Canterbury homestead with fascinating history

2:54 PM Tuesday March 20, 2018 Paul Charman

The 6.4ha Holme Station, in Maungati, about 14 km west of Timaru. Photo / Supplied

Holme Station, the grand South Canterbury homestead where New Zealand’s first Governor General created Britain’s Pacific defence strategy, is now for sale.

Almost 100 years ago, former First Sea Lord John Jellicoe lived with his family at the magnificent property, near the settlement of Maungati, about 16km southwest of Timaru.

Lord Jellicoe was the strategist credited with Britain’s most outstanding naval victory of World War 1.

His former New Zealand home is being sold by Sue Morton of Bayleys Canterbury, and Carolyn Hanson of Bayleys Auckland, with the price on application.

Morton says that while the very private Holme Station is now used as a private dwelling and had been leased to a long-term tenant. Its configuration, combined with the enormity of bedrooms and en-suites, plus the number of communal rooms and living spaces, mean it could easily be converted into a high-end commercial lodge.

The home sits upon the 6.4ha Holme Station — sister property to the Royal Sydney Golf Club — a rural hideaway which has its own heli-pad.

“The imposing 10-bedroom three-storey home is being sold fully furnished, right down to the antique crockery and cutlery in the kitchen pantry,” Morton says. “It features such period spaces such 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 plant.”

Hanson says the Elworthy family, which had been farming the location since the 1860s, constructed Holme Station as a farm manor in 1911.

True Commercial - Holme Station%2c Maungati - lounge.jpg

The imposing 10-bedroom three-storey home is being sold fully furnished. Photo / Supplied

The original property, which comprised about 86,000 acres (34,800ha) was razed by fire in 1910. Holme Station Homestead was the replacement.

According to the history books, in 1919 the property became the residence for Lord Jellicoe, who had defeated the Germans at the Battle of Jutland, fought off Denmark in 1916.

Jellicoe’s victory rendered the German Navy unable to again confront the Royal Navy during World War 1 and Churchill later described him as the only man on-either-side, “who could decide the outcome of the World War in an afternoon”.

Less well known is that the great admiral toured the Empire’s Pacific defences immediately following the war, then spent several months at Holme Station drafting up a draft naval strategy aimed at countering the threat posed by an increasingly belligerent Japanese Empire.

Jellicoe arrived at the Timaru property with his family, servants, a wine cellar collection of favourite French Bordeaux, and his horses.

He had sailed to these shores on the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand, using the voyage to reconnoitre fortifications for use against attack from Japan.

Once here, he used the peace and solitude of Holme Station to spend 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 his proposed Pacific fleet too expensive — but as a result of his recommendations, the huge naval base in Singapore was expanded.

Historians still debate whether plans developed at Holme Station should have been adopted in their entirety . . . because in 1941, in what Churchill termed, “the worst disaster in British military history”, the Japanese overran Singapore.

During his New Zealand sojourn, Jellicoe also opened buildings, addressed large crowds and indulged his passion for fly-fishing, deer hunting and horse riding.

It’s said he chose Holme Station because of his family connections with the Elworthy family, as well as its Lutyens Arts & Crafts style architecture and English estate-like gardens, which reminded him of his home in Southampton.

On completion of time there, the great strategist was made our first Governor General. A popular figure, he held the position from 1920-1924.