Situated in Merivale Avenue, Epsom, Grove House (Former) is a bungalow designed by the noted Auckland architectural practice of Jones and Palmer. Constructed in 1925 for Jane Grove, a wealthy widow, the stone and shingle-clad dwelling illustrates the design principles of Gerald Jones, an influential figure in the development and promotion of Arts and Crafts architecture in New Zealand.
The site lies to the northwest of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), a substantial volcanic cone and pa occupied by Waiohua chief Kiwi Tamaki. The area was later taken over by Ngati Whatua, preceding Auckland's founding as colonial capital in 1840. From 1843 the site was part of a broader holding owned by auctioneer and agriculturalist Thomas Paton (1816?-1901), before being purchased in late 1924 by the recently widowed Jane Grove (1854-1951) as a residential site. Jane's husband William (1852-1924) was an Englishman who had been involved in the Pacific Island trade and had founded the exporting and trade financing operation known today as W.H. Grove and Sons.
Erected soon after the land was purchased, the single-storey Grove House exhibited simple design, a use of traditional materials and skilled craftsmanship, principles synonymous with the Arts and Crafts movement. The house included a prominent basalt base and chimneys, a gabled Marseilles tile roof and walls clad with cedar shingles. Its internal layout incorporated a rectangular entrance hall providing access to a dining room, drawing room and two front bedrooms. The service areas and a third bedroom were reached via an L-shaped passage leading from the hall. The location of the third bedroom may suggest the option to employ live-in domestic help. Doors, fireplaces, cabinetry and Oregon hall panelling were part of the architects' design.
Constructed by builder Lee McKinstry (1863-1940), the former Grove House was designed by the architectural practice of Gerald Jones (1880-1960) and Arthur Palmer (1888-1977). Jones, a significant figure in the development and promotion of the English influenced Arts and Crafts architectural style in New Zealand, had been awarded a Bronze Medal by the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1915 for his Hanna House in nearby Remuera. The design of Grove House was a marked contrast to Jones' earlier two-storey houses of English appearance, and a significant example of his later residential work.
In the two decades following Mrs Grove's death in 1951, minor alterations to the interior were made. The former Grove House was sold by the family in 1971 and converted into two flats, but after changing hands several times became a single residence again in the early 1980s. An attic addition made in 1984 necessitated a reworking of the service area, and further alterations were made to this part of the structure in 2003. The house remains in private ownership and retains original features including fireplaces, timber panelling, and timber beam and plaster ceilings.
The Grove House (Former) has aesthetic significance as a well-designed 1920s shingle-clad bungalow with highly articulated elevations and interior elements of note. The place has architectural significance as a high quality bungalow designed by the noted Auckland partnership of Jones and Palmer. Illustrating the principles of Arts and Crafts architecture through aspects such as its simple design, skilled workmanship and use of natural materials, it is a significant example of the mature work of Gerald Jones who was a major influence in introduction of the Arts and Crafts style to New Zealand and in its promotion and development for over two decades.
Early history of the site
The site lies within the southern part of the suburb of Epsom and is located near the western slopes of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), the former pa of the eighteenth-century Waiohua chief Kiwi Tamaki. Maungakiekie was part of the broader Auckland Isthmus taken over by Ngati Whatua in the early eighteenth century, preceding colonisation and the founding of Auckland as capital in 1840.
Subdivided into farms as early as 1842, the wider Epsom area became renowned for its large country homes and later as a prestigious suburb. The site occupied by the former Grove House straddles the boundary of two Crown Grants made in 1842. Both holdings were purchased from the original grantees in 1843 by auctioneer and agriculturalist Thomas Paton (1816?-1901) who had acquired other land nearby. Paton was the business partner of New Zealand's first Superintendent of Public Works, William Mason (1810-1897), and actively farmed the Eden Hill property until his death in 1901. Parts of Paton's land were bought in 1908 by William Wilson of New Zealand concrete pioneering concern, Wilsons Portland Cement Company. Wilson built a concrete villa on his holding in circa 1909-1910.
