical pediment carved in wood. The hall gives access to all the reception rooms while upstairs are the bedrooms. The staircase is embellished with carved newels and decorative fretwork. Passage from the main bedroom wing to the servant's quarters is marked by a three step drop in floor level and a noticeable lowering of ceiling height.

Notable Features

The tower, porte cochere and bays, with crenellations; hall, staircase and interior finishing.

Construction Dates

1903 -
Enlargement of Homewood

1930 - 1939
Removal of walls between bedrooms on first floor

1930 - 1939
End of billiard room opened out to match the other crenulated bays of the house

1961 -
Ballroom restored to original small bedrooms

1964 -
Removal of conservancy adjoining to dining room

1973 -
Verandah boxed in to enlarge kitchen and provide a bathroom

1973 -
Removal of the 1961 wall between the first two of the small bedrooms Replacement of corrugated iron roof with pressed metal chip-coated tiles.

Addition of conservatory

Original Construction
1847 -
Construction of cottage by Henry Samuel Chapman

Construction Details

Timber framed, rusticated weatherboards. Floors mostly heart matai with some kauri. Interior walls, rimu panelling. Zinc ceilings. Roof now pressed steel chip-coated tiles.

Completion Date

24th January 2013

Report Written By

Karen Astwood

Information Sources



'Homewood Mystery Solved', 18 April 1980

Evening Post

Evening Post

17 September 1934, p.15; 20 February 1937, p.11; 29 November 1934, p.17; 23 January 1940, p.9; 18 November 1940, p.9; 17 January 1990; 26 May 1979

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Smedly, 1980

Beryl Smedly, Homewood and its Families, Wellington, 1980

Air New Zealand Inflight Magazine

Air New Zealand Inflight Magazine

'A House of Character', March 1979

Karori News

Karori News

'Lady Smedley tells story of Homewood', 3 .July 1979

Other Information

A fully referenced Upgrade Report is available from the NZHPT Central 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.