It’s goodbye to Little Flaxmere
By Melina Schamroth
Staff reporter, Hastings
Tucked away down a long tree-lined driveway off Omahu Road is Little Flaxmere, a large stately home with eight bedrooms, three bathrooms and three hectares of land.
Motorists driving past would not even know the house was there, and that’s the way its owners, Doug and Dorothy Walker, like it.
The couple have spent their married life in the home and brought up five children in it. Their only son, Angus, was “flatting” in the old servant’s quarter and has only recently moved away.
Now only Doug and Dorothy live in the house and say it’s “just a little too big” for two people.
The Walkers plan to move to Taupo and have put their turn-of-the-century house up for auction at the end of this month.
Doug, a Hawke’s Bay regional councillor, say there has been a lot of interest in the property, both from in and out of the region.
The house was built in 1900 by Sir William Russell. He and his brother, Sir Andrew Russell, jointly took up a share of the Heretaunga Block, and call it Flaxmere.
Little Flaxmere was originally a cottage built on the land, named after Flaxmere, the cottage Sir William and his wife Harriette first had in New Zealand.
When Sir William died in 1913, the property passed to his son Harold Arthur Russell.
In 1940, the house was sold to the Walker family, where it has remained virtually unaltered since it was built.
Hard rimu panels line its interior and fully landscaped grounds surround its exterior.
Two magnolia trees are set in large ceramic pots at the entrance to the house and, upon entry, visitors are greeting by a gallery of photographs and paintings in the foyer, or entrance hall, as Dorothy calls it.
Downstairs incorporates a large drawing room, a dining room and a family room, known by the family as “the brown room”.
The kitchen, formerly a passage, a washroom and an office, has been modernised. A downstairs bathroom near the kitchen used to be the butler’s pantry.
Car sheds now take the place of what used to be the kitchen and nanny’s sleeping quarters.
The home has been maintained in keeping with its original style, and is filled with antique furniture and ornaments. Dorothy said she used to be an avid collector of antiques – “of course it suits this house”.
Two staircases provide access to the top floor – one from the entrance hall and the other from the former servants’ quarters.
Upstairs are the sleeping quarters, which include the couple’s large master bedroom. A small balcony leads off the room and provides a view of parts of Hastings.
Included in the sleeping accommodation is a large guest bedroom with an en suite, and several smaller rooms. These come in handy when any of the couple’s five children or nine grandchildren come to stay.
Outside is an inground swimming pool, tennis courts and large gardens filled with flowers, shrubs and trees.
Special features of the grounds include the rose gardens, and “Dorothy’s Secret Garden”, a clearing of camellias, azalias [azaleas], maples rhododendrons and other greenery, which was once wilderness.
Some of the trees on the property are protected.
Dorothy often sits there when she wants to be by herself. Other times she is joined by Doug, and/or their dog, Mutz, a German shorthaired pointer.
Dorothy’s “secret garden” began to take shape about 26 years ago. Before then, “you couldn’t even get through”, she said.
The Walkers say they have worked “very hard” to keep the expansive gardens maintained. A gardener visits a couple of times a week to help keep the grounds under control.
Another feature is a shade house, where Doug grows plants from scratch. Positioned near that is a sundial, which is set in the ground, near the swimming pool.
On the other side of the pool is an arc of cabbage trees, planted by the original owners. Dorothy used to put her children to sleep there.
Dorothy says she will miss the space, and in particular, the gardens.
Little Flaxmere will be auctioned on February 29.
Photo captions –
Little Flaxmere in Omahu Road up for auction on February 29
There’s plenty of space in the master bedroom
A gallery of photographs greets visitors along the rimu panelled staircase in the entrance hall.
Owners Doug and Dorothy Walker and dog Mutz take time out in ‘Dorothy’s Secret Garden’.