The Hillary Houses of Remuera
Sir Edmund Hillary’s family had a long involvement of residing in Remuera in most of the 20th century. Edmund Percival Hillary is said to have been born in Tuakau but was actually born in Remuera on July 20, 1919, at Kelvin, a Private Hospital at 34 Clonbern Road, Remuera, to Gertrude and Percival Augustus Hillary.
His father Percival had been working in Dargaville, Northland as a newspaper proprietor for the North Auckland Times and Wairoa Bell. He lived with his parents Edmund Raymond Hillary (1836-1928), a watchmaker and Annie Clementina (nee Fleming) (1857-1952) at Aurega House, Victoria Street, Dargaville. In World War 1 Percival enlisted in the Auckland Infantry Battalion, giving his enlistment address as care of his mother at “Maranui”, Mountain Road (now Upland Road), Remuera. He sailed on 14 December 1914 on the Willochra to Egypt campaign and was severely wounded. After convalescence in England he was discharged and returned home to Remuera in February 1916.
Maranui had been the home of Thomas Cheeseman in Remuera. Cheeseman was the principal curator of Auckland Museum for 50 years and was the foremost authority on the flora of New Zealand. Maranui was famous for its subtropical gardens and orchard over several acres fronting Upland Road, Orakei Rd and Benson Road.
Newspaper advertisements described Maranui as:
SALES BY AUCTION
Friday April 21, AT 2 P.M. SHARP. SAMUEL VAILE AND SONS (INCORPORATING WARD BAKER) INSTRUCTED BY T. F. CHEESEMAN. ESQ., Will Sell by Public Auction at their Land Sale Rooms, 87, Queen-street, THIS MOST DELIGHTFUL SUBURBAN HOME, “MARANUI.” MOUNTAIN RD., REMUERA, COMPRISING WELL – BUILT TWELVE ROOMED RESIDENCE. 3 rooms of which are 24 by 18 and one is 26 by 14, with pantry, bathroom, storeroom, wash-house, man’s room, stables, carriage house, harness room, loft, etc. STANDING IN THREE ACRES, with long frontages to three roads, and EXQUISITELY LAID OUT in lawns, garden, orchard, and particularly choice shrubbery, containing a unique collection of palms, native trees, and rare SEMI-TROPICAL PLANTS. The soil is RICH VOLCANIC, free from stone, and slopes gently to the north. VIEWS of land and sea. (The proposed extension of the trams to the Remuera boundary will pass the head of Mountain Rd. only a few minutes distance from the property.
Maranui was subdivided into 90 “choice building plots” in 1911. Edmund Raymond and Annie Hillary occupied the original house of Maranui with its double storeyed verandahs and gardens from 1916 to about 1919.
Soon after Percival returned to Remuera, he married Gertrude Clark:
MARRIAGE HILLARY—CLARK—On February 9, 1916, at St. Matthew’s Church, Auckland, by Rev. W. E. Gillam, Percival A., eldest son of Mr E. Hillary, of Remuera, to Gertrude, daughter of Mrs G. Clark, of Dominion Road. Auckland.
In August 1916 Percival and Gertrude were living in Papakura. In 1917 Percival swapped 48 and half acres at Papakura with a Mr C Martin to acquire 77 acres at Papakura.
Their son Edmund Percival Hillary was born in Remuera on July 20, 1919. His brother (W)Rexford was born on October 5, 1920, also at Kelvin Private Hospital, Clonbern Road, Remuera. His parents were listed as living at Tuakau. Edmund Hillary attended Tuakau Primary School from 1924 to 1931. The 1919 NZ Electoral Rolls lists Percival Hillary as a bee keeper at George Street, Tuakau.
His mother was determined that he would get a good secondary education and at 13, Edmund enrolled at Auckland Grammar School from 1932 to 1935 even though it meant 12-hour days and long train journeys to the city.
In 1935 the family moved to Auckland, and Percy founded a monthly magazine for bee-keepers, New Zealand Honeybee. Ed studied mathematics and science at Auckland University College. He loved tramping much more than studying, and after two years he joined Rex to help his father with bee-keeping.
In 1938 Percival Hillary is listed as living as an Apiarist at 730 Remuera Rd, although he still had more than 1,000 beehives on South Auckland farms.
A mortgage was registered in the name of Gertrude Hillary, wife of Percival Augustus Hillary, apiarist, on 4 March 1937 for the property at 730 Remuera Road. The property remained with the Hillarys until September 1964. In 1949 and 1954 Percy was listed as a journalist at 730 Remuera Rd. In 1957 he is listed as being retired. Although it is not known who the architect was, Auckland architects were very successful in blending English Arts and Crafts principles with New Zealand conditions. The house was in the English Cottage style i.e. a two storeyed (or often 1 ½ storeyed) house with the steep pitch of the main roof sweeping low to the ground over a porch, and including dormer windows and lesser roofs. It has small casement windows and an oriel-type window to emphasise a staircase. The roof is tiled with Marseilles terracotta tiles.[13, 14]
Meanwhile Edmund Hillary enlisted in WW2 in 1944 in the Royal New Zealand Air Force where he became a Sergeant with the No 6 (Flying Boat) Squadron, Halavo Bay, Florida Island (near Guadalcanal) to September 1945 and No 5 (Flying Boat) Squadron, Santo, September 1945 to November 1945. Hillary had qualified as a navigator and was posted in 1945 to Fiji and then the Solomon Islands, where he was badly burnt in a boating accident. After a fast recovery, and the end of the war, he returned to Remuera.
