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What’s Special About Lambhill?
Lambhill’s story links Wanganui’s past to its present. The property is one of Wanganui’s oldest district farmhouses, originally built in 1856 by Scottish settlers (they bought the farm about 1847), and is still not much altered, and still has tatty Victorian wallpapers and floor linoleums, marks of long life, and home-repairs. The most modern wall- and ceiling papers date to the 1930s, judging from old diaries. It is a wonderful old place, with quirky corners, and a lot of rooms, but with a comforting human scale. What makes it special, is not what it is: once there were hundreds of similar houses around New Zealand. What makes it special is that it has survived. And it has survived with its character intact.
Photos of Lambhill Homestead a few years after we arrived here
Lambhill has 16 rooms, sundry passageways, and four verandahs. The pantry is one of my favourite rooms. It is an odd L-shaped room with two large sash windows looking due South, through a verandah, and over the sloping sweep of gravel drive, over paddocks, windshaped hawthorn hedgerows, miles of farmland, and – eventually – the sea. The pantry is a good place to stand, talking to someone on the phone; you have a wide horizon to gaze upon as you talk. And if it’s not too crowded at the time, you can climb up onto the large Victorian table and sit in cross-legged comfort while you talk. Of course, this would horrify some Maori who do not believe in sitting on tables. But although I have part-Maori cousins, I am not Maori, and so I sometimes sit on tables…
Lambhill homestead was built, initially, in 1856, by Dr James Allison and his wife Georgiana (nee Gilfillan). It was on the highest spot on the farm, with 360 degree views for miles and miles and miles… The house was built of local kahikatea timber, which grew in the deep swampy valleys nearby. Kahikatea was soft to work with, and so many Wanganui settlers built their first “proper” houses with it. What the settlers did not know was that, to a borer beetle, a kahikatea homestead was a giant pavlova with whipped cream, with a sign on top saying, “Borers welcome – free accommodation – easy terms!” By 1880, the house at Lambhill, like other local houses, was so hole-ridden, it was practically a seive.
By then Dr Allison had died, but his family rebuilt the house. They recycled the useable bits, like matai joists, and rimu joinery, sledded away one section as a shed (now dissolved into dust), and dismantled the rest. In 1881, they built the new house on the exact footprint of the old one, sitting on the same lumps of local ironstone, and with the same rooms. They recreated the original house almost exactly – but in stronger rimu timber from Marton in the Rangitikei. The only difference between the two houses was that the new one had no lookout platform on the roof.
The house has always been T-shaped, and one angle of the T has been filled in over the years. Although it has two storeys, the house is on four levels, with: the ground floor; then at the top of the first flight of stairs, a passage running east, with storeroom (where the stairs to the roof platform used to be) and parents’ room; back at the top of the first flight, there is a small landing at right-angles, with the original small bathroom on it; then another short flight of stairs at another right-angle, up to the centre of another passage which runs both north and south. Five bedrooms open off it.
All the upstairs bedrooms are attic rooms, and several have gable windows. One is tiny. It used to be the Governess’s room.
Downstairs, there are verandahs on every side of the house. At Lambhill, you always know which way you are facing because the house is sited squarely on the compass points: accordingly, when you stand in the “Real Front Door” looking out the front porch windows, you know you are looking directly West – towards the sea, Wanganui and Mount Taranaki. (Also, right into the teeth of the prevailing wind!!) So:
The stained-glass front door leads from the little porch room on the West of the house, to the main downstairs passage, which runs East. Nearby, on the left, is the Sitting Room, which faces West and North, over two verandahs. (In its past, the Sitting Room has also been a Dining Room, but now, we eat in the kitchen.) …If you go through the Sitting Room’s french doors onto the North verandah, you’ll see a door at the Eastern end. That is the door of a small, sunny bedroom, with no other access. …Back through the Sitting Room, go back to the passage. Straight across it, on the right of the front door, is the Parlour. Like the Sitting Room and main Passage, the Parlour has high ceilings, but it is smaller than the Sitting Room. (At one stage, the Parlour was turned into a bedroom for ricketty old ladies who could no longer manage the steep stairs, but we use it as a Library.)
