Historic Place Category 1
Lot 3 DP 51530 (CT NA1C/842), North Auckland Land District
Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)
Alberton is a distinctive colonial mansion, built about 1863 by one of Auckland's elite landed families. Originally belonging to Allan Kerr Taylor (1832-1890) and his first wife, Patty (nee Meredith, 1839-1864), the dwelling was erected on the lower slopes of Mt Albert as the centrepiece of their 203 hectare (500 acre) country estate. Overlooking a sizeable proportion of their land, it may have replaced an earlier scoria cottage, which Taylor is reputed to have constructed after buying part of the property in 1849, aged seventeen. Taylor was one of several brothers of Scots descent who purchased estates on the outskirts of early Auckland, funded by their father, an officer in the Indian Army. Among the wealthier migrants to the settlement, Taylor and his brothers prospered further by selling land for suburban subdivisions as the town expanded.
Alberton began life as a two-storey timber farmhouse with at least eleven rooms and a cellar. Its conversion to a fashionable mansion probably occurred in the 1870s, after the family's income had shifted from farming to land sales and company investments. Additions included an eastern wing with ballroom and a set of exotic corner towers with curved, ogee-shaped roofs. The latter may reflect oriental influences, linked to Allan Taylor's colonial Indian origins. The remodelled house at the head of a long, tree-lined driveway was increasingly used for social entertainment, including 'the first riding ball in New Zealand' in 1877. Allan Taylor's second wife Sophia (nee Davis, 1847-1930) made a number of modifications to the house, including the addition of a sewing room, after he died in 1890, which may reflect the priorites and concerns of a female-dominated household. The building remained in the family's hands until 1972, when it was bequeathed to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga.
Alberton is significant as one of the best-preserved houses of the colonial elite in the Auckland region, providing tangible evidence of the grandeur and individuality of many such residences. It gives valuable insights into the domestic lives of wealthy households, including the respective roles of women, children and servants. It is a graphic reminder of the value of family networks in colonial society and their connections with other parts of the British Empire. The building provides important information on construction methods, materials, design and decor, and shows how these technologies and fashions changed over time. It is of value for its connections with the Taylor family, including Allan's second wife Sophia, who was a supporter of women's suffrage. It is strongly linked with the development of the surrounding landscape, especially in Mt Albert and Morningside, and is important for its associated gardens. It enjoys high public esteem and educational value as a much-visited house museum and historic property, with strong aesthetic appeal due to its unusual architectural appearance and atmospheric interiors.
Registration covers the building, its fixtures and finishes. The building is associated with buried archaeological deposits and nineteenth-century trees within the surrounding garden, and possibly beyond.
- Original Construction: 1863
- Addition: 1870 - 1880
- Addition: 1910 - 1920
- Jan Harris, 'Alberton and its Family', New Zealand Historic Places Trust Research Report No.1, Wellington, 1990
- Frances Porter (ed.) Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island (2nd edn.), Auckland, 1983
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