Home­stead a trea­sure for all to en­joy

The Tribune (NZ) - - WHAT'S ON -

Nes­tled in the heart of Hokowhitu and sur­rounded by beau­ti­fully man­i­cured grounds, lies one of Palmer­ston North’s fore­most event and con­fer­ence venue - Cac­cia Birch House. The re­fur­bished home­stead has the flex­i­bil­ity to host a num­ber of groups at one time with seven lovely rooms avail­able. The gar­den is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar for wed­ding par­ties and birth­day func­tions, where the en­tire house and gar­dens are avail­able for guests to en­joy.

Cac­cia Birch House, over­look­ing the Hokowhitu La­goon, is recog­nised as be­ing a sig­nif­i­cant land­mark in Palmer­ston North and is listed as a His­toric Places Trust Cat­e­gory one prop­erty. The govern­ment was gifted the prop­erty by the Cac­cia Birch fam­ily for use in the war ef­fort, and to walk through the prop­erty and grounds now one would be for­given for think­ing that Cac­cia Birch House had been lov­ingly cared for through­out its life. How­ever, after a long pe­riod of ne­glect and dere­lic­tion dur­ing the 70s and 80s the house and grounds were taken over from the Govern­ment by Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil. The Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety formed in the late 70s specif­i­cally to save the house had suc­ceeded in high­light­ing the need to save such a sig­nif­i­cant prop­erty – some­thing not ev­ery­one agreed upon at the time.

Fol­low­ing the pur­chase, PNCC set up a Trust Board. Plans to ren­o­vate be­gan after the sale of sec­tions on the newly formed Cac­cia Birch lane along with fur­ther fund rais­ing in­clud­ing the Bar­ber Hall Housie group and Lot­ter­ies.

Work be­gan in the early 1990s and since then Cac­cia Birch House has been re­stored and ren­o­vated to her former glory for all to en­joy. This has only been pos­si­ble through the sup­port of PNCC, and the tire­less en­deav­ours of the Cac­cia Birch Trust rais­ing funds through CET, ECCT, Lion Foun­da­tion and Pub Charity dur­ing the last 20 years.

The grandeur and his­toric na­ture of Cac­cia Birch House is only part of the story.

Cac­cia Birch man­ager Nicky Birch says when Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil took over the prop­erty from the govern­ment un­der a deed of trust, their duty was to pre­serve and pro­tect the house as an his­toric fea­ture of Palmer­ston North for use by the whole com­mu­nity.

‘‘When the trust board was formed it was felt that the best way to use this fan­tas­tic home­stead was as a con­fer­ence and func­tion cen­tre, which would be avail­able for any one in the com­mu­nity to use. For this rea­son we try to keep our charges af­ford­able whilst cov­er­ing the op­er­a­tion costs and up­keep of the house and large gar­dens.’’

Any­body who hires Cac­cia Birch House may self-cater their event or utilise in-house ser­vices.

‘‘We have many groups who reg­u­larly use our fa­cil­i­ties where we pro­vide lunch, morn­ing or af­ter­noon tea and this in­cludes reg­u­lar gar­den tour groups that visit to en­joy the gar­dens and hos­pi­tal­ity,’’ says Nicky.

‘‘We also like to en­cour­age school groups or fundrais­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions to use the prop­erty for pub­lic events such as mu­sic con­certs, art ex­hi­bi­tions or fes­ti­vals.’’

While con­fer­ences and func­tions play a ma­jor role in the day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties of Cac­cia Birch, Nicky says that it is also im­por­tant for the his­tory to be pre­served and pro­moted.

‘‘We are cur­rently heav­ily in­volved in col­lat­ing the doc­u­ments and pho­tos of the house and sur­round­ing area,’’ says Nicky.

‘‘We have been de­vel­op­ing the Coach-House as a vis­i­tor cen­tre with all the his­tor­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and this will con­tinue with a new dis­play planned. Whilst we have sourced much our­selves, it’s amaz­ing what vis­i­tors will bring in. A lady who worked here as an 18 year old when this was a con­va­les­cent home for WW2 vet­eran nurses, brought in an al­bum full of box brownie pho­tos from her time here. She later at­tended the dis­play open­ing with three friends who also worked here dur­ing the same pe­riod.

‘‘There is so much his­tory from this era tucked away, and it is won­der­ful when peo­ple of­fer it to us so we can add it to the ar­chives to share, mak­ing it avail­able for ev­ery­one to see and learn about the his­tory of this area.’’

You re­ally don’t need an ex­cuse to visit Cac­cia Birch House. The pub­lic are welcome to en­joy the mag­nif­i­cent home­stead, the gar­dens and the his­tory, but if you’d like tea and scones, the guided tour and a look back into the his­tory, please give Nicky a call on 06 3575363 and she’ll make the ar­range­ments for you.

SUP­PLIED

After fall­ing into dis­re­pair in the 1970s (insert photo) Cac­cia Birch house and gar­dens have been lov­ingly re­stored to their former glory.

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