Historic Place Category 1
Lots 1 2 DP 19306 Blk XVI Whangaehu SD
This large Tudor-style house was designed by the architect Frederick de Jersey Clere (1856-1952) in partnership with Alfred Atkins (1850-1919), and built for Francis Arkwright (1846-1915). Arkwright, the great great grandson of Sir Richard Arkwright, the inventor of the spinning jenny, was born at Staffordshire, England, and educated at Eton. Between 1874-1880 he was the Conservative Member of Parliament for East Derbyshire. He immigrated to New Zealand about 1882, and purchased some land near Marton in the Rangitikei district. To design his new home Overton, Arkwright commissioned Frederick de Jersey Clere, who, after practising in Feilding had recently established an architectural partnership in Wanganui with Alfred Atkins. Clere and Atkins' design, with its half-timbered construction, is essentially Tudor in style. The house was built by John Alexander and completed by 1884. Unusually, concrete was used to fill in the spaces between the timber rather than the more common brick or cob. De Jersey Clere went on to design some of New Zealand's most important early concrete churches, such as St Mary's, Karori (1911).
Arkwright stood as a Member of Parliament for the seat of Rangitikei but was twice defeated (1887 and 1890). In 1895 he was called to the Legislative Council, serving until 1906, when he resigned and returned to England. Overton was then given to his nephew Henry Arkwright (1882-1956) who had immigrated to New Zealand in 1901. Although he had a range of community interests, Henry is best remembered as a player and administrator of cricket; he was President of the New Zealand Cricket Council in 1927-1928. In 1947 Henry removed the north wing of the house. (It is not clear when other renovations such as the removal of the verandah from the south elevation and alterations to the verandah on the west elevation occurred.) On his death the house and farm passed to his son John. The house remained in the Arkwright family until 1987.
Overton is significant as a relatively early New Zealand work of notable architects Frederick de Jersey Clere and Alfred Atkins. It has historical significance for its association with the Arkwright family for over 100 years. It has technological significance as it shows an innovative use of new materials.
This large two-storeyed house is imitation Tudor in style. The diagonal lines of the half-timbering are complimented by the extensive use of the gable form. Each elevation has a series of large and small gables in which the half-timbering becomes more complex. The large gables give the definition to sections of the building which project beyond the main line of each façade.
The west façade bears the inscription 'FEA 1884', depicting the initials of the original owner and the date of the building. This façade also has the formal entry to the house. The entry leads to a double height hall space and gallery which is dominated by the extensive use of timber for wall panelling, ceiling lining, staircase and balustrading. From this space access is gained to the formal areas of the house, including the timber-panelled dining room and the library downstairs, and bedrooms upstairs. These rooms form the southern part of the house.
The north end has service areas downstairs and a narrow stair to the smaller bedrooms upstairs. This section can be closed off from the more formal areas of the house.
- Original Construction: 1884 (circa)
- Modification: 1947 (circa)
- Manawatu Evening Standard,18 February 1924
- G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940,p. 18
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