Shakespear 1910 pic. Frances Shakespear, a keen photographer, took this photo of the homestead shortly after it was built in 1910.
In its 100 years of existence, the Shakespear homestead has gone from housing a large farming family to providing bunkroom accommodation to thousands of local youth taking part in outdoor education programmes. The building, designed as a modest home for Blanche and Robert Shakespear’s family, was occupied by them until the farm and homestead was purchased by the Auckland Regional Authority (now Auckland Regional Council) in 1967. It has been well preserved, making it easy for visitors today to picture the life of its original occupants. Descendants of Blanche and Robert still live in the area and are among the people who shared their memories with Terry Moore ….
Shakespear climbing. Travel Careers & Training students tackle the climbing wall on a team building exercise at Shakespear Lodge.
Drive up the gravel road to Shakespear Lodge in Shakespear Regional Park and you are likely to be met by gales of laughter and the sight of young people rock climbing, mountain boarding and generally having a good time.
The Lodge occupies the former homestead of the Shakespear family and has been a centre for outdoor education since the YMCA first leased it from Auckland Regional Council (ARC) in 1983. (The homestead was purchased by the ARC and incorporated into the regional park in 1975.)
A climbing wall, tar sealed area and car park are among the few exterior signs that occupancy of the building has changed since the homestead was built in 1910 by Robert and Blanche Shakespear. Descendants of Robert and Blanche lived in the homestead, which they named Te Whanga (the bay), for more than 60 years and these days that family atmosphere continues. Children on school camp sleep in what were once the family’s bedrooms and little touches, such as photos above the dining room mantelpiece, help bring the building’s past to life. Lodge manager Mike Cash says the character and charm of the 100-year-old kauri building helps make those who come to take part in YMCA courses feel immediately at home.
The family gathered for Anson Shakespear’s christening – front, Elsie Shakespear, Bob Shakespear, Mr Aldis (family friend); 2nd row, Harold Buddle (the family’s lawyer), Blanche Shakespear, Frances Shakespear, Kitty Shakespear; 3rd row, Mrs Smith (aunt), Ethel Shakespear, Daisy Hobbs (friend); back, Rev MacDonald, Judy Shakespear, E J Hobbs (friend). Photo, Daisy Burrell collection.
Daisy Burrell (nee Hobbs) was also made welcome at the Shakespear homestead – when she was a child in the 1930s. Daisy, who still lives on the Gulf Harbour property that her grandfather once farmed, remembers visiting the neighbouring Shakespears for birthday parties and other social occasions.
She says the Shakespears were known for their hospitality, including these celebrations, which featured elaborately set tables and large cakes. Daisy enjoyed riding across to the homestead and says she spent hours exploring the Shakespear’s extensive garden. She says the family were the first in the area to install a telephone, which came in useful in medical emergencies.
“My father had to ride out there one night when I had had my tonsils out and started bleeding,” Daisy says. “He used the Shakespear’s phone to call the nearest doctor, on the North Shore.”
The land that the family ran as a cattle, sheep and produce farm was purchased by Robert Shakespear’s grandfather, Sir Robert North Collie Hamilton, Baronet of Stratford on Avon, from Ranulph Dacre. The 1333-acre property on which the homestead was built passed to Blanche Shakespear after Sir Robert’s death.
Robert and Blanche had seven children, five of whom kept the farm going after their father’s death in 1910. Son Bob managed the operation with eldest daughter Frances (Cis), while Ivy, Ruby (Judy) and Ethel worked on the farm. Helen trained as a midwife and the youngest, Kitty, attended school in Auckland.
Their active and isolated farm life may be one reason that Daisy remembers the family as strong individualists, with distinctly different characters and interests.
The dining room, circa 1910-20 had lots of feminine touches, including flowers from the Shakespear’s garden. Photo, Frances Shakespear.
The newly landscaped and planted ‘gully garden’. Photo, Frances Shakespear, circa 1910-20.
All were keen naturalists and sailors. Eldest daughter Frances was a photographer and developed her own prints. Bob’s first love was shipbuilding, a career he gave up to manage the farm. Ivy and Judy both enjoyed gardening, but while Ivy is described as “quiet and artistic”, Judy loved sailing and was fond of wearing knickerbockers and a sailor-style top. Ethel took to farm work, milking the cows (with Judy) and riding horses.
A descendant, Vivienne Shakespear, who lives in Wainui, grew up in what is now the Lodge manager’s house on the property. Her father, Anson, was Bob and Elsie Shakespear’s only child.
Vivienne has fond memories of exploring the homestead as a child.
“After Frances died in 1965, my grandparents Bob and Elsie moved into the homestead and I used to play there often,” Vivienne says. “It had a very Victorian feel, despite being built at the end of the Edwardian era, with items such as centipedes preserved in formaldehyde, a shark’s mouth and a tiger’s head from India on display.”
Vivienne says the home had lots of feminine touches that remained from her great aunts’ day. There was also a one-metre tall wax doll, which was carefully unwrapped to be played with.
Vivienne had a chance to explore the house more recently (in the 1990s) when a friend was managing the YMCA Lodge.
“I stayed in my old bedroom – it was very special. The building is quite Spartan inside now, because of its role in outdoor education, but it’s being used by lots of people and my great aunts would have loved that.”
The house is built on a former Maori pa site, overlooking Te Haruhi Bay, and remains of the pa, including a kumara pit, can still be seen in front of the house. The structure is largely kauri, with kauri match lining, scrim and wallpaper inside. It had seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, a library, kitchen, scullery, and dining room and toilet built as an extension. A sunroom was added in the 1930s. Outbuildings included a dairy, garages and a woolshed.
By 1983 when the YMCA took on the lease, the homestead was in poor condition. Renovation work undertaken by the YMCA in order to convert the building to lodge accommodation included repairing or replacing much of the original exterior fabric.
The building is maintained by the YMCA as part of their lease, which costs the association $10–$15,000 annually, according to Mike Cash. A major exterior repaint is planned this year.
He says the open sanctuary, now underway at the park, is a bonus for the YMCA.
“We are very lucky to be right in the middle of a regional park,” Mike says. “When the sanctuary opens, it will add to the value of the place – potentially we could lead groups into the bush at night to go kiwi spotting one day.”
Mike says the YMCA wants to continue its operations at the Lodge well after its lease expires in around 10 years.
“I am hopeful the powers that be in Auckland Council, once it takes over from the ARC, will see the benefit of what the YMCA is achieving at the Lodge and allow them to continue here.”
Shakespear YMCA Lodge manager Mike Cash says being in a regional park provides wonderful opportunities for their outdoor education students.