Nearly at the Eastern end of the downstairs passage, you’ll find – if you look – an unobtrusive door in the under-stair panelling. That leads to the “Secret Passage,” beloved of generations of children. Opposite it is a curtained doorway open to a side passage. In the old days, the side passage housed Dr Allison’s Library, and there are still bookshelves there, as well as hat-and-coat hooks. The South end of this passage has a glassed door to the South verandah, and this is the door we usually come in by, because the drive sweeps close by.
Back to the main downstairs passage: let’s reorient ourselves: At the far end is the front porch, facing West, and here at the Eastern end, is the kitchen door. The kitchen is large, with a lower ceiling, and two large Georgian twelve-light sash windows facing East. The Pantry opens off it, close on the right, and at the kitchen’s Eastern end, another door on the right opens to the Scullery. The Scullery has six doors, including the one from the kitchen: on your right (the Western) wall, are two doors, to the bathroom and pantry; straight ahead (the Southern wall), are another two doors, to a cupboard and to a final bedroom; and on the same wall as the kitchen door, to the left, is the Back Door, to the East verandah.
Confused? When we first came to look at the house, it was full of stuff, and so it was hard to see room dimensions, and I got thoroughly lost. When we left, I found it impossible to draw a floor plan! This description is just to give you some idea of the layout of the house, and over time, I will add photos of it for you – but not just now, because I am working on a book, as well as trying to maintain a big garden! It is a great house – quirky, full of odd corners, human-scaled, marked by lots of human life, and not at all pretentious or grand. It looks big from the outside, but it is really an overgrown cottage. I love it! And I hope you will, too….
Winter in the Sitting Room
Monday is always my house-cleaning day. Today, after dusting and vacuuming, shaking out the textiles and tidying, I wrapped up and went out into the (very wild) garden for some flowers. The results in the warm Sitting Room, are filling the whole room with their gorgeous blended scent: pink luculia, pink salvia, rust-red salvia, and lemon verbena. Mmmm! Planting scented winter flowers in the garden is a great investment towards cheering you up with colour and perfume on the stormiest days of the year!
Every morning my breakfast is a pot of tea on a tray with pretty china, and a jug of lactose-free milk with added cream. I drink it cup by cup, enjoying the gentle flavour and the heat, as I read something inspiring. Usually, it’s the Bible. I was brought up to value the verse that says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” And then, when I’ve found some uplifting meditations (generally written down in a prettily-covered exercise book so I can go back to it later), I’ll turn to other books. We always have a big pile of library books, and if I run out of those, there are always our own books off the shelves all over Lambhill…
I do love beauty, don’t you??! Starting my day by using and looking and thinking about lovely things always sets me up for the morning with a sense of calm – of knowing who I am, and what’s important.
Some glimpses of the Attic bedrooms
The Sitting Room, September 2019
Lambhill Kitchen, Spring 2019
Pantry, September 2019, Lambhill…
The Lambhill Scullery is like a back-room hub that you step into off the East Verandah. Off the Scullery, doors open to a bedroom, the pantry, the downstairs bathroom, and the kitchen.
The Scullery is for wet and grubby kitchen work – scrubbing vegetables, washing dishes… Before the house had any sinks, there was just a table in this room, where you brought a bucket of water you had filled from the outside rainwater tanks, and poured it into a wash-basin. You saved dirty water for the garden.
When the bath was installed, in 1938, a concrete pad was laid in the Scullery, for a chip heater with a wet-back, connected to a hot-water tank in a new cupboard, which was piped to the bath. Since the rest of the plumbing was connected, the chip heater was removed, and the hot-water tank taken out of the Scullery cupboard. Now, I have added shelves of my own to make the cupboard storage for cleaning things.
