Cottesbrook Station Complex

105 Moonlight Road, Middlemarch

  • Cottesbrook Station Complex. Homestead.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Angela Middleton. Date: 1/09/2005.
  • Cottesbrook Station Complex. Woolshed. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shelley Morris . Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Date: 15/03/2013.
  • Cottesbrook Station Complex. Stables.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Angela Middleton. Date: 1/09/2005.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7650 Date Entered 24th March 2006 Date of Effect 24th March 2006


Extent of List Entry

The registation includes part of the land in certificate of title OT7D/291 and the buildings, fixtures and fittings thereon, as shown in Figure 5 in Appendix 2 of the registration proposal report.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Part of Sec 25 and part of Sec 12 Blk X Strath Tairei SD (RT OT7D/291), Otago Land District


Cottesbrook Station farmstead is historically significant as an almost complete collection of buildings dating back to at least the early 1860s relating to the functioning of a substantial nineteenth century pastoral run on the Strath Taieri near Middlemarch in Otago. The run was first taken up in 1857 and for most of period from the mid-1860s to the turn of the century was in ownership associated with Tasmania-based Gellibrand family and their associates. The Gellibrand grouping owned over 160,000 acres in the Strath Taieri area.

The Station, through its association with the Gellibrands was at the centre of controversy in the 1880s over dummyism and land policy in Otago. Land policy was a central issue for government in this decade, particularly the Otago-centred opposition to squatters and large land holdings. The subsequent subdivision of the station and its later history reveals the effects of such policies on these large pastoral operations.

The farmstead buildings and structures, which include homestead, men's house, woolsheds, stables, stone pens and other stone walls have outstanding significance. They are magnificent examples of stonemasonry, and are superbly placed in the rugged rock-strewn Strath Taieri landscape.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Cottesbrook Station Complex has outstanding historical significance. Its history is tied to the early development of pastoralism in Otago, and the subsequent history of the Cottesbrook Run. In particular its central place in the controversy surrounding dummyism in the 1880s, and the significance of the prosecution of owners Gellibrand and Co. gives that history a continuing physical presence in this place. The subsequent history of its subdivision and operation provides useful insight into the effect of the land policies of the 1880s.

The Cottesbrook Station Complex has outstanding architectural significance. Architect and engineer Geoffrey Thornton has recognised the complex as a magnificent set of buildings; together they show the range of buildings required to run a station of this type, as well as showing the special skill of the stone mason who constructed them.

Cottesbrook Station Complex has archaeological significance. The farmstead has been continually occupied since the mid-1850s. There is potential for archaeological methods to reveal information from rubbish pits, as well as through documenting changes and development of the structures of the station, particularly with reference to those shown on the early survey plans.

Cottesbrook has aesthetic significance. Set in the rugged Strath Taieri landscape, set within the low stony hills against a stunning backdrop of the Rock and Pillar Range these buildings show sensitivity for place, setting and materials. The stone construction in the rocky landscape gives them considerable visual impact, and the mature plantings, stone walls placement in relation to each other are important.

Cottesbrook Station reflects both important and representative aspects of New Zealand history. The history of the station illustrates the foundation of pastoralism in Otago, and the local history of the Strath Taieri area.

The history also reflects an important controversy in the history of land policy and in particular the way this was played out in Otago. The form of settlement, the relationship between pastoralists and smaller scale settlement was a defining issue in Otago. In the history of Cottesbrook this issue is distilled and played out on a local level.

Cottesbrook Station has several important associations. Its most significant association is with the controversy surrounding dummyism, land sales and land policy in the 1880s. Land was a central political issue during this period, and in the operations of stations such as this the controversies were distilled. Otago politicians such as John McKenzie, Donald Reid and Vincent Pyke were the centre of opposition to squattocracies, and their focus became companies such as Gellibrand and Co.

Landowners Gellibrand and Co. was the centre of accusations of dummyism, and indeed admitted to sending buyers from Tasmania to purchase land for them. The subsequent subdivision and effect on the operation of the run, its separation from a working pastoral unit is part of the wider history of such stations in Otago.

