Caring for Heritage: Wharema, 34 Portland Road

Wharema 34 Portland Road, 5 July 2020

Recent work on the original homestead of Edward William Payton, at 34 Portland Road, built c1887, has been noted by Remuera Heritage.

This work encompassed the replacement of the original slate roof with like materials, those having lasted one hundred and thirty three years, thus preserving the home’s appearance as first conceived. We embrace the fact that materials have been used in keeping with the Auckland Council and Heritage New Zealand listings – plaques for which are displayed on the gatepost.

The builder was George Heron of Remuera, active in the late 1800’s, for E.W. Payton, an artist and first principal of Elam School of Arts. During the century following, the grand home experienced several ownerships, including the Widow Tole and her sons who included prominent artists and architects, preserving the artistic connection. At some time the home was converted into four flats, though thankfully, the essence of the original design was not lost through those intrusions.

It is encouraging to see owners in the twenty first century, prepared to maintain the originality of our built heritage, for the future.

Bryan Ferneyhough
28 July 2020

House at 34 Portland Road (Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 7-A11271)

Wharema is Category 2 heritage listed by Heritage New Zealand.  The full story of Wharema can be found on the Heritage NZ website.  A summary of Wharema’s history:

Wharema was constructed around 1886, on land subdivided from the holding of James Williamson (1814-1888) on Portland Road. Wharema was constructed on Lot 46, on the eastern part of the former estate, bounding Portland Road to the front and Eastbourne Road to the rear. At the time Portland Road appears to have been a major colonial thoroughfare to the Waitemata waterfront.  In June 1885, the half an acre lot was purchased by Kate Clark (née Woolnough, 1847-1926), a wealthy patron of the arts. The property was transferred Kate’s sister, Emily Woolnough (c1857-1920) in December 1885.

The house is likely to have been erected at around the time of Emily’s marriage in August 1886 to Edward Payton (1854-1944), an Auckland-based artist. One of Edward Payton’s sketches ‘View from The Whare, Portland Road, Remuera’ is dated April 1887, indicating that the dwelling had been erected by this time. The house appears to have initially been called The Whare by the Payton family, although a copper nameplate found on the property indicates that it was also known as Wharema.

The large two-storey timber house has been described as having impressive double-storey balconies facing north and west, towards both the Waitemata Harbour and Mt Hobson-Remuwera. The house incorporated a parlour, dining room and service quarters downstairs, and a dressing room and four bedrooms upstairs. Its grounds encompassed a circular driveway, screened from Portland Road by a belt of large trees. An area to the south of the service quarters was enclosed by a corrugated iron fence, effectively creating a separate service yard. [1]

The building was erected on scoria concrete footings. Other specifications were conspicuously generous, with the house incorporating a kauri timber superstructure, a slate roof and reeded timber lining throughout.

The builder appears to have been George Heron, whose name has been found on joinery in the house.