Over the following decade Merivale Avenue evolved from a thoroughfare with two or three initial households into a well-established suburban street. Residential development in the southern part of Epsom accelerated after 1907 partly in response to the Auckland Hospitals and Charitable Aid Board's marketing of residential leasehold sites on its endowment land. Nearby Cornwall Park was also endowed as an attractive public amenity in 1901. Against a background of rising aspirations of home ownership, the suburban location had become increasingly accessible due to tram services and the private motor car. In some instances significant Auckland architects designed Arts and Crafts style houses in the suburb. These included William Gummer who designed a house for a member of the Winstone family at 37 Claude Road (1915), and the firm Grierson Aimer and Draffin who designed the 1924-5 Whittome residence at 18 Gardner Road.
In September 1924, Wilson sold approximately 1400 square metres of his Merivale Avenue property to Martha Jane Grove (1854?-1951), the widow of Pacific Island trading merchant William Henry Grove (1852-1924). William Grove had entered the hardware business in Birmingham, England, before emigrating to Canada in the 1880s where he operated as a trader. After arriving in Auckland with his family in 1896, he became actively involved in developing trade with the Cook Islands which had become a British Protectorate in 1888. Operating from an address in Customs Street, adjoining the Auckland waterfront where the majority of New Zealand's Pacific Island trade was handled, Grove later extended his operation to Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga and the Western Pacific. The commercial enterprise he founded remains in operation as the firm of exporters and trade financiers W.H. Grove and Sons.
Construction of the house (1925)
Following William's death in 1924, Jane Grove gave up the couple's two-storey villa in Epsom's Crescent Road. In January 1925 construction of a three-bedroom bungalow commenced on the nearby Merivale Avenue site. Work later in the same year included the erection of a freestanding, single-car garage (since demolished). The house was designed by the architectural practice of Jones and Palmer.
Located on the northern part of the site, close to the road, the house enjoyed views to the east, west and north. Plantings may have included an oak tree and other specimens near the street frontage, and ornamental and fruit trees on an irregularly-shaped, level area at the rear of the site, an informal layout that acknowledged the site's rocky terrain. A curving rock-faced wall along part of the drive retained a shallow terraced area in which there were steps leading to the front door.
The single-storey Grove House exhibited simple design, a use of traditional materials and skilled craftsmanship, principles synonymous with the Arts and Crafts movement. Robust masonry foundation walls and stone chimneys gave an impression of solidity and helped meld the building into its rocky setting. Below a shallow, gabled Marseilles tile roof, external walls were clad with shingles. The well-articulated elevations of the residence incorporated small, multi-paned casement windows within bays of varying styles.
Internally, the entrance hall consisted of a rectangular room off which the main rooms - the dining room, drawing room and two front bedrooms - led. The hall was considerably larger than those in houses designed by Jones during the previous decade and incorporated the two-thirds height Oregon panelling found in several of his earlier domestic works. The front doors, fireplaces and simple cabinetry in dining and drawing rooms were included in the architectural design. Although a door linked the dining room to the kitchen behind, the main access to the kitchen, service area and a third bedroom was via an L-shaped passage leading from the hall. A side lobby off the passage provided access to a coal room, internal verandah and washhouse. The location of the third bedroom, lacking direct access to the drawing room or front hall, suggests that the layout preserved the option to employ live-in domestic help.
The architectural partnership of Gerald Jones (1880-1963) and Arthur Palmer (1888-1977) commenced soon after the First World War (1914-18). Jones carried out most of the draughting work while Palmer generally drew up the specifications. Gerald Jones, a registered architect since 1908, was strongly influenced by English architects such as C.F.A. Voysey. Both Jones and Dunedin-based Basil Hooper (1876-1960), who later practised in Auckland, were particularly influential in the development of Arts and Crafts architecture in New Zealand and in promoting principles later widely embraced by key local architects in the 1920s. Initially adopted by the Dominion's well-to-do Edwardians, the Arts and Crafts style represented a marked contrast to the villa and its derivative forms that had dominated domestic housing in New Zealand from 1860 to 1910. Domestic architecture in New Zealand continued to be influenced by the Arts and Crafts style into the nineteen twenties and thirties.
