Historic Place Category 2
Sec 9 SO 36509 (CT 592287), Wellington Land District
Extent of Registration
Extent includes the land described as Sec 9 SO 35509 (CT 592287), Wellington Land District and the building known as Ministerial Residence (Former) thereon (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).
The Ministerial Residence (Former) located at 41 Pipitea Street in Thorndon, Wellington, has historic significance as the ‘unofficial’ prime ministerial residence of Prime Ministers Sidney Holland, Walter Nash and Keith Holyoake. Located in the historic suburb of Thorndon and near the centre of the parliamentary precinct, the house is a reminder of the accessibility that the constituency have had to political leaders and the tradition of egalitarianism that was practised by them.
Built for Robert Westley Bothamley (1888-1967) in 1927 the house has architectural significance as a design by the architect Stanley Walter Fearn (1887-1976), who was the inaugural winner of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1928 for his design of the William Booth Memorial College building in Aro Street. Fearn’s architectural idiom included elements of English Cottage Revival and Neo-Georgian styles. The house at Pipitea Street is a representative example of Fearn's personal expression of the English Neo-Georgian architectural language. The building has had little change since its construction other than the removal of the two chimneys and the garage. The use of different coloured glazed bricks, terracotta shingles and Marseilles roof tiles creates visual interest and its form, symmetry and scale speaks to its domestic nature. The building is located in a street with other heritage buildings including its two storeyed, wooden villa neighbour and its contemporary at 31-35 Pipitea Street, designed by William Gray Young in 1924.
41 Pipitea Street is a politically famous address that has historic and social significance as the home of Sir Keith Holyoake and Dame Norma Holyoake during Holyoake’s terms as Prime Minister between 1960 and 1972. The Holyoakes were modest in their living arrangements and Pipitea Street served their needs well as a place of comfort and proximity to parliament. The building continued life as a ministerial residence until changes in Government policy regarding accommodation for Ministers meant it was retired from this role in 2012.
The Ministerial Residence (Former) has historic values as the ‘unofficial’ residence of a number of prime ministers prior to the reestablishment of the Prime Minister’s Residence on Tinakori Road. The house is particularly notable as the residence of Keith and Norma Holyoake during his terms as prime minister from 1960 to 1972. The house features in a number of photographs of Keith Holyoake and subsequent ministers who lived there, such as Venn Young.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The elements of neo-Georgian design and use of materials including hanging terracotta shingles, glazed brickwork and Marseilles tiling creates an aesthetically pleasing and visually stimulating arrangement that is unique to the streetscape in the area. The balance and symmetry of the building adds to its elegance.
Architectural Significance or Value
Designed by the Wellington architect Stanley Fearn, the house is an intact and authentic example of Fearn's own interpretation of the English neo-Georgian theme in domestic architecture. There has been little modification to the exterior or the interior and the building makes an important architectural contribution to the streetscape and the wider heritage precinct of Thorndon.
Social Significance or Value
The house at 41 Pipitea Street has significant social values as a politically famous address, listed in the telephone book and known as the prime minister’s residence. Holyoake received calls at home, had people visit and regularly interacted with those that he met on the street and in local shops. The house is a reminder of the accessibility that the constituency have had to political leaders and the tradition of egalitarianism that was practised by them.
Summary of Assessed Criteria
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The house at 41 Pipitea Street is a politically famous address as the ‘unofficial’ Prime Minister’s Residence in Wellington during the 1950s and1960s. It was retained as a ministerial residence for a number of decades and became a site of protest during the Bastion Point occupation.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The house was the residence of Sir Keith Holyoake and Dame Norma Holyoake during Holyoake’s terms as Prime Minister of New Zealand during the 1960s and early 1970s. Holyoake was known for his modest living arrangements; rejecting the trappings of office and content to live in accommodation that was comfortable but not lavish.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The house at 41 Pipitea Street is an intact and authentic example of a design by the Wellington architect Stanley Walter Fearn. The house displays elements of English Revival and neo-Georgian architecture that are skilfully and artfully arranged used to create a patina of colour and texture.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The house at 41 Pipitea Street is close to the heart of the parliamentary centre and it was notable that Holyoake liked to walk to Parliament and interact with citizens. A statue of Holyoake is in close proximity, located at the corner of Pipitea and Mulgrave Streets. At the eastern end of the street is the culturally significant site of the former Pipitea Pa and the Pipitea Marae which symbolises the continuing occupation of the people of Te Atiawa in Te Whanganui a Tara The house is located on a street with other significant heritage buildings, including the wooden villa and the V.S.A Building located at 39 and 31-35 Pipitea Street respectively.
