Carmichael House was erected overlooking the waterfront at St Georges Bay prior to 1863, and is closely associated with Auckland’s maritime history. The timber residence appears to have been built for Captain Thomas Sparrow Carmichael (1825-1900), an experienced sailor who held a variety of positions at a time when Auckland was developing as the main port in northern New Zealand. Evidently constructed as a family house, the dwelling was occupied by Carmichael’s wife, Marguerite, and their children while he was frequently away at sea. Following his retirement in 1893, it was lived in by a wealthy sailmaker, Richard Bertram. Maritime associations continued until at least the 1930s, when the residence was occupied by a waterside worker.
Prior to European arrival, St Georges Bay formed a small inlet between Te Toangaroa (Mechanics Bay) and Taurarua (Judge’s Bay). A pa at Taurarua is believed to have been occupied by Te Waiohua before the area was taken over by Ngati Whatua in the eighteenth century. During the 1840s, Parnell developed as a separate settlement from the nearby centre of government at Auckland although areas such as St Georges Bay housed government officials, including George Clarke, Protector of the Aborigines, and the Colonial Treasurer, George Cooper. In 1860, a plot of land adjoining the main access to the bay - St Georges Bay Road - was purchased by Captain Carmichael.
Although still in his thirties Carmichael was a mariner with considerable experience, including as part of the first crew to pass through the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic in 1850-54, for which he had received a medal. At the time of his purchase, Carmichael was master of the Petrel, a 20-ton cutter that is said to have been owned by a northern Maori leader, Te Tirarau, and which provided a weekly service for goods and people between Auckland and Whangarei. Carmichael appears likely to have constructed his house in St Georges Bay at a similar time to his marriage with Marguerite in 1862 and the subsequent birth of their first child. Built on sloping land with views towards the sea, the residence can be described as Georgian in style with a hipped roof and a symmetrical elevation to St Georges Bay Road. The latter elevation was single-storey in height, although the sides and rear of the house incorporated an additional basement level.
In 1864, Captain Carmichael was appointed the first Pilot and Harbourmaster at Tauranga, which was being established as a military settlement following the third New Zealand - or Waikato - War (1863-4). During his occupation of this post, Marguerite Carmichael continued to live at the house, with further children being born there. As the family expanded, dormers and a staircase to an attic space may have been created. In 1867, an adjoining allotment on the northern side of the building was also purchased. A large wrap-around verandah of elegant design overlooked the additional land, and also extended along the St Georges Bay Road façade. Following the abolition of his post in 1870, Captain Carmichael returned to occupy the house as his base, and was subsequently involved in the Pacific trade until retiring to Maungakaramea in 1893. The residence was subsequently purchased by a successful tent and sailmaker from Thames, Richard Bertram, who bequested a large amount of money to several organisations in Thames and Auckland including Thames Hospital, the Auckland Jubilee Institution for the Blind, and the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women and Children. Although the bay’s direct connection with the Waitemata Harbour was removed by reclamation work in the early 1900s, ongoing connections with the maritime industry included occupation by a waterside worker, Louis Olsen, in the first decades of the twentieth century.
The house remains in private ownership on a reduced section, having been extensively renovated in the 1980s and 1990s.
Carmichael House is aesthetically significant for the visual impact and elegant design of its verandah, and for well-preserved internal elements such as its attic space. The place has historical significance for its lengthy associations with Auckland’s maritime history, encompassing the importance of Maori-owned vessels, coastal trade, the official expansion of government control to new harbours such as Tauranga, and the region’s role in the Pacific trade. It has additional significance for its broader connections with British naval and polar exploration, and its links with the development of St Georges Bay and Parnell during the early colonial period. The place has social significance for its connections with family life in early colonial New Zealand, and particularly a form of household organisation in which husbands were absent from home and family for lengthy periods while engaged in their work.
Historical Significance or Value
The place has historical significance for its lengthy associations with Auckland’s maritime history, encompassing the importance of Maori-owned vessels, coastal trade, the official expansion of government control to new harbours such as Tauranga, and the region’s role in the Pacific trade. The place is also connected to the profitability of other maritime activities such as sailmaking; and to less lucrative activity in the 1930s when it was occupied by a waterside worker. The place has enhanced significance for its broader connections with British naval and polar exploration.
The place has value for its close associations with the development of St Georges Bay and Parnell during the early colonial period.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
The place has aesthetic significance for the visual impact and elegant design of its verandah, which incorporates simple arch forms decorating the verandah posts on both its north and east elevations. Other parts of the building contribute aesthetic value, most notably its well-preserved attic which retains its nineteenth-century appearance and atmosphere; and also other internal elements such as the upper staircase, which has newel posts incorporating acorn designs.
