An idyllic rural estate that served as a film location for Peter Jackson’s epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is now up for grabs in New Zealand. Known as Fernside, the pastoral property’s history dates back to the late 1800s, when it was the homestead of the socially prominent and wealthy Elgar family. After the estate’s original residence burned down, the Elgars commissioned Kiwi architect Heathcote Helmore, a former student of legendary English architect Edwin Luytens, to design a new one.
Completed in 1924, the resulting elegant country manor was executed in Georgian Colonial Revival style and counts eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, a drawing room, a sunroom, a formal dining room, a library, a flower room, a boot room, and a wine cellar among its numerous interior spaces. Architectural features include oak and jarrah wood flooring, detailed plasterwork and molding, wainscoting, original tile, multiple fireplaces, an elevator, and “original servant bells.”
The property stayed in the Elgar family until 1949 when it was sold to the US embassy and served as home to the ambassador and a site for government receptions for several years. In the mid-fifties, it changed hands again and entered a period of steady decline that continued unabated until 2007, when its current owners purchased it and commenced a years-long restoration effort.
That effort extended to Fernside’s approximately 12 acres of gardens, which were restored to their original glory with the help of plans and photos from the 1930s. The Arts and Crafts-style gardens hold a plethora of different “rooms,” beginning with a formal courtyard with fountain, a rose garden, a topiary chess garden, a daffodil paddock, a bluebell glade, and a Victorian sunken garden. There’s also a “kitchen garden,” an orchard with just about every fruit tree you can think of, a lawn suitable for playing croquet, and a woodland populated with century-old oaks, cedars, elms, poplars, and weeping willows.