Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

03 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 10. The Hunting Lodge, Waimauku

I wrote and illustrated ‘New Zealand House and Cottage’. It was published in 1997. It’s a snapshot of some historic New Zealand homes - both grand and modest - as they were preserved at the end of the 20th century.
I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.


The gentle rolling country to the north-west of Auckland city has a temperate climate and bountiful verdancy. Mild valleys and sunny slopes favour its orchards, forests, market gardens and vineyards which attract to the area city dwellers out for a pleasant, weekend drive or to collect their fruit and vegetables and sample the local wines. In the 1990s it’s little distance beyond the urban sprawl, but one-hundred-and-thirty years ago it was a logical area for establishing a country estate where tired professional or commercial city men and their families might rest and rusticate.

One such family was the Kerr-Taylors, better known for their house, Alberton, at Mt. Albert. Allan Kerr-Taylor prospered handsomely. Among his many investments in mining, banking and other commercial enterprises he bought 6000 acres (2428 ha) of forest at Waimauku for timber milling purposes. Nearby, in 1868, he built ‘Glendale’, a ‘hunting lodge’ in the Waikoukou Valley wherein he and his family no doubt took their ease, and business associates were tactically entertained.

Kerr-Taylor was noted for the ‘at homes’, balls, and elaborate archery parties that were regular features of life at Alberton. He was also on the Provincial Council, chairman of the Mt. Albert Highway Board and President of the Auckland Racing Club. Having lived a full life he dropped dead suddenly in 1890 whereupon it was discovered that his finances were not quite commensurate with his lifestyle.

As a consequence his wife was forced to economise at Mt Albert, while his sons took to the Waimauku slopes. The eldest, Vincent, became the first full-time resident of ‘Glendale’ when he married at the turn of the century. At that time the Bay Room and Drawing Room were added. The house stayed in the Kerr-Taylor family until 1929 when it was sold to the McLennans. During their tenure a bay window and cast gable were added. The house was sold again in 1939.

Since 1980 the house, now called ‘The Hunting Lodge’, has undergone major restoration and although the intention has been to maintain its original atmosphere all that remains of the earlier pit-sawn kauri shingled building are the Bay Room and Drawing Room around the freestanding brick fireplace.

It’s now a restaurant with an enviable reputation, having won numerous awards for its table and ambience, and it has become one of north-west Auckland’s many attractions in company with its neighbouring Matua Valley Vineyard.



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By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.