After the Wash-house building in the garden was taken down, about the same time as the sinks and loos went in (late 1970s), a concrete tub was added to the Scullery.
We put a washing-machine in as well, as soon as we arrived here. After all, we had boys – and a lot of washing to do. The plumber was not very large, but he could not get under the house to connect the washing machine pipes. That’s because the floor joists are only a foot or so off the ground, sitting on lumps of rock rather than on concrete piles. Instead, he sent his apprentice down, with a coal-shovel, to dig himself a shallow path and worm under the joists to do the pipework. The poor lad was small, fresh out of school, and pretty miserable to be having to battle spiderwebs, broken bottles and shards on hard clay, in a confined space.
Sadly for us, we did not discover until eleven years later, that the boy had disconnected the kitchen-sink drainpipe from the drain, in order to fit the washing-machine drainpipe in it – but had forgotten to reconnect the kitchen pipe before he squirmed out from under the house…. All the kitchen water waste was emptying under the east side of the house, in a stagnant pool which took its time soaking into already-soaked clay soil.
We wondered why the east side of the house was gradually slumping. Now, we think the joists and framing under the Scullery and the bedroom next door, might have rotted. That will be an expensive rebuilding job – one day – and that side will all have to be jacked up and re-levelled, and strong concrete piles put in. That will have to wait, though. Meantime, the roof needs replacing!
The Scullery has coat hooks all round, which is jolly useful in a country house. That’s where we store muddy raincoats and overtrousers, gardening hats and aprons. Under the sink bench, I have enamelled laundry buckets, alongside Millie’s water – in an old enamelled potty! Dogs don’t mind! On the shelves flanking the windows, I store vases, and old chipped china jugs and anything else that will hold flower arrangements. This room is a handy place to arrange flowers. And flowers are one of the ever-changing joys of this house.
Pantry Spring-clean and Reorganise
I write about my pantry frequently. It is one of my favourite rooms at Lambhill! Yesterday it was still full of china and other things that I had taken out of the kitchen to paint it, but had not yet put back there. I love order and simplicity, and so I was not intending to put them back into the kitchen… But now the pantry was choked up: time for a Spring-clean!
The first thing I did, was to take everything out of the pantry – all the empty jam and preserving jars, all the appliances, all the storage jars and tins full of food, all the bowls of fruit and vegetables, all the china, and teapots, jugs, plates, and hurricane lamps, all the baskets and trays…. It took a long time. Everything went onto the kitchen table or the kitchen floor, and I set to work with a broom and a wet rag. I never kill spiders if I can help it, but yesterday, I made them run! I was moving too! It is excellent exercise, spring-cleaning the Lambhill pantry: you are up and down the ladder, up and down the ladder, leaning into far corners, tickling the undersides of the table, lifting, carrying, carting things, trotting out to the scullery to rinse the rag, going back to wash the floor…. jumping three feet in the air when a spider abseils down your collar….
Eventually, the room was clean, and it was time to ruminate and have a pot of tea. I wrote lists of what the pantry had held, while I rested my feet, and tried to group them together. Then I went back into the pantry with my list, and looked at the shelves: I put all Jonathan’s things, his sauerkraut and kombucha-making paraphernalia, all his spices, rices, pulses and oriental mysteries on the shelves and bench behind the door, with his porridge oats and various salts, dehydrator, juicer, the egg-basket, tin of rice-crackers, coffee supplies, coffee maker, apple peeler, his big picnic basket, the tins of food, and cartons of spare preserving jars. Everything he would need would be close to his hand. In another section of shelving, from ceiling to floor, I put the baking things; in another, tea things and jugs; and in another, preserves, with bowls of fruits and vegetables on the bench below. On the upper shelves, I put the extra-extra empty jars, the baskets, and the big old water urn. On the shelf-hooks, I hung jugs. On two shelves at the other side of the table, I ranged some old kitchenalia, some from Lambhill, and some that I’ve been given or bought. And I shoved all the rest into the “Secret Passage” (under the stairs) to sort out this morning – for donations or for friends to sift through. Ahh – a clean, orderly, clear pantry: how delightful!
