Claremont Homestead

222 Mt Horrible Road, Taiko, Timaru

  • Claremont Homestead. Photographer unknown: Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
  • Claremont Homestead. Aug 1994. View from the north showing added chapel (1955) to the right. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Annie Elworthy.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7379 Date Entered 24th April 1997 Date of Effect 24th April 1997


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 78853 (RT CB45B/387), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Claremont Homestead thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero meeting on 8 June 2017.

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 78853 (RT CB45B/387), Canterbury Land District

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Captain Robert Tosswill bought the Claremont run in 1867. The run had several other owners before George Hampton Rhodes purchased it in 1884. Rhodes, a member of the prominent Canterbury family of pastoralists and business people, enlarged the estate and built the stone homestead a few years later. Rhodes sold the property in 1908. From 1932 the homestead served as St Joseph's Noviciate for the Marist Brothers. After the brothers vacated the building in the 1980s, the house's institutional role continued in the service of alcohol and drug recovery.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The arrangement of the old homestead, Marist chapel and accommodation block which make up Claremont is such that the visual impact is one of differing historical styles of architecture placed side by side in a harmonious garden setting.


Claremont Homestead was designed by Christchurch architects, Collins and Harman, in the 1890s. The building, constructed of bluestone with Oamaru stone facings, was designed in the Victorian Free Gothic style.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


During the twenty four year period of George Hampton Rhodes' occupation of Claremont (1884-1908), the place had a reputation for social life characteristic of the life style of Victorian owners of large houses. Part of the evolving social history of Claremont is also represented in the distinctive religious features visible at Claremont to-day, left by the New Zealand Marist Brothers during the time of their occupancy (1932-1978).


Very definite religious associations have formed part of the history of Claremont, due to the forty-six year period during which the Marist Brothers established their first New Zealand novitiate at this place.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The following comments are made in relation to the criteria identified under S.23(2) of the Historic Places Act 1993.

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

The large house, which has long symbolised pastoralism, has been the focus of considerable historical examination. The pastoralists dominated national wealth to an extent unimaginable to modern capitalists. By the late 19th century the top one percent of the population, mostly pastoralists, controlled 56% of the colony's wealth. Claremont, with its large size and expensive construction, symbolises the wealth of this colonial elite. The Rhodes and Grigg families were amongst the country's wealthiest. Although George Hampton. Rhodes was not the most important member of this Canterbury dynasty, he was a significant person in his own right and, like most members of the elite, used Claremont for lavish entertainment.

The sale of Claremont to the Marists in the 1930s by the Rhodes' successors reflects the declining share of the national wealth enjoyed by the old elite. The building has since served the Catholic Church and as the bases for a drug and alcohol recovery unit. This institutional use of large residential properties has been a common feature of 20th century history.

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

The Rhodes family occupied vast acreage in Canterbury and was involved with investment, manufacturing and shipping and entered politics and the professions.

The 'big house' was a conspicuous symbol of wealth and prestige in a colony which lacked the systems of deference common to the United Kingdom. Its significances have been assessed by historian Stevan Eldred-Grigg:

Seen in its most benevolent light, the homestead was a centre of community, a place where patronage and money might be exercised for the advantage of all who came within its orbit, whether they be 'loyal' servants, hopeful contractors, mortgaged 'cockatoos' or homeless swaggers.

The most important function of the homestead, however, was exclusive ... The homestead, while serving the community at large, was above all a private shrine in which, against a suitably imposing backdrop of damask, kauri and crystal, the landed families could indulge their taste for high living."

(Porter, F.(ed.) pp.115-116)

Claremont bears out this role, with the emphasis on the use of expensive materials, large spaces and conspicuous hospitality. Its transition to institutional use during the 1930s reflects the irrelevance and inconvenience of 'the big house' in the modern era of smaller family sizes, mechanised household help and progressive income tax and death duties.

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

The house, grounds and outbuildings, built before 1900, have the potential to provide knowledge of New Zealand history through archaeological investigation.

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

Claremont Homestead is a significant example of one of the more detailed, colourful, and eclectic designs which the firm of Collins and Harman specialised in during the 1890s. This was a period which has been variously described as the era of High Victorian Gothic and one can see this in the architectural style of the Claremont Homestead which is basically Victorian Free Gothic. Features of this style which may be seen the building's design are the steeply pitched roofs, polychrome contrasts between the blue stone walls and light Oamaru stone facings, crocket decorations capping gable cornices, Venetian styled double-hung sash windows with Gothic heads and ballflower decorations at the termination of the hood mouldings, and elaborately carved vergeboards over the verandah entrance.

This exuberant Gothic free style theme is continued inside in a more restrained and heavy manner with dark-stained bolection moulded wainscotting, and chamfered and moulded architraves, staircases and doors. Subsequent alterations carried out in the interior during the Marist era of Claremont do not detract from the overall quality of the house.

The free style design of Claremont applies equally well to the vernacular construction of the homestead, using as it does local bluestone and Oamaru stone. The verandah on three sides of the house is also a vernacular element of design common to both Australia and New Zealand.

The Marist Chapel, accommodation block and the grounds all contribute to the history and landscape design of the place. The grounds include the grotto built by the Marist Brothers, established trees including rhododendrons identified, and the Marist Brothers cemetery.

k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

Claremont forms part of the network of registered houses associated with the Rhodes family which symbolise the wealth they extracted from the province. Claremont Homestead clearly reflects in its size and style the preference of the second generation of the Rhodes family for grand, impressive homesteads designed by fashionable architects in the latest fashionable styles of the time. Places of this type were popular from 1880 through to 1910 before problems like social entertainment costs, lack of servants and serious fires led to the gradual demise of the big house. By contrast, the houses of the first generation of the Rhodes family were relatively humble places like the Levels, a slab-sided thatched roof cottage, or Purau Homestead, an unpretentious two storey stone built house. In this sense Claremont, the homestead, adds to our understanding of the self image the Rhodes family had of itself in the 1890s, apart from confirming their social and economic status.


Claremont Homestead, Mt Horrible Rd, Timaru, is recommended for registration as a Category II as a place of historical and cultural heritage significance and value. The Homestead, constructed of bluestone, was designed in the Victorian Free Gothic style. It was built for the Rhodes family, a prominent Canterbury family of pastoralists, and serves as an example of the grand, impressive homesteads popular in the 1890s-1910. From the 1930s onwards the property has been owned by the Catholic Church, first run as a Marist Brothers noviciate and later as a drug and alcohol recovery unit.


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.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1890 -

Construction Details

Bluestone, Oamaru Stone.

Information Sources

Hodgson, 1991

T. Hodgson, The Big House: Grand & Opulent Houses In Colonial New Zealand, Random, Auckland, 1991

Porter, 1983

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

Elderd-Grigg, 1982

S Eldred-Grigg, A New History of Canterbury, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1982

Eldred-Grigg, 1996

S Eldred-Grigg, The Rich: a New Zealand History, Auckland, 1996.

Other Information

A copy of the original 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.