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2013 A Special Year For Alberton

January 30


2013 A Special Year For Alberton

Alberton – the colonial-era mansion in Mt Albert now cared for by the NZ Historic Places Trust – celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

The farmhouse turned India-inspired country seat was once the centre-piece of a 532 acre country estate which stretched over Mt Albert and Morningside.

Today, Alberton sits on just over an acre of land surrounded by houses – a testimony to Auckland’s heritage of subdivision and urban sprawl. A one-off original, it still retains its strong sense of grandeur, however.

“Alberton was colonial Auckland’s party house – the place where the elite of the day gathered for balls, hunts, garden parties and music,” says the Manager of Alberton, Rendell McIntosh.

“In fact, the first County or Riding Ball held in New Zealand took place in Alberton’s barn in 1877.”

Allan Kerr Taylor – the unofficial ‘squire’ of the area – bought some of the land which eventually became the Alberton estate in 1849 when he was just 16, the purchase funded by his father who was an officer in the Indian Army.

In time, Kerr Taylor’s family allowance was supplemented by sales of land around his estate as the suburbs of Mt Albert and Morningside grew. As Kerr Taylor prospered, Alberton became grander. The arrival of 10 children over the years was also a contributing factor to growth, with the need for more space increasingly becoming an issue.

“Alberton started life as an unprepossessing farmhouse in 1863, though it was transformed into the 18-room mansion we know today in 1872, complete with Oriental-styled decorative verandahs and exotic towers reflecting Allan’s boyhood in India,” says Rendell.

As if to complete the picture of colonial grandeur, the Pakuranga Hunt often rode over Alberton’s spacious grounds, as if recreating a scene from old England.

Few visitors to Alberton would ever guess that the impressive historic mansion was once a hotbed of radicalism – well, almost.

“The house has a strong connection with the women’s suffrage movement in New Zealand. Sophia Louisa Taylor – Allan Kerr Taylor’s second wife – was a leading Auckland socialite who became a member of the first committee of the Auckland branch of the Women’s Franchise League,” says Rendell.

“One of the frequent guests at Alberton at that time was Amey Daldy, a fearless campaigner for women’s rights and social justice, as well as Elizabeth Yates who, in 1893, became the Mayor of Onehunga – the first woman Mayor in the British Empire,” says Rendell.

Sophia passed away in 1930, though her three unmarried daughters – Winifred, Millicent and Muriel Kerr Taylor – continued to run what was left of the estate, keeping hens and a cow and making butter in the dairy with equipment that can still be seen today.

Muriel left the house to the NZ Historic Places Trust after she died in 1972.

“Alberton has been open to the public for almost four decades, and is one of Auckland’s most loved historic buildings,” says Rendell.

“We’ll be organising a series of events to mark Alberton’s 150th anniversary, and will be sharing more details on these throughout the year.”

For more information on the opening hours and location of Alberton and other NZHPT properties – as well as celebratory events for Alberton’s 150th anniversary – log on to www.historicplaces.org.nz

* * *

Alberton will kick off its 150th celebrations with a series of Devonshire teas and Classic luncheons

Classic Luncheons – freshly made sandwiches, savouries plus dainty home-made cakes and biscuits: Cost $35pp. 12.30-2pm February 21, 22, 23, 24, 28 and March 1-3.

Devonshire Tea Parties – freshly made sandwiches and scones (with jam and cream topping): Cost $23pp. 2-4pm February 21, 22, 23, 24, 28 and March 1-3. To book email alberton@historic.org.nz or pone 09-846-7367.


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