A House on a Hill Cannot be Hid
Which is perfectly true – although Lambhill farmhouse is so far off the Warrengate Road that most people don’t notice it as they drive past – and it is even further from the State Highway (1 mile); you only see it from there, if you know where to look, and turn your head that way at the right moment…. Yesterday, Wednesday the 19th of February, I wandered out onto the meadow to take some pictures as the sun was sinking. It had been a hot day, after a week of hot days, and the gathering coolness was delightfully refreshing.
Mt Taranaki (Egmont) was as hot as I was, apparently, and wearing a cold cloud on its head. Jonathan reminds me on hot evenings, to chill a wet cloth in the fridge-freezer, to lay on the veins of my wrists, or on the sides of my neck: Ahhhhh!!!!!
The Lambhill Stables
Coming up the hill, on your way up the current Lambhill driveway, which is historically the back entrance, you pass the remains of the old stables. It has only half the footprint it used to have, and was accidentally shoved off its ironstone “piles” by a farm manager with a tractor, some years ago. The upstairs floor joists have been dangerously borer-ridden for at least eighty years, and so it is a wonder that the building is still as upright as it is today. We do not own the stables, because we felt, when we bought the house, that we might not have enough money to tackle this building as well. (Even when Spin and Joan Sutherland were young, they were forbidden to go up the steep ladder-stairs in the stables, in case they fell through the floor. Spin will be ninety this year.) When I have a cold, I walk by the stables in a large arc, in case I accidentally sneeze, and the whole building throws up its rafters and collapses on me in a pile of dust and rusty iron… It is beautiful, though.
Sleeping on the Verandah
Last summer, on the hottest nights, I slept on a mattress on the floor of the north verandah, overlooking the main lawn. This summer, I was better prepared, having had an old iron bedstead repaired, that had been stacked in the storeroom since before we bought the house.
There are few things more delightful than sleeping in the cool night air on a verandah, in summer. Sandflies and mosquitoes find my blood delectable (probably because it tastes of the raspberries I eat every day!), so I dab insect repellent on my wrists and neck before bedtime. Sleeping out there is so restful, with the deep blackness of the sky, or pretty stars to look at – but never for long, because the breezes stirring the forest elms are so very, very lulling. In the night, if I wake briefly, I’ll hear an owl (the New Zealand “morepork”) hoo-hooing, or crickets creating white noise, or distant peacock calls out in the forest. Sometimes, there is a soft rustling sound near at hand, in the garden, but I know that’s only a hedgehog…. How delightfully cool and damp the air feels, after a long day of heat and too many clothes! In February, the days get too hot for clothes, just about, and then as the days go on, they seem to be too hot even for wearing skin: and then I start counting the days before autumn brings a drop towards coolness, when clothes will seem rational again, and energy will return. The autumn usually arrives here about a week into March – so: only three weeks to go! And meanwhile, hurrah for sleeping outside!!!
Trickle and Seep
Jonathan was just about to go out to bible class on Tuesday night, when I looked up at the passage walls while talking to Spin on the phone. Was the wall wet?!!! After saying goodbye to Spin, I climbed on a stool, to touch the dark patch near the lower part of the ceiling, under the landing bathroom….. it was wet, alright! “Jonathan,” I said, “come and look at this…. I think the upstairs loo must be leaking.” He came, he saw, he heaved a sigh, and he slumped off slowly to find his pliers and climb the stairs.
The pipe leading into the cistern had come loose. It took him a couple of hours to twiddle and tweak – and fix the leak. “Give me a bowl you don’t mind writing off,” he said – and so now, there is an old glass salad bowl waiting under the pipe for future fitting-failures (try to say that fast!)… Needless to say, Mr Godfrey did not make it to church that evening. I dare say he might liken it to ‘saving his donkey from a well on the Sabbath’ – because this is an old house, and the poor old place no doubt regards springing a leak with alarm and distress, and we are meant to be kind.
