A womanising pioneering farmer’s European-inspired ‘bachelor party pad’ in the heart of rural New Zealand has been placed on the market for sale.
The grand Casa Nova House in Oamaru – named after the famed eighteenth century Italian womaniser Giacomo Girolamo Casanova - was built in 1861 for wealthy English immigrant Mark Noble.
Bachelor-boy Noble had the imposing manor designed to replicate his gentry family home, Danets Hall, in the English county of Leicester. In those early New Zealand pioneering years, a ‘gentleman’s standing’ in the community – and his consequential appeal as a potential husband - was linked to how many acres of land they owned, and how many cattle they farmed.
Over the space of four years, Noble hosted numerous ‘soirees’ at the impressive Casa Nova House – where the daughters of fellow farmers and affluent property owners in North Otago and South Canterbury provinces were invited for salubrious nights of dining, drinking, dancing and intimate encounters with the sociable host.
During its party-filled heydays, Casa Nova House was far further from Oamaru township than its present urban location – with the provincial hub growing ever-outward over the ensuing decades.
None could capture Noble’s heart though, and the handsome young self-titled lord left New Zealand to spend the later part of his life in Malta, before eventually dying and being buried in the Italian region of Tuscany.
The stately Oamaru mansion remained as the Noble farm homestead until the 1950s, when much of the rambling sheep and beef block was sold to the Crown for conversion into state housing sections.
During that time, Casa Nova House was occupied by the McMullan family. Gold miner James McMullan never lived in the home as he worked in Queenstown’s goldfields. His wife, Helen, raised their eight children on her own.
In the 1970s, Casa Nova House was converted into a wedding and function venue – hosting parties and celebrations of a more mainstream nature compared to the frivolities of nearly a century earlier.
In 1999, entrepreneurial hospitality operators David and Dianne Taylor tweaked the venue slightly and opened one of the South Island’s few true fine dining restaurants, when it became famous for waiting staff who wore white gloves, with meals served on bone china dishes with polished silver cutlery arranged on starched table cloths.
The upmarket restaurant traded for three years, until Casa Nova House was sold to American owners. It then remained empty for five years, until it reopened once again as a function venue - which went on to enjoy eight years of catering success.
Now the magnificent 570 square metre period home sitting on some 4,125 square metres of flat land is on the market for sale by deadline negotiations through Bayleys Canterbury, with offers closing on May 10.
Bayleys Canterbury salesperson Sue Morton said room configuration within Casa Nova House, combined with its immaculately-maintained European-designed gardens and courtyards, meant the future of Casa Nova House was delicately poised.
“The property could either be bought as a regal home, or, with minor modifications, could be re-opened as a function venue, with the additional option of adding accommodation facilities and becoming a commercially-run lodge,” she said.
“Sitting on the northern boundary of Oamaru’s urban fringe, the property could easily once again be a hospitality destination for the region’s social functions.”
The two-storey Oamaru stone dwelling contains five gracious sized bedrooms, two colonial period décor bathrooms, and multiple stately dining rooms which catered for guests when the property was used for its former function venue and restaurant operations.
“The kitchen could easily be reconfigured into a commercial-standard foodservice unit, the dining room still has seating capacity for up to 40 diners or guests, and outside there is still car parking on site for 20 vehicles on the elegant meandering driveway,” she said.
Ms Morton said original owner Mark Noble’s eating, drinking, partying and womanising demeanour more than 150 years ago had purveyed its way into the home’s persona over the subsequent occupation by numerous residents and commercial tenancies.
“Sometimes you just walk around a house and you can feel what went on there. At Casa Nova House, there is a definite element of something risqué in the walls, as well as a feeling of being in a ‘good mood’,” she said.
“For example, there are two small rooms downstairs, now toilets, but which were once the gentleman’s servants’ quarters. Upstairs are two small rooms which were once the lady’s servants’ quarters. You can still see the ladder marks on the lower wall from the men climbing up to the ladies quarters for ‘socialising’ activities.”