Thurlby Domain

31 Speargrass Flat Road, Dalefield

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2240 Date Entered 11th December 2014 Date of Effect 11th December 2014


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration is part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 22310 (RT 35296) and the land described as Lot 2 DP 22310 (RT OT14C/392), Otago Land District, and the buildings known as Thurlby Domain thereon. The extent encompasses two areas linked by a corridor of land along part of the driveway and the road fence line. Included in the extent are; the wooden cottage, corrugated iron farm shed, stone cottage and two stone stables buildings. These are connected to the ruins of the former homestead by a 0.5 metre strip of land which runs along the fence line facing Speargrass Flat Road and includes a section of driveway off Speargrass Flat Road, including the iron gates, extending one metre either side of the centreline. A curtilage area of one metre extends around the buildings and ruins. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Queenstown-Lakes District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 22310 (RT 35296), Lot 2 DP 22310 (RT OT14C/392), Otago Land District


Thurlby Domain, located at Dalefield between Queenstown and Arrowtown, is inspiring. Its grounds and setting are striking; its buildings were constructed for the remarkable founder of the Hallensteins Clothing Company, Bendix Hallenstein; and it has even prompted poetic verse by one of New Zealand’s significant literary figures Charles Brasch, and is the birthplace of artist Mina Arndt.

German Jewish businessman, Bendix Hallenstein (1835-1905) immigrated to New Zealand in 1863. In 1865 he opened Queenstown’s first general store and his business and economic interests quickly expanded. His political career also gained momentum. In 1871 he purchased land at Speargrass Flat for his country estate.

Completed in 1873, Thurlby Domain was designed by architect Frederick William Burwell (1846-1915). Built of stone and cement, with stone and brick partitions, the homestead was Elizabethan in style. ‘Part villa, part castle’, the house had stone quoins, balconies, a veranda, and big bay windows. There were no fewer than 13 exits from the home into the magnificent pleasure grounds. The outbuildings were just as fine. These included two cottages and two stables, which have been described as impeccable examples of the ‘old stonemason’s art’.

In 1875 Bendix Hallenstein moved to Dunedin from where his business prospered nationwide. He established the New Zealand Clothing Factory, later known as Hallenstein Bros, and the Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand Ltd (D.I.C .). Thurlby Domain was transferred to Herman Arndt, friend and colleague of Hallenstein’s. It was at Thurlby that Arndt’s daughter Mina (1885-1926) was born. She grew to become one of New Zealand’s leading artists. Hallenstein’s own great-grandson, Charles Brasch, became a poet, editor and philanthropist who never forgot the family’s roots to Thurlby.

From 1890 Thurlby Domain passed through various hands and by 1946 the homestead had deteriorated beyond repair. It was not until 1992 that a new owner shored up the remains and undertook thorough restoration and repairs. Thanks to these labours of love Thurlby Domain remains an inspiration.

In 2014 Thurlby Domain is a romantic ruin; its rustic stone buildings and park-like grounds make it a community venue for grand occasions, weddings and the like.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Merchant, politician and manufacturer, Bendix Hallenstein founded a business dynasty which carries his name to the present day. A notable historical figure, Hallenstein’s influence extended in numerous ways: as a commercial entrepreneur in a colonial gold settlement; as a mayor who ensured the beautification and development of Queenstown; as a developer of farming and commercial enterprises in the Wakatipu; as a manufacturer of clothing and the founder of the New Zealand Clothing Factory; as a retailer and the founder of Hallenstein Bros and D.I.C. stores; as a generous and enlightened employer; as active supporter of the Otago Jewish community; and as an estate founder and owner of Thurlby Doman which stood as a witness to his outstanding industry.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

Situated on a low spur, Thurlby commands views of the Remarkables, Mount Cecil and Lake Wakatipu. Once Queenstown’s grandest mansion – ‘part villa, part castle’ – Thurlby outclassed everything else in the district. Even now, the ruins remain a picturesque allusion to the outstanding grandeur which once was.

The large and numerous outbuildings remain as a testament to the estate as well as to the art of stonemasonry. Every stone is cut with geometrical exactness and between two of the buildings there is a Norman arch that adds to the artistry of the picture. The imposing trees, quiet stream and manicured grounds lend a quiet and peaceful air to the surrounds. This picturesque scene setting and Thurlby’s historic buildings have inspired artists including Douglas Badcock and Alan D. Cooke. Thurlby Domain is also a frequent choice for wedding photographs.