The passage wallpaper may be a little more stained, now, but it is drying out nicely. As you see from one of the photos, we also need to re-patch that hole next to the seep-mark, which the rats have eaten, out of the wooden sarking under the wallpaper! O, la! Always something, here, to set to rights!
Waking up on the North Verandah, last days of February, 2020.
These photos of the dawn breaking, were taken during the dawn chorus, with the sweetest piping, warbling, tweeting, joyous medleys and scales and arias being sung in the lightening trees. I love the sound of the English blackbird, but there were song thrushes also singing, and New Zealand bellbirds, tui, tiny grey warblers, a smattering of finches, and others… also the odd Australian magpie. They sit in the very tops of the trees, warbling in the sunlight, long after the other birds have busied themselves about their breakfast. The others only sing while its too dark to make their toast…
The South Verandah Door
This is the door you might enter Lambhill by, if you arrive here up the driveway.
Cleaning one of the Little Attic Bedrooms
This little room is on the top floor, in the west wing, which has five bedrooms. All the six upstairs bedrooms, and the upstairs storeroom and the tiny bathroom on the landing, are under the eaves, and have slanting ceilings. This one used to belong to Nathaniel Sutherland (the Third, as far as I know), or Nattie. He was the eldest of Nat and Kitty Sutherland’s 13 children, but after a bout of Meningitis as a toddler he was left with a brain impairment and suffered from epilepsy all the rest of his life. His seven sisters looked after Natty after his mother died, and this was Nattie’s room. It has two kinds of Edwardian linoleum still laid over the floorboards, and two Lambhill chests of drawers and a wash-stand that we bought from Spin and Joan separately, when we bought the house. Although we did sleep in this room for a while, with a double bed crammed into the nook behind the door, we now use it for a dressing room. The first slideshow is pictures taken before I cleaned the room! It was a little dusty, and there were a few webs in the upper corners…
After cleaning, with a good deal of takings-down, wipings, wet-cloth wringings, and rearrangings, here are some “after” pictures:
The china wash set is an old Lambhill one, that Joan kindly gave us, as part of Lambhill’s history. I love it, and it had an exciting story, since it was one of the few things recovered by the police, after Lambhill was burgled, while the house was empty, following the deaths of Spin and Joan’s aunts and uncles. The following pictures show small details in the dressing room. I like to hang some pretty clothes on hooks where they can become “art” when they are not being worn. All my clothes are either handmade or bought second-hand.
As you see, there are framed pieces of art in here. One was bought from a student art sale years ago, an etching of an Edwardian dress superimposed on an antique Chinese robe, to invoke her family’s fashion history; another is glued onto the wallpaper, of Edwardian dressmakers – it has been eaten by silverfish along with the wallpaper underneath: an ordinary hazard of an old house with many layers of papers and scrim! The next two pictures show the linoleum in this room.
One of the items of Lambhill furniture we bought from Spin and Joan was an old green-stained rocking chair, whose rattan seat had been replaced with a piece of wood, and whose rattan back had fallen apart. I eventually painted the wood white, and wove a backing with some loose raffia found in a second-hand shop.
Rainy Day Hygge and Small Jobs
In early May, 2020, the warm autumn weather suddenly gave way, with a grand Southerly Change. All day we had squalls of rain and wind, bright outbursts of sunshine, and driving hail. I did the ironing, set the verandah pot-plants on the step to catch some rain, and dashed out with a basket to pick feijoas.
The odd picture of the nest is one that Spin found in a firewood log, and brought up “for your Cabinet of Curiosities” – and the last photo shows my watering can, which the wind had bowled off the south verandah, into the meadow! Did you see the dark seawater, in one of the pictures of a break in the squalls?
