Duchess’ Queenstown digs up for top award


The house of a famous British aristocrat living under the radar in Queenstown has won a prestigious building award.
The country residence of Henrietta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford (above, left) – a leading debutante and fashion model in the 1950s – picked up the Renovation of the Year supreme award in the southern region Registered Master Builders awards this month. 

Henrietta’s home (top) – by McCallum Sharp’s (above, right) Leading Architectural Builders – also won the over-$500,000 category renovation award. 

The duchess dowager, 73, is best known for another residence, the famous 75-room Woburn Abbey, which she and her late husband, the 14th Duke of Bedford, used to own in England. 

A major visitor attraction, the stately home – plus safari park, antique centre and golf course – featured in a BBC documentary, Country House. 

Award-winning Leading Architectural Builders features a reference from the dowager duchess on its website: “I have been involved for 40 years with builders doing buildings and houses in England mostly but also in New Zealand, Spain and Jamaica. 

“I could not recommend McCallum more highly – his standard of work, the quality of his team, his attitude to the job and the general tidiness of the building site. 

“For most of the build I have actually been living in the building, which normally would be an unpleasant experience. 

“However, in this instance it has been made a really sound experience. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need more information.” 

Judges hailed the renovation and conversion of the former barn, under local architect Marc Scaife, as “intriguing, functional and quirky in the true sense of the word”. 

The home exhibits “an outstanding example of construction skills in all respects”. 

“An incredibly difficult renovation, the builder managed to replace all roof trusses in the rear half of the home without disturbing the roof line or cladding, as well as transforming one room and adding two more. 

“This renovation is a beautifully crafted response to the needs of the client, seamlessly encapsulating and retaining the existing character of the home.” 

The dowager duchess’ fortune was estimated at $1 billion by National Business Review’s Rich List last year.
It says she and her late husband established the successful Blomsbury Stud in the Waikato after first arriving there 20 years earlier. 

The couple also owned a successful stud at Woburn which, like the NZ one, has since been sold. 

The dowager duchess’ Queenstown home will compete against other Registered Master Builders regional winners for national awards announced in November.