After Hillary’s father retired in 1949, he continued as a beekeeper, but his brother Rex held the business together during Hillary’s long mountaineering absences. In April 1950, flush with money after a bumper honey harvest from the season before, Hillary sailed to England to meet his sister June, while he scaled some 4,000-metre peaks in the Alps before returning to New Zealand.
Percy and Gertrude Hillary were living at 730 Remuera Road when Edmund Hillary climbed Mt Everest in 1953.
HAPPY DAY FOR PARENTS. MANY TELEGRAMS AND CALLERS
(New Zealand Press Association) AUCKLAND, June 2.
It was a delirious day for Edmund Hillary’s, parents, Mr and Mrs P. A. Hillary, at their home in Remuera road. Proud and happy, they were swept right off their feet by the whirl of telephone calls, telegrams, and visits from friends.
“It’s wonderful. Just simply wonderful,” Mrs Hillary kept saying. “I’m so pleased for Edmund’s sake, because he has put so much hard work into it.”
MESSAGES TO PARENTS
Continuous Telephone Calls HEAVY STRAIN ON MR AND MRS HILLARY (New Zealand Press Association) AUCKLAND, June 4. The Mayor of Auckland (Sir John Allum) tried for two days to telephone Mr and- Mrs P. A. Hillary, of Remuera, to congratulate them on their son’s conquest of Everest, and then sent a letter.
Continuous telephone calls and visitors are putting a heavy strain on Mr and Mrs Hillary. They are losing sleep, and going without proper meals, but they will not give in.
At least 200 telegrams have reached the house, as well as dozens of letters. The Remuera Post Office had to deliver a special bag of mail last evening. An eagerly-awaited letter from their son is not expected for about a fortnight.
Back in New Zealand, Hillary married Louise Rose of Remuera, whom he had met and climbed with some years previously. On 3 September 1953 the wedding took place in the Diocesan School Chapel, Auckland. Louise was the daughter of James Humphrey Rose, solicitor and president of the New Zealand Alpine Club.
The Hillarys built a house in Remuera, Auckland, using proceeds from Edmund’s first autobiography, High adventure (1955). Although still a partner in the beekeeping business, Hillary was increasingly busy elsewhere. For the rest of his life he made his living largely from expeditions and writing. His spare, understated, and often humorous style made his books highly readable, and altogether he penned or co-authored 10, the last his enormously successful View from the summit (1999).
James Rose came from a Remuera family who were major land owners in Remuera and had a family tradition of dividing off parcels of land for children. James Rose’s great grandfather was Archibald Clark. He wrote: my mother’s Uncle James McCosh Clark bought land – Allotments 26 and 29 which are now part of King’s School, including The Tower, and now includes Allotment 25. Allotment 27 was bought by James Rose’s great grandfather Archibald Clark: his company, Archibald Clark and Sons, manufactured and imported clothing. Allotment 28 was bought by Jim Rose’s mother Mrs Mary Rose – the lower part of Allotment 28 was the site of the Rose’s and Hillary houses. All other land on the east side of Portland Road Allotments 30, 31, 32, and 33 were acquired by Jim Rose’s grandmother, Margaret Stevenson (nee Clark), wife of James Young Stevenson, where the house “Glenholm” was built (now 37 Portland Road) about 1868. The land owned by the McCosh Clarks and the Stevensons amounted to about 30 acres fronting Remuera and Portland Roads.
Jim Rose wrote: In 1953 my daughter Louise married Edmund Hillary and in 1955 they acquired the northwest half of my property (104a and then 278 Remuera Road). His mother Mrs Mary Rose (nee McCosh Stevenson 1868-1963) lived at 282 Remuera Road (was 106 Remuera Road pre-WW2), now known as Fairholm, from about 1911 to 1957. Mary’s husband Robert Rose had died aged 50 in 1900 after a career as a land agent and company director, including the Waihi Gold Mining Company.
Ed and Louise Hillary built a new house designed by known architects Gummer & Ford. Sir Ed lived at 278a Remuera Road for 51 years from 1957 until his death in 2008. The house was described as being of a modernist design with a floor-to-ceiling sliding door which opened the combined dining and living room to a patio. The double-height foyer marked the home’s entry and its axis between the upper and lower floors.
Terry Jarvis who lived at 278 Remuera Road purchased the Remuera Road house of Sir Edmund Hillary and gifted it to Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in South Auckland. The school uses the house as a leadership centre and makes it available for community use. [22, 23]