Te Kiteroa Historic Homestead was an iconic Edwardian property built for Mrs Emily Phillips in Waimate, South Canterbury, New Zealand in 1913.

The story of who Mrs Phillips was, and how she came to build such a grand home has taken over 30 years of research - this wealthy widow started life in the Victorian slums of Mile End, London - voyaged to New Zealand to eventually become Housekeeper to one of the wealthiest men in Australasia, Allan McLean - becoming extremely wealthy and a lady of status and means in her retirement.

Mrs Phillips' fascinating life opens an opportunity to step back in time to imagine what life may have looked like for the grand lady on the hill.

Te Kiteroa sadly succumbed to a devastating fire in May 2021 and was unable to be saved. Prior to the fire, the property was widely recognised and celebrated as a beautifully cared for Edwardian Homestead, which gave visitors the chance to step into a time capsule reimagining what life may have looked like during Mrs Phillips' retirement years living in luxury.

The Housekeeper - The Te Kiteroa Story

The Te Kiteroa Lodge story begins in the late 1800’s somewhere in the high country of Canterbury when wealthy station owner Allan McLean employed Mrs Emily Phillips as his housekeeper for his Waikakahi estate.

Allan McLean was known for being a rather eccentric figure. He came from humble beginnings in the Isle of Coll in Scotland, never married and frequently wore a plum-coloured suit, bow-tie and white socks. A well to do bachelor, he was also known for his philanthropy, his generosity to the poor and particularly to widows and those less fortunate than he.

His Waikakahi estate became one of the finest stations in Canterbury. It was renowned for its excellent cropping and stock with the station flock rising to 69,000 sheep in 1895. However by the end of the century the Liberal government was encouraging the break-up of large freehold stations, by compulsory purchase if necessary, under the Land for Settlements Act 1894. The Waikakahi run of some 48,000 acres was bought for about £320,000 in 1899. There was intense demand for the 130 farms, 14 runs, and 47 village sections in this, the second-largest government settlement in Canterbury. Allan McLean was distressed at having to part with Waikakahi, and never returned to the district.

McLean built Holly Lea in Christchurch – a fifty three room Jacobean inspired mansion. Naturally a woman’s touch was necessary to complete the interior furnishings, and as such was Mrs Phillips’ status as house keeper she was sent to England to personally select the best fabrics and furnishings for the mansion. 

Mrs Phillips remained a loyal employee of McLean until after his death in 1907 at Holly Lea (also known as McLean’s Mansion) in Christchurch. Bequests were left to his relatives and servants, including Mrs Phillips, who was also given the right to live in Holly Lea for the rest of her life.She was left an annual pension of 3000 pounds by McLean, which allowed her to return to the Waimate district in style. Thanks to McLean’s generosity she too became a lady of money and means, which allowed her in 1913 to leave Holly Lea and build her own home of grandeur - Te Kiteroa Lodge, plus the two detatched cottages for her own Chauffeur and Gardner. Emily Phillips remained at Te Kiteroa until her death in 1921.


Prior to the events of the fire in May 2021, there were many future plans in place to continue to celebrate the beauty and tranquility of Te Kiteroa ... and the property was in the process of hosting events, talks, workshops and boutique retreats

We fortunately began making several video diaries in late summer of 2021 that capture the elegance and splendour of Te Kiteroa only mere months prior to the fire.

Please enjoy these video diaries if you would like to walk down memory lane and take a look inside what was truly a remarkable piece of living history


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