Historical Significance or Value
The Ritchie Residence is historically significant. The architect Basil Hooper is arguably one of the most significant Arts and Crafts architects to have practiced in New Zealand. The Ritchie family represented the colonial elite who were wealthy enough to indulge in the ‘simpler’ styling of the arts and crafts house. The house was associated with the Ritchie family for almost 50 years.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The Ritchie Residence has high aesthetic value. It is a grand and imposing Arts and Crafts residence and a prominent local landmark. The building stands tall on a promontory overlooking the city and has landmark status. It is arguably Basil Hooper’s most expressive and imposing residential design. The aesthetic qualities inherent in the house’s construction, its massing, overall appearance, and setting including the garden and the garage, are a superb example of the work of one of New Zealand’s best Arts and Crafts architects.
Architectural Significance or Value
The Ritchie Residence has outstanding architectural value. It represents the architect’s keen understanding and expression of Arts and Crafts values, both on the interior and exterior and relationship with the wider garden setting. Particularly significant is Hooper’s colonial interpretation and combination of both British and American Arts and Crafts design ideals. While representing the Arts and Crafts traditions of key architects such as Voysey, the house also speaks to the concept of the ‘simple life’ promoted by American Arts and Crafts architect Gustav Stickley, with its simplified and functional design, unadorned by Victorian frippery. The carefully designed massing and composition of the house, and the associated garage reproduce British Arts and Crafts design principles in a more imposing manner than any of Hooper’s previous or subsequent domestic works. Yet Hooper’s individuality was still at work within the constraints of the Arts and Crafts style.
The house is architecturally unique when considered within its Dunedin setting, within Hooper’s extensive portfolio of built structures in the South and North Islands, and within the New Zealand tradition of Arts and Crafts architecture generally.
Technological Significance or Value
Ritchie Residence has technological significance. The house marks Hooper’s first use of the new technology of steel windows and sashes. These enabled better light and wider opening to the views and landscape beyond.
Social Significance or Value
The house is socially significant. It is one of the most architecturally significant and imposing examples of the large homes built for Dunedin’s urban elite. The financial resources required to build such an imposing landmark reflected not only on the status of Dunedin as a prosperous trading city, but the importance of Heriot Row and its surrounds as a bastion of the wealthy. Ritchie Residence speaks to the resources and the corresponding lifestyle and culture enjoyed by New Zealand’s business elite in the early years of the twentieth century. The large garden setting to the house also expresses the status of Ritchie and the importance of gardens to the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The addition of a garage in 1919 reflects the changes in society that the popularisation of the motor car would advance. The cost of motor cars was at first prohibitive, but in another sign of his commanding social and financial position, Ritchie not only purchased a car but built an architecturally designed garage to store it.
This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, c, g and k. It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The Ritchie Residence strongly represents New Zealand’s Arts and Crafts movement. Basil Hooper was one of the country’s first and foremost Arts and Crafts architects. He was soon followed by fellow architects, yet he single-handedly lead the way from Victorian ‘frippery’ to cleaner, simpler design. As one of Hooper’s largest and most imposing designs, Ritchie Residence stands tall in the history of New Zealand’s Arts and Crafts Movement.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
As the Managing Director of NMA and a Director of the Union Steamship Company, Ritchie was an important business leader in Dunedin and beyond. Indeed, the Ritchie family’s ventures had international reach. Built for George Ritchie and his new wife, the home remained in the Ritchie family for 58 years.
Basil Hooper is considered one of New Zealand’s most original architects of his era, particularly in domestic architecture where he devoted most of his energies. It is Hooper who is principally responsible for advocating the Arts and Movement within New Zealand. He was enormously influential and left a legacy of superb buildings.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history
The Ritchie Residence adds significantly to the historical discourse about twentieth century domestic architecture and the Arts and Crafts Movement particularly. The later addition of the freestanding garage, by Hooper in a complementary style, also reflects on a significant period of change in New Zealand’s social history. The house also speaks to the culture, living standards, and financial resources of New Zealand’s business elite.
