Pleasant Villa

177 Grey Street, Onehunga, Auckland

  • Pleasant Villa.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 7/03/2008.
  • Pleasant Villa: Shield and ‘NZI’ detail on west gable.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 7/03/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7754 Date Entered 27th June 2008


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 188186 & Lot 2 DP 35200 (CT NA118/793), North Auckland Land District and the buildings and structures known as Pleasant Villa thereon, and their fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 for registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 188186 & Lot 2 DP 35200 (CT NA118/793), North Auckland Land District

Location description

Located at the eastern end of Grey Street, near its intersection with Mays Road.


Pleasant Villa, Onehunga is an unusual and well-preserved example of a late Gothic Revival house of brick construction, erected and occupied by a prominent local builder and bricklayer, William Kemp (1841-1906). Dating to circa 1904, the single-storey structure was constructed in the eastern part of Onehunga, which had been created as a quasi-military 'fencible' settlement by the colonial government in 1847, and was also previously settled by Ngati Tahuhu and Ngati Whatua. By the late nineteenth century, the town had undergone considerable expansion reflecting its role as the most important port on Auckland's Manukau Harbour. William Kemp was a bricklayer from England, who as an apprentice had worked on the Tower of London, one of the British capital's most significant medieval buildings. After his arrival in New Zealand in 1864, he participated in the construction of Auckland's Shortland Street Post Office, a noted Gothic Revival showpiece. He subsequently moved to Onehunga, where as a prominent member of the local Catholic community he was responsible for the construction of the Church of the Assumption (NZHPT Register # 523, Category II historic place) in 1887-9, which was also of Gothic Revival design. During the late nineteenth century he erected several brick houses for his own use or for letting, including residences occupied by himself and his wife Sarah, known as The Grottos in Heretaunga Street (1880s or before) and The Tower House in Church Street (circa 1890).

Constructed late in his life, Kemp's new residence at Pleasant Villa was positioned on a slight knoll overlooking other properties that he had built and owned. The house and its associated brick outbuilding lay in the western part of a larger holding, which may have been used for market gardening, another of Kemp's interests. Of corner-bay design, the main house incorporated six moderate-sized rooms, while the outbuilding contained a washhouse and an attached toilet. Probably built just before Kemp took occupation in 1905, the structures may have been erected with the assistance of his sons William Kemp junior and Thomas Kemp. William Kemp junior was also a bricklayer who went on to build Onehunga's Catholic presbytery (1906). Like his father, he also erected several brick houses for his own or immediate family's use in the immediate vicinity, including Emerald Hill (circa 1909).

Pleasant Villa can be seen as the culmination of William Kemp senior's experience as a bricklayer and builder. It was designed in an ornate Gothic Revival style, which incorporated a significant amount of decorative brickwork and other ornamental detailing. Kemp was noted for his ornamental brick finishes and these elements can be considered to reflect his pride in his trade as well as advertising his skills. Brick-built Gothic Revival appears to have been unusual for domestic residences in the North Island, and domestic Gothic Revival in all materials was also uncommon after the 1880s. Its use at Pleasant Villa perhaps reflected Kemp's own personal history as a builder and his connections with the Catholic church, which continued to use Gothic Revival for its presbyteries and other clerical residences into at least the late 1880s and 1890s. Unusual Gothic Revival elements employed at Pleasant Villa include a shield with the initials 'NZI' - said to stand for New Zealand Industries - on each of its main gables, and ashlar scored plaster on the upper walls of its main hallway. Basalt thresholds may also have contributed to its Gothic Revival appearance.

Following Kemp's death in 1906 and that of his wife Sarah in 1907, ownership of the property passed to their son Thomas. After Thomas Kemp developed financial difficulties during the Great Depression of the late 1920s, the house was purchased by builder George Black. Black may have initiated a number of comparatively minor modifications in the 1930s or later, including possibly externally rendering the main residence to provide it with a more 'modern' appearance. Following subdivision in the 1950s, its long-term tenants, William and Doris Stewart purchased the remnant part of the property, changing comparatively little of the basic structure of the house. In 1989, the place was bought by Landmark Incorporated, an independent incorporated society set up in 1972 to help preserve New Zealand's heritage. Still currently owned by Landmark Incorporated, Pleasant Villa remains in use as a private residence.

