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Historic Place Category 1
Lot 2 DP 49363 (CT CB29B/842), Canterbury Land District
This house was built for a prominent Christchurch businessman, George Humphreys, on a 25 acre section which had previously been part of the Deans' family's original Riccarton property. (The Deans were among the first Pakeha to settle permanently on the Canterbury Plains). The name 'Daresbury' came from Humphreys' wife's house in Scotland. At one time it was known as 'Daresbury Rookery' due to the vast numbers of rooks that had made their home in the neighbouring bluegums. These birds are said to have disappeared after a storm in 1945 damaged the trees.
The three-storey house has 40 rooms and was constructed between 1897 and 1901. The lower storey is built of brick, and the upper storey is half timbered. It was designed by Samuel Hurst Seager (1855-1933) who was one of the earliest Pakeha architects to seek to design buildings with a specifically New Zealand character. However, in a 1900 article Seager commented that architects would need to continue to follow the models from 'the mother country' as there were insufficient examples to follow in New Zealand. In the same article he commented on the 'ephemeral and inartistic character' of New Zealand houses; Daresbury can be seen as his attempt to combat this problem by following British trends.
With its half timbered gables, jettied (slightly cantilevered) upper floor, leadlights and tiled roof, Daresbury is characteristic of a number of houses in Christchurch designed for well-off professionals and businessmen around the turn of the century. The style of such houses was the result of the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain, as experienced and diluted by New Zealand-based architects who had trained in, or immigrated from, Britain. The Arts and Crafts movement in architecture grew out of the Gothic revival interest in traditional construction and the moral worth of honest toil. One of the tenents of the Arts and Crafts movement was the idea that architects should look to the vernacular architecture of the local area for inspiration. In New Zealand, however, architects working in this way generally (although not always) looked to English vernacular styles, as Seager suggested they should. It is interesting that the popularity of the 'Old English' style in New Zealand arose at a time when Pakeha were re-emphasising their ties to the British Empire, a process James Belich has termed 'recolonisation'.
The association between the surrounding land and the house was also an important tenet of Arts and Crafts architecture. Daresbury's garden, although reduced now by various subdivisions, has always been, and still is, an important part of the overall concept. The house is set on a lawn which slopes down towards the Waimari Stream and in 1932 its garden won the annual Christchurch Horticultural Society garden competition. At the time the garden was seen as a quintessential British garden that had 'strayed 13,000 miles from home' (Strongman, 1984: 176).
Daresbury remained in the hands of Humphrey's descendants until 1985. It is significant as an example of Seager's domestic work and as a representative of the 'Old English' style house, which became a notable part of Christchurch's architectural heritage. Daresbury also reflects the lifestyle of the wealthier residents of Christchurch at the turn of the century.
- Original Construction: 1897 - 1901
- James Belich, 'Making Peoples. A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century', Auckland, 1996
- Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects,Samuel Hurst Seager, 'Architectural Art in New Zealand', 7, 19, 29 Sept 1900, pp.481- 491
- Peter Shaw, A History of New Zealand Architecture, Auckland, 1997,p.84
- Thelma Strongman, The Gardens of Canterbury: A History, Wellington, 1984,p.176
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