Social Significance or Value:
The place has social significance for its connections with family life in early colonial New Zealand, and particularly a form of household organisation in which husbands were absent from home and family for lengthy periods of time while engaged in their work.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
Carmichael House has close associations with New Zealand’s colonial maritime history, being occupied by individuals with strong connections to a variety of tasks linked with seagoing activities. Its occupants and location reflect the importance of waterborne transport to New Zealand’s development during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The place is also connected with family life for much of the colonial period. Its use of attic space may reflect an expansion of family members. The building is a reminder of St Georges Bay’s once close connections with the Waitemata Harbour, and reflects Parnell’s development as a satellite settlement of Auckland, when the latter was the main port in northern New Zealand.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The place has strong associations with Captain Thomas Carmichael, who was the first Pilot and Harbourmaster at Tauranga at a time when that settlement was being established as a colonial township. When he purchased the land on which his house was built, Carmichael was master of what has been regarded as the earliest vessel to have undertaken a regular service between Auckland and Whangarei. Carmichael had previously been a crew member of the first expedition to pass through the Northwest Passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, a feat that many had previously attempted but failed to achieve. Carmichael’s role in this undertaking was acknowledged by a medal from the British authorities.
The place was also subsequently owned and occupied by Richard Bertram, a notable tent and sailmaker in Thames during the colonial period. Bertram was a benefactor to numerous institutions in Auckland and Thames, including Thames Hospital, the Auckland Jubilee Institution for the Blind, and the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women and Children.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:
The survival of pit-sawn structural timbers indicates that the place has the potential to provide knowledge about early colonial construction and timber conversion techniques. The place incorporates unusual later external cladding in the form of ‘baby iron’ corrugated sheeting, which may provide knowledge about the use of such materials.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The place has some significance for the elegant design of its wrap-around verandah and for surviving internal features such as its upper staircase, which has newel posts incorporating acorn designs.
(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:
The place is significant for encompassing a surviving building from the period when Auckland was New Zealand’s colonial capital.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The place forms part of an important nineteenth-century historical and cultural landscape in Parnell. Parnell was Auckland’s earliest main satellite settlement, developing in conjunction with the colonial capital. Important other surviving structures in the vicinity include Hulme Court - believed to be the earliest surviving building in Auckland on its original site - and other structures of an early colonial date on Parnell Road and St Stephens Avenue.
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, c, g, i, and k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Historical Description and Analysis:
Early history of the site:
The land occupied by Carmichael House is situated on the eastern side of a gully that ran into a small inlet on the shores of the Waitemata Harbour. Later known as St Georges Bay, the inlet was located between Te Toangaroa (later known as Mechanics Bay) to the west, and Taurarua (Judge’s Bay) to the east. Prior to European colonisation, Maori occupied numerous sites beside the Harbour and used its associated bays for transport, food-gathering and other purposes. A headland pa at Taurarua is believed to have been occupied by Te Waiohua before the area was taken over by Ngati Whatua in the eighteenth century.
In September 1840, Ngati Whatua’s offer to transfer a large area of land to the British Crown for the creation of a colonial capital was formally agreed. Parnell developed as a separate settlement from the main centre of government at Auckland, although it housed many of its officials as well as becoming a centre of activity for the Anglican Church. Initially known as Family or Coopers Bay, St Georges Bay was connected to the main settlement at Parnell by an early thoroughfare, now known as St Georges Bay Road. In the early 1840s, inhabitants of St Georges Bay included George Clarke, Protector of the Aborigines; the Colonial Treasurer George Cooper; and the Reverend John Frederick Churton.
The land on which Carmichael House is located formed part of a Crown Grant that was issued in 1842 to James Beveridge, a director of the New Zealand Banking Company. In 1849, the land was sold to Samuel Allen Wood, who ran the Royal Masonic Hotel in Princes Street, Auckland. Wood soon disposed of a small parcel measuring 100 feet by 40 feet beside St Georges Bay Road to bricklayer John Collings Horne in 1850. This is the plot on which the current house sits. A year later, Horne in turn sold the property to publican and ginger beer brewer William Bacon, who held other land in the area. Bacon ran the Oddfellows Arms in Chancery Street, where he resided.