The Gellibrand family and their Tasmanian associates such as former premier Sir Francis Smith were important figures in themselves, and this New Zealand story and connection is significant.

Cottesbrook Station has an almost complete collection of buildings associated with 1860s pastoralism in Otago. These structures provide insight into the operation of large pastoral runs, and therefore have potential to provide insight into historic farming methods.

Cottesbrook Station Complex shows outstanding technical accomplishment. Geoffrey Thornton has noted that they are a magnificent collection of buildings, and that their stone work is exemplary, particularly the 1865 woolshed and the abattoir. Their placement in the landscape also shows sensitivity to material and form.

Cottesbrook Station is among the early pastoral stations on the Strath Taieri dating from the first wave of European occupation in the mid-1850s. It has importance in dating from this early period of settlement.

Complexes such as Cottesbrook are increasingly rare as examples of complete farmsteads, and are important because of the insight they provide into nineteenth century pastoral stations.

According to archaeologist Jill Hamel the greatest value in the farmsteads lies in the pattern of the farmsteads both internally, and in the wider landscape. The placing of early farmsteads was influenced by the position of early roads relative to the run boundaries, the availability of year round water supply, and the amount and lie of arable land. Cottesbrook farmstead was placed centrally in the run. Cottesbrook is the only farmstead entirely built of stone in the Strath Taieri. (p.62.)

Cottesbrook was part of a network of fairly isolated stations on the Strath Taieri. Typically they also had features scattered in the wider landscape such as pens, tracks, boundary rider's huts and other facilities such as sheep dips and wool scours. The pattern of roads, subdivision and settlement, told through the history of Cottesbrook and other such stations provides rich insight into the wider historical landscape.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Cottesbrook Run was taken up in the late 1850s, the same time as other pastoral runs were established in the Strath Taieri. It was one of the largest holdings in the area. It was first taken up by Frederick and Henry Walker of Dunedin who leased it in c.1856-57. The Walkers sold their interest to Scottish born physician Dr William Purdie (1797-1876) and general merchant Thomas Dick (?-1900).

Dr William Purdie, a Glasgow-qualified surgeon, came to Otago with his wife and family as ship's surgeon on the Mooltan in 1849. He was involved in public affairs, including being a Waste Lands Commissioner, and a founding member of the Baptist church in Dunedin. Thomas Dick was also Scottish born, and had worked as a merchant in London before moving to New Zealand in 1857. He established himself as an auctioneer and expanded his business during the gold rush era into a general mercantile agency. He was a member of the Otago Provincial Government, and later stood for parliament.

An undated survey plan (SO 16346), for applicants Purdie and Dick on Run 307, dating at least from the 1860s, gives the layout of the early run buildings. It shows a House, Wool Shed and Sheepyard, and Men's House, as well as the outline of the farm track and a fenced paddock.

Genealogical sources identify a Henry Wight Purdie (1843-1927) as a manager of Cottesbrook Station (and later a Christchurch dentist), and son of William Purdie who owned the station. A letter dated January 1866, mentions the construction of a new woolshed, as well as a kitchen added to the house, so this confirms a c.1865 for the woolshed, and suggests an earlier date for the first house.

Local sources state that by 1866 Cottesbrook was owned by N.J.B. McGregor (who also owned property at Silverstream in North Taieri and a run at Mt. Ross). McGregor is said to have lifted the iron from the roof of a woolshed up at Bald Hill on Run 307 down to the Cottesbrook woolshed, giving a date of the late 1860s for some of the buildings.

By 1868 the station had been taken over by William St. Paul Gellibrand (1823-1905), brother Thomas Lloyd Gellibrand (1820-1874) and former Premier of Tasmania Sir Francis Smith (1819-1909) adding to already considerable holdings of over 167,000 acres made up of six different pastoral runs in the area. According to archaeologist Jill Hamel, Gellibrand, described as a gentleman of Tasmania, was a "controversial figure" in runholding.

An 1871 Survey Plan (SO 16345) shows additional buildings had been constructed. This shows the house and the new woolshed, as well as five other buildings scattered around the centre of the homestead block. This plan is marked as the crown grant for 112 acres in favour of William St Paul Gellibrand, Thomas Lloyd Gellibrand and Sir Francis Smith.