Pleasant Villa has aesthetic significance for its striking appearance and for the level and quality of its visual detailing. It has architectural significance as an unusual and well-preserved example of brick-built domestic Gothic Revival in the North Island, which demonstrates the survival of domestic Gothic Revival as an architectural style into the early twentieth century. The aesthetic and architectural significance of Pleasant Villa extends to the building interior.

Assessment criteriaopen/close


Pleasant Villa has aesthetic significance for its striking Gothic Revival appearance and for the level and quality of its visual detailing. The latter encompass varied decorative elements, materials and finishes, including polychromatic chimneys and other ornamental brickwork, clay tile paving, and interior detailing such as its hallway dado rail, ceiling roses and intact fireplace surrounds.


Pleasant Villa has architectural significance as an unusual and well-preserved example of brick-built domestic Gothic Revival in the North Island of New Zealand. Later than most other residences of its style, it demonstrates the survival of domestic Gothic Revival into the early twentieth century. Architectural significance extends to its well-preserved interior, which includes unusual aspects of Gothic Revival domestic décor in the form of an ashlar-scored hall (albeit replicated) and basalt thresholds. Pleasant Villa can also be considered significant for incorporating a wide range of architectural materials and finishes linked to brick and tile craft traditions in early twentieth-century New Zealand.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

Pleasant Villa reflects aspects of New Zealand history such as the prosperity of individual tradesmen in early twentieth century Onehunga, and a more general tradition of self-reliant family enterprise in the late colonial period. It may also reflect a conscious emphasis on the use of New Zealand crafts and materials in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as promoted through New Zealand industrial exhibitions and other means.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

Pleasant Villa has potential to provide knowledge about craft traditions and technologies in early twentieth-century New Zealand, especially those linked with the brick and tile industries. Its well-preserved residence and outbuilding can also provide information about the arrangement, use and appearance of domestic buildings in early twentieth-century New Zealand society.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

Pleasant Villa can be considered a valuable example of ornamental brick-built Gothic Revival design, incorporating decorative brickwork and in some cases unusual detailing and finishes. It is also significant as a late example of domestic Gothic Revival, reflecting the duration of this architectural tradition into the twentieth century.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

Pleasant Villa is part of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century residential landscape in eastern Onehunga, which includes other surviving brick residences built by the Kemp family. These include surviving structures in the immediate neighbourhood at Mays Road, Alfred Street and Grotto Street.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


From possibly as early as the fourteenth century, the Onehunga area was occupied by Ngati Tahuhu, a group descended from the Tainui canoe. Te Waiohua later became the dominant iwi in the Auckland isthmus, occupying several pa sites including a major complex at Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), approximately a kilometre to the northeast of the Pleasant Villa site. In the 1740s, much of the isthmus was conquered by Ngati Whatua, and occupied by them until New Zealand became a British colony in 1840. During the so-called Musket Wars of the early 1800s, Ngati Whatua evidently maintained a small settlement at Onehunga, near the foot of Princes Street. Recorded Maori sites in the general landscape around the Pleasant Villa site include a settlement and middens along the historical foreshore of the Manukau Harbour, now occupied by Beechcroft Avenue, and a cluster of middens away from the shoreline in the vicinity of upper Onehunga Mall.

Soon after formal colonisation, land purchased from Maori by individual European settlers was requisitioned by the colonial government for the establishment of a quasi-military 'fencible' settlement. Strategically located beside the large Manukau Harbour, Onehunga was founded in 1847 as the first of four settlements that collectively formed a protective buffer between the colonial capital at Auckland and Maori-occupied land in the Waikato. Onehunga soon became the main colonial port on the Manukau, receiving incoming goods from Maori and exporting European products in return. As the second largest entrepôt on the Auckland isthmus, the town formed a base for colonial expansion during the Third New Zealand - or Waikato - War (1863-4) and subsequently benefited from servicing European settlement in the Waikato and elsewhere. By the end of the nineteenth century, it had developed into a prosperous industrial and mercantile centre, although its maritime role was gradually eroded by rail and road transport, and by its proximity to Auckland.


