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New Zealand Historic Places Trust - Pouhere Taonga

Te Koraha

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59 Hewitts Road, Merivale, CHRISTCHURCH

Te Koraha. Photographed by Pam Wilson 1/04/2005. Copyright NZ Historic Places Trust

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Register Number
Registration Type
Historic Place  - Category II
Canterbury Region
Date Registered
City/District Council
  • Christchurch City Council
Legal Description
Lot 22, DP6620, Canterbury Registry, certificate of title CB354/68
Other Names
  • Rangi Ruru (original dwelling), [register name as at November 2003]
  • The House
Status Explanation
Registration confirmed 24 Jun 2005
Brief History
Arthur Edgar Gravenor Rhodes (1859-1922), the owner of Te Koraha, was a scion of the Rhodes family of wealthy pastoralists. Arthur's uncle, William Rhodes, arrived in New Zealand from Yorkshire as a whaler in the 1830s, and soon became a successful businessman and property investor in Wellington. William was followed to this country by his brothers George and Robert in 1843 and 1850 respectively, and together the three formed a business partnership to manage what became a vast pastoral empire. By the 1870s the family were the foremost runholders in New Zealand. George established the Levels station near Timaru in 1851, and this is where Arthur, the third of his five children, was born. Unfortunately George died suddenly in 1864, and Arthur's mother Elizabeth married again.

Arthur was educated at Christ's College in Christchurch, and Jesus College, Cambridge. After graduating in law, he was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1882. Two years later, Arthur returned to Christchurch to establish a practise. The same year, 1884, saw the purchase of nine acres in the suburb of Merivale on which the young lawyer intended to develop an establishment suitable for a future wife and family, and which reflected his considerable ambitions. This property Arthur was to call Te Koraha, 'The Wilderness'.

Development of Te Koraha began in 1884 with the removal of several cottages from the site, and the construction of stables and a coach house. These were followed in 1886 with the first part of the Tudoresque house, designed initially as a single storey addition to an existing cottage - which was later demolished. The architects, influential Christchurch firm Armson and Collins were to be responsible for several additions to the building over the following thirty years.

William Barnett Armson (1834-83) founded an architectural practice in Dunedin in 1864, but moved it to Christchurch about 1870. In 1871 he engaged Christchurch-born John James Collins (1855-1933) as an articled pupil. After Armson's death, Collins took over the practice, and went into partnership with Richard Harman (1850s-1927) in 1887. Thereafter the firm was known as Armson, Collins and Harman (or more regularly, just Collins and Harman) until 1928. In 1903 Collins' son, John Goddard Collins (1886-1973) joined the firm. The practice designed numerous buildings of a wide range of types and styles throughout Canterbury. These included the Christchurch Press Building (1906-9, Cat. I), the former Canterbury Public Library (1876-1924, Cat. I & II), and Meadowbank Homestead (1891, Cat I).

In addition to the running of his prosperous law firm, Arthur Rhodes took a leading part in public life. He accepted numerous directorships and chairmanships, and served as Member of Parliament for the Gladstone (South Canterbury) seat in 1887, and for its successor the Geraldine seat in 1890. Rhodes was also a prominent polo player. Despite this public success however, he was somewhat awkward of speech and manner, and was thought by some contemporaries to be boorish and uncouth.

In 1892 Rhodes married Rose Moorhouse, a niece of the former Superintendent of Canterbury Province, W. S. Moorhouse. Rose was beautiful, fashionable and popular, and the couple quickly became leaders of the social set. Te Koraha was extensively enlarged in 1894 with the addition of a two-storied wing to the west of the 1886 house. This extension incorporated new reception rooms, a ballroom with a sprung floor, accommodation for eight servants and nurseries for a young family. Two children, Arthur Tahu and Rose Mairehau were born in 1893 and 1894 respectively. The Rhodes family remained the toast of Christchurch society for many years. Arthur featured amongst the officials at almost every public event, whilst Rose's gowns, home furnishings and colour schemes were discussed at length in the local papers. Naturally the couple entertained lavishly, and house guests were frequent. Amongst those who stayed were governors' Sir George Grey and Lord Islington.

The high point of the Rhodes' tenure at Te Koraha was the year 1901. Arthur was elected mayor of Christchurch, and in a grand gesture offered his home as the royal residence for the June visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary). For the three day visit the entire house was redecorated in fashionable pastel shades, wired for electricity generated by a machine in the stables, and a telephone installed. The Governor and his wife, Lord and Lady Ranfurly, accompanied the royal party and also stayed at Te Koraha. Later the same year, the Rhodes' hospitality was extended to explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who stayed at the house for a month before departing on his first Antarctic expedition. He became a great friend of the family.

