Duart House once a horse farm
Rose Chapman is a retired librarian and was resident caretaker of Duart House from 2008-2013. While living there she became fascinated with the old house and the McLean family who lived there, and is writing a book about their lives.
It is not generally known that the environs of Duart Historic House, in Duart Road Havelock North, were once paddocks dotted with thoroughbred horses.
In 1882, when Duart was built, the estate covered more than 60ha. Over the years, this landscape, with its healthy air and views, has been subdivided many times. Today, the gardens of Duart House cover only about 1.2ha.
Duart House was built for a Scotsman, Allan McLean (1833-1898), who came to Hawke’s Bay in the late 1860s via the goldfields of Australia. He managed Waimarama Station for Meinertzhagen and Campbell until he bought Tukituki Station in 1870. This 4250ha property stretched along the eastern river bank from about where Red Bridge is now, to Clive Grange (Te Awanga). That same year, “Tuki” McLean, as he was known, married Hannah, the eldest child of John and Margaret Chambers of Te Mata Station and their first seven children were born at Tukituki.
Although Tukituki was primarily a sheep station, Allan McLean began breeding thoroughbred horses from about 1875, travelling to Melbourne to purchase stud animals, as well as buying and selling locally. Horsebreeding and racing were almost obligatory for the wealthy runholders of Hawke’s Bay, and race meetings were important social and sporting events.
By the late 1870s, the Tukituki River, then unbridged, was proving a serious obstacle to attendance at race meetings, especially in floods. He made the decision to move across the river, build a grand house, and settle seriously into making large sums of money from his horses. The fact that the children were growing up and needed better schooling was another consideration.
The stables, with staff recruited locally, were located not at the house, but near the corner of Te Mata and Duart Roads. Well-known trainers Chaffe, and Ewart were employed, and when a newspaper correspondent visited Duart for a tour of the stables, he was invited for lunch where the table-talk was all of “horses, horses, horses… even the sauce was horseradish!”.
Some of Tuki’s most successful horses included Patriarch, The Mute, Javelin, Kingfisher, Louie and many others. Their progeny were much in demand, and McLean, although bad-tempered and arrogant, was a respected man in the equine community, donating valuable prizes and giving money (at least once) to charity.
After his death in 1898, all his stock and a large part of the Duart Estate were sold off — his sons wanted to be engineers, not horsemen.
Today, Duart is owned by Hastings District Council and managed by the Duart House Society. The house, with function rooms and colonialstyle museum upstairs, is open to the public from 10am until noon on the first Sunday of each month, or by arrangement with the caretaker. The gardens, beautiful all year but especially in spring, are open during daylight hours.
■ If any readers have images of the horses in this article, or of Allan McLean, please contact Rose ki[email protected]mail.com
Duart House in the early days.