(g) The technical accomplishment, value, or design of the place
The Ritchie Residence is highly significant for its design value. It is Hooper’s largest and, arguably, his most imposing residential design. The house has many of the features associated with the international Arts and Crafts Movement. While ‘almost impossibly complex in plan and elevation’, the home spoke to the simple, cleaner lines of the Arts and Crafts ideal. The house’s design relies on its striking massing to convey prominence and command, rather than an excess of Victorian ornamentation.
The architect’s attention to orientation for sun and views, as well as to transition spaces between the interior and the garden, speak to the Arts and Crafts ideals of working organically with the site and the picturesque ideal. Hooper did not design a pretty house which conformed to the norm – he pushed the boundaries, merged international design ideas with the New Zealand vernacular, and still asserted his own individual sense of architectural styling.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural area
Ritchie Residence forms part of a wider historical landscape. The house is one of a number of Arts and Crafts influenced houses designed by Hooper for his Dunedin clients, albeit the most imposing.
The house is also part of a band of inner city suburban addresses favoured by Dunedin’s business elite. Heriot Row and Royal Terrace, in particular, were home to some of Dunedin’s wealthiest and most influential families. From their prominent hill-top positions, they could survey their interests below.
Summary of Significance or Values
The imposing three-storey Ritchie Residence, overlooking the centre of Dunedin from Heriot Row, was built in 1914, to a design by New Zealand’s first Arts and Crafts architect, Basil Hooper. Built as home to the Ritchie family, the residence – including the house, garden and garage have historical, aesthetic and architectural significance. The house is a grand residence, and is a prominent local landmark. The house is arguably Hooper’s most expressive and imposing residential design, merging Hooper’s international Arts and Crafts influences with his own architectural style. As the home of George Robert Ritchie, one of Dunedin’s business elite, the residence also speaks to the social and historical themes of the period, including the popularisation of the motor car.
The wealthy elite head for the hills
By the end of the nineteenth century, Dunedin had consolidated itself as a stoutly Victorian city – with its financial elite dominating the local economy. Only four percent of Dunedin’s population belonged to an elite financial-mercantile class but ‘they constituted the informal board of directors for the provincial economy’. Rich and poor lived in different areas – North Dunedin and South Dunedin became working-class suburbs, while the elite increasingly headed for the best sites on the hills. High Street, St Clair, Waverley and Maori Hill became associated with Dunedin’s wealthy. By the early 1900s, this configuration was even more entrenched – ‘the new use of geographical space … had become a subtle means of creating social distance’. Two streets particularly embodied the values of the Dunedin’s richest families: Royal Terrace and Heriot Row. On these streets lived the Hudson family of Cadbury fame; artist Frances Hodgkins and family; Dunedin Mayor Keith Ramsay; Sir James Allen, Minister of Defence and Acting Prime Minister; William Downie Stewart, Dunedin Mayor and Reform MP. All built conspicuous and handsome homes that overlooked their commercial and civic interests below. George Ritchie was soon to join them.
George R. Ritchie (1876-1955)
George Robert Ritchie was born in 1876 to John Macfarlane Ritchie (1842-1912) and his wife Ella. J.M. Ritchie was one of the most important business leaders in colonial Dunedin, alongside the likes of Edward Bowes Cargill and William Larnach. In 1877, he became the managing director of the National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand (NMA). The Ritchies quickly became one of Dunedin’s most influential families.
In 1910, George Ritchie succeeded his father on the Board of the Union Steamship Company and as manager of the huge NMA Company. On 21 August 1913, he married Margaret Mills, eldest daughter of David Mills of Sydney. Mills was the manager of the Sydney branch of the Union Steam Shipping Company. As a wedding present for his new wife, George built her a house.
Having considerable disposable income, Ritchie followed his fellow elite to the hills; in June 1913, George purchased Part Section 30 Block XXIV in Heriot Row. In 1874, his father had purchased the adjacent section (Section 31) and the family transferred the land to George in December 1913. Having secured a commanding site commensurate with his impressive financial and social position, George needed an architect. Fortunately, there was one within his own congregation at All Saints Church, recently returned from England and establishing quite the reputation: Basil Bramston Hooper.