Noted commissions earlier undertaken by Gerald Jones included the Rice House (1911), the Wrigley House (Record no. 599, Category II historic place, 1911-12), and the Hanna House (Record no. 107, Category I historic place), the latter a design for which he was awarded a New Zealand Institute of Architects Bronze Medal in 1915. The single-storey bungalow designed for Mrs Grove was a marked contrast to these two-storey houses of English appearance, and a significant example of Jones' later residential work and of the work of the Jones and Palmer partnership that ended during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The Grove House was constructed by Scottish-born builder, Lee McKinstry (1864-1940) and may have been one of his last contracts. McKinstry had previously erected the Ngaruawahia Post Office (1909) and the landmark Ponsonby Post Office (completed in 1912).
Subsequent use and modification
Following Mrs Grove's death in 1951 at the age of 97, the estate passed to her executors, merchants Arthur and Joseph Grove. The coal room was converted into shower in 1955 during the tenancy of a Miss Elizabeth Grove who lived at 22 Merivale Avenue until circa 1971.
In 1960 the dining room was extended into the front verandah space. Towards the end of the decade, part of the property frontage was vested in Auckland City Council as street. Part of site became a right of way and part was transferred to two adjoining lots reducing the section to its present size of 1128 square metres.
After the family sold the property in 1971 the house was used as two flats following conversion of the washhouse into a second kitchen. Changing hands several times, the property became a single residence again in the 1980s.
Alterations were made in the rear of the house over the following two and a half decades, but otherwise the building retained much of its original layout and significant features. A flat-roofed, shingle-clad attic addition was built in 1984 to provide additional bedrooms, a study and a bathroom. The washhouse and toilet area was reworked to accommodate the new staircase, a laundry and toilet. The former lobby, coal room and internal verandah became a family room with doors opening from a small addition to the west. A decade later the remodelled kitchen was incorporated into the family room. In 2003 the drawing room became a bedroom taking in the remainder of the rear passage and an en-suite bathroom was developed in what was originally the third bedroom. The hall door to the second bedroom (now the dining room) was replaced by a pair of doors with panes of bevelled glass like those to the original dining room (now the lounge). It is not evident whether doors with bevelled glass were part of Jones and Palmers' design.
In 1986 the original garage was demolished and new garaging and a wood shed built. The rear living area was terraced and a swimming pool was installed.
The house remains in use as a private residence.
The former Grove House is located to the west of the Manukau Road and Green Lane West shopping centre in south Epsom. Epsom is an inner suburb of Auckland, lying to the south of the city centre. Part of a predominantly residential area, Merivale Avenue is a short suburban street that winds between The Drive and St Andrews Road. It is located two main blocks to the west of the extensive pa at Maungakiekie, which is part of a large open space formed by Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill Domain. The latter contains numerous structures associated with John Logan Campbell - the 'Father of Auckland' - including Acacia Cottage (Record no. 525, Category I historic place), the John Logan Campbell Monument (Record no. 4478, Category I) and the One Tree Hill Obelisk (Record no. 4601, Category I historic place).
Other surviving components of the historical landscape in south Epsom include St Andrews Anglican Church (Record no. 116, Category I historic place), the nineteenth-century Costley Home for the Aged Poor and later buildings comprising part of the Greenlane Hospital on Green Lane Road West, and an Art Deco-style electricity substation at The Drive. Apart from Grove House, other notable Arts and Crafts-style residences in the vicinity include those at 18 Gardner Road and 37 Claude Road.
The former Grove House occupies the north and west extremity of a small basalt outcrop. The 1128 square metre plot is approximately rectangular in plan with an angled south east corner and a frontage that flares to the east. The shingle- and-stone-clad bungalow is located at the northern end of the site. Modern garaging adjoins the west boundary. A rock-faced retaining wall on the road reserve and a grassed bank rise towards the drive and the house. An oak tree and other sizeable specimen trees grow on the bank adjoining the drive. Part of the upper bank of the drive is retained by a retaining wall of basalt blocks above which there is lawn, steps and plantings.
The bank behind the house is retained by a modern timber wall. In the western section of the rear outdoor living area is a paved terrace with swimming pool. Rising land to the east above the pool is laid out in lawns, shrubs and trees. A recent timber shed is sited towards the south east corner of the section. Although the residence is prominently located on a knoll, it is not readily visible from the road. Well-established plantings on the site include a Grevillia or similar species by the front door, an old plum tree in west side yard and ornamentals including two crab apple trees towards the rear of the property.
