Pen-y-bryn Lodge is a Victorian mansion located in the historic coastal town of Oamaru. Built in 1889 for John Bulleid, a successful local businessman, and his family, it is purportedly the largest single-storey wooden dwelling in Australasia. “Pen-y-bryn” is Welsh for “top of the hill” and is a suitable name for the lodge, as it is located at the summit of South Hill, on the southern fringe of town.
Built by the firm of Forrester and Lemon, the house was awarded Category One historic status by Heritage NZ in recognition of its “special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value”. The fact that the house is built of wood makes it almost unique in Oamaru, where the absence of trees when the British settlers arrived caused most buildings to be constructed of the local limestone. But the Bulleids were concerned about earthquakes and preferred to use a more flexible building material, so wood for the frame of the building was sourced from the New Zealand West Coast. In order to remind the Bulleid family of their English homeland, the interior is constructed of English oak, shipped all the way from England just for Pen-y-bryn.
The lodge is filled with antiques and furnishings that date back to the original owners, who used a four-year trip to Europe during the construction of the house to source fittings and artworks to display in their new home. These have been supplemented by pieces left to us by the second family to own the house, the McDiarmids, who were here from 1923 to 1994, including the competition-size billiards table, purchased from the New Zealand government when they found that Parliament only had room for two such tables, rather than the three that they had commissioned…
We hope you will find the time during your visit to Pen-y-bryn to explore all the corners of this beautiful historic home. To help you in that endeavour, we have produced a little booklet that you will find in your guest room that explains the history of the artworks in the house and some of the more interesting pieces of furniture. You can get a head start by downloading a PDF of that book from this link: Pen-y-bryn Art Directory You can also download an eBook with a history of the house, descriptions of things to do in the area, and even recipes for you to read on an iPad or Macintosh from this link: Pen-y-bryn eBook. Finally, our A5-sized brochure is available as a PDF, fully updated in 2015 with new imagery of our revamped Annex rooms.