A plan of Auckland created by John Kinder in the late 1850s indicates a small number of houses on the eastern side of St Georges Bay Road, but not to the west. In 1857, Bacon put up four allotments for sale on a road that connected with St George’s Bay Road, as denser settlement at Parnell evidently expanded eastward. In June 1860, his property on St Georges Road was sold for £40 to a widow, Ann Tanhouse. Two months later, Tanhouse sold the property to Thomas Carmichael for £60, an increase of fifty percent on her purchase price. Although some improvements to the land may have occurred, the cost does not suggest that a substantial structure yet existed on the site.
Carmichael House (pre-1863):
The new owner, Captain Thomas Sparrow Carmichael (1825-1900), was master of the cutter, Petrel. The Petrel was a 20-ton vessel, which is said to have been the first to undertake a regular service between Auckland and Whangarei. Carmichael had been in charge of the ship since 1858, undertaking weekly trips for both cabin and steerage passengers, and transporting freight at 15 shillings per ton. The vessel is said to have been built by Thomas Stuart of Ngunguru, and owned by a northern Maori leader, Te Tirarau.
Although still in his thirties, Carmichael’s experience as a sailor was already long and varied. Born in London in 1825, he had gone to sea at a young age, first arriving in New Zealand as a merchant seaman in 1842. After joining the Royal Navy, he volunteered to take part in an expedition to search for the explorer Sir John Franklin and his party, who had disappeared while attempting to pass through the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. Departing on board the H.M.S. Investigator in 1850, Carmichael and his fellow crew were forced to abandon their vessel in 1853 after travelling through the Bering Straight and being caught in the ice at Mercy Bay for two winters. Although unsuccessful in their task, the men were credited with being the first to navigate the Northwest Passage, which connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Each was allowed to claim a medal and a share of a substantial reward for the feat. Carmichael subsequently rejoined the merchant navy, plying between London and Australia on board the Octavia in 1855.
Carmichael purchased his property between meeting his future wife, Marguerite, while on a trip to New Zealand as Chief Mate of the Egmont in 1858, and their marriage in February 1862. A house had certainly been erected by early 1863, soon after their first child was born, when Carmichael is listed on the Parnell electoral roll at the ‘St George’s Bay Road premises on which he resides’. Constructed on a sloping site with views towards the sea, the residence evidently consisted of a single-storey timber structure at road level, with a large basement storey to the sides and rear, and a roof that was hipped in Georgian style. Its main elevations were clad with horizontal weatherboards and incorporated twelve-light, double-hung sash windows. Window frames may have been coated with tar.
The house was only a short distance from the waterfront at St Georges Bay, and a couple of miles from Auckland’s main port facilities in Commercial Bay. At this time, Auckland was the most important port in northern New Zealand and a centre for the coastal trade as well as international traffic, linked to the settlement’s functions as colonial capital and a regional entrepot. While master of the Petrel, Carmichael sailed from the Queen Street wharf, which was the city’s main commercial pier. Maori-owned vessels such as the Petrel had been a significant force in the region’s shipping industry in the 1850s, and carried both tribally-produced goods to market and cargo for others, sometimes at considerable profit.
In 1864, Carmichael was appointed as the first Pilot and Harbour Master at Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. This coincided with attempts to establish a colonial township there using military settlers at the end of the third New Zealand - or Waikato - War (1863-4), when tensions were still high. Carmichael’s role included piloting vessels in and out of the harbour, maintaining buoys, and collecting duties. The harbour facilities were used by both military and commercial shipping. In 1870, his position was abolished following a decline in marine traffic. Tauranga was formally proclaimed a township and a port of entry in 1873.
Carmichael’s wife, Marguerite, continued to occupy the St Georges Bay Road residence during his absence. In December 1866, she gave birth to their third child, a daughter, at the house. In the following year, the property was enlarged to the north with a land purchase that doubled its size. A further child was born at the residence in 1869. Dormers and a staircase to an attic space may have been added as the family expanded. An elegant wrap-around verandah looked out over the enlarged section, as well as towards St Georges Bay Road.
After Captain Carmichael returned from Tauranga, he became master of a coal-bearing cutter, the Whangarei, for Walton and Company of Hikurangi. His later work was carried out in the Pacific trade, including as master of the Pearl; the Fetu Lele; and the Fanny Thornton. In 1890, he was plying the Pukaki to Fiji. Auckland’s trades were more varied than those of other ports, partly because its location made it the gateway to the Pacific Islands.
In 1893, Thomas and Marguerite Carmichael retired to Maungakaramea, near Whangarei, and the house was sold.
