Three bedrooms, 11 children... those were the days

The reality in the early days of Hamilton

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 09:09 22/08/2014
Egidio Pizzini
Supplied/Jan Macfie

THEN: Egidio Pizzini at his Fox Street home with family around 1920.

Jan Macfie
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
NOW: Pizzini’s granddaughter, Jan Macfie, outside the house as it is now.

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Two parents and 11 children in a three-bedroom house - it may sound like a nightmare for some but it was reality for early residents of Hamilton.

The Waikato Times recently called for "I remember when" photos from the city's early days as we prepare to celebrate 150 years since European settlement.

It prompted a flood of images showing how things used to be.

Among them was one, thought to be taken around 1920, of a Fox St house in Hamilton East which still stands today.

Back then it was occupied by Hamilton woman Jan Macfie's maternal grandfather Egidio Pizzini and his 11 children.

"My mother is the baby there . . . she's the smallest child," Macfie said.

The horse and cart at the right of the photo were transport for church and gathering supplies.

"My grandfather emigrated from Italy to try to make a better life for himself. He lived in a very poor village in Italy, in Sondrio, and there was just no money."

First he tried Australia "but there was nothing there" and he continued to New Zealand.

He didn't make enough money during a stint in the gum fields up north, so he headed down to Hamilton and began making wine.

He also had 13 children - 11 who survived - with his English wife Louisa.

While Pizzini died before Macfie was born - she was the baby of his youngest - he was a prolific journal writer.

She has one of his journals translated from Italian to English and has learned about him that way.

"From reading between the lines I think he was a very hard man," she said.

His was a strongly Catholic family, and one of the daughters was shut out after she "ran off and had twins".

"Looking at what my grandfather wrote, he tried to do a lot of things. He was always searching for something. He had strong communist views as well, which was quite interesting for back then," she said.

"He loved his family. He loved his wife. I mean, they were in a three-bedroom house with all those children."

And Macfie grew up on the same section, as her mother Alma was given land and a house by Pizzini.

They often visited the people who had bought their grandfather's home "so we were in and out".

Macfie's seen the place come up on the market a couple of times and said she'd love to have bought it.

It's "absolutely" still in the same form it was in her grandfather's time, but had been renovated - meaning some features such as the coal range are gone.

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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