Few Whanganui properties have more old-world elegance or the rich history than the majestic Fernielea homestead in Fordell.

The original two-storey heritage home was built by William Young in 1867 after arriving in New Zealand from Scotland nine years earlier.

The original owners of the Fordell property were Thomas and William Young, from Edinburgh. When they first saw their land, it was covered in tall ferns, hence the name Fernielea — or as it was spelt in earlier times Fernielee.

Read more: Historic Gardeston House part of sold-out tour of Whanganui homes
Whanganui home straight out of the pages of Wind in the Willows
Asking price for Whanganui properties increases by 12.2 per cent


The two brothers were sons of a Scottish doctor who had died, and so they arrived in Wellington in September 1858 with their sister and widowed mother.

The elder brother soon left farming to turn to commerce and, with his brother, founded Wellington firm T & W Young.

William Young, however, remained farming at Fernielee, and later acquired more land near Taihape, known as Waipapa Station.

In 1906, the couple's eldest daughter, Anne (of Fernielee), married Harold G. Lewis III, and in 1912, she took over the property. Catherine died at Fernielee on February 29, 1912.

Anne's only son William and his wife Linley then took over — in total it remained in the hands of the same family for more than 110 years.

For the past 24 years Fernielea has been a wonderful home to Peter and Liz Cullen.

They farmed at "The Shades" Mangamahu and Okirae Station , Fordell and have loved the quality schooling and community life of this district.

The kitchen/family room addition was their contribution to Fernielea's 151-year history.
The addition was designed by heritage architect Bruce Dickson in 2003.


The Cullens have chosen to downsize and travel more.

The historic homestead has been placed on the John Vickers Homestead Architecture Tours brochure as part of the Whanganui tour and the new owners may wish to continue with this for a couple of paid visits a year.

The house is on an archaeological site under the Historic Places Act 1993.

Set on a stunning 1.026ha site in Fordell, just minutes from central Whanganui, Fernielea is described as Classic Gothic/Colonial-style design and is regarded as a rare historic gem, having hit the marketplace for just the third time.

Built of native timbers, rimu, totara and kauri, it has 14 rooms, each with its own individual atmosphere.

The home features six bedrooms — four up, two down, serviced by well-equipped bathrooms on each floor — modern kitchen/dining/family room extension that flows to an elevated garden deck perfect for informal entertaining, overlooking the neighbouring pond that teams with wildlife; and a formal dining room loaded with vintage charm.

The configuration of the bedrooms and bathrooms could lend easily to a bed and breakfast-type business with the expansive lawns, tennis court and park-like gardens also offering opportunities as a venue for hosting private parties and weddings.

Offers close for this unique home with Bayleys Wanganui at 2pm, Thursday, April 19 unless sold prior.