Friday, 17 October 2014

Brain Watkins House

Brain Watkins House, c.1906
The house has stood solid and square on a corner in Tauranga for 133 years. The square villas featured in many New Zealand towns from the 1880s were practical and utilitarian and the Brain Watkins House is no exception. Like The Elms, the Brain Watkins House attempts to fulfil the gap in Tauranga, the city which lacks a civic museum.

Built entirely of kauri by Joseph Denham Brain for his family, the house follows the typical pattern of a central corridor from front to back door with rooms opening on each side. Fire places in two living rooms, a coal or wood stove originally in the kitchen, and a fireplace in one bedroom provided heating in an otherwise house cold in winter. Weatherboard cladding and an iron roof with a central front door and windows on either side shows an affiliation to the neo-Georgian style.

Brain Watkins House, after 1957
This is a house derived from a pattern book rather than an individual design and the joinery, verandah fretwork, balusters, verandah poles and gate being factory made. A feature unique in Tauranga is the encaustic tiled front path and steps.

Brain Watkins House, 1969
The house remains furnished with the possessions of the Brain family who were the only people to live in the house, ending with the death in 1979 of Elva Phoebe Brain Watkins, the youngest daughter. It is a veritable treasure house of china, linen, crochet and embroidery and the nick nacks collected by a family during their hundred year occupancy.

Brain Watkins House, 2011
Elva Brain Watkins left the house to the Tauranga Historical Society after her death and they have protected and preserved the house since. Through the City Partners scheme the Tauranga City Council has entrusted the care of the garden and lawns to City Care who do this well.

Due to the limited numbers of members available to be House Guides the house is only open on Sunday afternoons from two to four p.m. but arrangements can be made for group or class visits on week days. Volunteers who could help as guides are very welcome.

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