Architectural Significance or Value

The homestead was designed by F.W. Burwell, best known for his designs that transformed the centre of Invercargill between 1874 and the mid-1880s. Responsible for many civic Queenstown buildings also, Burwell was perhaps a natural choice for Queenstown’s mayor. He designed an Elizabethan style mansion, which although did not stand the test of time, was widely praised as the most elegant and magnificent of residences. Burwell’s outbuildings were no less impressive and remain as a testament to his skill.

Thurlby’s special historical and architectural significance to the nation was highlighted in the 1950s when concerns were raised about its deteriorating state. It was used as an example of New Zealand’s vanishing architectural past.

Cultural Significance or Value

Thurlby Domain has cultural significance as a witness to the history of Jewish immigrants. Thurlby was built by and associated with two wealthy Jewish merchants, who began from humble origins, but through their entrepreneurism and business acumen, became wealthy and distinguished members of the community. Hallenstein also wielded powerful influence in the commercial life of the Wakatipu District which helped to cement a viable economic future for the fledgling area.

Social Significance or Value

Then as now, Thurlby Domain was highly valued by the local community. It was the social centre of the district as the Hallensteins hosted garden parties and balls. The Arndts also gained a reputation as generous hosts. Thurlby remains a sought after photographic backdrop and the restored stables provide a venue for gathering such as weddings.

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

Thurlby Domain reflects the development of New Zealand from small gold settlements to townships with developing commercial economies. As business entrepreneur and mayor of the fledgling Queenstown township, Hallenstein took on the role of the successful country gentleman. Thurlby Doman was a witness not only to his personal success but the social and economic development of the district. Thurlby Domain provides insight into early farm estates and farm buildings. It represents the rise of colonial immigrants to wealth and power. Thurlby also represents the development of New Zealand’s economy from gold to agricultural to manufacturing; and the development of New Zealand society from canvas, timber and iron to mansion.

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

Thurlby is associated with the outstanding historical figure Bendix Hallenstein. Advocate of the Wakatipu, he later founded a national business dynasty. His commercial success also speaks to the role of Jewish immigrants in the growth of New Zealand’s economy. Thurlby also stands as a testament to the design skills of architect F.W. Burwell, whose civic designs are well documented in Queenstown and Invercargill. Thurlby is a rare residential example of Burwell’s efforts. Thurlby is also the birthplace and childhood home of renowned artist Hermina Arndt.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

Thurlby has the potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand history through archaeology. It was the site of significant agricultural and residential activity for the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

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

There is significant community esteem for Thurlby Domain as a landmark property. Accolades such as ‘magnificent proportions’, ‘commodious’, ’extensive’ and ‘incomparable’ littered contemporaries’ descriptions of the Domain. It was the leading light of the Wakatipu District. As Thurlby fell into disrepair in the mid twentieth century, it was still sufficiently valued for its demise to be mourned by the architectural community in their national journal. The current owner, through repair and restoration work, has ensured the community once again value Thurlby. It is particularly sought after for weddings.

Summary of Significance or Values

It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place. Thurlby Domain, the outstanding residence described as ‘part villa, part-castle’, surpassed any other residence in the Wakatipu District when first constructed. It is of special historical significance. It represents the wealth to be made from servicing the gold fields, and the transition from temporary shantytowns to commercially developing townships. It symbolises the development of local political and economic structures and the wealthy elite which evolved in its wake. It also represents the growth of agriculture, of milling, of a farming class on the rich and fertile pastures. Perhaps none is so significant, however, than Thurlby’s special connection with its originator Bendix Hallenstein. An entrepreneur with enormous business acumen, Hallenstein forged a business empire almost unique in New Zealand’s history. Thurlby was Hallenstein’s own country estate; designed to symbolise his new status in his newly adopted country. It represented his new reputation as wealthy member of the colonial elite; as a prominent Jewish businessman; and as a local politician. Hallenstein was founding a dynasty – familial and commercial – and Thurlby was a foretaste of what was to come. While Hallenstein’s mansion is now in ruins, his noted great-grandson, Charles Brasch, reminds us that Thurlby remains a tribute to one of the outstanding men of his generation:

So these rich groves… make him a monument,

And marry us to this earth.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Burwell, F. W.

