The Mansion was a departure from the accustomed work of the architects, England Brothers, and it was an unusual design among Christchurch’s large homes — when built it was reputed to be the largest wooden residence in New Zealand. The most remarkable thing about the Mansion is surely that it was built for a 78 year-old bachelor and that it was used as a private residence for only 13 years.
In 1899, 78-year old bachelor and former Waikakahi runholder, Allan McLean (1822-1907), employed Robert West England (1863-1908) as architect for a Jacobean-style, three-storeyed wooden house of 53 rooms. It was completed in 1900 and McLean named it Holly Lea. At 23,000 square feet, it was probably the largest wooden residence in New Zealand. It was used as a private home for only 13 years. Over the years it has been a home (until 1955) for genteel women down on their luck, unable to be accommodated with women of a lower socio-economic background as it was felt the two groups would not get on; a dental nurses’ hostel; a Salvation Army rest home; leased for a time by the St Vincent de Paul Society. In 2005 it became the home of Academy New Zealand, Christchurch, a private training establishment offering entry level vocational training.
- Read more about its past in McLeans Mansion: The architectural heritage of Christchurch.
- Browse some articles and images in this DigitalNZ set McLeans Mansion aka Holly Lea
More McLeans reading
- McLean’s Mansion saved from demolition Cate Broughton, The Press, 6 July 2016
- Eerie photographs from inside Christchurch’s McLean’s Mansion Myles Hume, The Press, 8 December 2015
- There is a fascinating and well-illustrated blog post Holly Lea – a Rich Man’s Folly? on Lost Christchurch.