Located on the northeastern outskirts of the 1847 fencible settlement, the land occupied by Pleasant Villa was initially the western part of a 0.4 hectare (1 acre) block granted by the Crown to Thomas Lucas (1811-1883) in August 1858. Lucas was a military settler of Irish origin who had arrived in Onehunga in 1852 after serving in the East Indies with the 31st Regiment. Land allocations were made to military settlers such as Lucas as part of an inducement to protect and develop the new colonial town. It is currently uncertain if Lucas erected a house on the site, although five years after his death his widow Ellen took out a mortgage (1888) secured by 'hereditaments and premises' on the land.

In 1890, the site later to be occupied by Pleasant Villa was purchased by Maria Kearney, wife of an Auckland storeman Richard Kearney. In 1897, it was onsold at a profit. The purchaser was William Kemp (1841-1906), who had previously bought the eastern half of Lucas' original 0.4 hectare block in 1866 and probably also two adjoining 0.4 ha (one acre) blocks immediately to the east to create a 1.2 ha (3 acre) holding.


William Kemp's purchase was one of many he undertook in the eastern part of Onehunga as the town expanded. Kemp was a noted Onehunga bricklayer and builder, who had migrated to New Zealand with his wife Sarah (1838-1907) from London in 1864. Trained as a stonemason and bricklayer at King's Cross, his apprenticeship is reported to have involved working on the Tower of London, one of the British capital's most significant medieval buildings. One of Kemp's first jobs on arrival in Auckland was quarrying and dressing stone steps for a grand new post office in Shortland Street. Other new migrants working as masons on the project included Anton Teutenberg (1840-1933), who carved elaborate corbels and gargoyles for this building and other Gothic Revival showpieces such as the Auckland Supreme Court (later the High Court, NZHPT Register # 17, Category I historic place).

Kemp soon moved to Onehunga, perhaps lured by its expansion as a commercial and industrial centre after the end of war in the Waikato. In the 1870s and later, he erected numerous important structures in the settlement and nearby. From the 1880s, he was joined in this enterprise by his son, William Kemp junior (1867/8-1939). Kemp senior undertook the masonry work on the Mercer railway tunnel and constructed numerous permanent culverts along the Auckland-Waikato railway. A prominent member of the local Catholic church and the Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society (HABCS), he also supervised the building of the brick Church of the Assumption, Onehunga (NZHPT Register # 523, Category II historic place) in 1887-9 assisted by his sons. Other buildings attributed to him include a brick shop for Joseph Jackson (1885) and the brickwork of the first Auckland Savings Bank established in Onehunga. At the turn of the century, approximately 6 percent of buildings in Auckland were of brick, stone or concrete, and nationally, the number of brickworks and brickwork employees peaked in 1907. Most brick buildings in the region were erected of materials produced by brickyards in West Auckland. It is said that Kemp was particularly noted for his ornamental brickwork.

Kemp also erected several brick houses on his own account, for letting or occupation by himself or his family. These included The Grottos (also known as Grottoes) in Heretaunga Avenue which was his residence in the 1880s and possibly earlier, the Tower House in Church Street which was his residence from 1890 to 1905, and two or more detached cottages in Grotto Street. The buildings were all located in the eastern part of Onehunga, close to the site chosen for the construction of a new residence for himself and his wife at Pleasant Villa.

The new site occupied a basalt knoll, on high ground overlooking Kemp's earlier properties. The area initially associated with the residence lay at the intersection of Grey Street and Mays Road, two of the more important thoroughfares in the eastern part of late nineteenth-century Onehunga. The single-storey house was built after purchase of the site in 1897 and before 1905, when Kemp is recorded as the building's first occupant. It is likely to have been erected in circa 1904. Kemp's son Thomas (1870-1950), a farmer and possibly occasional bricklayer also started living on an adjacent plot by the same year (1905). It is possible that Thomas Kemp was engaged in market gardening on the larger holding to the east of Pleasant Villa, perhaps in conjunction with his father who was also noted as a farmer with a particular interest in fruit-growing. Following earlier Maori gardening practice in the area, market gardening was carried out on fertile volcanic soils in Onehunga from its early development as a fencible settlement, and was subsequently also undertaken by Chinese populations in the early 1900s.