In 1882 the farmstead was described as consisting of a house, office, four-roomed cottage, men's hut, cook house, butchers shop, a sheep dip, and a shearing shed for 24 shearers. All were substantial stone buildings, with the stones for the house and the office mason-dressed. A valuation of that time notes that the value of the buildings was linked to the continued use of the station as a pastoral run, and that if the lease was not renewed the buildings would not be required, and that for the purposes of freehold the buildings would not be worth half the amount valued (£1,315). The station was running over 65,000 head of sheep, 147 head of cattle, and had 22 horses at the time of valuation. There were 90 miles of fencing - including 69 of wire and 21 of sod. The Cottesbrook freehold was 632 acres, and the leasehold of Run 307 of 34,000 acres.

By the early 1880s the Gellibrands and Cottesbrook Station were caught up in the controversy surrounding land policy and dummyism (whereby landowners illegally added to their estates by purchasing land in the names of other people). The land question was the predominant national issue facing parliament in the 1880s, with the future prosperity and settlement, and the form that might take, the centre of much focussed attention. Otago members of parliament Donald Reid, James Macandrew, Vincent Pyke and John McKenzie, were a strong directive force, carrying on the Otago tradition of opposing free selection from the fear of land monopolies, and supporting systems which set conditions of occupation and holding size, such as deferred payment. By the 1880s when the "cold hand of depression lay heavily upon the province, the iniquities of the pastoralists and their monopolistic allies were discussed with ever-increasing rancour."

The focus on pastoralists intensified in the 1880s when many pastoral leases expired and the advocates of subdivision and deferred payment "pressed their grievances with a zeal born of social distress and class hatred." This was at a time when pastoralists were bearing the brunt of world-wide depression with many squatters driven to bankruptcy. In this context it was a major event when in February 1882 the famous sale of Otago lands took place.

Secretary of Crown Lands James McKerrow stated that if Strath Taieri runs under 3,000 ft. were subdivided into sections of between 2,000 and 5,000 acres and offered in selected sections of pastoral deferred payments, settlers would have an opportunity of acquiring properties. In February 1882 the leases of 71 runs expired and some 2,800,000 acres was thrown upon the market. By August 1882 Government surveyors were engaged in cutting up land, some of which was offered for settlement, with a Mr Armstrong surveying around Cottesbrook. The land lying to the east of the Taieri River was offered for sale. Following the sale a large portion of the land ended up in the original owners' hands. The following outbursts of outrage would have a direct effect on Cottesbrook.

Local controversy followed partly focussed on the "suspicious circumstances connected with Strath Taieri transactions." The Land Board felt that the purchases in the Strath Taieri were most suspicious and decided to withhold the licences of the Strath Taieri lands. All purchasers were given the opportunity to state their case and to show that they could in no way be suspected of dummyism. According to historian Helen Thompson, some bona fide settlers took up some of the runs but "all of the land immediately round the home station, the whole of it capable of being enclosed with a ring fence, was purchased by undoubted dummies." Men were brought from Tasmania for the purpose and returned on the first ship home. Gellibrand admitted that he advanced the whole of the money for them.

Otago parliamentarian John McKenzie (1839-1901) was on a Parliamentary Committee to inquire into suspected cases of dummyism in Otago. The first inquiry held in 1883 was made into the affairs of Gellibrand and Co. Evidence proved that the law was being evaded and the whole case was a triumph for McKenzie who was making a name for himself in land matters. The issue was at the centre of months of local controversy, dominating the papers, implicating such men as E.B. Cargill in the questionable land dealings.

