Glenesk, 164 Remuera Road

Glenesk 1930, with inserts John Falconer Ewen and Violet Ewen, house owners 1920-1956 (J Parson)

Glenesk was another of the early large houses of Remuera demolished to make way for more intensive housing.

The Glenesk section size was large at 7572 m² and stretched from Remuera Road, near the intersection with Bassett Road, to within one section of what is now Buttle Street. Originally it was number 62 Remuera Road but when a new city plan came into being in the late 1930’s Glenesk became number 164 Remuera Road.

Dr William Chisholm Wilson McDowell (1860-1918) and his wife Lillian (1868-1933) commissioned the building of the house in the early 1900’s, and it is more than likely the work of the notable architect Arthur Pollard Wilson. The McDowells named the house ‘Viewlands’. Following Dr McDowells death in 1918 it was sold to another doctor – Dr John Slingsby Reekie for £8250 and following his sudden death a sale to John Falconer Ewen was registered in 1920 for £9,600.

John (c1887-1970) and Violet Ewen (1885-1946) changed the property’s name from ‘Viewlands’ to ‘Glenesk’ in keeping with John’s custom of using this name for all his residences since arriving in New Zealand, from London, in 1904. The Ewen family hailed from Laurencekirk in Scotland and traditionally named their homes after the area of their forebears. Glenesk is the most easterly of the Angus Glens and was frequently visited by the family. John Ewen was a director of Sargood Son and Ewen, Warehousemen and Manufacturers, who had businesses in Melbourne, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland. The architect of Glenesk, A.P. Wilson, was well known to the Ewens as he had previously been contracted to undertake designs for buildings constructed by Sargood Son and Ewen.

The Ewens undertook renovations to the property. The addition of a double storied garage housed the kennels for Mrs Ewen’s prize winning pedigree Scottish terriers, and was also the living quarters for the dogs’ minder, Miss Allsop, who lived in rooms above. The gardens were extensively redesigned in the classical style with much of the stone for the crazy paving coming from offcuts from the building of the Auckland Museum. A lawn tennis court was placed on the lower eastern side of the property and a vegetable garden could be reached through a hedge at the bottom of the gentle slope, toward what is now Buttle Street. There were paddocks beyond the garden and down through the valley between Arney Road and Portland Road. The Ewen children’s horses were kept in the various paddocks close to their home. Violet and John held many ‘At Home’s in the house and garden which was an ideal venue to promote their interest and support of the arts and social services.  During WW2 an air raid shelter was dug into the garden near the tennis court, and Mr Ewen was active in the Remuera division of the Home Guard. It was much to his chagrin that during a fire drill, exercised on the Glenesk driveway, that he discovered that the exceptional blaze was caused by his mischievous children hiding several old tyres in the centre of the pile of wood!

Following the death of Mrs Ewen, Glenesk was sold in 1956 to the Salvation Army for a children’s home and renamed ‘The Grange’. In 1984 the Salvation Army sold the property to Anne and David Norman for $1.1m and the house was cleared for the development of a block of apartments, named ‘The Grange’, on the Remuera Road frontage and 7 townhouses on what was the gardens and tennis court. Access to the townhouses from Remuera Road is via a cul de sac which is labelled in two words, Glen Esk. Hopefully there can be a name correction sometime to ‘Glenesk’, in respect to the history of the property.

Jane Parson
Grand-daughter of JF and VNV Ewen.

21 April 2020