Evidently known as Pleasant Villa from the outset, the new residence was built almost entirely of brick and had a slate roof. Incorporating ornate brickwork in its chimneys and elsewhere it is likely to have been built, and perhaps designed, under Kemp's supervision with the assistance of William Kemp junior and possibly other family members such as Thomas Kemp. William Kemp junior was a builder in his own right, subsequently responsible for the construction of Onehunga's Catholic Presbytery in 1906, and also involved in the erection of the Carnegie Public Library (NZHPT Register # 4796, Category I historic place) in 1912. He also went on to erect several brick villas near Pleasant Villa following the precedent set by his father, including his own house at Emerald Hill in Mays Road (1909), a large bay villa in Alfred Street (circa 1910), and probably a large villa of brick on the corner of Grotto and Alfred Streets and a similar pair of adjacent single-storey houses in Grotto Street (all post 1908).

Of corner-bay design, the main residence at Pleasant Villa was carefully sited on the southern part of its plot to not only be visible from the lower slopes of eastern Onehunga but also as the terminal view when approaching from central Onehunga along Grey Street. With its two main elevations facing Mays Road and Grey Street, it can be seen to have advertised Kemp's skill as a bricklayer and builder, and pride in his trade. The villa's visual appearance was made additionally prominent through the use of a distinctive and ornate Gothic Revival style, which incorporated steep gables containing large shields bearing the initials 'NZI'. The precise meaning and origins of the shields is currently uncertain, although they are said to refer to New Zealand Industries and to have been given to William Kemp senior by a local business. Several New Zealand Industry exhibitions were held in New Zealand during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a way of promoting local goods and expertise, with the first in Auckland being the Industrial and Mining Exhibition of 1898.

Gothic Revival style extended to other parts of the structure, such as through the use of clay tiled flooring for the verandah and internal hearths. More unusually, ashlar-scored plaster in the main entrance hall above wainscote level created an appearance of exposed stonework, in imitation of a medieval hall. The house interior was not large and was of a relatively standard layout. It incorporated a central hallway with flanking parlour and front bedroom, a dining room at the end of an L-shaped extension to the hall, two smaller rooms - possibly both bedrooms or a bedroom and office - and a rear kitchen. A separate washhouse and toilet was located to the east of the main structure, similarly constructed in brick. This also had an ornamental brick chimney and slate roof, and additionally incorporated terracotta cresting and finials of striking design. A timber shed in the south-eastern corner of the property, later removed, may also have been erected at this time. Both brick buildings incorporated large basalt thresholds stones, which were in keeping with the ashlar appearance of the main hallway. The solid appearance of the buildings may have been enhanced through the use of basalt stone walls surrounding the property.

Primarily used for domestic dwellings in the nineteenth rather than early twentieth century, Kemp's employment of Gothic Revival may partly be linked to his working experience on medieval monuments in Britain and Gothic-influenced buildings in New Zealand such as the Shortland Street Post Office. Major British proponents of Gothic Revival before Kemp departed for New Zealand also emphasised the desirability of fostering artisan crafts such as stonemasonry. Gothic Revival was particularly associated with religious buildings and was extensively used by the Catholic Church in Auckland in the late nineteenth century, including for the Church of the Assumption, which Kemp had erected. Other stylistic details within the house allude to Kemp's affiliations. The repeated use of a trefoil or shamrock design on the building's exterior and interior may be associated with the strong Irish connections of Auckland's Catholic Church and Kemp's role in the Onehunga Branch of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society (HACBS), of which he was a long-term treasurer.

The house is likely to have been one of the last structures for which William Kemp senior was responsible as he died while living there in January 1906. He was buried inside the west wing of Church of the Assumption, where he lay alongside the remains of Bishop John Luck (1840-1896) and Monsignor James Paul (d.1906), a Vicar General of the Auckland Diocese. Kemp's prominent place of burial reinforces the view that he was a notable individual within the local Catholic church. Kemp's obituary stated that ‘he was the confidant of the later Monsignor James Paul' in relation to construction of the church, ‘took a keen interest in all local matters' and ‘was one of the best known and respected residents in the district'.

Kemp's wife, Sarah, died shortly afterwards in 1907, also at Pleasant Villa.


