Situated on the lower slopes of Mt Albert and once the centrepiece of a 500-acre country estate, Alberton began life as a two-storey farmhouse built in 1863. It belonged to Allan Kerr Taylor, one of several brothers of Scots descent who purchased estates in early Auckland. The Taylors inherited fortunes from their father, a colonel in the British Army stationed in India.
As Allan Kerr Taylor’s wealth grew, so did the size of Alberton and a family of ten children borne by his second wife Sophia, a suffragette. In 1872 Alberton was expanded to a fashionable, 18-room mansion with a strong Indian theme inspired by his country of birth. For the latter part of the nineteenth-century it was renowned for events such as balls, hunts and garden parties attended by Auckland social elite.
Visitors today could be forgiven for thinking the family has just popped out for a while. When bequeathed to the public in 1972, the Kerr Taylor’s descendants left the house furnished with a treasure trove of original artefacts. These include the family’s period furniture and fine dinnerware, the copper in the washhouse, and the coal-fired range over which the servants toiled. While the ballroom is always a highlight, many visitors are equally beguiled by the original William Morris wallpaper in the dining room, and the austere servants’ quarters in the attics.
Fans of architecture and design will enjoy surveying Alberton’s décor made up of construction materials and techniques that reflect each subsequent era. The building’s defining feature is its façade, decorated with elegant Raj-influenced verandahs and turrets. These can be admired from the surrounding garden that features lush lawns, heritage trees and original outbuildings.
Alberton can easily be reached on public transport from downtown Auckland. Entry allows visitors to explore the house and garden at their leisure, with hosts on hand to provide an illuminating introduction to the property. A quaint gift shop, the Verandah Store, sells unique jewelry, homewares, and souvenirs, and Alberton produce including fresh, free range eggs.
The mansion’s past is brought back to life through regular public events such as tea parties, concerts, exhibitions and workshops. See the events page for more details