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One of Oamaru's most prominent homesteads celebrates 50 years as a functions centre this month.
The Homestead, originally known as Awamoa House, was built about 1864 as the private residence for run-holder Matthew Holmes, who built two other houses in the area as well.
Awamoa House was well known for its ornamental grounds and it became one of the showplaces of the district.
Following Mr Holmes' death in 1901, the land was broken up and sold as farms.
In 1958, Awamoa House was renamed The Homestead and set up as a commercial enterprise, catering for weddings and functions.
The homestead has a long and interesting history. It has been a stopping place of governors-general, the first creamed honey in the world was processed in its apiaries and writer Mark Twain is believed to have visited Awamoa and fished for trout in the Kakanui River.
A former owner, the late Bruce Taylor, believed it was the only house in New Zealand which could be said to have entertained vice-regal guests under two guises - as a private home and a cabaret.
Present owners Neil and Sharyn Kingan, who bought The Homestead five years ago, were only the fifth owners since it was converted.
The couple, who have extensively refurbished both the house and its large garden, said it was a wonderful place to live.
"It's a privilege. We are just the caretakers really," Mr Kingan said.
While Mrs Kingan thought it was "so huge" when she first moved in, she had become used to it. "It's a lovely old place," she said.
When they first arrived, one of Mrs Kingan's goals was to have a wall of wedding photographs of couples who had receptions there, but there had been so many, she did not know where to start.
The first wedding reception at The Homestead was for Neil and Dulcie Robson, who were married at Columba Church on September 20, 1958. Their wedding breakfast was at The Homestead, followed by a dance in the Herbert Hall.
Yesterday, Mr Robson said the couple had since been to so many functions at The Homestead, it was hard to reflect on their own.
It was a new venue and they thought it would be nice to have their breakfast there. They celebrate their golden wedding anniversary this month.
One of the most memorable weddings for the Kingans was when the assistant director of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was married during filming in North Otago.
The guest-list grew from 30 to 170, and the couple were married in the carpark, surrounded by sets from the film.
The bride dressed in the Kingans' home and the wedding was attended by the film's director Andrew Adamson and actress Tilda Swinton, who played the White Witch in that movie. Ms Swinton had to be protected from the sun by an umbrella, Mr Kingan recalled.
Staff were a vital part of the business and the Kingans were thrilled they had such good staff. Margaret Sutherland worked for previous owner, Di Hedges, for 22 years, and has been with the Kingans since they took over.
- The Homestead
• Built about 1864 for run-holder Matthew Holmes.
• His Awamoa estate covered 1600ha - stretching from Oamaru to Kakanui - and was known for its • Clydesdales and Lincoln and Leicester sheep.
• Originally known as Awamoa House.
• Renamed The Homestead when opened as a functions centre in 1958.
• A ballroom was added and later extended.