Subsequent use and modifications:
The new purchaser of the property was Richard Bertram (c.1831-1901), who occupied the house until his death in 1901. Bertram was a tent and sailmaker from Thames, who had retired to Auckland ‘to enjoy a considerable fortune, made almost entirely by personal industry.’ Bertram had worked in the former since the gold rush of the 1860s, becoming one of the two main tent and sailmakers in the Thames district. Marguerite Carmichael’s elder brother, Emilius Le Roy, had similarly been a sailmaker by trade.
At his death, Bertram was a benefactor to several organisations in Thames and Auckland. His will provided bequests of a significant size to St Georges Church and St Georges School in Thames, Thames Hospital, Thames Charitable Aid Board, Thames Old Men’s Refuge, Auckland Benevolent Society, Auckland Jubilee Institution for the Blind, the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women and Children, and the Auckland Hospital and Charitable Aid Board. In August 1903, a tablet was unveiled to Bertram in St George’s Church, commemorating his charity.
In 1904, the house was purchased from Bertrams’s executors by Alexander Sheppard Stewart, an engine driver, and retained within the Stewart family until 1972. After initially being owner-occupied, the property appears to have been let out. In 1915 it was occupied by a traveller, John Smith, and in 1925 by another engine driver, William Whitelaw. In 1934 its tenant, Louis Olsen, was a watersider. During the early 1900s, the area’s connections with the sea were radically transformed by the reclamation of St Georges Bay and the removal of the adjacent Campbell Point headland. Warehouses and related commercial structures began to dominate the northern end of St Georges Bay Road.
An early twentieth-century plan shows a small single-storey timber structure in existence to the west of the main residence. A drainage plan prepared later in the century indicates that this was a washhouse and outside toilet.
Subsequent changes to the property included the addition of a garage and open carport to the western side of the house in 1972. Following a further change of ownership in 1982, internal alterations and renovations to the main residence were undertaken. Externally, a brick driveway and other elements were removed, and a colonial garden recreated. Evidence of earlier shell paths was found. In 1996-7, land to the west of the residence was subdivided from the property, on part of the site of the earlier washhouse and garage. A garage and shed were subsequently erected on the Ruskin Street frontage. Internal alterations to the main dwelling since 1993 have included the removal of a rear chimney and the insertion of a twelve-light window in the west wall.
The house and garden remain in use as a private residence.
Physical Description and Analysis:
The site is located in Parnell, an inner suburb to the east of Auckland’s Central Business District (CBD). Parnell is a notable early colonial settlement, incorporating the largest surviving concentration of early houses in Auckland as well as numerous places linked with the development of the Anglican Church. Significant early dwellings include Hulme Court (Record no. 19, Category I historic place), Kinder House (Record no. 110, Category I historic place) and Ewelme Cottage (Record no. 15, Category I historic place). Notable places associated with the Anglican Church include St Mary’s Church (Record no. 21, Category I historic place), St Stephen’s Chapel and Graveyard (Record no. 22, Category I historic place) and Selwyn Court (Record no. 23, Category I historic place). Parnell contains other significant places that date to the early colonial period, such as the Windsor Castle Hotel on Parnell Road (Record no. 7406, Category I historic place), which is one of the earliest surviving hotels in Auckland and among the oldest remaining brick buildings in the region.
The site is separated from the centre of Parnell by the remnants of a deep gully to the west of the property. Some of the gully lies within Scarborough Reserve. A path to the reserve runs along the south boundary of the Carmichael House site.
The property is bounded on its east and north sides by the junction of St Georges Bay Road and Ruskin Street. St Georges Bay Road is now a cul de sac that extends northwards from Parnell’s main thoroughfare, Parnell Road. The street contains a variety of residential housing including the rear frontage of Hulme Court (see above), which is considered to be Auckland’s oldest surviving house on its original site. Carmichael House marks the northernmost extent of nineteenth-century housing in St Georges Bay Road. Land further north contains industrial or commercial buildings post-dating the early twentieth-century reclamation of St Georges Bay. Ruskin Street is a narrow road that also contains some older residences.
The site lies on sloping ground, which descends westward towards the gully bottom and northward to Ruskin Street. The property is approximately rectangular in plan apart from a westward extension along its northern side to encompass a garage.
The main residence is positioned in the southeast corner of the site, on the highest ground. A garden with shell paths and low formal hedging extends to the north. Immediately to the west of the house, there is a small enclosed patio. Apart from the garage, a modern shed is located in the northern part of the site, close to Ruskin Street.
