The big house on the hill, on Homewood Avenue, not far from Karori Cemetery was built in 1846, when the first owner Henry Samuel Chapman cleared the land to build the original structure. Chapman was appointed in 1843 as judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand for the southern district, which included Wellington, Nelson, New Plymouth and later Christchurch. He was the first puisne judge in New Zealand. He sold the house in 1852 when appointed to the position of colonial secretary of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).
The property was purchased by Henrietta Charlotte HATTON and her husband John JOHNSTON, a merchant and stockbroker. They had three sons and three daughters. Henrietta was a devout Catholic and she and John were buried in Mount Street Cemetery.
Various members of the Johnston family lived at Homewood for 75 years until they sold it to the Sutherland family in 1928. In 1957 the Sutherlands sold it to the British government and it became the official residence of the British High Commissioner. It still serves this purpose today.
There are many Johnston family descendants in the large adjacent tombs in the Catholic section of Karori Cemetery. Amongst them are men with distinguished military service, politicians, merchants, lawyers and landowners. The oldest daughter is buried elsewhere in the Catholic section in another large plot – she married Dr Morgan Stanislaus GRACE.