One of the historical sites of Horowhenua with a strong of history is Tatum Park. The property is located on SH1 south of Levin, boarding the Waikawa Stream and fertile market gardens.
The property is full of interesting stories, and history starting with the first owners Charles and Alice Tatum who undoubtably had the vision and foresight to develop the grounds and build the homestead, which in their later years and beyond was used by The Scouting Association of New Zealand.
Its legacy across time has become a place for self-development and celebrations. This is set to continue as the new owner, Wayne Bishop Group have ambitious plans for its significant redevelopment, due to open in September 2024.
When venturing beyond the gates, Wayne Bishop tells me about the new vision and redevelopment of the property, which will be a multipurpose wedding, conference and events venue catering for a wide range of functions. There are also plans to include a spa and wellness centre.
Wayne, (the project owner), along with Catherine Hunt (Tatum Event Manager) and Shaun Tyson (Wayne Bishop Group Manager) discussed the plans and vision to bring Tatum House back to its former glory, describing it as “the Jewel in Horowhenua’s Crown”.
The historical house located on the property, is surround by century old Beech and Pohutukawa trees, with the sound of Waikawa stream peacefully trickling in the background. While you can’t help but feel you have come to a special place, the Tatum House refurbishment is an integral part of a much bigger picture in the new development.
The house originally was built for Major Charles Tatum in 1912, who had emigrated from England in 1879 when he was 22 years old, aboard the SS Wellington. The name Tatum is derived from the Saxon meaning ‘happy home.’ The property became known as a fine establishment over the years for its gardens, bush walks and aviaries attracting many locals and their visitors.
Major Tatum practised as an architect in Wellington and was also elected for the Te Aro Ward from 1893 to 1896. He was particularly interested in the improvement of the town belt and provision of a bridle track through it. He wanted to see fresh water swimming baths and the completion of asphalt footpaths. He had an interest in scouting and Freemasonry. On his arrival to NZ he become a member of the Wellington Lodge where he remained a member until his death.
In 1910 Major Tatum and his wife purchased the 24 acre property now known as ‘Tatum’ and moved into a small house there.
In 1912 they had a new home constructed, along with the gardens, which became a show piece of Horowhenua. They developed a tennis court, water garden, rose garden and at the end of the drive way there was a large stables block with an accommodation flat upstairs for the coachman/groom.
Three gardeners were employed to take care of the gardens, large orchards and bush walk. People came to the their garden parties and bazaars which were held on the grounds, in aid of local churches and organisations.
People remember Major Tatum, also known to locals as the ‘Manakau Squire’, with his waxed moustache and riding his chestnut horse around the district and in later years with his wife travelling in their car.
Major Tatum was briefly survived by his wife Alice Tatum (who had no children of her own), with her dying wish being to help boys grow up to be ‘good and loyal citizens’. Her home was bequeathed to the Scouts in the 1940’s to continue being used by the Scouting Association, and Tatum Park became the organisation’s National Training Centre.
When the Scouts took over the property after the Tatum’s passed, the property had become completely overgrown.
The cost of maintaining the property, buildings and grounds, including an army built confidence course, eventually outstripped the Scouts ability to pay.
In 2012 the terms of the trust were amended to enable the property to be sold. Debbie and Colleen Clouston, who had been living in the house with their 5 children since 2008 and had continued operating Tatum Park as a conference and wedding venue, bought the property.
Wayne Bishop said, “a friend of mine Aaron Hopkins, spoke to me about purchasing the property, as he used to live there in the 70’s, at the time his Dad, Nigel Hopkins, used to manage Tatum. We had our soccer breakups on the field and I have a longstanding connection with the place when it was in its glory days, as well as having being married here”.
“ I knew the jewel in the crown is the homestead in amongst the awesome trees. Its needed a real ‘rebirthing’ if you like, to turn it back into not just a wedding venue but as a genuine modern conference centre”.
When Wayne took over the property (in 2023), it was a little worse for wear. The property was hit with burglaries, which saw the loss of the original copper spouting off the homestead, as well as the water pump from the pump station. Wayne noted “they came back again even cutting a hole the size of a dishwasher in the conference centre wall to remove a safe which would have taken a few guys to lift”.
"But we are cracking on now and have started the accommodation and buildings surrounding Tatum House. The old 1960’s dormitories will become 30 motel units with a nice resort feeling. The will be operated by a web booking system and we will have an accommodation manager living on site".
Tatum House and The Look Out
Beneath a canopy of beautiful trees is a newly constructed building named The Look Out, which will be integrated with Tatum House. The Look Out overlooks the garden where weddings were typically held, and its new design will incorporate a magnificent cascading staircase leading down to the wedding lawn.
Wayne commented, ‘I have been to a few weddings here, on the lawn, and I wanted to incorporate the buildings and connect the two places. On the grass area down below through the trees there was a reception area and under lights, it was a lovely environment. However outdoor wedding bookings are limited by the weather so if the weather changes we can relocate to the indoor pavilion that is now being built.’
Catherine bubbles with enthusiasm as she speaks about Tatum being a hub for not only community gatherings, but as multipurpose facility for hosting conferences, workshops and educational events. “It will be a great place to network with others with break out rooms and accommodation, catering, walking tracks and state of the art technology for attendees”.
‘We also plan on doing pop up events for Valentine’s day, High Teas and opening up a Café, and on Sunday afternoons we will offer Devonshire cream tea out on the lawn. We are connecting with local providers and growers in the region to showcase our locally grown produce, local wines and ciders. There is also a fire pit being made into an Argentinian BBQ area’.
‘We know that people will book for wellness retreats, team building and planning days. It’s a perfect central location between Whanganui, Palmerston North and Wellington’.
Stairway to the lawn below
Render of the new look stairway
Tatum House, now 111 years old, is a home with beautiful interior features constructed from totara and under the aged carpet is beautiful matai floors which are being sanded and repolished.
The homestead’s exterior will also be repainted in white with grey accents and new spouting will be added!
There will be a bridal suite in the house and the upstairs rooms are once again going to be used for the bridal party preparations, in a room named the ‘Glow Room’. The French doors open to a balcony overlooking the garden and is perfect for photos.
The homestead has leadlight windows in every room with each room being renovated with new carpet and stylish wall paper.
The house is set under the historic tree canopy and will sit between the new ‘Look Out’ building and the Pavilion. Tatum House will have a gracious balance of the old and new.
Work on the Pavilion is currently underway which will be our largest interior event space. With up to 250 pax depending on configuration. There will be beautiful wooden floors - which are throughout all our event spaces and glass down one end, with a full bar and commercial kitchen at the other end. A veranda wraps around the Pavilion with doors to the outdoor areas. So guests can move freely to the outside spaces.
The Pavilion is connected to Tatum house by an interior passage way off the kitchen which also allows prompt service and food delivery to Tatum house and the Lookout behind Tatum house.
They are also constructing a purpose-built commercial kitchen facility and the conference centre will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, with advanced audio-visual capabilities; spa and wellness amenities are also part of the plans. The new facilities will appeal to event organisers for conferences, weddings, as well as retreats.
Tatum will be open all year round and the perfect retreat for a country escape, wedding bells or booking your conference and accomodation.
The redevelopment to Tatum will be a great asset for the region and be once again a jewel in Horowhenua’s crown.
The Horowhenua Company will follow up again in March to view the new accommodation facility on this exciting new development for the Horowhenua region.
To find out more visit : https://www.tatum.co.nz