Basil Brampton Hooper (1876-1960)
Basil Bramston Hooper was born in Lahore, India, on 17 April 1876, the youngest of nine children born to Elizabeth (nee Bramston) and William Hooper, both Church Missionary Society missionaries. When Basil was two, he and the younger Hooper children were sent to Switzerland to live with an aunt. In 1885, the children and their aunt immigrated to New Zealand, settling in Cambridge.
Finishing school at age 16, Hooper was apprenticed to a builder. Deciding to become an architect, he studied in Auckland to gain the basic secondary education necessary for the profession. In 1896, he was articled to Dunedin architect J. L. Salmond for three years. Salmond saw private homes as his specialty and Hooper may have developed his interest in domestic architecture at this stage. Hooper left for England in 1901 to further his architectural education.
Hooper first worked for Professor A. Beresford Pite, professor of architecture at the Royal College of Art and a leading member of the Art Workers' Guild, and then E.P. Warren, another member of the guild. The guild aimed to return simplicity and breadth in architecture. They emphasised vernacular traditions and an organic and picturesque relationship with the site. The ‘picturesque’ does not refer to an architectural style but to an aesthetic point of view which grew out of the English love for natural scenery. While primarily concerned with landscape, it profoundly influenced architecture. The picturesque ideal ‘invited an approach to design aimed at pleasing the eye and the emotions over satisfying the intellect’. It also encouraged a simpler, yet eclectic approach to style.
Art historian Ian Lochhead wrote that these ‘ideas form the essential background for understanding the houses Hooper designed’. Hooper was influenced by Arts and Crafts architects such as Philip Webb, Temple Moore and C.F.A. Voysey. Their works appear ‘to have exerted the strongest influence on Hooper’.
In 1904, Hooper returned to Dunedin and was, in his own words, 'the first young architect to arrive in Dunedin from England, with ARIBA after my name, and up to date designs'. He found the architectural forms of the Victorian era still predominated. Within a short time his reputation was well established and his Arts and Crafts designs ‘introduced a new vigour’ to domestic architecture’. He was about to launch a career as one of New Zealand’s most significant Arts and Crafts architects.
By 1910, Hooper’s practice was firmly established and during the following decade, he designed some of his finest houses. One of the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement was to return to an economy based around the craftsman and where the general population could afford craftsmanship. Ironically, only the wealthy could indulge in the individual styling of the Arts and Crafts house. The largest and most imposing of these was George Ritchie’s house at 26 Heriot Row.
In 1913, plans were drawn up. The plans were signed by both Hooper and his student Ivan Orbell (1889-1914). Orbell studied to be an architect under Hooper before joining the New Zealand Defence Force. In August 1914, when war seemed imminent, he moved to England to join the British Army. Orbell died at Herlies in France on 25 October 1914.
By 1914, the Ritchies’ house was finished. The house is arguably one of Hooper’s most expressive and imposing residential designs. With commanding views of the city, hills and harbour, the three storey residence quickly became a local landmark. The house displayed Hooper’s Arts and Crafts style including an asymmetrical design, steel windows in various shapes, leadlight windows and massive buttresses. It conveyed a sense of gracious informality, and the picturesque. The carefully designed massing and composition of the house reproduced Arts and Crafts design principles in a more emphatic and imposing manner than any of Hooper’s previous or subsequent domestic works. Yet there were also signs of Hooper’s individuality.
The house was Hooper’s interpretation of British and American Arts and Crafts design ideals and has been described as ‘almost impossibly complex in plan and elevation and as ornate as could be achieved while still acknowledging the basic precepts of Arts and Crafts design’. Although essentially British in style, reflecting the influence of architects such as Voysey, Wenn and Lutyens, it also reflects the concept of the ‘simple life’ promoted by United States architect Gustave Stickley. Wenn and Voysey were central figures in English domestic architecture in the 1890s. They popularised broad eves, minimal ornamentation, simplicity, unmoulded transoms and mullions, buttresses and tapering chimney stacks, and asymmetrical plans that could be expanded over time - all of which are on display at Heriot Row.