The Gellibrand associates retained control of parts of the station until at least the 1890s. Title to the pre-emptive right on Run 307 (112 acres) and to a further 520 acres on the adjoining section was issued to George Pogson (a member of the extended Gellibrand family) in 1887 (OT76/6). The estate was gradually reduced, however, until Pogson held only the Cottesbrook farm around the homestead and a grazing run property at Stoneburn (some miles distant). The Gellibrands, Thompson writes, may have foreseen the future of the station. Every foot of grazing country, with the exception of 700 acres seven miles from Cottesbrook, was cut away from the homestead block (which comprised house, office, four-roomed cottage, men's hut, cook house butcher's shop, sheep dip, shearing shed, yards and a grazing acreage of 700 acres, fifty percent of which was subject to flooding). Access to the station shed could only be gained by driving stock some ten miles through small grazing runs on unformed unfenced roads, where every settler could demand notice of the intended drive.

For a time the run was managed by Pogson's brother-in-law W.M. Bethune who worked the Barewood Station, twenty miles distant. Both Pogson and Bethune ultimately returned to their Tasmanian homes, with reputations as open handed hospitable squatters.

According to Jill Hamel the break-up farmsteads on the Cottesbrook do not appear until about the turn of the century. Thompson writes that the remarkable feature of the later settlement following subdivision was the large percentage of settlers on the subdivisions who were old employees of or on the Cottesbrook station "where the shepherd had become the land-owner and the squatter the displaced person."

By 1905 the station included 700 acres freehold agricultural land with river frontage. The majority of the property was a grazing run, holding about 3,500 cross bred sheep. The arable land was devoted to mixed farming, with crops of oats, wheat and turnips, as well as dairying and pig farming. While local histories state Pogson was succeed by another Tasmanian Horace Hill and then Hugh Murray, land title information shows that the pre-emptive right and the adjoining 520 acres were sold by power of sale in mortgage to Reginald Hunter-Weston in 1907.

English-born Hunter-Weston (1869-?) had come to New Zealand in 1895, following a period in India, and had worked as a cadet on a number of stations, including nearby Gladbrook.

Following Hunter-Weston (1907-08), the following owners held title only briefly: John Steel (1908-1919), Thomas Ross (1919-1929), and Wiliam Bennett (1929-1934). The property was sold (again by mortgagee sale) to William Thompson in 1934. The Thompson family owned the property until 1999 when it was purchased by the current owners who continue to run the station.

Physical Description


As was common with the early runs of the period, Cottesbrook Station was made up of the major farmstead/ homestead, which included the main house, a woolshed, yards, stable, smithy, perhaps cow shed, men's quarters, cook or smoke house, abattoir and henhouse.

The farm buildings are rather scattered with a small stone abattoir in the middle of a paddock adjoining the woolshed. The cook house, stable, milking shed and various sheds, pens and living quarters lie on either side of the driveway leading to the house. Cottesbrook, like nearby Garthmyl, had a dairy herd, which probably supplied milk to a local creamery during the early part of the twentieth century. The farmstead is well-sited for the prevailing weather, on north facing slopes.


The homestead is plainly detailed single-storey house constructed of stone. It would have been the manager's house during the Gellibrand's ownership. The main north elevation has been plastered. The rear sections are unplastered revealing the shaped stone, largely brought-to-course.

The form of the house is complex (see roof form illustration above), perhaps indicating development over time, the house growing as need dictated. The oldest part of the house would appear to be that built of stone (1). The roof is a U-form return gable with central valley. There is an offset hipped bay on the west elevation. There is a lean-to hipped verandah to the north, partially glassed in. The interior walls are stone and of considerable width.

A long low lean-to (2) is built to the south elevation, and extends a considerable distance to the west. The lean-to has a number of entrances and windows indicating a series of small rooms opening toward the stone-walled garden, and a gate leading back towards the working buildings of the station.

There is a timber addition (3) on the east elevation, thought to be nineteenth century. It has a hipped roof, and a skillion bay and verandah. The timber building joins the stone house on the east elevation, with an internal link through the glassed-in verandah. The interior features matchlining in the entranceway. The windows are double-hung sash.

The mature plantings around the house include English ash, sycamores, black and Lombardy poplars, oaks, a monkey puzzle and wind breaks of radiata pines. The formal gardens are marked off by stone walls which extend to the adjacent horse yard and stables. Up stream of the house is a stone dam, 23m long and 2.5m high, with a concrete sheep dip below it.