Ownership of Pleasant Villa subsequently passed to Thomas Kemp. After an initial year when the house was occupied by Kemp senior's son-in-law Clarence Le Marquand, the residence was evidently rented out to a series of tenants, including William Tapp (1909-12), possibly a retired farmer, and Thomas McGuire, plumber (1915-22). From circa 1924 to 1930, the property was occupied by Thomas Kemp himself, when he appears to have been in financial difficulties as the Great Depression descended. In 1930, the property was sold to George Black, a retired builder.

Changes following the sale included the provision of mains sewerage. Alterations may also have encompassed the creation of an internal bathroom and combined pantry/scullery, the provision of a shingled skirt to the verandah, and the subdivision of the brick washhouse into two smaller rooms. An early external door to the toilet may also have been blocked and a new one inserted. The main residence may also have been externally plastered with a cement-based render at this time to provide a more ‘modern' appearance, and the basalt wall along the Grey Street frontage replaced by a timber paling fence for the same reasons. . The house was subsequently rented to a series of annual tenants up to the outbreak of the Second World War including John Rist (1932-3) and Les Speed (1933-4), both Post and Telegraphic service employees, Fred McCarthy, labourer (1935-6), John Cavanagh, plumber (1936-7) and Les Laing (1938-9). From 1941, the property was rented by a clerk, William Stewart, who occupied the building with his wife Doris for several decades.

In 1949, the property on which Pleasant Villa had been erected was subdivided, symptomatic of the growing intensification of Onehunga's outskirts as land between it and other settlements on the Auckland isthmus were infilled. The villa was consequently divorced from its original Mays Road frontage, although its more notable aspect to Grey Street was retained. In 1958, the reduced parcel was purchased by the Stewarts, who appear to have made very few substantial changes other than constructing a timber passageway between the residence and brick washhouse. Prior to 1966, more minor changes had included the insertion of a formica bench in the combined pantry/scullery, and a new bath and hand basin in the bathroom. The copper in the washhouse was probably also removed. Doris Stewart remained in the house until 1989, when the property was purchased by Landmark Incorporated. Landmark, an independent incorporated society whose purpose was to preserve New Zealand's heritage, had been formed in 1972 by a group of planners, lawyers, architects and engineers in recognition that large-scale urban redevelopment in the 1970s had the potential to destroy as yet unrecognised historic buildings. The first building to be purchased by Landmark was the former Council Chambers and Fire Station building in Grey Lynn, Auckland (NZHPT Register # 572, Category II historic place).

Limited modifications by Landmark have since included removing the added washhouse partition and modernising the bathroom and kitchen. The ashlared plasterwork in the main hall was revealed and replaced by a copy where it had deteriorated. In 1998 a small area of 15 m², incorporating part of the former washhouse that encroached onto adjoining land, was purchased and added to the same holding. The property remains in private residential use.

Physical Description


Pleasant Villa is located to the northeast of Onehunga town centre, on a lava flow extending southeast from Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill). Onehunga itself forms part of the broader Auckland conurbation and lies 13 km to the south of central Auckland on the northern shores of the Manukau Harbour. The Pleasant Villa site is located a short distance from the intersection between a busy thoroughfare, Mays Road, and Grey Street within an extensive area of mostly low-rise suburban housing. Although the surrounding streets contain many nineteenth- and early twentieth-century houses, including several brick dwellings erected by the Kemp family, few have been formally recognised through NZHPT registration or Auckland City Council scheduling. Further west, Onehunga centre forms a notable historic landscape incorporating several registered and scheduled places, including the 1860 Onehunga Blockhouse (NZHPT Register # 91, Category I historic place), the Onehunga Primary School (Former) (NZHPT Register # 7109, Category I historic place) built in 1901, and the Carnegie Library (Former) (NZHPT Register # 4796, Category I historic place) dating from 1912.

Pleasant Villa occupies a slight basalt knoll, immediately to the north of a shallow volcanic crater. The 751 m² plot is approximately rectangular in plan, and contains a centrally located brick villa, a rear brick outbuilding connected to the main residence by a short timber structure, and a recent timber shed sited in the southeast corner of the section. The main residence forms a prominent feature at the eastern end of Grey Street. The grounds surrounding the house include lawns to the north and west, a garden path from Grey Street and an area of detached timber decking in the northeast corner of the property. The western boundary consists of a wooden post and dowel fence with squared basalt block footings, and two gates of similar design. The gates and some of the posts have been replaced in recent years. Other boundary fences are modern.


