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Highwic to come under close scrutiny

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Highwic to come under close scrutiny

Highwic, the NZ Historic Places Trust property in Newmarket, will come under close scrutiny as the star attraction of several upcoming Auckland Heritage Festival events.

A public talk by Auckland Heritage Consultant David Reynolds entitled Beyond the Thunderbox (October 7, 3-4pm) will look at some of the archaeological treasures found on-site at Highwic from earthworks that were carried out prior to installing a new toilet block at the historic building, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

Objects unearthed include 635 ceramic pieces, 136 glass fragments, 13 shellfish, 5 sheep bones, 4 pieces of coal and part of a toilet bowl recovered from the foundation excavations for a new ablutions block at Highwic.

“Most of what we know about the Buckland family's taste has centred on their major asset – the Carpenter Gothic pattern book house, Highwic, as well as family photographs and the odd piece of family writing,” he says.

“The house was acquired empty and only in recent years has analysis of the painted decoration and the few surviving fixed items – notably hardware, carpet and stair runners – provided clues about the decorative preferences of this family.”

The excavation of a comparatively tiny area of the garden for this new building produced nearly 900 artefacts – including building parts, patent remedy bottles, table glassware, gadgets and architectural glass. A limited selection of food items also survived. Notable in the collection are over 400 fragments of earthenware and over 200 pieces of porcelain dated between 1863 and 1902, including moulded, transfer printed, painted and gilded wares and food storage vessels.

“Analysis of this collection finally starts to prise open the doors of the Buckland kitchen and dining room, and allows us an opportunity to gain a better understanding of life behind the shutters for a Victorian family of means,” says David.

And for those wanting to take an even closer look at Highwic, the house will be the subject of two guided architectural tours as part of the Auckland Heritage Festival.

Led by Christiane Pracht, an art historian with a detailed knowledge of Highwic, the tours will look at ongoing conservation work being undertaken on the house.

The tour will cover the replication of Highwic’s original colour scheme and other work, including the building’s new heritage carpets – as well as taking a closer look at Highwic’s design and construction materials.

Admission for the hour-long guided tours – which will cover the entire house – is the special Auckland Heritage Festival price of $7 per adult with children and NZHPT members free. Plenty of parking on site.

Last, but by no means least for this year’s Auckland Heritage Festival events at Highwic, will be a one-woman show entitled A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight featuring TV host Lyndsay Dawson, who will take her audience on a story-based journey through the hotbed of scandal, gossip and ambition that was Auckland in the 1880s (October 11, 6-7.30pm).

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