Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wellsford's Heritage Rest Home

Last week on my travels through Wellsford I was driving along Station Road when I spied this large old looking building which is now used as a rest home. After searching through google I was sad to discover that there really isn't much background history except this tiny gem I found:

We meet Isabella Matheson-Curry. The formation of the Parish owes so much to her and her husband Phillip Edward Curry, that any history must include a tribute to them. Isabella's first husband was John Gilmer Matheson, who settled in Wellsford in 1885, on a block running approximately from what is now Batten Street, down Rodney Street to Station Road, and roughly up a line ending below the present town water supply reservoir.

John Mateson was then a single man, but married Isabella Kirton in 1891. The couple had five daughters. The youngest, Linda, is now a resident of Heritage Rest Home which was once the farm house where she was born more than 90 years ago.

John died in 1902, and Isabella struggled along, managing the farm and her five children, until 1908, when she married Phillip Curry, an Australian working on the railway project which was by the underway. Isabella and Phillip had three more daughters. The names of the Matheson girls appear in the roll of the Old Wellsford School: Ida 1898, Thelma 1900, Edith 1902, Ettie 1906 and Linda 1909. They were not then Catholic; it was Phillip Curry who brought the Catholic faith to the Matheson household.

At that time Wellsford was mostly farmland. There were no railways, shops or public hall, and virtually no roads - just a handful of farmhouses, and the Curry house, important to this story, was one of them. It still stands where it always did, but today we know it as the heritage Rest Home. Between times it had other owners, notably Fred and Aileen Preece and their family, staunchly Catholic.

Over the years, Isabella and Phillip donated or sold land for several community projects, especially the public hall now called the Community Centre. More important to this story was the gifting of two lots of land to the Catholic Bishop of Auckland. the first gift was made in 1918, and a further block, intended for a school, was donated in 1925.

(information here - photo by M Brookfield)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yates Landing - Kate Stirling

Recently I've been getting into historical books about the early settlers of New Zealand. One that I've just finished reading is "Yates Landing" by Kate Stirling, and ok it's a historical romance but it's got a good storyline and quite a bit of action.

It's about a young lady called Chloe Mainwell who lives in England during the Victorian era who travels to France to stay with relatives so she can make her debut into society but an incident with her uncle leaves her parents with the impression that she has been spoiled and therefore they push her into a loveless marriage with Thomas Yates who has recently bought land and has a farm in New Zealand on the Kaipara.

Chloe starts off as a somewhat spoiled girl without any idea of how difficult life can be but gradually through circumstances that happen she grows up and learns how to be tough and eventually learns to love the land she once hated.

Kate Stirling has also written another novel which is vintage rather than Victorian in nature called Thunder Children also about early life in the Kaipara - if you can I urge you to see if your library has a copy of these books as they are well worth reading.

(image from coolslaw)