Before the arrival of Maori from the north in the 1820s, the Wellington area was populated primarily by people of Kurahaupo waka descent, including Ngai Tara, Rangitane, Muaupoko, Ngati Apa and Ngati Ira. These people have been referred to as ‘Whatonga-descent peoples’ since all claimed descent from Whatonga, an early Maori explorer who named the harbour Te Whanganui a Tara, for his son Tara.
At the arrival of the New Zealand Company ships from 1839, Pipitea Pa was a thriving community and one of the most populated pa in the region. It was named Pipitea after the plentiful food of the pipi from the harbour and was home to the Te Atiawa people.
The New Zealand Company bought land in the Wellington Harbour area in 1839 in preparation for emigration from England, and the area was colonised with the European settlement growing steadily and attracting many immigrants. Over subsequent generations Te Atiawa people moved away from the area back to Taranaki and to other locations, while some stayed to maintain a presence after European settlement.
Part of the 1839 purchase included sections in the area now known as Thorndon, named after the English home of the New Zealand Company Director Lord Petre. Thorndon became home to many of the first European settlers and like many colonial towns it housed a mixture of workers, merchants, administrators and the wealthy elite.
Thorndon’s role as the centre of governance was established early on with the designation of the Government Reserve in 1840 and the construction of the residence of Colonel Wakefield. When Wellington’s provincial council building, situated on the government reserve, became the new Parliament in 1865 Thorndon firmly established itself as the centre of power and influence.
The Ministerial Residence at 41 Pipitea Street was originally constructed as a house for Robert Westley Bothamley (1888-1967), a solicitor of Porirua, in 1927. Bothamley had acquired the property in that year from John Walters, a settler of Wellington, but it is unknown whether Bothamley ever lived in the house. Bothamley had married Doris Evelyn Gear in 1916 and they lived at the Gear Homestead in Porirua (NZHPT Registration no. 1328, Category 2) After Doris passed away Robert continued to live at the homestead until his death in 1967.
An application for a building permit for the construction of a dwelling at 41 Pipitea Street was received by the Wellington City Council on 8 June 1927. The architect was Stanley W. Fearn (1887-1976) and the builder J. Clark. Fearn was an established Wellington architect, a chair of the Wellington branch of the Institute of Architects and winner of the inaugural New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal for the William Booth Memorial Training College on Aro Street (1913) in 1927. Fearn was a contemporary of other well-known Wellington architects including William Gray Young and Austin Quick; all three were in partnership at one time. A house designed by William Grey Young in the English Domestic Revival style is located at 31-35 Pipitea Street (NZHPT Register no. 2912, Category 2).
41 Pipitea Street has elements of the English Cottage Revival and Neo-Georgian styles which were favoured by Fearn and his contemporaries. The style reflected the notion of the Englishman’s home as his castle; a display of wealth and status and ‘colonial links to the homeland’. This style was to be contrasted with the bungalow design that had American influences and was becoming more dominant in domestic architecture. Neo-Georgian (sometimes called William and Mary) is characterised by symmetrical designs with the use of pediments and porticos. These elements are displayed in the house at Pipitea Street which represents an intact and unmodified example of Fearn's personal interpretation of the English neo-Georgian theme in domestic architecture. His design would be executed on a much larger and grander scale for the Rototawai Homestead in the Wairarapa which was constructed in 1929 (NZHPT Register no.3954, Category 1).