Hooper’s attention to the local vernacular can be seen in his skilled use of Dunedin‘s hilly sites, ‘creating more compact, vertical forms than the sprawling homes of Lutyens and Voysey’. The three-storied house demonstrated Hooper’s vertical vernacular. While the influence of Voysey may still be seen, ‘the massing of the exterior and the deliberate contrasts of materials are Hooper’s own’. While Hooper also followed the Arts and Crafts tradition of using organic, ‘earthy’ materials, this was also characteristic of vernacular architecture. The particular use, however, of timber with roughcast plaster as well as leaded windows became Hooper’s signature.’ Windows were positioned to maximise views and there were numerous transition spaces to create a flow from the interior to create a direct relationship with the garden.
Despite the massive appearance of the house, Hooper adhered to Arts and Crafts values, avoiding a sense of intimidation. The building was designed to ‘exude welcome and appear congenial’. He paid close attention to the scale of each building element and its proportional relationship to the whole. ‘The placement of windows and doors on the north elevation, which overlooked the garden, spoke to his desire to collect as much natural warmth and light as possible. While solid, it was also welcoming.’
Ralph Allen, an authority on Hooper’s Arts and Crafts architecture, described the exterior, giving a clear idea of the complexity of Hooper’s design:
'Great sweeps of slate roof descend steeply from several ridges to the bell eaves, some of which are supported by their original steel brackets. Various hip and gable treatments, some varying from those shown on the plans, further complicate the roof geometry. The windows represent Hooper’s first use of the new technology of steel sashes, permitting larger openings and better exploitation of light and view. Numerous leadlight windows of many sizes are placed asymmetrically across the broad north elevation of the house. The walls here, roughcast above the sill line of the ground floor windows, are stepped back in three sequences on each side of the imposing bay window and buttresses of the central dining room, and are further broken up by a massive chimney (now missing its upper portion), and enlivened by the heavy-timbered verandah and balcony, originally unglazed by now partially closed in. The magnificent east elevation, tall and narrow, is emphasised by the projection of the drawing room and master bedroom well forwards of the surrounding house and by their supporting two-storeyed brick buttresses. The bedroom gable is decorated with vertical strips of polychrome brick that crown a delightful oriel window….’
The house also related to the garden, with a large brick terrace that extends from the verandah right around the drawing room in the north-eastern corner of the house. The terrace is sufficiently high off the ground to contain under it a larger storage space. This is lit by four nine-paned circular windows, each in its own section of wall defined by brick buttresses that continue up as supports for the terraces. As a finishing detail, Hooper cast his name into a brick which was placed near the front entrance.
The interior with its timbered ceilings and panelled walls refers back to the work of the craftsman. The interior included a number of historical architectural references including timbered ceilings, a wood panelled baronial stair hall, and an Old English ‘Juliet’ balcony, while the hall lighting and metal window handles were crafted in the ‘artisan’ style. Despite its allusions to the past, the house was a modern home, furnished with up-to-date conveniences and the latest appliances.
The traditions of Arts and Crafts are evident in the design of the house – indoor and outdoor transition spaces (pioneering modern trends of indoor/outdoor flow) reinforce the house’s connection to nature and the picturesque ideal; bedrooms were oriented to the sun and had balcony access. Hooper used the simple geometrical shapes and natural motifs of Arts and Crafts design. He also designed both fixed and free-standing Arts and Crafts-styled furniture to complement the interior.
