Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

29 November 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 5. Highwic, Auckland

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.
have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.


Gothic Highwic has a cottage-like look which has something to do with its proportions. It’s a large house but it lacks the height and so the dominance usually associated with a mansion. The outside walls are unassuming, too, a step beyond vertical boards and battens but lacking that heavy, earnest look of horizontal kauri with timber quoins made to look like stone.

It has the air of a friendly family house and I don’t doubt that that’s exactly what it was in its palmy days since Alfred Buckland - for whom Highwic was built in 1862 - had nine children by his first wife, Eliza, and another eleven by her ‘companion’, Matilda Frodsham, who he married after Eliza died of pneumonia in 1866.
Imagine having twenty children plus servants rattling around in your family home! Little wonder that by 1873 the house had been expanded from the original part (the left hand portion of my illustration) by the addition of a ballroom, sitting room, dining room and various service rooms and outhouses.

Despite its having grown bit by bit there’s a satisfying rhythm to the building: each addition has been carefully considered so that barge boards, finials and balustrades are harmonious and complementary; and even the large brick kitchen at the west end is not out of place.

The billiards room, which stands alone at the northwest corner of Highwic is a gem of a building and, like its large neighbour, whose style it matches absolutely, is a joy to sketch and paint. I particularly like the way the roof ridge sags slightly in the middle. I went to the winter wedding reception of Sophie Gray (the 'Destitute Gourmet') there some years ago; there was a generous fire burning in the grate and the atmosphere within the honey-hued timber walls was so agreeable that the celebration turned into a memorable party.


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By Don Donovan