An historic New Zealand homestead lived in by New Zealand’s first Governor General – and where he created the Pacific naval strategy for Britain’s imperial defence – has been placed on the market for sale.
Majestic Holme Station located near Timaru in the South Island was constructed as a farm manor in 1911 by the pioneering Elworthy family who had been farming the location since the 1860s.
Their original home, commanding 86,000 acres, was burnt to the ground by fire in 1910. Holme Station Homestead was the resulting replacement.
In a little-known piece of New Zealand history, Holme Station was used as the base to develop a secret Pacific naval strategy by a British World War I naval hero credited for one of the greatest strategic naval victories in history... and a man who later went on to become New Zealand’s first Governor-General.
In 1919, Holme Station became the residence for Admiral of the Fleet Lord John Jellicoe of Jutland. During World War I, Lord Jellicoe commanded the British Grand Fleet which fought the German Imperial Fleet at the famous Battle of Jutland in 1916.
The enormity of Jellicoe’s strategic naval victory, which resulted in the German Navy’s major battle fleet never again confronting the Royal Navy in World War I, was later lauded by First Sea Lord and later British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill who described Jellicoe as: “The only man on either side who could decide the outcome of the world war in an afternoon.” Jellicoe was, by any measure, one of the world’s greatest naval strategists.
Lord Jellicoe spent several months at Holme Station immediately after WWI drafting up the British Empire’s imperial naval strategy to counter the naval threat posed by the increasingly belligerent Japanese Empire.
Japan’s growing fleet of battleships and cruisers posed the major threat to the vital sea-links between Britain and the important New Zealand, Australia and Indian dominions. Only the leaders of the British and New Zealand Governments knew the real reason for Jellicoe’s presence in South Canterbury.
Lord Jellicoe arrived at Holme Station with his family, servants, a wine cellar collection of favourite French Bordeaux, and his horses. He sailed to these shores on the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand which was built with funds donated by the New Zealand Government and ‘gifted’ by New Zealand to the Royal Navy to fight in World War I.
Once here, Lord Jellicoe utilised the peace and solitude of Holme Station to spend hours and hours developing his grand strategy. Ultimately, his vision was of a major Royal Navy battle fleet based in the Pacific and funded partly by the dominions. The British Government deemed the Pacific fleet too expensive - but as a result of Jellicoe’s recommendations, the British Government expanded their huge naval base in Singapore.
During his leisure hours, Lord Jellicoe opened buildings and spoke to large meetings all over the region, and indulged his passion for fly-fishing in the nearby Pareora River which was then one of New Zealand’s premier fly-fishing rivers. He also enjoyed deer hunting and horse riding.
Lord Jellicoe chose to stay at Holme Station because of his family connections with Holme Station’s Elworthy family, as well as its Lutyens Arts & Crafts style architecture and settled English estate-like gardens which reminded him so much of his home in Southampton.
On completion of his time at Holme Station, Lord Jellicoe was appointed as this country’s first Governor General – a position he held from 1920 until 1924. Lord Jellicoe, the pre-eminent Imperial naval commander, had the gift of embracing everyone.
He was admired by the New Zealand Government and loved by the wider Kiwi population finding their own identity as a nation after WWI. Multiple landmarks and locations were named in his honour throughout the land, including:
• Jellicoe Cave in Whangaroa Harbour, Northland
• Jellicoe Channel in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf
• Jellicoe Wharf in Auckland’s port complex
• Jellicoe Point on Lake Taupo
• Jellicoe Pool on the Tongariro River
• Jellicoe Ridge located between the Waimakariri and Crow rivers in Canterbury
• Jellicoe Point in the Southern Alps, and
• Multiple streets throughout the land.
Now the magnificent period home which hosted Lord Jellicoe and his family almost 100 years ago is on the market for sale through Sue Morton of Bayleys Canterbury, and Carolyn Hanson of Bayleys Auckland and with price on application.
The home sits on some 6.4 hectares of land – complete with its own private helicopter landing area.- and is being sold fully furnished, right down to the antique crockery and cutlery in the kitchen pantry. Holme Station is the sister property to the Royal Sydney Golf Club in Sydney.
The imposing 10-bedroom three-storey Timaru home features such period spaces as a billiards room, cards room, office, library, a hunting gun locker under the stairs, and even a boiler room from a bygone era. It is also believed to have been the first New Zealand residence to be powered by a private hydro-electric generating unit.
A replica of the property’s first freehold title document dating back to 1862 – written on cured goat skin to preserve the integrity of the document, and signed by then Governor Sir George Grey – is also included in the list of chattels.
“Holme Station is truly an exceptional example of New Zealand’s great early homesteads – with many of its original features still intact, such as the grand entrance foyer with its rimu floorboards and sweeping staircase, all built from timber milled originally on the property, the three-metre wide hallways illuminated by period chandeliers, and the stately formal dining hall,” Ms Morton said.
“The pure grandeur and elegance of the manor is unbelievable, yet it is a wonderfully warm family home. It has been meticulously enhanced by its current owners over a 16-year period – including fastidious landscaping and nurturing of some of the original 110 native and introduced species of trees and the original rose-bed plantings.”
Ms Morton said that among the incredible building techniques uncovered by various upgrades and refurbishments over the years were:
• The home’s restored roof of French-made Marseilles roof tiles were originally brought into Lyttleton Harbour as ship’s ballast in the 1890s. A back-up supply of the original tiles was uncovered in a Christchurch demolition yard in 2003.
• Several tonnes of coke-grade coal were originally installed between floorboards and ceilings to act as a fire retardant and noise suppressant. The coke was subsequently removed and replaced with modern materials
• Original interior walls were found to contain tonnes of sawdust which acted both as insulation and noise protection. The wood byproduct was also removed and subsequently replaced with modern materials.
• A large number of dry cell batteries were recovered from under the floor boards, which were charged by the hydro-electric plant to light the home’s 42 rooms in the large imposing home at night
Ms Hanson said that while Holme Station was currently used as a private and commercial retreat, its room configuration, the enormity of the bedrooms and their en-suites, and the number of communal rooms and living spaces meant it could easily be converted into a high-end commercially-run lodge.