The house, May 2020:
The kitchen, in May (Winter) 2020, when I was appreciating dim light because of headaches:
Hurrah! After the covid-lockdown, finally, our builder was able to come in, take up the broken floorboards we had been treading over for months, and install the recycled matai boards we had ready for him:
What do you mean, “those are boring pictures”???? I think newly-fixed floorboards are the most beautiful things in the world. Holes in the floor add an element of drama and The Unexpected which is wholly out of place in a house….. And the builder did a lovely job of cutting a sliver to fill in a gap…. We have been floor-gazing. And now my great-aunt’s wooden pastry board is back to being a pastry board instead of a hole-cover.
The Landscape in which the house and garden sit….. Walks on the farm…
Winter 2020 was a time of headaches and neck pain, worsened by gardening or vacuuming, or too much writing – so, for exercise, I began walking, instead. Spin and Joan were happy for me to ramble over the farm which the Lambhill house used to belong to, and which they still farm all around us, raising sheep, fattening steers, and breeding Hanoverian (German Warmblood) and Thoroughbred horses. Here are some pictures taken on those walks, in July:
There are two photos of mountains, in the images above; the first is Mt Ruapehu, to the north; the second is Mt Taranaki (Egmont), to the west.
Lambhill is just a big hollow tree – to a ladybird!
Working on our bedroom in August:
We started working on this bedroom ten years ago! It is upstairs, on the north-west corner, and has sun most of the day, as well as wonderful views of the garden and towards the sea and Mount Taranaki, over pretty countryside…. This is a slow job, and has been done with the help of friends. My sister Aydie paid to have it gib-boarded, after we had pulled apart the walls and ceilings, lined them with insulation and builder paper, and nailed everything back together. Our friend Paul plastered the cracks. I started painting it, but had to stop with neck issues. Jonathan is continuing. The builder, Daniel, has fixed the windows (for a second time, after the first builder’s repairs proved an expensive disaster). Now, Daniel has just replaced the sash cords so our windows open again…. Working windows always seem important to me, in case there is a fire, and we have to clamber out, helter-skelter some night!
This white paint is sealer. When I paint, I end up covered in paint, head to foot, with the brush and paint tin coated! Jonathan, on the other hand, ladles a precise amount of paint onto his foam “brush” and works to an exact and endlessly-repeated pattern. He was extremely cross when he got ONE DROP of paint on his shirt!!!!! I knew him well enough to hide my laughter… He dropped everything, and went downstairs, fuming, to get that solitary paint drop off at once. When he got back, I lay on the floor (to keep my neck still) and admired his technique, and beamed up at him rays of admiration and encouragement!
Lambhill’s Setting in August (Winter), 2020
The mountain is Taranaki, at sunset; it sits on our western horizon.
Lambhill in September 2020
Glimpses of Lambhill, October 2020:
Lambhill Larking About in Long Grass, Late-October 2020:
Progress on Our Room.
Hurrah! Paint nearly finished, trim nearly ready for nail-filling and second coat; curtains ready to install….
Why I chose soft green and taupe for this room: to go with the outdoor landscape.
These photos show the views out the windows of this room on a lush, softly-raining late-October day. Greens and greens and more greens. Glorious.
House-Breaking, Burglarious Rodents of Unusual Size….
When we arrived at Lambhill in December 2003, we found quite a few rat-holes in walls, floors, ceilings, and in cupboards. We also found a variety of vintage patches… the rats had moved into Lambhill quite early on, it seems. So we have put in patches of our own. We wage a constant war against rats, with traps and bait laid all around the garden, and inside the house. And no matter how many rats we kill, more arrive.
…which live in the old Stables, and sun themselves in the mornings on the electric wire where it connects to the house.
Summer is coming in!
…in the form of Ivy-leaf toadflax!
Hanging the Curtains….. Our Room…
BACK AT HOME, AFTER TENTING ALL SUMMER….
We finished our bedroom, and moved in.
A Big Change to Lambhill!