F.W. Burwell (1846-1915) is noted for designing many buildings in Invercargill, transforming the centre of the town between 1874 and the mid-1880s. Born in Scotland, Burwell served his articles with the architect John Matthews and immigrated to New Zealand in the late 1860s. By 1873, he had established his practice in Queenstown. He moved to Invercargill the following year. Once established there, he began designing elegant two and three-storey buildings in the Renaissance style. He designed almost all the buildings in Dee Street, including the hospital. 'The Crescent' was another notable Invercargill streetscape created by Burwell. In recognition of his work, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1880. The depression in the 1880s saw his commissions decline and he moved to Australia in 1887 where he practised in Melbourne, Perth and then Fremantle. He was particularly successful in the last, as Western Australia was in the middle of a building boom, and a number of his commercial buildings in central Fremantle are now classified by the Australian Heritage Commission. Burwell returned to Melbourne in 1910, and died there five years later. (Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, 'Burwell, Frederick William (1846-1915)' in Jane Thomson (ed.), Southern People: a dictionary of Otago Southland biography, Dunedin, 1998, p. 74.)

Walker, Peter

In 1873, the Otago Witness described Peter Walker as a Queenstown contractor. Walker worked with Burwell on Bendix Hallenstein’s residence at Thurlby Domain (Register No. 2240), and St John’s Presbyterian Church at Arrowtown (Register No. 2119), and possibly other projects.

(Source: Information Upgrade Report, Heather Bauchop, Mar 2014)

Campbell, John

Queenstown builder

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maori History

The lakes region of interior Central Otago was traditionally important to Kai Tahu whānui who travelled to sites throughout the region to māhika kai. The hunting of moa, weka, eels, ducks, the digging of fern root and tī root, gathering of taramea, and precious stone resources such as pounamu and silcrete, were a main focus of activity. Numerous ara tawhito (traditional pathways) passed through the area and a number of sites of permanent residence were located near lakes Whakatipu-wai-Māori, Wanaka and Hāwea, Ka-muri-wai (the Arrowtown Flat) and the Haehaenui (Arrow River) area.

The land in the Arrowtown area was alienated from Maori in 1848, through Kemp’s purchase of the land for the Crown and the subsequent declaration of the land as forming part of the Otago goldfields.

Bendix Hallenstein

In February 1863 Bendix Hallenstein, ‘a man with a natural genius for business’, arrived in Dunedin from Melbourne. Born 1835 in Germany, he was the son of Reuben and Helena (nee Michaelis) Hallenstein. In 1857 Hallenstein followed his brothers to the Victorian goldfields. Mary Mountain (1826-1907) was employed by the Hallensteins as a housekeeper. Bendix and Mary married in 1861. Their great grandson, noted poet, editor and patron Charles Brasch (1909-1973), later wrote: ‘In them English and German married, and Jewish and Christian were fused; a marriage of two strong characters that seems to have been notably good and happy.’ They were to have four daughters who, with their husbands, became the nucleus of a large and important Jewish extended family.

With the Victorian rush past its peak, Bendix followed the Otago gold rush and opened a general store in Invercargill. By July 1864 the family had moved to Queenstown.

Hallenstein played a prominent part in local and colonial politics. He was several times Mayor, from 1869. His mayoralty was marked by the planting of many trees, the creation of the Queenstown Gardens, the building of bridges across the Kawarau and Shotover rivers, and the building of a new stone courthouse and gaol. Hallenstein also represented his district in the Otago Provincial Council until 1876. He was the also the first naturalised foreigner to be elected to the House of Representatives. On his election the newspaper seemed somewhat taken aback:

Mr Hallenstein’s style of oratory and pronunciation is likely to astonish the House, as amongst other peculiarities, such as excited manner, with eyes rolling in a state of frenzy, he pronounces the letter was the letter v, which has a most ludicrous effect on an audience, and may, unfortunately, similarly affect honourable members…

Despite the rare adverse commentary, Hallenstein was part of a Jewish community which faced no political or civil disadvantages or discrimination. They were able to take a full part in the civic life of the colony. The Jewish community made itself particularly influential in the sphere of colonial commerce. A number of Jewish merchants became well-known in business circles throughout New Zealand, particularity in Dunedin and Auckland, and ‘won their way to popularity and renown because of the trust and confidence which they gained from the inhabitants, not so much through sheer enterprise as through maintaining their word as their bond, giving value for money, and holding to their undeviatingly high principles of rectitude and justice’. Hallenstein was not only an active supporter, but at the forefront of the commercially successful Jewish community.

Thurlby Domain

Hallenstein soon sought out land for a country estate. He found it in 1871 at Speargrass Flat, close to Lake Hayes. The homestead was designed by F.W. Burwell (1846-1915).

