Refurbishing Hulme Court proving collaborative effort of great interest
Working up a ladder doing manual labour is not how most people would choose to spend their retirement years but Bill Grindle is not most people.
The 81-year-old Englishman spends several days a week replastering Auckland's second oldest house, Parnell's Hulme Court.
Since starting his apprenticeship in 1945, he has worked on many buildings including stately homes in England and London's Houses of Parliament.
"It's quite a straightforward job but it's interesting. I just replaster straight over what's there which holds it all together.
"It's satisfying, especially when the original walls were in a very bad way," he says.
Built in 1843, Hulme Court is a rare plastered stone house and a significant example of regency style architecture, incorporating a hipped slate roof, floor to ceiling windows and a broad verandah with detailed trellised supports.
It is registered as a Category 1 house with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and is also protected as a Category A building in the District Plan.
Hulme Court has a rich social history. The original owner was Sir Frederick Whitaker, later New Zealand's Premier, and it was also home to many leading New Zealanders. The team behind the rebuild has tried to retain as much of the original fabric of the building as possible and replastering in the traditional way is a good example of that, project manager and consultant for AAA Design and Consultancy Mike Mattin says.
But the kitchen and bathroom, which were altered in the 1950s, will be modernised.
"Where rooms have already been modified, you have the opportunity for change because they are less significant than original spaces," New Zealand Historic Places Trust heritage advisor Robin Byron says.
While the goal is minimal intervention, historic homes still have to be comfortable enough to be lived in. That way they will continue to be cared for, she says.
Work began on Hulme Court in January 2012 after selling in mid-2011 for $2.5 million, well below the QV rating valuation of $4.2 million.
There's been a lot of public interest since work began on the outside of the house, Mr Mattin says.
A number of qualified professionals are involved; from a conservation architect to council staff and other heritage specialists.
"It's been a very collaborative project," Mr Mattin says.
And that's despite members of the project having strongly different views.
"It takes a lot of goodwill and compromise.
"I think it's something to
be proud of that we've got this far."
It's helped there's been a real commitment from the owner to do everything right by the building, Ms Byron says.
It's unusual because owners often think they should have complete control, Mr Matten adds.
The owner has decided not to move into Hulme Court and will be looking for a tenant once work is completed in March 2013.
It's possible a museum room will be created in the service quarter and be open to the public for special events, but this is yet to be finalised.
"The bricks and mortar might be owned by someone but the history of the building should belong to everyone," Mr Mattin says.
Working on heritage buildings allows for more flexibility than many imagine.
Council built heritage specialists such as Bryan Pooley offer free advice to owners, which can include anything from Auckland Council processes to recommendations for heritage specialists.
Dr Pooley says about 85 per cent of the projects he works on have a positive outcome for both heritage and owners.
Go to aucklandcouncil. govt.nz and search for Environmental Initiatives Fund (EIF) and Auckland City Cultural Heritage Fund for more information on funding opportunities.
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