When the original verandah roofs blew off in the Wahine Storm (1960s), the Sutherlands replaced them with low, straight roofs. I’ve always felt they were A Shame, and that they ruined the proportions of the house. Now, we are getting on with proper repairs, and the first job on the Major Works list is replacing the verandah roofs. They have long been leaking like colanders, and so, since we have to spend quite a bit of money to replace the iron, we may as well spend (quite a bit) more, to reinstate the original, tall ski-jump curves. Our excellent builder, Daniel Forlong, has a feeling for old houses, and is doing an excellent job. Here are initial pictures, taken from when he began removing the first pieces of iron.
Here are some photos of the beautiful curved beams that Daniel and his sidekick, Paul, made to support the new verandah roofs. They made 14 of them! The original roof had almost no underneath beams, only one at each corner – and those few were half the size of the new ones. The house is going to be much better braced after these are all fixed on!
The beams were stored in the little bedroom off the north verandah, before being taken out, sanded thoroughly, and painted, and then stacked in the carport, awaiting use. Daniel and Paul have stripped out the bedroom, which they are going to make into Jonathan’s office, where he can work from home.
The builders took off the layers of wallpapers stuck to newspapers on scrim (loosely woven sacking hessian), which was nailed to the rough-sawn internal sarking boards. Paul carried armfuls of scrim and wallpaper down the garden to the burning pile – but I went through it all and salvaged some, to keep as a record of the room’s history.
The wallpapers had been glued together in a large sandwich, and so I filled a roasting pan with warm water, and carefully soaked them apart. The papers were often cheap pulpy ones and so it was not easy to rescue fragments big enough to show patterns and colours. And many of the colours had obviously faded badly. Here is what I uncovered:
The newspapers at the bottom of the wallpaper sandwich were Wellington and Wanganui papers. One was dated 1897, and so it seems that, although this little room was rebuilt at the same time as the house, in 1881, it was left undecorated, with its rough-sawn sarking timbers bare, until 1897.
The advertisements are lovely: “Private Asylum and Home for Inebriates. Ashburn Hall, near Dunedin, a licensed….. for both sexes…” “Adoption. Wanted, a good Woman to adopt a baby boy aged two months old. Must be Roman Catholic.” “Lessons in French and German by Foreign lady. For particulars, Apply Harley Cottage, Sydney Street [Wellington] between 1 and 3, 6 and 8.” And, in a Wanganui paper, “Re-Opening of the Celebrated Corner Boot Shop (the oldest established Boot and Shoe Business in Wanganui), with a Magnificent Stock of every description……. Ainsworth…” There is a line-drawing illustrating the fetching male fashions for Winter 1897 (shiny top-hat, striped trousers, high collar and striped tie, cutaway tweed jacket, and fancy cane)…
The photos below show the wallpaper fragments, which give an idea of the wildly varied styles, beginning from the earliest, in order of chronology:
The new Office is already lined with building paper and insulation, ready for the electrician to add new wiring and for the plasterboard to go in. We thought we would wallpaper the room, in a design by William Morris, but even though it is such a small room, we were going to need 21 rolls of paper, each costing NZ$285!!! So that would be a silly waste of savings! Now we are considering finding a cheaper, but still appropriate, paper – or painting the room, and adding pattern in other ways. This is a dilemma: do we try to preserve the room’s historic character, or move on and impose our own? (Remembering that what we have always loved about Lambhill is that it has retained its early character in many details, against all odds, and over many changes in fashion!)
A Bit Of A Shocking Change: Where’s the Porch??
The Conservation Architect, Bruce Dickson, who is a member of the Whanganui Heritage Group, has been saying that Lambhill would look better without its funny little bay-window porch. Even though the porch was put on very early in the house’s earliest iteration, and was rebuilt with the rest of the house in 1881, it has always been a bit of a “carbunkle.” Although the porch was put around the front door to shelter it from the fierce Westerlies, and though it created a warm and sunny spot to sit, yet still the porch configuration interrupted the flow of the verandahs, and cut off easy access to the outdoors. Indeed, we could not shift our two large tables out of the pantry and kitchen, because the porch would not allow them to leave the house!!