Born in Scotland, Burwell served his articles with the architect John Matthews and then immigrated to New Zealand in the late 1860s. His uncle David Ross had moved to Dunedin in 1862 and was in the throes of becoming one of the leading architects of the day. Burwell followed in his footsteps and the two sometimes collaborated on projects. By 1871 Burwell had established a practice in Queenstown. By 1874 he was in Invercargill where his designs transformed the centre of the town between 1874 and the mid-1880s. Burwell’s style was commercial and cosmopolitan. He designed public and commercial buildings, symbolising the growing commercialisation and dominance of the colonial wilderness through traditional western architectural standards. He built in stone, durable and solid like the commercial and public interests he designed for. His designs were carefully proportioned and elegant, usually classical in style. Typical ornamentation included richly-detailed balustrades and round-headed windows, also favoured by David Ross.

Burwell’s architectural skills came to Hallenstein’s notice during the construction of the Queenstown Athenaeum and Town Hall in 1872, which he praised for its architecture, as well as its economy. He contracted Burwell to design his residence. Remarkably, Hallenstein’s home is possibly Burwell’s only residential design, at least in New Zealand. In 1887 Burwell moved to Freemantle where he continued his commercial and civic builds, many of which are registered by the Australia Heritage Commission. Perhaps Burwell’s solid, elegant commercial designs appealed to the successful businessman, who was not only building a home but a statement.

Work began in 1872. The contractors were Peter Walker and John Campbell who had worked with Burwell on other Queenstown projects. The current owners believe that a small wooden cottage near the stables was erected before the homestead to provide housing for the contractors. Hallenstein’s residence was completed by August 1873. In honour of Mary Hallenstein’s family farm, it was named Thurlby Domain.

Built of stone and cement, with stone and brick partitions, it was Elizabethan in style. The stone was quarried at the Ayrburn quarry, about a mile away. Sitting flat to the ground, the house had wooden facings, stone quoins, balconies, a veranda, and two bay windows. There were no fewer than 13 exits from the home which overlooked a splendid garden. The walls were quoined. The round-headed windows at the upper levels and detailed exterior balustrades became consistent elements of Burwell’s architectural styling. It has been described as ‘part villa, part castle, a status statement with no expense spared.’ Photographic evidence shows the house was two-storied, except for a castellated portion which was single storied. This was probably the service area. There were two covered verandas, upstairs and down. There were railings atop large bay windows downstairs to provide a railing for smaller bay windows above. There was also a simple verandah at the rear of the home, on the north elevation. This elevation was plainer, featuring two pitched roof lines, one significantly lower and narrower than the other. The eastern elevation, facing the stables, was also relatively simple, with simple windows and external doors. Although an eclectic mix of styling, the overall effect was grand and imposing.

A visitor to Thurlby described the setting and interior of the house in detail soon after its construction:

It is a fine two-storied house built of stone and brick in the modern order of architecture, standing on a knoll. On the ground floor are two large fine rooms with recessed bay windows, and they constitute the dining and sitting rooms. They measure 20ft x 18ft [6.1m x 5.5m], and are 11ft [3.4m] high. The drawing-room opens on a verandah upstairs, and on the same floor are the bedrooms. The whole is furnished in a solid, substantial, and elegant manner through-out, and with great taste. Everything is massive, rich, and the best of its kind, without tawdry or ostentatious display. The hospitality of Mr and Mrs Hallenstein is proverbial…At the rear of the house is the kitchen fitted up with the most modern cooking ranges; ovens for baking, and every convenience providing for the large number of men employed, besides the wants of the house and its visitors. In the rear again is the dairy, through which, as in the kitchen and the house, a pure supply of water is kept running. The female servants’ house adjoins, and between the house, a pure supply of water is kept running. The female servants’ house adjoins, and between the house and dairy is the governess’ school-room, with playgrounds, and fronting the croquet lawn. The house and these offices have been built with a studied care to secure the most room, and therefore every inch is used for some purpose or other. The fruit and kitchen garden is also at the rear of the mansion… [T]he cultivated flower garden, shrubbery, and lawn in the front one, [reflects] great credit on Mr Reckie the gardener. The sides of the terrace, and a nice plateau upon which is situated a summer house, are also planted with fruit trees, shrubs, and other ornamental trees. The approaches to the house enter from the road running to the Arrow, fenced in on both sides. Two miles of the road have been planted by Mr Hallenstein with poplar trees. The approaches are carriage drives, representing a segment of a large circle from the Arrow road above-mentioned. They are nicely gravelled.

It was later written that Hallenstein’s home ‘for magnificence outclassed everything else in the district’.

The grandeur of the property was enhanced by the addition of large wrought iron gates at the Queenstown end of the sweeping driveway. The gates may have been erected in 1874 as in March of that year, Hallenstein advertised for tenders to erect fencing around Thurlby Domain.


