Newspaper Article 1994 – History Abounds

History abounds

George and Judy Woodham will not be short of space in their new Hastings home.

The couple has bought the late Will Franssen’s mansion fronting Cornwall Park for $390,000.

It had a government valuation of $525,000.

The decision to buy the house was an easy one for Mr Woodham but it took his wife a little while to warm to the idea.

Mrs Woodham said she thought the house was “massive when I first saw it”. There was work required inside, particularly on the kitchen which would have to be completely remodelled.

“I’m now looking forward to it. It will be a real challenge with plenty of work to do,” she said.

The house, which sits on grounds of 5643 square metres and has one of the best gardens and tree specimens in Hawke’s Bay, is not new to Mr Woodham.

He was an appliance salesman in the 1960s and the Franssens were customers, so he used to visit them at home.

The house is about 450sq m and has five bedrooms (all have Iino flooring), including two doubles overlooking the garden, the park, and a pool.

The house was designed around the early 1920s by architect Rene Natusch for Dr and Mrs Toswell. They sold the house in 1938 to Dr Sandy Whyte and his wife Eva. The underbidder was Sir James Wattie who lived in Nelson St near the cannery.

Mrs Whyte was worried about the earthquake risk of the double-brick home and asked Mr Natusch to strengthen it. The Whytes had lost their daughter Patsy in the 1931 earthquake when she and a cousin were at a Hastings hair salon.

Mr Franssen bought the house in 1965. The immigrant Dutch entrepreneur will always be remembered for bringing fine dining to Hastings. He operated the Farmers Tearooms (now the office of The Sun and IMS) and then the Mayfair hotel.

The Woodhams take possession of the house on September 7. Among those who looked at buying it was Dame Melvina [Malvina] Major, who considered it had potential to be used by an operatic trust.

Mr Woodham, who is semi-retired and owns commercial property in Hastings, said he would subdivide an area of land facing Roberts St to create three or four sections.

He and his wife would retain the gardens.

The house and property could now belong to the city of Hastings if an offer from Mr Franssen had been taken up.

Mr Franssen wanted the property to become an exhibition centre or tearooms for Hastings residents and was prepared to donate it to the former city council. However, negotiations over conditions he sought were never concluded.

The Franssen residence was the venue for a function for Arthur Alan Thomas soon after he was pardoned for the Crewe murders.

Mr Franssen marked the occassion [occasion] by inviting several guests who celebrated Mr Thomas’s release after nine years in jail with copious quantities of his finest French champagne.

Photo caption – Mr and Mrs Woodham and son Kane at their new home.

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