The main residence can be described as being of Georgian style, with a prominent verandah along two sides that is of more ornate nineteenth-century type. The house is of timber construction, with a hipped, corrugated iron roof. The roof contains several dormer windows, and a brick chimneystack on its north side. The building’s well-preserved exterior is clad with overlapping, horizontal weatherboards.
The structure is single-storey in height as viewed from St Georges Bay Road, but elsewhere it incorporates a substantial basement storey. The building is rectangular in plan with its main entrance and elevation facing north. A blocked central doorway in its east elevation suggests that this wall, directly facing St Georges Bay Road, was once the main façade. The blocked doorway is indicated by two vertical timbers, and is flanked by symmetrically-arranged windows of double-hung sash, twelve-light design.
The corners of the building are of solid angle stop design. These and the twelve-light windows suggest a construction date before these features were widely superseded in the 1870s. The roof above contains a dormer that incorporates ‘baby iron’ corrugated sheets, which may date from the 1890s or early twentieth century. The elevation encompasses an elegant verandah that also wraps around the northern side of the building. This contains simple arch forms that decorate the verandah posts.
The north elevation contains a double-height verandah, which continues the design as on the east elevation at upper floor level but incorporates simple support posts below. The basement wall contains French doors and a window of double-hung twelve-light design. The upper wall contains a central door with two upper panels of glass, and Chicago window surrounds. Chicago windows were used in larger houses from the 1840s and 1850s, and underwent a renaissance from the 1870s to the early 1900s. The door is flanked by a possibly recent twelve-light window to its east and a four-light window to the west. A gabled dormer at roof level contains ‘baby iron’ sheeting, fretwork and a finial.
The west and south elevations are respectively of double-storey height. The west elevation has a recently-inserted window of twelve-light design near its northern end. The south elevation contains a dormer of broader design than the others, which lit an internal staircase.
The interior contains accommodation on three levels. The ground floor at St Georges Bay Road level incorporates four main rooms and a hallway. The basement holds several interconnected open-plan spaces and an enclosed laundry. The attic contains a single space, which preserves its internal linings and other features.
The ground floor is arranged with a central hallway and two main flanking rooms on either side. The hall is accessed from the main door in the north elevation, which retains original furniture. The flanking rooms include a parlour with a fireplace in the northeast corner of the building, which appears to have initially been directly accessed from the exterior via a blocked up door in the St Georges Bay Road frontage. The rear of the parlour chimney breast protrudes into the hallway, perhaps also suggesting a change in internal arrangements. Other spaces at this level contain bedroom and bathroom facilities. All currently feature four-panelled doors, moulded architraves and board and batten ceilings.
A timber staircase at the south end of the hall provides access to the attic. The staircase is balustraded and contains newel posts of acorn design. The attic space contains three dormer windows, and is entirely lined with beaded tongued and grooved boards. It has floorboards that bear evidence of alteration. Wall cupboards in the east wall have doors of Gothic Revival design, and have been added after the wall lining using boards of different type. Exposed hip rafters in each corner of the attic bear pit-saw marks.
The basement is reached via a plainer staircase at the south end of the hall, and includes a kitchen and laundry. The predominantly open-plan rooms contain some remnants of timber flooring. Floorboards of different widths may indicate phases of alteration. A fireplace is located in the northwest room. Most other interior elements have been concealed behind modern linings.
Construction of Carmichael House
Internal alterations and landscaping of associated garden
Demolition of rear chimney and insertion of twelve-light window in west elevation
Timber, with corrugated iron roof
1st June 2011
Report Written By
Auckland Waikato Historical Society Journal
Auckland Waikato Historical Society Journal
Goodison, Jean, ‘Captain Thomas Sparrow Carmichael: 1825-1900’, Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal, October 1994, 65, pp.16-19
Daily Southern Cross
Daily Southern Cross
31 December 1866, p.7; 9 June 1869, p.3
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
Land Information New Zealand
Auckland, DI 1A.508; DI 4A.431; DI 4A.538; CT NA584/145
New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.
29 October 1901, p.1
3 January 1903, p.4
Auckland City Council
Auckland City Council
Auckland Council, Auckland City Environments, Property file, 66A St Georges Street
Sunday Star Times
Sunday Star Times
7 August 1988, p.B3
Theses and Reports
Theses and Reports
Truttman, Lisa, ‘Research Summary, 66 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell (Carmichael House)’, report for Auckland City Council, 7 November 2007 (copy held by NZHPT, Auckland)
New Zealand Gardener
New Zealand Gardener
May 1992, pp.32-5
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.