Meat Store

The Meat Store is located to the south of the homestead, at the edge of the garden, opposite the lean-to. It is a single-gable rectangular plan building, with two doors on the north elevation, and no windows. There is a ventilator on the roof ridge. The stone work is shaped stone, brought-to-course. The current owners refer to this building as the 'smoke house.'


The Henhouse is a small single-gable stone building sited in trees just to the east of the homestead. It is currently used as a pottery shed.


The Stable is a single-gabled stone building, with a hipped roof to the west. There are lean-to additions stone additions to the north and south (the south with a cat slide roof line), and a timber addition with large doors to the east.

There are two timber louvred windows on the north elevation, flanking a stable door. The stone addition on this elevation has a small four pane window.

The east elevation has a low door and a loft door on the gable end. The south elevation is built in by a large modern shed. The interior was not inspected.

A stone wall encloses the yard around the stable and the nearby smithy.


The smithy is an open-fronted stone building with a corrugated iron roof. The upper portion of the building has been reconstructed in concrete.

Men's House

The Men's House is a single storey, single gabled cottage. The building is stone, with a plastered exterior. The House is still used to provide accommodation. The interior was not inspected.

Stone Building

To the north of the Men's House is a small single gabled stone building with a door in the east elevation. The stone work is very tidy, with shaped stone brought-to-course. The function of the building has not been identified, nor the interior inspected.

First Woolshed and Stone Pens (pre-1865)

What seems to be the original woolshed (as shown on SO 16346, See Appendix 2) on site is to the south and east of the 1865 shed. It is a small low single gable cottage-form building. The east elevation has a central door flanked by two small windows tucked up under the roof edge. There is no guttering on the roof. There is a chimney on the south elevation. The small building is surrounded on three sides by wooden pens. On the north elevation there is an open stone-walled lean-to.

There are high stone-walled yards to the north.

Woolshed (c.1865)

The woolshed is T-shaped with hipped roofs and no eaves. Four small dormers are evenly spaced along the east elevation.

The woolshed has been described as the ”jewel in the crown of stone buildings on the Strath Taieri.” The stone work is shaped stone brought-to-course, pointed with mortar, and includes some vertical slab work on the exterior face. A squat timbered screw press tower, with no eaves, is still in place, and the interior has been converted to centre board shearing. Geoffrey Thornton describes it as having a “definite affinity with the rock ground on which it sits - great slabs of schist jut out of the paddocks so that integration between land and structure is consummate....It is a remarkable building.”


The abattoir stands alone in a paddock, positioned between the original woolshed and the 1865 structure. Thornton (who identifies it as a Chaff House) describes it as

a delightful building without any pretensions but displaying first-rate masonry. The artisan has used huge slabs on edge at the angles to form quoins with a roughly squared random rubble in the walls. The perfectly true perpends at the angles (corners) indicate the skill of the stonemason. A corrugated iron roof makes a modest lid to this fine little building.”

The building is windowless, except for a small vent on the north elevation. The door is to the south, and the ground outside is paved with schist flag stones. The interior was not inspected.

Notable Features




Abattoir (slaughterhouse)

Stone Walls


Meat Store

Men's Quarters

Stone Sheepyards and associated building


Construction Dates

Original Construction
First woolshed, men's house and pens (SO 16346)

Original Construction
1865 -
Second woolshed

Original Construction
- 1871
By this date the stone portion of the homestead was constructed.

Completion Date

30th May 2006

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Brooking, Tom. 'McKenzie, John 1839 - 1901', updated 22 June 2007, URL:

Hamel, 2000

G E Hamel, East of the Taieri River; The Archaeology of the Macraes Ecological District, Department of Conservation, 2000

McLintock, 1949

McLintock, A.H., The History of Otago: The Origins and Growth of a Wakefield Class Settlement, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Dunedin, 1949

Thompson, 1949

Helen Thompson, East of the Rock and Pillar: A History of the Strath Taieri and Macraes District, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Dunedin, 1949

Griffiths, 1974 (2)

G.J. Griffiths (ed), The Advance Guard Series 2, Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, 1974

Other Information

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.