High drama at Al­ber­ton

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Be­hind one of Auck­land’s best known his­toric houses is a lit­tle known love story with all of the trim­mings of a clas­sic.

This year marks the 150th an­niver­sary of Al­ber­ton.

The Mt Al­bert house was built in 1863 by busi­ness­man Al­lan Kerr Tay­lor who once owned vast tracts of Auck­land land.

His wife Sophia Kerr Tay­lor was a well-known women’s rights ad­vo­cate.

De­spite their promi­nence, the fam­ily his­tory is still new to their great-grand­daugh­ter Mar­garet Guyver.

Her grand­mother Vi­o­let Kerr Tay­lor was cut off by Sophia when she mar­ried. As a school­girl Vi­o­let at­tracted the at­ten­tion of work­ing class English ship­ping clerk Al­fred Gil­more.

‘‘Fam­ily tra­di­tion has it that he would meet her walk­ing home from school and carry her books,’’ Mrs Guyver says.

Mr Gil­more was in­vited to par­ties at Al­ber­ton which was fa­mous for its balls and hunts, but it was clear he’d never be wel­comed by Sophia as Vi­o­let’s hus­band.

‘‘Sophia was against any of her daugh­ters mar­ry­ing,’’ Mrs Guyver says. ‘‘We’re not sure why she was such a party pooper. She might have wanted to be the queen bee with all her daugh­ters around her but it’s more likely that she thought her daugh­ter’s ad­mir­ers weren’t suit­able.’’

One morn­ing in 1894 20-yearold Vi­o­let put on her hat and coat, told her mother she was go­ing shop­ping and in­stead went and mar­ried Al­fred.

The orig­i­nal story is that the cou­ple headed straight for the docks and fled to Eng­land.

In fact they lived in Mt Eden for a few years where Mrs Guyver’s father Mau­rice was born.

In 1899 the sec­ond Boer War broke out and Mr Gil­more de­cided to move the fam­ily back to Eng­land so he could join up with his old reg­i­ment and head to South Africa to fight.

‘‘He rushed down and booked ap­par­ently the worst pos­si­ble cabin on the next ship sail­ing to Eng­land. My grand­mother, who was ex­pect­ing an­other baby, was loaded on with my father and never re­turned to New Zealand.

‘‘We don’t know if she and Sophia ever made up,’’ she says. Mr Gil­more died in the 1940s. Mrs Guyver lives in Eng­land and only started to learn about Al­ber­ton as an adult from cousins vis­it­ing the UK.

‘‘Vi­o­let had a pic­ture of Al­ber­ton in her liv­ing room and she some­times men­tioned her sis­ters but that was about it.

‘‘She had a light touch though. I could tell she’d been some­where where there had been par­ties and horses and things.’’

Mrs Guyver first vis­ited Al­ber­ton in 2005.

‘‘I was quite taken with the din­ing room. When I first walked into it, it was al­most ex­actly like my grand­mother’s,’’ she says.

‘‘Her house was a lit­tle or­di­nary English house, and although she left with noth­ing it had a lot of Al­ber­ton style things in it.’’

This year Mrs Guyver re­turned to cel­e­brate the 150th an­niver­sary.

She’s now well ac­quainted with fam­ily folk­lore in­clud­ing a story that could ex­plain the nam­ing of Morn­ing­side. Ed­in­burgh in Scot­land also has a sub­urb called Morn­ing­side. In the 1800s it was home to a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion.

Many of Al­lan Kerr Tay­lor’s brother also owned land around Auck­land.

‘‘They thought he was mad to buy this part of land so they started call­ing it Morn­ing­side,’’ Mrs Guyver says. . Al­ber­ton was gifted to the New Zealand His­toric Places Trust in 1972.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Re­turn­ing home: Mar­garet Guyver re­turns to Al­ber­ton to cel­e­brate its 150th an­niver­sary. She is the great­grand­daugh­ter of Al­lan Kerr Tay­lor who built the house.

Fam­ily por­trait: Mil­dred, Muriel, Sophia, Winifred and Vi­o­let Kerr Tay­lor in 1893.

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