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House Of The Week
John Perry's farmhouse at the end of a dirt track on the Wairarapa plains is like something out of a fairytale. The 145-year-old house still sports its original exterior coat of paint and most of its original form remains.
The house is Perry's pride and joy. He has known the house, Brentwood, all his life, and moved into it 12 years ago. Brentwood is the largest surviving build designed by architect and builder Richard Alfred Wakelin and reflects his style of fine detail in the carved finials, tongue and grooved weatherboarding on the front walls, decorative stop-chamfered facings and corner posts into which the weatherboards are clean butted, and octagonal veranda
post. They are features typical to earlier and smaller Wakelin builds, according to New Zealand Historic Places Trust records.
Specific to Brentwood are the Gothic styled pointed arch panels, reminiscent of ecclesiastical-styled form, at the front door and inside. Perry believes the house may have initially been planned as a school and the gothic style was to give 'a message to pupils of the reverence required within'.
Another feature is an internal door, just beyond the front door, shaped like a church door with wide framing that accentuates the Gothic style shape. There is a suggestion the thickly padded door was for sound proofing, which Perry thinks may have been related to its intended use as a school. The padding deteriorated and was replaced but the door and frame remain, as does the original exterior paint job.
"The house was apparently originally painted and then sand was scattered or thrown against the wet paint. I understand they were trying to make the wood resemble stone, as they used 'back home' in the UK," Perry says.
This sand application to the exterior totara timber cladding remains with little deterioration, testament to the method used. Perry says an earthquake in 1942 destroyed three ornamental chimneys, which were replaced. There are three huge, efficient fireplaces and the dining room fire place has a fire screen that can be raised up within the overhead mantelpiece, thought to be unique to Brentwood.
In 1907 Brentwood was purchased by Joseph Walter Perry for 2750 pounds and has remained in the Perry family. There were some additions before the family moved in, such as the kitchen, recently renovated, porches, a bay window, and two second storey windows.
The huge magnolia tree at the front door, nearly as high as the house, is thought to be as old as Brentwood. The surrounds are now less than five hectares, but original native bush remains; old elms and oaks, planted during the build are in full form in the surrounding paddocks.
While the house requires constant attention, Perry is very happy to do it. "I'll continue to potter round restoring the house," he says.
Architect: Richard Alfred Wakelin (1945 - 1910), learnt his building and design skills from uncles one of whom (George) received his training in woodworking and carving at the British Houses of Parliament at Westminster. Alfred (as he was better known) Wakelin founded the Greytown Sash & Door Factory (1878-1889) before moving to
Petone trading as Wakelin & Son. With son George they built a number of buildings including the Upper and Lower Hutt post offices and the Norwich Union Insurance building in Lower Hutt.
Build size: 465 square metres
Materials: Totara tongue and groove weatherboard on front walls, iron roof (covering original totara shingles) , timber frame, totara and matai flooring, a mix of gib and scrim and wallpaper wall coverings.
Energy efficiency: Native timber sarking on ceiling and walls, three fire places.
Interior detail: The upper storey features four bedrooms, two bathrooms, expansive hallways and storage plus verandas. Downstairs: bedroom, living room, day room , dining room , bathroom, kitchen, second living room off kitchen, utility room. Stud height three metres.
Historic significance: Brentwood is the largest of the 14 structures Richard Alfred Wakelin designed and built. Listed category 2 with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust , as a place of 'historical or cultural heritage significance or value'.
Unexpected: "In a dozen years of living here I've found its very easy to live in for its size, everyone else sees it as a reasonably big house, but I find it not so," Perry says.
Negative: "It's a little cool in the winter but it's lovely in the summer. It's a house where upgrading would never finish."
Renovations: Most piles renewed and the number increased, rewired, replumbed, roof iron painted.
- © Fairfax NZ News