The main residence is an impressive single storey brick structure of Gothic Revival design. It is a corner villa, roughly square in plan with a slate roof. Its main elevations incorporate a return verandah and prominent gables facing north and west, respectively towards Mays Road and Grey Street. The building exterior, including its main elevations, is highly ornate. Further decorative elements may be concealed beneath a later roughcast render, which covers the external brick walls. The building contains three brick chimneys set at 45 degrees to the external walls in Elizabethan fashion. Two of these have not been altered and are of elegant polychrome design with well-pointed brickwork and ornamental brackets.

Parapeted gable ends dominate both main facades, and bear distinctive identical detailing. These each contain a shallow-curved projecting bay incorporating two windows with trefoil or shamrock-shaped heads. Small corbels supporting the cornice at the top of each bay bear more pronounced trefoil designs. Each upper gable also contains a large shield of plaster and brick, prominently incorporating the intertwined letters 'NZI'. A return verandah with bull-nosed corrugated iron roof runs connects the gabled elements and has paired posts with decorative capitals and brackets. The verandah and an area at the foot of the entrance steps is paved with coloured clay tiles, some of which appear to have been hand cut. The north and west elevations backing the verandah each incorporate a further shallow bay window. All windows contain double-hung sashes. The main entrance to the house is in the west façade facing Grey Street, at the south end of the verandah. The floor tiling in this area is particularly ornate and appears to have been repaired following heavy wear. The doorstep consists of a solid block of basalt, and the door itself still contains original brass fixtures such as a decorative keyhole surround and a door handle setting.

The more private south and west elevations are less ornate but still contain decorative elements. The south elevation has a single round-headed opening containing a two light double sash window. Above the opening is a hood moulding with keystone motif. Hood mouldings above the three window openings and back door in the east (rear) elevation have a similar keystone motif and are connected by a continuous moulding. The back door, like that at the front, has a rectangular light above the opening. A small timber meat safe on the east wall to the north of the back door is reminiscent of those found in California-bungalow era houses.


Retaining almost its entire early twentieth-century layout, the interior of the villa incorporates an L-shaped hallway off which all six main rooms in the house are accessed. Three rooms open off the front section of the hall, while a fourth room and a bathroom are accessed from the return element of the passage, which extends northwards from the eastern end of the main hall. A sizeable kitchen is located off the south side of the main hall at its eastern end. The bathroom, and a small pantry reached from the kitchen are divisions of a single original room, forming the only significant alteration to the original groundplan. The rear yards, a brick outbuilding and a covered passage connecting the residence and outbuilding are reached from a back door in the kitchen.

All internal walls are of brick construction and mostly plastered. Like the exterior, the inside of the house retains many decorative elements. All rooms have board and batten ceilings. Apart from the hall and kitchen, all ceilings have either a ceiling rose or other decorative vent. The joinery in the two front rooms and the fourth room is more elaborate than other rooms. The hall and the kitchen are both wainscoted and appear never to have had skirtings. Half of the rooms are heated by fireplaces.

The L-shaped hall is particularly noteworthy, containing a timber tongue and grooved wainscote with a decorative dado rail incorporating a repeated trefoil or shamrock design. Its upper walls are plastered and bear linear scoring in imitation of ashlar masonry, an unusual feature for an internal domestic space. This is a copy of an original design, which was revealed during conservation work on the building in the 1990s. An archway, often articulating the separation between public and private spaces, is located to the east of the second room on the south side of the main hall and incorporates a pair of large scrolled brackets.

The front sitting room (original parlour) off the south side of the hall retains its original timber fireplace surround. Its fire register has been recently been replaced in similar style to the original and a granite hearth has recently been inserted. A former bedroom or office to the east of the parlour has relatively plain joinery. The front living-room (formerly the main bedroom) off the north side of the hall has its original fire surround, cast iron fire register with glazed art nouveau tiling and a distinctive clay-tiled hearth similar to the verandah floor. Built-in wardrobes with decorative features on either side of the chimney breast appear to be original fixtures. The former parlour and the dining rooms (the latter at the northern end of the return passage) both have unusually shaped bays formed by two straight shallow-angled walls. The former dining room is lit by two sets of windows.