Thurlby’s numerous outbuildings were no less impressive. Features included a distinctive decorative stone arch, round headed stable doors and solid stone walls; all indicative of Burwell’s design language. Constructed of local schist, the buildings were described in the Lake Wakatip Mail:

The first [outbuilding] we come to is the piggery, which is all of stone, containing twelve separate sties…The styes [sic] are always kept occupied for the sake of manure. The Chinese are large buyers…Next to the piggery is a large stone stockyard, not yet completed, but being built in order to secure more manure. The men’s quarters are divided. The general laborers have a fine stone house, large fire-place, and every convenience for eight or nine beds, with cupboards, stretchers, clothes pins, &c…The other men sleep in rooms fitted for the departments they are connected with…We arrive next at the large stone stables with loft; harness and repairing rooms; and men’s quarters…..Everything is well arranged; the feed is supplied with precision as to the quantity, by means of box measures used in the loft. At one end of the stable is the blacksmith’s forge and shop…Around the stables are the machine sheds, in form of lean-to’s…The machinery contains all the latest improvements, and his Excellency Sir George Bowen was much impressed with the extent and variety used…We must pass on to the cow house, or byer, with its 26 feeding stalls. This is also of stone, and has a loft and feeding apparatus. There is a large boiler at one end. The cows are fed from a passage running in front of their heads, and upon a regulated system. The calf yard and shed are adjacent, as is also the carpenter’s shop. There are barns and other buildings, but we must leave them unnoticed…[W]e conclude with the remark that it is really a magnificent estate, and sincerely hope that the owner may garner as plentifully as he has liberally sown.’

The cost of Hallenstein’s mansion and outbuildings was close to £5000. While Hallenstein continued his retail interests, the farm was managed by John Spence. Thurlby quickly became renowned as ‘one of the finest agricultural blocks in Otago’.


Pleasure gardens surrounded Thurlby homestead. The grounds were planted with exotic trees – English Oaks, Wellingtonias and walnuts among others. Two gardeners were kept working full time. It was praised for its ‘ornamental character...the variety and collection of trees, plants, and shrubs, harmonising with the magnificent proportions of the other auxiliaries of the estate.’

The Hallensteins embraced their new home. A governess was immediately added to the household, as Hallenstein felt ‘there were so many rough children at the school in Queenstown’. Mary Hallenstein also wrote that 'dear Bendix is having the girls taught French and Hebrew, so that they should not grow up entire little colonials.'

Thurlby Domain quickly became ‘one of the bright stars in the social and farming firmament of the Wakatipu district’. It was the social centre of the district as the Hallensteins hosted garden parties and balls. Thurlby was more, however, than an elegant and comfortable home for the Hallenstein family. It was a statement to the commercial world and the surrounding community that Bendix Hallenstein had achieved a high degree of business success and prosperity. The grand residence and the large pleasure gardens were designed also to serve as a focal point for community gatherings including balls and weekend parties. The grand stately home physically represented the progress, status and wealth of its owner.

Hallenstein was not alone in the use of this symbolism. Like Hallenstein, Edward Bowes Cargill was a successful business entrepreneur and mayor. In 1876 he began work on his mansion on the cliffs above St Clair in Dunedin. Known now as Cargill’s Castle, the home symbolised the certainty and progress of Cargill’s business and public endeavors. It spoke to his position as a prominent member of the ‘new elite’. Perhaps most prominent of all Otago’s business entrepreneurs was William Larnach. Certainly his family home remains the most prominent in Otago, if not New Zealand. ‘The Camp’, known now as Larnach’s Castle, was begun in 1871. The resulting complex eventually contained 43 rooms and a ballroom, requiring a staff of 46 servants. It is the lasting epithet of a brilliant merchant and political career which ended in tragedy and suicide.

Hallenstein, Cargill and Larnach were all examples of the new commercial and political elite, with huge fortunes founded on Otago’s gold rush. They helped mould New Zealand’s cultural, political and economic landscape – using their residential landscapes to symbolise this power.

Beyond Thurlby

Within a year of Thurlby’s construction, Hallenstein looked to expand his empire beyond the Wakatipu. Difficulty in obtaining men's clothing for his stores persuaded him to enter the garment industry. In November 1873 he established the New Zealand Clothing Factory in Dunedin. It was New Zealand’s first such venture. Next, he opened a retail store in Dunedin's Octagon 'to sell a single garment at wholesale price.' By the turn of the century there were 34 Hallensteins' shops throughout the country.

