Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

16 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 24. Mona Vale Lodge, Christchurch

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.


In its riverside, park~like setting this little two storeyed house has that character which, with others around the city and suburbs, gives Christchurch its ‘English’ look. Typically Victorian, with over-decoration that should make it an architectural mess, it is in fact enchanting.

I took delight in painting it because it came as quite a departure from sod cottages and wooden villas. As I worked I thought I could feel how the mysteries, hinted at beneath its Marseilles tiles and beyond its diamond-paned gothic windows, would appeal to a child with a romantic imagination. It’s a story book cottage.

The lodge is associated with the older Tudor-revival house, Mona Vale, the entrance to whose grounds it ‘guards’. On land that once belonged to the Deans family, Frederick Waymouth built the big house in 1900 and called it ‘Karewa’. In 1905 it was bought for £6000 by Annie Townend, one of the country’s wealthiest women, and she changed its name to Mona Vale after her mother’s house in Tasmania. Aged eighteen, Annie had arrived in New Zealand many years earlier with her father, George Moore. He owned the grand Glenmark house in North Canterbury which, tragically, burned down in 1891. It’s said that, for sentimental reasons, Annie later developed Mona Vale and its gardens on the banks of the Avon in the style of Glenmark, and it was probably also nostalgia that caused Annie to have the entrance lodge patterned upon the one she had known at Glenmark rather than have it complement Mona Vale house, whose architecture is quite different.

Annie Townend didn’t have long to enjoy Mona Vale; she died in 1914. Thereafter the property passed through many hands until it was bought in 1962 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whose house of worship stands nearby. In the late ’60s the church decided to subdivide the property and demolish the house, but the people of Christchurch didn’t like that idea and Mona Vale and its picturesque entrance lodge were bought by Christchurch City Council. Since then the big house and its gardens have been used as a reception centre and the lodge as a residence.


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By Don Donovan