1700's

Ōhinetahi valley at the head of Whakaraupō (Lyttelton) harbour, was once the site of a heavily stockade Ngāti Māmoe pā that was stormed by Te Rakiwhakaputa of Ngāi Tahu around 300 years ago. After its capture, Te Rakiwhakaputa’s son Manuhiri occupied the pā with a party of Ngāi Tahu. Manuhiri fathered many sons but only one daughter. He named the pā after his solitary daughter. Ohinetahi means The Place of One Daughter.

1850's

William Sefton Moorhouse, second superintendent of Canterbury, brought Ohinetahi building a substantial property on the site.

1852

Christopher Anderson Calvert, Deputy Registrar of Deeds and Deputy registrar of the Supreme Court, buys block of land between Allandale and Governors Bay.

Architect Benjamin J Mountfort designs modest 6.4 x 4.2m cottage for Hemington (Governors Bay original name).

1858

Moorhouse sold the property to one of New Zealand’s first botanists, Thomas Henry Potts, who first made a garden on the site.

1867

A substantial three-storied, neo-classical building had been constructed.

1888

Property sold to William Cook of Lyttelton.

1917

Stewart and Beckett, purchase the homestead and grounds.

1952

Herbert and Ruth Ensor purchase Ohinetahi. The Ensor’s cleared much of the land.

1970's

Paul Ensor’s brother Ian and wife Jennifer brought the house and two acres, however with a young family upkeep of property was to much. Ohinetahi was placed on the market again.

1976

Sir Miles Warren and Pauline and John Trengrove purchase Ohinetahi.

1977

Sir Miles Warren and Pauline and John Trengrove restore the house and begin the present garden.

1987

Pauline and John Trengrove build a new house and create what is to be their fourth garden on 10 acres of land in Ohoka, named Cashel. Miles Warren purchased Trengrove’s share in the property to become sole owner and occupier of Ohinetahi.

1994

Miles Warren retires from Warren and Mahoney architecture practice.

1996

Marilyn McRae appointed housekeeper and worked extensively in the garden through until 2011.

1998

Ross Booker joined the team as skilled carpenter, gardener, maker and fixer of all and “everything without flowers on”.

2008

Garden is extended by the purchase of 0.75 hectares of neighbouring property with views overlooking the harbour.

2010

Awarded 5 star rating by the NZ Gardens Trust - recognised for special features, presentation, design and plant interest through the year.

Christchurch Earthquake severely damages the house with stone surrounding four attic gables crashing through the roof and ceiling of the library, cloak room, green room and laundry. The north face stone wall of the drawing room and bedrooms were cracked and bowed out by 100mm. Following this damage, the house was emptied of its artwork and treasures. Third story was removed prior to restoration work was undertaken.

2011

House came through the February earthquake relatively unscathed due to the removal of the stone third story following the September 2010 quake. This action probably saved the property.

Mark Chandler hired as new gardener.

12-month long restoration, repair and strengthening of homestead undertaken. Homestead reconfigured as a more modest and less imposing two-story structure, with the upper story being replaced with a lightweight timber structure with a lower roof line. All the stone constructions within the gardens, walls, towers and follies have been restored.

2012

Sir Miles Warren donated Ohinetahi to the nation, creating a charitable trust to manage the property.

2015

Awarded 6 star rating by the NZ Gardens Trust for achieving and maintaining the highest levels - inspiring garden lovers and delivering an experience above all others.

This place was named by Manuhiri, son of Te Rakiwhakaputa of the Ngāi Tahu iwi. Father to many sons, he had just one precious daughter. Ohinetahi means ‘place of a single daughter’.

The site’s first European owner, Christopher Alderson Calvert, had a pre-fabricated cottage erected in the early 1850s, called Rosemary Cottage after Bishop Selwyn’s daughter. After consulting local Maori, Calvert adopted the name Ohinetahi for the wider property.

A few changes of hands later, in 1858, one of New Zealand’s first botanists bought the place: Mr. Thomas H Potts. He subsequently added 317 acres to his original 225 acre purchase. It was Potts who established Ohinetahi’s gardens and built the sandstone homestead as a large insert between the two halves of Rosemary Cottage.

View timeline

Alongside a vegetable garden and orchard Potts planted trees, including araucarias, ashes, blue gums, conifers, oaks, poplars, sycamores and walnuts. Although some of the original trees survive, after his death in 1888 the garden was neglected until just the lawn surrounding the house survived.

That was all to change after 1976, when Sir Miles Warren, his sister Pauline and her husband John Trengrove bought the property. After restoring the ramshackle house, the three set about establishing a grand garden. “For John and I the pleasure was to design something as amateurs, not professionals,” said Sir Miles in a 2013 interview. “If we stuffed up, it didn’t matter. We’d simply change it, or replant it, or reorganise. That period, we were both very busy professionally, so it was great relief, moving bricks and removing trees, fighting our way through the jungle and so on. It was an ideal contrast to the working week.”

A respected artist, Pauline Trengrove is also passionate about gardens. Combining her talents with the two architects, the trio set about creating a very structured, formal garden–very architectural, if you will–comprising a series of ‘garden rooms’ around two perpendicular axes.

Over the years, the garden has expanded, taking in a woodland walkway across a swing bridge and accomodating over two dozen contemporary sculptures. Meanwhile the property has opened two galleries, devoted to New Zealand art and architecture.

I hope that Ohinetahi will continue to be one of the best, most visited and enjoyed gardens, park, house and art gallery in New Zealand.Sir Miles Warren

John and Pauline moved away in the 1980s with Sir Miles buying out their share of the property, then retiring from Warren and Mahoney in 1994. Ohinetahi became a place of peaceful rest until the first of the big Canterbury quakes in September 2010. The damage to the homestead was severe and Sir Miles was lucky to escape with his life. The top storey had largely collapsed and the decision was taken in the repair effort to remodel the house into a safer two-storey structure, more typical of villas of its time.

It was a wise move, as the even more severe earthquake of February 2011 was to prove. Although damage to the house and grounds did occur, it could have been so much worse.

Once restored to its glory, Sir Miles took the decision to gift Ohinetahi to the City of Christchurch and the nation in 2012. It is now run by the Ohinetahi Charitable Trust with a remit to maintain and improve the house and garden’s facilities, while sharing them with the public.