Main building - exterior
The residence is a single-storey, shingle-clad bungalow of Arts and Crafts design. It is roughly rectangular in plan with a Marseilles tile roof. The front elevation incorporates the centrally located front entrance which is flanked by a shallow bow-window on the east side of the front elevation and a rock-faced former verandah on the west. The exterior of the structure has small-paned lead-light casement windows and bay windows of facetted, square and bow design. Where windows are flush with the wall the shingle cladding flairs out to form shallow window hoods. Wide eaves are supported on extended rafters or by simple timber brackets. Exposed purlin ends are a visual feature in places.
The main entrance facing Merivale Avenue occupies a recessed porch at the east end of the former verandah. The door and sidelights are composed of large hexagonal lead-lights.
The west elevation is particularly striking for its two massive parallel stone chimneys the lower portion of each having been extended to form portion of the exterior wall. The shingled recess above the base contains a pair of windows which meet at an angle. The southern end of the west elevation has been modified by a shallow addition containing French doors. Other than this and an almost imperceptible addition at the south east corner, the building retains its original footprint. A low profile attic addition has been made at the southwest portion of the building.
Main building - interior
The layout and interior of the front portion of the house is little altered from the original design, although the functions of three of the four rooms opening off the hall have changed. An open-plan kitchen-living area, a bathroom, a toilet and a staircase are served by the passage that runs south from the hall. The interior layout of the rear and the south western areas of the building has been more significantly modified. The location of the rear section of the former passage and some small utility rooms is no longer evident.
The rectangular entrance hall is particularly noteworthy for its timber floors, panelling and doors. Two cupboards, a feature of the original design, blend into the Oregon timber-panelling. Timber skirtings, architraves and mouldings are narrow and extremely simple. The white plaster ceilings moulded from patterned glass are divided into squares by timber beams. The three fireplaces, one of which incorporates side cupboards with lead-light doors, are part of the original design although two have modern gas fires installed.
The living room space (original dining room) has been extended north into the former verandah and the windows reused in the front wall. A cupboard with lead-light glass doors, below which is timber shelving, is an original feature. The fireplace incorporating orange bricks and blocks of basalt is a notable feature and has a simple quarry tile hearth part of which is overlain by a semi-circle of bricks. A niche with lead-light windows to the south side of the chimney breast is an interesting detail.
A striking feature in the front bedroom is the north-facing shallow bow window and an east-facing facetted bay window. The dining room (original second bedroom) has a shallow rectangular window bay with seat. The fireplace has been rebuilt although the simple kauri timber fire-surround survives. The fire-surround in the southern bedroom (original drawing room) incorporates Oregon pine panels and side cupboards with lead-light glass doors. The hearth consists of hexagonal tiling. An en-suite bathroom has been developed in what was formerly a third bedroom.
The passage extending south from the hall appears to have been relined with replica T & G wallboard. The kitchen has been remodelled, relined and incorporated into a small open-plan area. All finishes and fittings are modern, although the kitchen retains the original windows. A modern staircase of simple design provides access to three habitable rooms and bathroom in the attic addition.
The modern garage is of a design that is sympathetic to the house. Its interior was not inspected.
Coal room converted to shower room
Dining room extended into front verandah space
Attic containing bedrooms and bathroom
Washhouse (second kitchen) and toilet remodelled for staircase, laundry and toilet; lobby, coal room, verandah converted to family room, kitchen remodelled
Kitchen incorporated in slightly extended family room
Drawing room and back bedroom converted to bedroom and en-suite incorporating remains of rear passage; door between front hall & second bedroom replaced by pair of doors
Stone and concrete foundation walls and concrete piles, timber frame, shingle cladding, Marseilles tile roof
24th March 2010
Report Written By
Lloyd Jenkins, 2004
Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, At Home: A Century of New Zealand Design. Auckland: Random House, 2004
Peter Shaw, New Zealand Architecture: From Polynesian Beginnings to 1990, Auckland, 1991
G.W.A Bush, (ed.), The History of Epsom, Auckland, 2006
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.