The film crew’s Art Department asked if they could remove the Lambhill porch during filming, to give it the look they needed; in consultation with Mr Dickson, we allowed them to take the porch off and store it in a paddock out of sight, with the proviso that they would reconstruct it after filming ended. Instead, we like the house without the porch, and so will be turning it into a small summerhouse when we can afford to.
So: what does the Western Front (!) look like without the old porch?…….:
Rats! The Roof is Rusting…
Looks like we might have to hurry up with saving to replace the main roof! We’ve spotted two holes already!
The Plumber’s Hole
There is not much room to get under Lambhill! Its old ironstone piles are not large, and when the plumber decided to feed the water pipes straight under the house from the tank to the scullery, he had to dig a hole to squirm under the floor joists on his tummy. You’ve heard of a mouse hole? This is a Plumber’s hole.
As the plumber squeezed himself along under the house, he realised that it would be too hard to feed a waterpipe through, between the ironstone lumps. Instead, he cleverly thought of running them under the verandahs. When he wriggled out, Daniel the tall builder decided to have an inspection of the underside of the floor, and went in through the Plumber’s Hole. This is what he found and brought out for me under the house:
The Boundary Fence Goes Back In
Last Summer, our boundary fence with Spin and Joan came out for movie-making; here it is being put back. It looks good, too.
Hurrah! The Verandahs are Shaping Up!!!
Work proceeds on Jonathan’s Office
The office is going to be in the small bedroom on the north verandah.
Dilemma: How Faithfully Do We Restore the House??
In his 1989 book, “The Complete Victorian House,” (Sidgwick & Jackson), Robin Guild wrote, “It is almost impossible to create anything like a faithful replica of a Victorian kitchen without compromising modern standards of convenience and comfort.” This is true, but some of us adapt ourselves a little more patiently than others, to fewer modern comforts.
He goes on to say, “One of the options is not to take this path at all but to go for a highly modern treatment… The other option is to evoke the Victorian past through fittings and decoration, but we must remember that whatever we do in this direction will be largely pastiche rather than anything approaching faithful reproduction.”
Mr Guild is speaking about kitchens in Victorian houses, but the same dilemma goes for the whole of a historic house. How much do you alter? Lambhill has had three owners, and it has always been tweaked according to their needs…. Sensitivity need not preclude modernity…. And repairs mean modern materials (we can’t source heart rimu now, and have to make do with pine)…. The dilemma continues – and probably always will.
September Building Work, 2021
Work starts on the South Verandah, Early September 2021
New Year’s Holiday tasks: January 2022…
More Holiday tasks: Jonathan paints the new Parapet Wall.
This wall is over the pantry window, and had to be reinstated to hold the curved verandah iron. I gave Daniel the builder a tiny photograph taken about 1912, to copy, and he copied the parapet wall exactly as it was in the old days. …One of the pictures below shows what the swallows have left behind, under their favourite perch on our power line! Look out for the sea, seen from the pantry roof!
Exciting Acquisition from Lambhill’s History
In late Summer, 2022, the local newspaper advertised an online Heritage Art auction, which included several 1865 etchings of Lambhill. I knew of the prints, and had photocopied images of them, but it was utterly thrilling to be able to buy some of the originals, with some saved-up tax-return money!!!
The prints are by John Gilfillan, son of John Gilfillan the Royal Academy artist, and brother of the first woman to live at Lambhill, Georgiana (Gilfillan) Allison. She married Dr Allison at the age of 15, and it was the first European wedding in Wanganui. After a tragedy in 1847, which wiped out most of her large family, Georgiana’s surviving brother and two sisters moved to Australia with their father, and came back to Lambhill c.1860s, after he died. Her brother, John, made a portrait of the house then, which is fascinating because it backs up what Bruce Dickson, the Conservation Architect had concluded: that although the little conservatory/porch room was old, it was not original to the house. That is partly why we left it off, after the movie designers asked to remove it temporarily for their filming.