The property was transferred to Dorothy Paterson, wife of merchant Stronach Paterson (1886-1957), in 1928. Stronach Paterson was a director of A.S. Paterson & Co. and held other notable positions, including the government representative on the London Agency of the Dairy Producers’ Board. He retired from his directorship of A.S. Paterson & Co. in 1940. The property at 41 Pipitea Street was bought by the Crown for £8,000 in 1943. The building was acquired for use as an office for the National Provident Fund and the Friendly Societies Department.
Prime Minister’s Residence
The Prime Minister’s House, also known as Premier House, at 260 Tinakori Road, Thorndon, was built in 1875, and the first politician to live in the new building was Sir Julius Vogel. ‘Between 1901 and 1928, Joseph Ward, William Massey and Gordon Coates made it the social heart of political Wellington. Ward called it ‘Awarua House’ and Massey and Coates ‘Ariki Toa’.’ However, when Michael Joseph Savage came to power in 1935 he considered the house too ostentatious for him to live in and for the next 40 years prime ministers lived in ministerial houses. The house was only reinstated as the prime minister’s residence in 1989.
The first prime minister to live at 41 Pipitea Street was Sidney George Holland (1893 - 1961) who was leader of the National Party when it won the election in 1949. Holland announced that he intended to make 41 Pipitea Street his official residence but added that ‘someday I hope an official residence with suitable grounds and with suitable accommodation to extend hospitality to visitors might become available.’
Holland served as prime minister from December 1949 until September 1957, when he stepped down due to ill health prior to the election in November 1957. Keith Holyoake (1904 – 1983) took up the National Party leadership and was prime minister until the election when Labour gained victory and Walter Nash (1882 – 1968) led the country from December 1957 to December 1960. Nash lived at Pipitea Street for a period during his time as prime minister but his main residence was at 14 St Albans Grove, Lower Hutt (Nash House, NZHPT Register no. 7742, Category 1).
However, the residence is most significant as the home of Keith and Norma Holyoake, during Holyoake’s term as prime minister from December 1960 to February 1972. Holyoake would become New Zealand’s third longest-serving Prime Minister. Holyoake was known for his modest living arrangements; he rejected the trappings of office and life at Pipitea Street was comfortable but not lavish. As quoted in a NZ Truth article: ‘Like other New Zealanders he is uncomfortable in the presence of servants; and Mrs Holyoake does the domestic duties at 41 Pipitea Street.’ Holyoake’s ‘Kiwi Keithness’ was best displayed when he was photographed with a young mover helping shift furniture into the ministerial residence in February 1961.
Holyoake was always available and accessible to the public and this was reflected in his address and phone being listed. He received many calls at the residence and members of his family remember him defending these interruptions as a necessity of public life. Holyoake’s accessibility as a politician and a prime minister was met with respect and his physical presence walking to Parliament, visiting the local shops and out on the streets of Wellington was fondly remembered by the public.
Holyoake was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of June 1970 and was made a Knight of the Grand Cross of St Michael and St George. He had declined a knighthood five years prior but accepted this one because it was from the Queen and he couldn’t ‘tell a nice little woman like that to go and get stuffed.’ The press conference was held at Pipitea Street and Holyoake was the first New Zealand prime minister to be knighted while still in office. Holyoake was later, with some controversy, appointed governor-general and his wife Norma was honoured for her services to public service in 1980. Their standing was further enhanced when they became companions of the Queen’s Service Order.
Questions about the suitability of the house as a prime minister’s residence were raised a number of times, including in an article in NZ Truth in 1967. The article noted that while Holyoake was a modest man and would not list a prime minister’s residence at the top of his priority list, the New Zealand public should insist on ‘housing the Prime Minister in a residence that adds to rather than detracts from the dignity and status of the office.’
The construction of departmental office buildings as part of the Government Centre plan earmarked 35 Pipitea Street and 41 Pipitea Street for future demolition and development. Hence, the buildings were not maintained to a high level during the 1970s. Motorway construction in Wellington had already seen a number of ministerial residences demolished, including the former residence of Prime Minister William Fergusson Massey at 12a Parliament Street, Thorndon. 41 Pipitea Street was known for its dilapidated state and it was said that the Holyoakes put buckets under the leaks in the kitchen roof whenever it rained. With the defeat of the National Party in the 1972 election, Keith and Norma had to move out of the residence at Pipitea Street and they purchased a house in Aurora Street, Wellington.