The kitchen and current bathroom both have modern fittings. Sections of a tongue and grooved wainscote survive on the north wall of the kitchen, on either side of a pantry opening. The meat safe visible on the east wall of the residence is internally accessed from the pantry. A clay-tiled hearth associated with the kitchen fireplace is similar to that in the current living room (former main bedroom). The fireplace itself contains a small grate. Its late- nineteenth- or early twentieth-century fireplace surround has been recently installed.


The single-storeyed brick outbuilding is gabled, and is of rectangular design. An attached toilet at its southern end is enclosed beneath a parapeted pentice The brickwork of the main part of the outbuilding is visible beneath more recent paint. The toilet exterior appears to have been plastered, concealing previous openings in its southern and western walls.

The main part of the outbuilding has a slate roof and ornamental terracotta cresting along its ridgeline. The cresting consists of trefoil or shamrock-shaped tiles alternating with tiles of a circular-headed design, and terminates in wooden finials that each incorporate a spiked orb. A brick chimney near the building's southeast corner is less tall and ornamental than those on the main residence and has been capped. Timber sarking is visible on the underside of the roof eaves at the northern end. The only entrance to the outbuilding lies in the centre of the eastern elevation of the main structure. Its threshold is of basalt, like the doorsteps to the main residence. The east (rear) elevation a large round-headed window and a small rectangular window. The north wall has no openings. The toilet was probably lit by an original doorway that has since been blocked in.

A drain of semi-circular field tiles runs along the base of the west wall and drains into the ground to the north. An abutting lean-to storage shed attached to the south side of the building is recent, as is a larger detached timber shed further south.


The main part of the outbuilding contains a single room, accessed through the external door in its west wall. An internal doorway at the eastern end of the south wall provides access to the toilet. The main room contains the remnants of a brick chimney in its southeast corner. An associated washhouse copper has been removed. Located towards the southern end of the east (rear) wall is a modern sink and laundry taps. The main room is unlined and has a painted brick finish. The floor is of concrete. The toilet contains evidence of two blocked doorways. The first may have been located on the south side of the structure, and the second in the west wall.


A relatively modern linking structure connects the house to the outbuilding. Of timber construction, it has a gabled roof clad with corrugated iron, a tiled floor and external doors to the north and south respectively. Its north wall is glazed, and its southern wall clad with horizontal weatherboards.


Gothic Revival residences:

The Gothic Revival design of Pleasant Villa appears to be later than most of its known domestic parallels. First introduced to New Zealand for religious buildings in the early colonial period, Gothic Revival was steadily adopted for domestic residences particularly from the 1860s onwards. Notable timber examples include Highwic (NZHPT Register # 18, Category I historic place), erected in circa 1863, and Oneida Homestead (NZHPT Register # 160, Category I historic place), built in 1870. Brick examples of Gothic Revival are more unusual than those built in timber but can be considered to include Duddingston, at North Taieri (NZHPT Register # 332, Category I historic place) constructed in 1864, Lisburn House, built in Dunedin the following year and noted for its polychromatic brickwork (NZHPT Register # 2192, Category I historic place), The Poplars, at West Taieri which dates from 1866 (NZHPT Register # 2357, Category II historic place), Mt Peel Station Homestead constructed between 1865 and 1867 (NZHPT Register # 313, Category I historic place), and Ohoka Homestead which was built in the early 1870s (NZHPT Register # 274, Category I historic place). These are all located in the South Island and were, with one exception (Lisburn House), built as farm homesteads.

It appears that Gothic Revival was uncommonly used for domestic residences from the 1880s, although many of its aspects were incorporated into the standard bay villa that developed at this time. An exception in the Auckland region is the concrete-built Williamson House, constructed in Takapuna in 1882 (NZHPT Register # 2661, Category II historic place). Specialised residential structures for which Gothic Revival continued to be used included gate lodges and Catholic presbyteries. Examples of the former include Albert Park Lodge, erected of timber in Auckland in 1882 for the caretaker of a new park (NZHPT Register # 577, Category II historic place), and Mona Vale Gatehouse, constructed in Christchurch in 1905.