In March 1875 the Hallensteins left for Dunedin. In 1878 Hallenstein went into partnership with Herman Arndt, ‘one of the oldest and most respected residents of the Wakatipu district’. Arndt not only purchased an interest in the estate but managed it until December 1882 when it was subdivided into small farms which were then sold. Arndt retained 300 acres, the ‘handsome mansion, extensive outhouses and a fine orchard’. It was the end of Hallenstein’s association with Thurlby.

On his death in 1905, Hallenstein was described as ‘one of the largest business concerns in the colony’. His contribution, however, went beyond the financial:

‘The helping hand of the deceased gentleman will be sorely missed by the poor of all creeds, for, having an abundance of this world’s goods himself, he at all times displayed a commendable charitable spirit towards others’.

Herman Arndt

Herman Arndt (c.1833-1885), also of Jewish origins, arrived at Port Chalmers in 1863. Arndt was described as ‘a person of good position, considerable means, and the bosom friend of Mr Hallenstein.’

Arndt retired to Thurlby Domain with his family where he lived the life of a county gentleman. The Arndt’s quickly gained a reputation for ‘unbounded and indiscriminate hospitality.’ Thurlby as it existed under Arndt ownership was described in 1884:

‘An avenue of crescent form leads to the house, which is situated some distance from the road, upon rising ground at the apex of the crescent. The avenue is planted with pinus and macrocarpa of different species, approaching in height nearly 30 feet. All round the house the grounds are most tastefully set with ornamental trees…the grounds having the advantage of age…excel everything else of the kind in this district, and are as imposing in their extent as in the chasteness of their design… [T]he internal arrangements and furnishings of the house demonstrate at once the good taste and good sense of Mrs Arndt, and it may be questioned whether there are many houses in Otago outside of Dunedin and its environments, which excel in their design, and the completeness and comfort of their appointments as the commodious residence at Thurlby Domain.’

To tend the pleasure gardens, Arndt employed Richard Crowley, who had been a gardener at Crystal Palace, London. Crowley was an expert in the topiary art and ‘under his skilful shears, the shrubs took on new and startling shapes –some as animals, others as peacocks and other decorative birds’. While traveling the Holy Land, Hallenstein collected a cone from one of the cedars in Lebanon and sent it to Mrs Arndt who planted one of the seeds in front of the homestead. The cedar is one of the giant trees growing on the property today.

Several children were born at Thurlby, including Arndt’s daughter Hermina (1885-1926), born six weeks after his death in March 1885.

Mina, as she was known, was later described ‘a buxom, joyous and eternally energetic little Jewess, with heaps of brains and abounding vivacity, bright eyes and a jolly smile that could make Wellington winter’s day look like sunshine’. Mina trained as an artist in Europe, under some of the best teachers of the day. On her death she was described as ‘one of the leading artists of New Zealand…Her work was always much appreciated, her speciality being etching and portraits in line, the latter being recognised as of exceptional merit’. Arndt was largely ignored until the 1960s when her place in New Zealand art started to be recognised. Since then an interest in women artists and the development of modernism in New Zealand art have contributed to an increased awareness and appreciation of her art. Her work is represented in private collections and galleries in New Zealand and in galleries in England, Australia and France.

Arndt’s death in 1885 left a young widow managing several children and a large property. In October she leased Thurlby and in 1890 it was advertised for sale. The successful purchaser was John Allan.

The Allan era

The farm came into its own again under Allan whose gold medal and framed prize for barley grown at Thurlby is still in family hands. He could not support the employ of two gardeners, however, and upkeep of the pleasure gardens was abandoned.

Allan kept the homestead in good repair until his death in 1916. Afterwards, the homestead slowly fell into decline: ‘spoutings were neglected and allowed to leak water down the balcony and the woodwork which never saw paint again. The joists twisted open and starlings nested in the eaves. The outbuildings deteriorated and, at some point, the piggery was replaced or encompassed by a large red iron shed. The glory of Thurlby Domain had departed.’

The Gordon Era

In 1943 Charles R. Gordon purchased Thurlby. The homestead was in poor condition. Although sturdily built of stone, it lacked adequate foundations. The lintels were also too light for the heavy stone load. Vandalism and weathering, especially once the corrugated iron roof had been removed, meant the building was beyond repair.

In the early 1950s Gordon built a single-story dwelling close to the eastern elevation of the stables. He vacated the homestead and it was left to decay. When a local 1863 stone tavern (Gantleys) was restored in the 1960s, Gordon gave Thurlby’s roof and stone from its walls to the restoration project.