The Ministry of Works development plans for Pipitea Street never eventuated and the house continued to be a residence for ministers. Home to a number of ministers over the years it became a site of protest during the Bastion Point (Takaparawhā) occupation when Eruera Nia protested outside the address when it was the residence of Venn Young, the then Minister of Lands.
For many years ministers have been provided with a ministerial residence by the Crown. However, with changing policy about the housing of ministers and allowances for accommodation the need for the Crown to own ministerial residences has declined. The house at Pipitea Street ceased to be a ministerial residence in May 2012 and the house that boasts a politically famous address as the ‘unofficial’ prime minister’s residence will cease to be publically owned.
41 Pipitea Street is surrounded on two sides by tall office buildings, many containing government departments. The house forms part of a small heritage streetscape between Molesworth and Mulgrave Streets; 39 Pipitea Street is a listed heritage building and 31-35 Pipitea Street is the V.S.A Building (NZHPT Register no. 2912, Category 2) designed by William Gray Young and built in 1924. Close by on the corner of Molesworth and Pipitea Streets stands a memorial statue of Sir Keith Holyoake dressed in his governor-general regalia, situated in front of the State Services Commission building. The former ministerial residence property is defined by a glazed brick wall extending along the road boundary and a wide driveway that leads down the west side of the building. Mature trees and shrubs within the grounds give the house some privacy. The driveway forms an important entrance to the property and was made famous by the Evening Post photograph of Holyoake standing there on the day of his 60th birthday heading off to work at Parliament.
The footprint of the house and its exterior has had little alteration or additions since its construction. The garage at the end of the driveway has been removed and the land used for the construction of the adjoining office building.
The house consists of three storeys, the third being attic space and servant accommodation, the second bedrooms and the ground floor for living. The north elevation embodies Georgian symmetry with two sets of latticed windows. The ground level has projecting bay windows which provide light to the living room and dining room. The exterior of the second storey is characterised by the use of hanging terracotta shingles, an arrangement called ‘imbrication’, which provides visual interest and contrasts and complements the glazed brickwork that defines the ground level. The high-pitched pavilion roof is tiled in Marseilles terracotta titles and ties in with the materials used for the cladding of the exterior.
The entrance to the house is located on the west side and is framed by a portico of brick with a reinforced concrete flat arch and concrete balls balancing at the ends. The symmetry of the window arrangement for the west side is continued with the addition of shutters and copper flashings for the second storey windows. The south elevation includes a large central window that lights the stairwell joining the ground and second floor. The east elevation features two dormer windows that light the rooms located in the attic space.
The ground floor entrance leads to a large hallway with a coat room to the right and entrance to a large study to the right. To the left are double French doors leading to a large living room. The removal of the chimney that was located between the living and dining rooms has created flow through to the adjoining dining room. The kitchen and laundry are located in the south of the house. The staircase leading to the second storey is located off the entrance hall. The exposed woodwork on the stairs is ‘heart red pine’ (Rimu). At the top of the landing is a smaller and narrow twisting staircase that leads to the attic space and former servant accommodation that includes a bedroom and bathroom. The second storey consists of five large bedrooms and a bathroom. Much of the joinery work, wood panelling, fittings and fixtures are original and add to the authenticity of design and construction. The chimney to the south of the building has been removed and some removal of walls and the creation of openings have modified some of the internal spaces, especially on the ground floor.
- Original Construction: 1927 (circa)
- Modification: 1949 (circa)
Wood, brick, reinforced concrete, terracotta shingles, copper, Marseilles roof tiles.
- Gustafson, Barry, Kiwi Keith: A Biography of Keith Holyoake, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2007.
- Margaret Clark (ed.), Sir Keith Holyoake: Towards a Political Biography, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1997.
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office.
Please note that registration of this historic place by the NZHPT 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.
Report Written By
Natasha Naus and Vivienne Morrell
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