Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 31, September 1987
By Con Broadmore (nee Connie Silcock)
Christopher Aubrey painted his way up New Zealand from Dunedin, and in 1893 painted this old Paeroa home, no doubt in return for bed and board, as was his custom. His paintings are now coming into Art auctions, in company with Heaphys, Barrauds and others and bringing good prices. Their historical value is immense.
This particular painting was the home of Edwin Edwards, founder of the Ohinemuri Gazette in 1891, editor, poet, mining entrepreneur, stockbroker, estate agent, practical geologist, political aspirant.
The home was built in Rye Lane, Paeroa, although now it is called Towers Street, just opposite the entrance to Prospect Terrace. The painting would have been done from the junction of what is now Anzac Avenue, Normanby Road and the Puke Road.
It was virtually a three-storied building and, if built in kauri, would, 93 years later, still be standing, but it was built of kahikatea and of course, by the 1930's was almost eaten away by borer. It was demolished in the mid-thirties, together with the beautiful English trees that had grown up around it, and the State built a number of small homes on the land.
The plans for this "stately home", of which this was to be the first wing, can be unearthed in the archives of the Paeroa Borough Council - a nostalgic and rather grandiose plan to bring some of the Old Country to this new land.
Looking at the house from the front steps on the right and across the front verandah, you see the front door which opens into the entrance hall and the main living areas. Behind the first bay window on the left of the front verandah was the drawing-room and between that room and the dining room (second bay window on the left) was a communicating wall, made of panels of walnut, which could be pushed upwards like a sash and cord window, to open up the two rooms; it was indeed a very beautiful wall. It sometimes hid behind heavy chenille curtains, usually drawn back and secured with thick cord complete with tassels. Also beside this wall in a corner, was a "bell-pull", which, when pulled, would tinkle a bell next to the kitchen.
At the back of the hall, and next to the kitchen was a dairy or store room. Pans of milk mould have been "set" there and the cream, when risen, skimmed off to make butter. In my memory it always smelt beautifully of apples. They were stored in that room for winter use, spread on the tables and the floor. Outside the storeroom and opposite was another door which opened onto the basement steps. This was a full flight of stairs leading down to an enormous area of waste space, with wooden piles and studs all of 14 feet high, and housing in one corner, a huge copper, under which a great fire was built every Monday, to boil a copper full of water to do the washing. After the clothes were boiled, during which the whole basement was filled with clouds of steam, the white linen sheets would be hoisted out of the boiling copper and transferred into one of two large wooded tubs where they would be rinsed at least twice, squeezed through a mangle or wringer, turned by hand and eventually taken outside in a very large basket to be hung to dry on a long line held up by two long poles. The window of the "laundry" is the one on the far bottom left.
In the garden, only just planted in 1893, grew a large rimu tree, an ornamental strawberry tree, a magnolia, several oaks, a huge plum tree, always laden just on Christmas - how well I remember great pans of plum jam bubbling away on Christmas Day because the fruit was ready and couldn't wait. There was a pear tree, several kinds of apples (including a Northern Spy, for which no better flavour could ever be found). In my time it got to be a veritable wilderness of growth and a fabulous place for children to play.
When my Uncle Wyn (Edwin II) returned from World War I he kept his horse (which had been to the war with him), in a paddock you see in the foreground. That was until he bought his first car, a Ford, later dubbed a "tin lizzie"! He liked to "cut a dash" and he certainly did in this carinthe early twenties.
Going back to the top of the basement stairs which were always closed off by the heavy door, you could see the kitchen door at right angles to the dairy. On the wall next to the kitchen was a row of bells, one of which I told you about in the drawing room. The kitchen was on the Northeastern side of the house. You can see two windows, a small and a large one, on the far left of the picture; the small one belongs to the pantry and the large one to the scullery. The pantry was quite big and dark and lined with shelves and filled with delicious smells. In the scullery with the big window, was a bench with an enamel sink where the washing up was done. In the middle of the kitchen was a large kauri table, well scrubbed every day, and in the wall opposite the scullery was the big coal range and beside it, a gas stove. The back door on the east wall opened onto an open verandah from which descended a steep flight of steps, leading down to the back garden (and the clothes line) across about 30 feet of which was the lavatory - commonly known as the "dunny".
Going back into the hallway there were the doors leading into the dining room and the drawing room, both quite big rooms filled with heavy Victorian furniture and with two corner fireplaces, one at least decorated with grained wood, resembling marble, and with shelves and mirrors reaching a good 14 feet up above to the ceiling.
Quite a wide stairway led up to the bedrooms, starting opposite the front door. At the top of the stairs was a small bedroom, known as Uncle Parry's room, where I sometimes slept and endured many a nightmare. On the same level was the room known as the Nursery; see the window on the far left above the scullery window. It was long past being a nursery when we used to visit there, and at that time lots of intriguing relics of the past could be found lying about. I remember a set of scales in a glass box, once used by my grandfather to weigh gold, and there were other interesting instruments, and rock samples relating to his geological and mining days. There were glass fronted book cases there too. Up two or three more steps another passage led to Granny Edward's bedroom - see bay window over the dining room - and a little further on, another big bedroom known as Auntie Belle's room. She lived with Granny Edwards during the 1914-18 War, while husband Wyn and his horse were at the war. The big bay window in that room overlooked the town of Paeroa and it was from there we viewed the several big fires that occurred in the town towards the end of the War - probably the cause of my nightmares. Immediately above the front verandah and under the tower, were two more bedrooms, quite small, and then on the south east wall the little bathroom with the lead floor and the tin bath beside it, and over the stairs, a big walk-in linen press.
I suppose I could continue for many more pages describing that house and the people who lived in it, our lame grandmother who lived in the three storied house and negotiated all those stairs, with a walking stick, for 25 years, the three sons and two daughters and their trials and disappointments, and sometimes, their small triumphs.