The building’s neglect did not go unnoticed nationally. In 1952 Thurlby was used as an example of New Zealand neglecting its past .A Design Review article lamented that the ‘steps of our predecessors are rapidly disappearing…This is becoming an urgent matter, as every month some irreplaceable token of a vanishing past is destroyed without trace or record’.

In 1977 Gordon demolished two of the remaining walls for safety’s sake. Some of the material was used to build a smaller home nearby.

The Buckham Era

In 1992 Victoria Buckham purchased Thurlby. What remained of the homestead was secured. Unsteady stone walls were shored up; their tops capped to prevent further water seepage.

The Buckhams first repaired the stone cottage, as the western elevation had crumbled away. It had originally served as the men’s quarters. The stone stable was restored by 2005. Walls were rebuilt, dormers and doors installed, cobbled floors cleared to reveal where posts once separated stalls. Substantial work was also done on the adjacent cow byre attached to the stables. The grounds were restored to prime condition. By 2013 restoration of the wooden cottage was nearing completion.

The Domain is now secured for the future and is a valued site. Weddings are often held there, with the stables providing a picturesque venue and the ruins a backdrop for wedding photographs.

The demise of Thurlby is lamentable. Hallenstein’s great-grandson, Charles Brasch, could not wholly mourn its passing: he was accepting of both the past and the present. The ruins, the ‘seeds’ Hallenstein planted on the landscape, are his monument still.

I walk among my great-grandfather’s trees.

Through poplar and pine pour the steady seas

In this quick summer stir the old house decays,

Hollow, unroofed, with staring window-bays

And boards torn up’ from fallen foundations the stone

Walls lean outward; garrulous starlings own

It as home now, but after ninety years

No man any more.

When a long-lived house disappears

Ruined, into this raw-man’s-land, and grows

New harvests of elder and thistle and briar rose,

An air of contentment breathes from it, almost

Of reconciliation, the laying of a ghost

That figure of bruite man breaking in on nature,

Defiling its sanctities, altering rhythm and feature,

That represents us all, that haunts all

Our works till they too are proved natural

By their decay, and so are lost to us

And given back to nature; like this house.

All his; and he in Lebanon plucked the cone

From which that masterful cedar sprang alone;

He, my great-grandfather whom I did not know,

Who built and sowed and left his seed to grow

Cradling the land. So these rich groves (and those

That crown now the bare peninsula he chose

For Queenstown Park) make him a monument,

And marry us to this earth; but for the spent,

The sober house, that held so mildly together

Brunswick and Lincolnshire in colonial tether –

All trace of person gone, all family pride,

Call it man’s first-fruits offered and not denied.

Physical Description


Lined with tall trees, Speargrass Flat Road runs close to Lake Hayes in the valley between Coronet Peak and the Remarkables. Thurlby Domain is located almost equidistant between Queenstown and Arrowtown. The surrounding land is a mixture of farmland and lifestyle blocks. The setting is spectacular with expansive mountain views.

Thurlby Domain

Two wrought iron gates announce the visitor’s arrival at Thurlby Domain. These probably date to 1874, soon after the home was built. Large, well-kept grounds, dotted with massive trees, run either side of the curving drive. The road was fenced from at least 1874 and Hallenstein himself planted the trees which line the road.

The homestead ruins

Following the drive, the ruins of Thurlby Domain homestead are seen amongst the trees. If any ruin may be said to be picturesque, then Thurlby may be so described. The few remaining walls mark the site of what was once a much larger structure. Indeed the ruins seem much too small to match contemporary descriptions of the house. There are no foundations visible. The stone walls have the remains of external cement render on the stone faces. The cement appears to have rectangular lines drawn on it so as to mimic block work. The walls that remain also include several doorways and large window frames now devoid of glass. One portion of western elevation remains and is castellated. Interior remains include a fireplace and a few lining boards on the east facing elevation. In August 2013 a few remaining wooden floorboards were discovered under half a metre of earth. Other remains are likely to be found under the build-up of earth.


Moving along the driveway in an easterly direction, Thurlby Domain’s impressive collection of outbuildings comes into view. They lie at the bottom of a gently sloping hill and are close to the road. The buildings congregate in such a way as to form a central square, one edge of which is bordered by the road.

Closest to the ruin is a large red corrugated iron shed with an open lean-to running its entire length. Stone foundations and stone steps lead to a wooden door. It appears to be used largely as storage. From an 1874 description of the farm, the site of the corrugated shed may have originally been the site of the stone twelve sty piggery. The stone foundations and steps may be the only remains of the piggery.

