One of Auckland’ s most historic homes – tracing its heritage back some 137 years to the early colonisation of the city – has been placed on the market for sale.
The stately homestead – originally christened Stoneleigh then later renamed Epworth – was built for Charles Stone in the 1870s on what was then 1.2 hectares of land in Mount Albert. Charles Stone is believed to be the first European boy born in Auckland. His birth was certified by city forefather Sir John Logan Campbell.
Charles Stone ran what was Auckland’s largest shipping business before expanding into mining and real estate. He was also active in local body politics as a member of Auckland Harbour Board and the Mount Albert Board.
The grand Stoneleigh homestead was sold in 1882. In 1922 the grand private residence was bought by the Methodist Church and renamed Epworth House after the birthplace in England of the religious denomination. Epworth House operated as a Methodist-run orphanage until 1936.
Well known Auckland families including the Winstone, Caughey, Fowlds and Astley assisted with the financial support of the orphanage - which cared for up to 27 young children at a time.
At the opening of the orphanage, The Auckland Star newspaper graciously described Epworth House as having: A nobly proportioned room used as a ballroom in the days of the original owner provides a girls’ dormitory with an open fireplace and room for 14 beds. The former drawing room has been fitted up as a boys’ dormitory.”
The paper’s description goes on: “The matron’s sitting room and office, with bedrooms for matron and staff together with the kitchen scullery and storeroom, complete the adaptions.”
Stoneleigh is now known as Mt Albert Guest House – with its owners running long-term accommodation for tenants in 31 single and double-bedrooms. Weekly room rates range from $175 - to $265, with the business operating an average occupancy rate of 95 percent. A one-bedroom self-contained apartment within the grounds rents for $325 per week.
Mt Albert Guest House is being jointly marketed for sale at auction on July 15 by Bayleys’ commercial and residential teams – with Duncan and Andrea Ritchie handling the residential component and Paul Dixon managing commercial enquiries. The building has a B classification under Auckland Council’s Heritage schedule.
Mr Dixon said the historic colonial mansion could be bought with the intention of returning it to its former stately grandeur on some 1851 square metres of land, or maintained as a fully operational and profitable accommodation business.
Mt Albert Guest House has three separate accommodation units. What was Stoneleigh house is some 455 square metres of bedrooms, multiple bathroom amenities, a lounge/TV room, and large communal kitchen. There are also two additional outbuildings – one of 74 square metres and one of 47 square metres – which also contain four and five bedrooms respectively. The laundry facilities are housed in the basement. The property has on-site parking for 12 vehicles.
“From a commercial perspective, the property has been exceptionally well maintained and is fully compliant with council requirements – operating a sprinkler system and electronic fire alarm,” Mr Dixon said.
“The Mt Albert Guest House business model is founded on offering long-term accommodation – with tenants tending to stay for months rather than weeks. Artwork adorns the hallways and the property is professionally cleaned to hotel standards to ensure a high degree of customer satisfaction among the tenants.”
Fellow salesperson Andrea Ritchie said the grand manor of Stonleigh in its previous incarnation rivalled some of Auckland’s more well-known stately homes – such as Alberton House, Oakfield, Clay House, and Rahiri which was built by the Caughey family and later gifted to the Plunket Society for use as Karitane House which cared for premature babies and new mothers.
“There are very few residential properties of this grandeur and heritage left in Auckland. And they certainly don’t come up for sale that often,” Ms Ritchie said.
“The external architecture of the home is virtually the same as when it was built some 137 years ago – which goes a long way as testimony to the quality of the builders and craftsmen at the time.
“With architectural plans, the interior room configuration could be returned to close to its original state… even allowing for the potential installation of modern day conveniences such as en-suite bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes.
“We’ve had a glimpse under some of the hallway carpeting, and the floor boards appear to be original milled kauri. Likewise with the door framing and hallway arches, which we believe are all the original native timber.
“If a potential new owner really wanted to relive the majesty of the Victorian era they could even utilise the two external outbuildings as live-in servants’ and gardeners quarters. It’s such a regal home….Stoneleigh could be the Downton Abbey of Mount Albert.”