In 1902 three bedrooms were added over the single storey 1894 laundry wing. Three years later, in 1905, this wing was again extended with the addition of a small two storey servants' wing. In 1908 minor alterations were made to the verandah of the 1886 house, and to the kitchen. In 1913 the most extensive alterations since 1894 were carried out. A second storey containing more bedrooms was added above the 1886 part of the house; the 1894/1902/1905 laundry wing was extended with another two-storey section; and the by-then redundant day nursery next to the ballroom converted to an entrance hall, with a new porte cochere on the east front. After a visit to England in 1915-6 which saw both children married, the Rhodes' returned to Te Koraha. Rose resumed her role as a society hostess, but Arthur largely retired from public life at this time. He died at home on Boxing Day 1922, and Rose left for London where she died ten years later. Te Koraha then passed to Tahu Rhodes, who promptly offered it for sale. The house was subsequently leased by the Gibson family for their school, Rangi Ruru.

In 1889 the eight Gibson sisters took over the operation of a small Papanui Road 'dame' school. The following year their father, Captain Frederick Gibson, built a large house with two schoolrooms on the corner of Webb St. This was given the name Rangi Ruru, or 'wide sky shelter'. In 1903 the school had 63 pupils. By the early 1920s the Webb St house was proving too cramped, and the decision was made to move to larger premises. In August 1923 the remaining four sisters shifted their school, day pupils and eighteen borders to Te Koraha. Ownership of the property was transferred to the Gibson's in 1928 for £9, 000. Rangi Ruru remained with the Gibson family until 1946, when the school was sold to the Presbyterian Church for £10, 000. The property remains today as a large and prominent Presbyterian girls' school.

For the period of the Gibson sisters' tenure The House (as Te Koraha became known) served as their home, with some rooms used as classrooms and others as dormitories. Following the change of ownership in 1946, the house underwent extensive changes. These included an extension on the north side over the verandah; and a new wing at the east end of the north side, with a principal's flat downstairs and a cubicle area upstairs. In 1951 the flat became two dormitories, and later part of the dining room. The dining room also extended through the former ballroom and day nursery. Other alterations subsequently carried out - some by architects Warren and Mahoney - included the expansion of the kitchen, internal alterations to the east end of the house, the removal of two major chimneys, the filling of the upstairs verandah to provide more dormitory space, and the removal of the porte cochere.

In 2001 the decision was made to restore the house and adapt it for use as a staff and administration centre. Architects Wilkie and Bruce decided to return the house largely to its 1894 exterior appearance, and many (but not all) later additions were removed. These included the reinstatement of the first floor verandah, and the demolition of the 1894/1902/1905/1913 west wing. A new extension was added at the rear to provide student common room space. The last boarders moved out at the end of 2001, and alterations commenced in 2002. They were completed in April 2003 at a total cost of $1.5 million, and Te Koraha was officially reopened in September 2003.
Current Use
  • Education - School
Former Use
  • Residential buildings and associated places - House
Construction Dates
  • Original Construction - Construction of original house.: 1886
  • Modification - Addition of reception rooms, ballroom, servants' quarters, nurseries, laundry.: 1894
  • Modification - Addition of bedrooms over 1894 laundry.: 1902
  • Modification - Addition of two storey servants' wing adjoining 1894 laundry.: 1905
  • Modification - Alterations to 1886 verandah and kitchen.: 1908
  • Modification - Addition of more bedrooms above 1886 house, addition of two storey wing to 1894/1902/1905 laundry wing, conversion of day nursery to foyer, addition of porte cochere.: 1913
  • Modification - Extension above northern verandah, addition of north wing for headmaster's flat and dorms.: 1946
  • Modification - Expansion of kitchen, internal alterations to east, balcony infill, porte cochere removal.:
  • Modification - Restoration and adaptation as administration and staff block.: 2002 - 2003
Construction Professionals
Other Information
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.
Information Sources
  • Christchurch City Council, Heritage Unit File
  • St Albans:From Swamp to Suburbs, An Informal History NZ Federation of University Women Canterbury Branch, 1989.
  • New Zealand Historic Places Trust, NZHPT File 12313-648; NZHPT Field Record Form; NZHPT Glossary of Architects, Engineers and Designers
  • Geoffrey Rice, Heaton Rhodes of Otahuna:the Illustrated Biography, Christchurch, 2001
  • R. Britten, Te Koraha 1884-1984 (centennial publication)


Information on this page is correct to the best of the Trust's knowledge. If you have any additional information you would like to share with the Trust, please contact the Registrar. You may wish to contact the Trust to view our paper records.