Catholic presbyteries of Gothic Revival design include St Benedict's Presbytery, which was erected of brick in Newton, Auckland circa 1887, and St Patrick's Presbytery (NZHPT Register # 2645, Category I historic place), also brick, which was constructed a year later in 1888 to serve Auckland's Cathedral in Wyndham Street. Constructed during the episcopacy of Bishop John Luck (1840-1896), the Gothic style chosen for both may be attributable in part to close personal ties between Luck and the family of influential British architect Augustus Pugin. Luck was friendly with Pugin's son Peter Paul Pugin, an architect for the Gothic Revival-influenced Bishop's House, St Mary's Bay which was commissioned in brick by Bishop Luck and completed in 1896. It is perhaps notable that William Kemp was strongly associated with the Catholic church and the construction of some its buildings, and that he was buried in close proximity to Bishop Luck.

Kemp family houses:

Pleasant Villa is one of a group of brick houses erected by the Kemp family in eastern Onehunga. The earliest of these that survive appear to be two detached cottages erected by William Kemp senior at 10-12 Grotto Street, possibly in the mid 1880s. These appear to be of broadly Georgian design with hipped roofs and ornamented chimneys similar to those at Pleasant Villa. Brick residences that Kemp is believed to have built and occupied at The Grottos (also known as Grottoes), Heretaunga Street in the 1880s or before, and The Tower House in Church Street which he occupied from 1890 to circa 1905, have not been located and may no longer survive. It is possible that the latter incorporated Gothic influences as it is said to have incorporated a tower that was used for observing departures and arrivals at Onehunga port.

The Gothic Revival character of Pleasant Villa differed both from the Georgian style employed for the earlier cottages at 10-12 Grotto Street and from the later designs used by William Kemp junior, who appears to have used more standard Italianate and Arts and Crafts influences for his brick buildings. This is evident from the style of his own house, Emerald Hill, at 16 Mays Road (circa 1909), three bay villas at 2, 4 and 6 Grotto Street (post 1908), and a large return bay residence at 54 Alfred Street (circa 1910). The buildings in Mays Road and 2, 4 and 6 Grotto Street have similar chimneys that differ from those erected by William Kemp senior. The polychromatic chimney at Alfred Street differs again. The property at Alfred Street is currently on sale for redevelopment (2008).

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1904 -
Construction of residence, washhouse and toilet, and ?timber shed

1930 - 1940
Lower section of verandah enclosed with timber shingles, Conversion of possible bedroom into internal bathroom and combined pantry/scullery

1930 - 1940
Subdivision of brick washhouse into two rooms?, Modification to external toilet access

Construction of covered timber passage between residence and washhouse, Timber shed removed

Residence externally rendered, Minor modifications to bathroom and pantry

1991 -
Bathroom upgraded, including provision of inside toilet

Timber shingles removed from verandahs, Timber shed constructed, Minor modifications to kitchen and pantry, Concrete partition wall removed in outbuilding

Construction Details

Brick with slate roof

Completion Date

19th May 2008

Report Written By

Martin Jones and Joan McKenzie

Information Sources

Auckland Public Libraries

Auckland Public Libraries

Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Scrapbook: May 1964, p.198; October 1988-October 1989, p.53

Auckland Star

Auckland Star

22 January 1906, p.4(4); 11 January 1907, p.4(6)

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory

Cleave's Auckland Provincial Directory, Auckland

Cleave's Auckland City, Suburban, Provincial, Commercial, Municipal and General Directory, (various years 1889-1936)

Electoral Roll

New Zealand Electoral Roll

Manukau Electoral Roll (various years)

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories

Auckland Province, 1950/51-1980

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

DP 35200, DP 10541 CT 592/84, CT 118A/793, Deeds Index 8A/396 North Auckland Land District

Leighton's Auckland Provincial Directory

Leighton's Auckland Provincial Directory


New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

7 May 1887, p.3(5); 22 January 1906 p.5(1); 24 January 1906, p.4(7); 11 January 1907 p.6(1); 11 November 1930, p.4(2)

Auckland City Council

Auckland City Council

Auckland City Environments, property file 177 Grey Street

Other Information

A fully referenced Registration Report is available from the NZHPT Northern Regional 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.