An historic Warkworth home with links to the Methodist Church and Gertie Hamilton’s Secret Garden will come onto the market this week.
Built in the early 1900s, the four-bedroomed kauri villa, in Hexham Street, Warkworth, served for many years as the Methodist parsonage. Then, in 1952, it was bought by Miss Gertie Hamilton and her sister Flora. It was Gertie’s home for the remainder of her life and she became a well-recognised figure around town with her gossamer scarves and her love of a chat with people she met along the way.
Gertie was born at her parent’s home The Grange, on the Mahurangi River, in 1900. She was the oldest daughter of Willie and Isabella (Nathaniel Wilson’s daughter).
The family recalls that she was an excellent seamstress, winning a prize in the Auckland Exhibition when she was only 13. During the 1930’s she worked as a seamstress above her uncle Ben Hamilton’s drapery shop.
After attending St Cuthbert’s School for Young Ladies in Auckland, she attended Elam School of Art for a short time.
Gertie was also a talented pianist but in 1921, while teaching piano in Helensville, she had a breakdown. She returned to The Grange to live with her parents, presumably to rest and recover. She continued, however, to give music lessons using the Warkworth Town Hall piano and, as travel got easier, she would also teach in Matakana and Silverdale.
In 1946, when her parents retired to Warkworth, she moved with them. For the next 50 years she was a familiar sight around the town in her flowing dresses, gossamer scarves and usually with a bunch of flowers in her hand.
When both her parents died within three months of one another in 1952, Gertie moved into the house in Hexham Street. She grew a lovely wild garden, tended to many cats, loved walking into town or catching the Gubbs bus to Takapuna.
“There was a timeless quality about her,” her niece Lyn Hamilton recalls. “She never thought of herself as old and retained a graciousness of an earlier era. She was a kind lady and expected to be treated the same.”
When Gertie died in 1995, the family discovered a collection of exquisite paintings in her home. Many were of flowers and fruit, but there were also landscapes and drawings of animals.
Lyn says the reason her aunt kept the paintings a secret remains a mystery.
“Only three pieces were displayed unobtrusively in her home – the Pansies, Highland Mary and Fruit on the Table,” Lyn says.
“When the family saw her work, it was agreed that it was too lovely not to share with the people of Warkworth who had been so much a part of Gertie’s life, so we organised an exhibition.”
The exhibition was so successful that the family used the funds raised to produce a book of her work – Gertie Hamilton’s Secret Garden – which included notes from her diaries.
Gertie’s former home is being marketed by Ray White Warkworth and will be sold at auction.