‘Brothers at war’ built a brick wall in the middle of a dilapidated castle for sale near Clyde

Behind every heritage-listed home there is a story, but some are more intriguing than others.

The dilapidated farmhouse for sale in Earnscleugh Road, near Clyde, which has been variously described as a castle and a folly by locals for the past 100 years, is no exception. Heritage New Zealand Poutere Taonga describes it as a “tangible manifestation of this tendency of New Zealand runholders to engage in displays of conspicuous consumption”.

He says the eight-bedroom Grade 1-listed farmhouse is culturally significant for many reasons, including the fact that it represents the lifestyle of a wealthy landowner in Central Otago at the turn of the last century. And also because it was the scene of many family conflicts.

Each house tells a story, some more than others.  The feuding brothers of the first owner of Earnscleugh Station Homestead near Clyde have split the house in two with a brick wall.

BAYLEYS / Stuff

Each house tells a story, some more than others. The feuding brothers of the first owner of Earnscleugh Station Homestead near Clyde have split the house in two with a brick wall.

In the 1940s, the conflicted sons of first owner Stephen Spain despised each other so much that they built a brick wall in the center of the farmhouse to minimize contact. The split resulted in two kitchens which remain today, in close to original condition.

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Earnscleugh Station Homestead, as it is officially known, was designed by architect Ernest Ancomb and built around 1920 for Spain, a pastoral entrepreneur who took over what was an early rabbit-infested sheep station from the 1900s.

The first owner Stephen Spain was a

BAYLES

The first owner, Stephen Spain, was a “pastoralist entrepreneur” who made his fortune shooting rabbits introduced by one of the resort’s early tenants and canning them for export.

“Shooting Rabbits by the Thousands”

The lessees were prominent civic leaders AC Strode and William Fraser; the latter introduced the first rabbits to Otago, four years after their release in Southland. It became, and still is, a huge problem in Otago.

But Spain had a solution. As Heritage New Zealand puts it: “Entrepreneurial Spain got the rabbit problem under control by slaughtering rabbits by the thousands, before canning them for the European export market.”

Historian Stevan Eldred-Grigg pointed out in The rich (Penguin 1996) that it is rumored that labels on shipments to France read “poulet” (chicken).

And so it was that Spain made his fortune and had his mansion built, although ironically it was never fully completed according to Anscombe’s plans, as the Great Depression of 1929-1933 had a impact on Spain’s personal wealth and ability to finance the project.

Although dilapidated, the farmhouse still has its ornate plaster ceilings and wooden floors.

BAYLES

Although dilapidated, the farmhouse still has its ornate plaster ceilings and wooden floors.

There are pastoral views on all sides - the 500 square meter farmhouse sits on 22.1ha.

BAYLES

There are pastoral views on all sides – the 500 square meter farmhouse sits on 22.1ha.

The property, surrounded by trees on 22.1 ha, has arrived on the market. Gary Kirk and Renee Anderson of Bayleys Cromwell have put the historic property up for sale within negotiation time.

Kirk says that although the former grand mansion is habitable, it needs substantial renovation.

And it’s fair to say there’s nothing else like it in New Zealand. Heritage New Zealand claims the 500 square meter farmhouse is the only known New Zealand example of a Jacobethan-style building that is not a college building; and it is “a farmhouse designed for a sheep station as opposed to a large town house”.

There are two kitchens that seem to date back to the 1940s when the two brothers divided the house in two.

BAYLES

There are two kitchens that seem to date back to the 1940s when the two brothers divided the house in two.

The whole property would benefit from being renovated.

BAYLES

The whole property would benefit from being renovated.

“Earnscleugh Station Homestead’s essential ‘bones’ and original design features are clearly visible – from the native New Zealand parquet flooring, door and window surrounds, stained glass windows, carved plaster ceilings and ceiling beams , up to the imposing entrance staircase and wide corridors.

“However, many of these historic features have been painted or carpeted, plastered or painted.”

In addition to the eight bedrooms and two kitchens, there are four living areas and three bathrooms.

The farmhouse is New Zealand's only Jacobethan-style building that is not a college building.

BAYLES

The farmhouse is New Zealand’s only Jacobethan-style building that is not a college building.

Everything about the architecture is unique - this is the two-storey stable building.

BAYLEYS / Stuff

Everything about the architecture is unique – this is the two-storey stable building.

Anderson says the property is a few miles from the popular Otago Rail Trail, with a potential target market of “spending cyclists.”

Other red-brick buildings in the expansive grounds are a two-storey stable complex and a working shed. There is also an inground pool.

The sale deadline is March 17, 2022.

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