Nestled in 1.62 hectares of gardens on Howick’s cliff top, is a gracious home that evokes the genteel style of another time.
These days it is a hive of activity combining a GP practice and a Christian leadership training school.
In 1926, original owner Dr A Eisdell Moore bought a plot of farmland towards the end of Bleakhouse Road overlooking each end of Mellons Bay and Eastern Beach. The land was part of the original holding owned by Robert Maclean.
Dr Eisdell Moore built a country cottage where he and his family spent weekends and holidays. However, in 1937 he and his wife built Fowey named after the Cornish seaport in England where he spent time as a student.
“Eisdell’s wife was English and had a firm love of the English style of living and country house style,” says present owner Dr Tony Hanne. He bought the property in 1965 and says he “combines two lives there — my day job as a doctor and Bible teaching in the other half”.
Tony and his wife Christine have run a Christian leadership training course at Fowey Lodge since 1966. “I was looking for a place that was attractive and had atmosphere about it. I wanted something conducive to what I wanted to do,” he explains.
These days, students are accommodated in a neighbouring building on the property, which has been developed from an original cottage, but Fowey still hosts some activities.
A major change to the living accommodation was made 15 years ago when the Hannes built out over an outdoor veranda to enclose a sunny north-facing sitting room.
Two of the spectacular Mediterranean-style steel windows were shifted to the new wall and a third one to match was manufactured locally.
The original matai flooring is a feature of the dining area, which was formerly a family room. The previous dining room is now the kitchen with a beech-topped central island the focal point. Two original leaded light cabinets remain set into the wall.
Still working are the original electric bar heaters fitted into the formal lounge ceiling. Fixtures for the bells, typical of great houses which had servants, remain although they don’t ring anymore.
“Every room had a bell including under the dining room table, where Mrs Eisdell Moore would ring for the maid,” Tony says.
“But when war broke out there were no maids available and after the war no one wanted to be a maid.”
The original kitchen has been split into a staff room and a surgery for Tony’s medical practice. The garage has become a waiting room. The old laundry and scullery, including brickwork surrounding the area the copper for washing stood, is his consulting room.
In its heyday, the house boasted 10 bedrooms. These days there are three upstairs bedrooms used by the family and the previous master bedroom has been converted into an internal apartment.
A climb up the narrow servants’ staircase leads to the attic, where the couple’s two sons used to find nooks and crannies in the ceiling to explore and where the cook and maid once slept. The cook’s room has been converted to an office and the smaller maid’s room a spare bedroom and a space for a social worker to consult. In contrast, the main grand foyer and staircase with a host of leaded light windows continues to evoke the mystique of more gracious days gone by.
Outside it is easy to picture the garden parties hosted by the Eisdell Moore family.
They were staunch members of Pakuranga Hunt Club, which hunted on the surrounding farmland. For 25 years the Auckland String Quartet’s summer music school and public concerts were held in the gardens, the last one about six years ago.
The gardens are sweeping and unfussy. Original wisteria, norfolk pines, sycamore and oak trees provide shade and, because it is one of the few large gardens left in the area, it attracts a lot of wildlife.