Between the red barn and the road is a small wooden cottage. The exterior is unpainted. On small stone foundations, it has a red corrugated iron roof and brick chimney. The south and west elevations have no windows, and the north elevation has a single window. The front facade faces east and has two small paned windows and a wooden door. The interior, which may include three rooms, is used for storage. Original interior features appear to include tongue and groove lining to the midpoint of the wall, as well as old linings and wallpaper. Interior four-panelled doors also appear original.

Walking parallel to the roadway and across the driveway are two large stone stables in fine condition. They are joined by a stone wall and Norman arch. The construction of these buildings has been described as ‘a perfect example of the old stonemason’s art. Every stone is cut with geometrical exactness, the walls are absolutely square, and between two of the buildings the mason has apparently by way of a gesture, constructed a beautiful Norman arch which, although of no practical use, adds the finishing touch of artistry to the whole picture. This is inspired by the church architecture of Germany.’

The first rectangular stable runs parallel to the road. It suffered a fire in 1884, during Arndt’s ownership. Although damaged, the structure survived intact. The stable’s west elevation has a single wooden door and a wooden slatted oriel window above. Like all the doors in the stable it is headed with rows of red brick. The southern elevation includes wooden slatted windows and a hayloft. The east elevation also has a single door and oriel window. The northern elevation has numerous small vents and three wide wooden doors. The extremely large interior includes flagstone steps and a cobbled floor. The wooden trusses and corrugated iron roof do not appear original but the doors and windows appear to be of some age.

The second rectangular stable runs at right angles to the first, creating an ‘L’ shape at the rear of the buildings. The west elevation, facing the central square, has two stone walls jutting out perpendicular from the exterior. These may have been part of horse exercise yards. The north elevation has a single wooden entrance door above which are two rows of bricks. The east elevation has three small square windows and two doors. The south elevation also has a door which exits to the stone wall and archway connecting the two stables. The interior includes several stalls for horses as well what was once a storage or work area. The six stalls are enclosed only by a chain. The floor is cobbled, and the walls show some horizontal lining boards.

The top of the square, opposite the road, is a small one-roomed stone cottage. This was once the men’s quarters. The front elevation faces south and has a wooden door flanked by two ill-fitting, small-paned windows. The west elevation is comprised particularly of a large stone chimney. The rear, northern elevation is an unrelieved stone expanse and the eastern elevation has a small square window. The interior includes wooden floorboards, a ceiling of sacking, and a large fireplace surrounded by a sizable wooden mantle.

Grounds (not included in the extent of registration)

Much of the grounds are laid out in lawn. There is a variety of massive trees which create a sense of age and grandeur. A large cedar, whose seed was transferred from Lebanon to New Zealand by Bendix Hallenstein and planted by Mrs Arndt, is today one of Thurlby’s most imposing trees. An extensive pleasure garden including flowers, shrubbery, lawns and orchards once surrounded the homestead. A sense of the groomed garden setting has been replicated by the current owners. Behind the homestead ruins lay grounds which once included a dairy, the female servants’ house, governess’ school-room, children’s playgrounds, a croquet lawn, fruit and kitchen garden, and a summer house.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1872 - 1873
Thurlby Domain homestead and outbuildings built

1884 -
Stable damaged by fire

1940 - 1949
Thurlby in disrepair. House vacated.

1990 - 1999
Ruins shored up

2005 -
Stables restoration and stone cottage repair completed

2013 -
Restoration of wooden cottage

Construction Details

Stone, cement, wood, brick, schist

Completion Date

25th November 2014

Report Written By

Susan Irvine

Information Sources

Goldman, 1958

L.M. Goldman, The History of the Jews in New Zealand, Wellington, 1958

URL:, accessed 29 May 2012.

Miller, 1973

F.W.G Miller, Golden Days of Lake County, 5th edn, Christchurch, 1973

Sorrell, 2006

P. Sorrell, (ed) Murihiku: The Southland Story, Southland to 2006 Book Project Committee, Invercargill, 2006

Michael Findlay, ‘The Built Environment’ in Murihiku: the Southland Story, ed. Paul Sorrell, Invercargill, ‘The Southland to 2006’ Book Project Committee, 2006.

Brasch, 1980

C Brasch. Indirections: A Memoir 1909-1947, Oxford University Press, Wellington, 1980

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Gordon Parry, 'Hallenstein, Bendix - Biography', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, URL:, accessed 28 May 2012.

Other Information

A fully referenced report is available from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.