Ralph Allen describes the interior:
'The massively panelled entrance hall, baronial in scale and treatment, features a brick fireplace that occupies most of one wall, and a grand sweep of broad stairs curving leftwards to the equally spacious upper landing. A leadlight window of suitable scale, featuring tall and dignified stylised tulips, bathes the staircase with light. From the entrance there is direct access firstly to the drawing room, where a huge bay window looks east over the city, and an equally large semi-circular bow window north to Mt Cargill. An ample ingle nook promises cosy winter evenings in front of a roaring fire, but the original ornate fireplace has been replaced by a relatively plain one of Oamaru limestone. Next comes the smoking room, fitted out as a library. Still retaining its walls of built-in bookshelves and its wonderful ambience, it is well lit by a large window facing northwards, and warmed by a generous fireplace. The dining room, which forms the centrepiece of the ground floor and must have been the domestic social centre of the Ritchie family, has dark panelled wainscoting and a beamed ceiling. Beyond the staircase along the south side of the house were originally the cloakroom (which included a modest lavatory), pantry, larder, scullery, coal store, and wash house. Several of these subsequently have been subsumed into an enormous kitchen, leaving the original kitchen on the opposite side of the back hallway rather bereft of purpose. The rear of the kitchen leads to the maid’s staircase, a rather more modest affair than at the front of the house, though not without charm. Part of the main hallway has been converted into a ground floor bathroom. On the first floor, the landing gives direct access to the master bedroom, which overlooks the city and has its own, original, en suite bathroom. Booth this bedroom and the smaller one adjacent to it have access to the balcony. The passage opening off the landing is flanked by three more bedrooms, and a large bathroom, which is still lined with its original tiles. Close by there are a separate lavatory, a set of narrow stairs to the huge attic, and a tongue-and-groove panelled linen cupboard. At the very back of the house are two maids’ bedrooms and the maids’ bathroom. A small landing and staircase gave the maids direct access to the kitchen, scullery, and wash house below. The four main bedrooms are all beautifully lit by expansive leadlight windows that face north, but the fifth and maids’ bedrooms face south, and seem much colder.'
A bricklayer who worked on the construction of the house, later recalled Hooper as ‘a most difficult, haughty man’ and that the French polisher on the job had been ‘driven mad by Hooper’s extreme demands’. Fellow architects were more gracious in their description of Hooper’s attention to detail: ‘He was sincere in his detailing but very particular as to what he required; and this did not suit the average old time contractor. There was always motif and beauty in his work’.
In 1910, the first Model T Ford arrived in New Zealand. By 1920, vehicle imports had reached 12,000, doubling from the previous year. The first cars were expensive. In the early 1900s, cars cost more than a senior public servant earned in a year, so the initial market was limited. By 1929, New Zealand had one car for every ten people, second only to the United States. As a wealthy businessman, Ritchie could well afford a car. Indeed, it was befitting his status that he should do so.
In March 1919, Ritchie extended his holdings on Heriot Row and purchased the remaining part of Section 30. Hooper was commissioned to design the single car garage so that it would be in keeping with the house. The garage bears all the features of the Ritchie’s house and is a fine example of his architectural design, style and use of building materials. It is brick and concrete, with roughcast plaster and a slate roof. Again, Hooper adheres to Arts and Crafts traditions with the garage nestled organically into the slope of the garden. In adherence to the picturesque ideal, Hooper perfectly married the addition of the garage to the surrounding garden landscape. He placed it on the street, rather than disturbing the garden setting of the house.
The addition of the garage reflects a significant period of change in New Zealand’s history. Although initially owned only by a wealthy few, like George Ritchie, motor vehicles revolutionised New Zealand society by reducing travelling time between places, providing personal independence, and prompting wide-ranging changes to private life, business, town planning, and architecture.
Hooper’s later career
Hooper practised in Dunedin from 1905 to 1922 during which time he established himself as one of the country’s leading architects, ‘playing an important role in introducing New Zealanders to the design principles and the characteristic architectural forms of the English Arts and Crafts movement’. When Hooper left for Auckland in 1923, ’he left behind in Dunedin not only a superb set of buildings, but also an enormous influence. By 1901, rival architects such as Mandeno, Anscombe, Vanes, and Hooper’s former employer, J.L. Salmond, were already following his example and designing Arts and Crafts buildings…By 1923, the Arts and Crafts style of architecture was firmly established through New Zealand’. Yet it was Hooper who was principally responsible for advocating the Arts and Crafts Movement within New Zealand. He was enormously influential and left a legacy of superb buildings.
