Homecoming for Highwic treasures

Original items associated with Highwic, the historic house in Newmarket cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, have returned home.

Highwic property manager Amy holds a linen press and air cushion.
Photo: Amy Gaimster with the linen press which also contained a treasure trove of possessions.expand/collapse

Earlier this year Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Auckland Property Lead, Amy Gaimster, had the opportunity to view several items that had been inherited by a descendant of Alfred Buckland, the original owner of Highwic.

“They included a number of pieces of furniture and other items passed down through the family including tables, chairs, a sideboard and even a dozen stag’s heads” says Amy.

“We had the opportunity to view the items before they went to auction, which worked out well.”

The preview gave Amy and her team the chance to verify the objects against the original 1973 inventory of items in the house before it was jointly acquired by Auckland Council and the then New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga). They also had the opportunity to check photographs taken at the same time.

“From these sources we were able to verify the items’ connection to the house and plan from there,” she says.

The result was the acquisition of many of the treasures in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has enabled the return of family items back to the house where the Bucklands had lived for over a century.

Pieces include an elegant Art Nouveau chair, an Edwardian gramophone, an early table tennis set and a large collection of books. One of the highlights of the auction, however, was the acquisition of a late Georgian mahogany linen press known to have stood under the back staircase of the house in the central corridor.

“The linen press itself was wonderful, but what it contained inside added an extra layer of excitement,” says Amy.

“In one of the drawers underneath a layer of brown paper was found, still in its original packaging, a solid rubber aircushion. Made by London-based company S. Maw Son & Son it bears the most reassuring guarantee on its label: ‘Being made of Pure Rubber it is the most comfortable, and in the end, the cheapest form of Cushion for both Invalids’ and Traveller’s Use.’ “

“Even more thrilling, in another drawer under further layers of paper, we discovered a cribbage board with the initials ‘AB’ carved on the underside. It was an amazing feeling to have unearthed an item that was quite possibly a treasured possession of Alfred Buckland himself.”

According to Amy, the acquisition of these items was only possible due to a generous bequest made in 1992 by Doris Mary Hudson, a great-granddaughter of Alfred Buckland. The Hudson Fund is reserved solely for Highwic and is to be spent on non-operational expenditure.

“Throughout her life Doris had lived within 500m of Highwic and had taken a great personal interest in the preservation of the house and the Buckland family items displayed within,” she says.

“This generous bequest has enabled us to bring back home to Highwic these original items that were used, enjoyed and read by the Buckland family.”

The linen press has been returned to its original position in the house, and the other items will soon go on display after undergoing some initial conservation work.

John O'Hare