Friday, 27 November 2015

Woodhill, Grange Road

Woodhill, Postcard, undated postcard
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
Woodhill in Grange Road, Tauranga is the second house built on his farm for Henry Stainforth Brabant, the first being Maungawhare. Fitzgibbon Louch, an Irish architect and Katikati settler designed the ‘domestic Gothic’ style house and David Lundon built it in 1885. Kauri logs from the Coromandel were milled on the site. The house had an imposing position on a ridge looking across the Waikareao estuary to what was then the small town of Tauranga. The whole building is cladded with timber weatherboards and has a corrugated iron roof. The original block of land is much reduced and there is just a few metres to the boundary hedge on the east side.

Woodhill from the East, 23 July 2002
Photo by Shirley Arabin, Courtesy of Heritage New Zealand
The house is large with a frontage of over twenty four metres. Originally there stood a three storey tower at the south end with a copper roof but an owner removed the top storey some years ago. The present function of the house is as a venue for funerals and rooms at the north end have been modified to provide a large room for services.  Otherwise much is original like the timber panelled wainscoting in the hall and the door and window joinery. The first front door is on the east wall that is now the back wall of the house. The ceilings are made of panelled kauri. Fire surrounds are original although repairs have been made at times to the brick fireplaces.

Woodhill, view of front, August 2002
Photo by Shirley Arabin, Courtesy of Heritage New Zealand
The elaborate barge boards on each gable are crowned by a finial which is itself braced by a scroll. The Italianate splayed bay window by the original front door is surmounted with embrasures and cappings. The label mould above the windows diverts water away from the windows while the verandah posts and barge boards demonstrate the elaborate styles popular in their day.

There were several owners between the Brabants and Legacy Funerals who have owned the house since the founder Greg Brownless bought it in 1993. During this time the grounds have reduced to half an acre and the driveway brings visitors to the west side that has become the main entrance to the house.


  1. As a small child I stayed at Woodhill when my friend Olwyn Lees lived here.
    Her Father was Solicitor Lionel Lees and operated a Law Office in Tauranga.
    I lived just up the road at Maungawhare. Olwyn and I were pupils at Otumoetai Primary. We played 'Dental Nurses' practicing our skills on the pruned Hydrangea Bushes - replacing the pith in the stalk with sand, dirt and egg shells from the chicken coop.... Fun childhood memories.

  2. This magnificent old home belonged to my grandparents, Lionel Deacon Lees and Anne Elizabeth (Betty) Lees for many years. When the house became too big for them to look after, Lionel and Betty moved next door to where the original tennis courts were. In Later years, Woodhill was converted into a funeral home and Gran and Grandad were finally put to rest there.
    My father, Julian, and his sister Olwyn grew up at Woodhill. Olwyn rode her beloved horse, Monty and Julian spent his weekends shaping the hedges or helping in the orchard.
    There are rumours that a ghost could be heard walking the long hall at night. The Maoris who helped on the farm would never stay at Woodhill after dark because apparently some Maori land wars were fought on this site.
    It is definitely a home of historical significance and it's wonderful to see it being maintained for future (and recently passed) generations alike.