The house remained in the Ritchie family until the 1970s. After 1971, the house went through a number of owners and it was later converted into post-graduate student studio accommodation. In the 1980s, the two sections on which the garage and part of the garden were located were sold.
The house underwent a number of modifications. For example, the ground floor verandah was glazed. Original free-standing furniture designed by Hooper was sold or removed and a number of original doors were remodelled with glass panels. The large attic was converted into bedroom space and two north-facing hip-roofed dormers were added. The ground floor was also modified so that little remains of the original layout of service rooms. The pantry, larder and scullery were converted into a large kitchen. The original kitchen was converted to a student bedroom and the central passage was bisected by a shower room. Later owners removed the shower room and returned the corridor to its original design.
By 2013, the ground floor accommodated six bedrooms, with original panelling, two ensuites, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The first floor had eight bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry. The converted attic contained a snug, two additional bedrooms and bathroom. Despite these changes, the original layout is still readable and the alterations generally discreet.
In 2013, St Hilda’s Collegiate School purchased the house as a residence for international students. In 2014, the house and original garden/garage section facing onto Heriot Row were sold to private owners. The remaining garden section is also in private ownership, but separately owned.
The Ritchie Residence sits in park-like grounds overlooking the city, Otago Harbour and hills beyond. From Heriot Row, a low concrete fence, hedge and trees partially obscure the northwest elevation of the house. Behind the hedge is a manicured lawn and garden. The three-storey house, which appears to be in good condition, rises grandly at the edge of the lawn. Hooper’s design of the house also works with the natural slope of the land, providing a sizeable basement on the eastern corner of the house.
The garage fronts Heriot Row, but at the rear, is integrated into the garden. Its side elevations gradually sink into the rising slope of the surrounding drive and garden. When viewed from the house and garden, only a small portion of the rear elevation is visible above the natural slope of the hill. The grey slate roof merges into climbers, trees and planting. It is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts architect’s organic use of the site.
The complementary nature of the russet brick, roughcast plaster over brick, and timber is a pleasing exterior aesthetic. While undoubtedly a large and imposing building, the overall effect is warm and welcoming. The complex roof geometry, emphasised gables, and overhanging eaves, and massive buttresses provide a sense of enduring solidness, yet are also sheltering. From the wide brick terrace, expansive views of the harbour and hills cement the impressive and commanding nature of the residence.
The large entrance foyer includes the original massive brick fireplace and leadlight windows featuring Arts and Crafts motifs. The dark wooden panelling and impressive staircase evoke a sense of grandeur. The former living areas have now been converted into bedrooms. However, the large brick fireplaces, beamed ceilings and leadlight windows remain intact. The original floor to ceiling bookcase lining one wall of the former smoking room/library also remains.
The attic has been converted into living and bedroom space. While lined with modern materials, the walls follow the line of the roof and a portion of the brick wall remains exposed.
Alterations appear to have been sympathetic and many original features have been retained. Much of the original panelling and doors (including cupboards) have been retained. Original tiles also remain in the bathroom on the first floor. It is the service areas which have seen the most modification, particularly with the addition of a relatively contemporary kitchen.
Additional building added to site
Converted into studio accommodation
Concrete piles, brick, roughcast over brick, timber
30th April 2015
Report Written By
Allen, R., 2000
Ralph Allen with Chris Baughen and Jeremy Ashford, Motif and Beauty: The New Zealand Arts and Crafts Architecture of Basil Hooper Harptree Press, Dunedin, 2000
Knight, H. & N. Wales, 1988
Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988
Lochhead, I., 1986
Lochhead, Ian, ‘The Arts and Crafts Houses of Basil Hooper’, Art New Zealand, No. 39 (Winter 1986), pp. 60-63..
Fully referenced version of the reports relating to this place are 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.