More light shed on home
By CLINTON LLEWELLYN
Volunteers at the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank are not only helping preserve and publish the region’s history, they are correcting it.
When the HB Digital Archives Trust ofﬁcially opened the knowledge bank at Stoneycroft House in Hastings in December 2012, members of the ﬁve families who had owned the 1875-built homestead were invited as special guests.
But it turns out there should have been six families present, not ﬁve.
Researcher Robyn Warren said it had since been discovered that from 1920-42, Stoneycroft was the boyhood home of the late Sir Richard “Dick” Harrison, the Hastings-born former Speaker of the House of Representatives, from 1978-84.
Previously it was believed the descendants of Nathaniel Evanson Beamish, who lived there from 1893-1919, had inherited the property and occupied it from 1919-42.
Warren said it had been a thrill for researchers to discover the connection between the prominent Hawke’s Bay politician, a ﬁrst cousin of Hastings-born Deputy Prime Minster Duncan McIntyre, and the historic homestead.
“Its like we’re giving Stoneycroft a new lease of life,” she said.
Ownership records for Stoneycroft during that period had been lost or destroyed in the 1931 earthquake, she said.
But a “piece of the puzzle” emerged when Sir Richard’s wife Lady Margaret, in her 90s and still living in Hastings, provided an old family photo album.
It showed her husband as a teenager relaxing with his father, William Creed Harrison, in the grounds of Stoneycroft.
Researchers then uncovered a letter written in 1970 by Dr Diamond Allan Ballantyne, who with wife Joyce were the longest owners of Stoneycroft from 1954-2001, conﬁrming the Harrisons had owned it.
One of the old photos also showed Joyce Ballantyne, Hastings’ ﬁrst female councillor, being joined by the Harrison family in 1997 to re-enact a kauri tree planting ceremony originally staged by the families in 1970.
Warren said the signiﬁcance of the tree planting ceremony remained a mystery but she hoped to “ﬁll in the gaps” when 30 members of the Harrison family visited Stoneycroft this Saturday. Researchers would be unveiling their ﬁndings to the family at a special presentation which Mayor Lawrence Yule was also scheduled to attend, with plans for the descendants to pose for a new photo with the now mature kauri.
Historic snap: From left, Stoneycroft House owner Joyce Ballantyne, Hastings’ ﬁrst female councillor, with Sir Richard Harrison, his grandson Blair, daughter Mary and wife Lady Margaret in 1997, re-enacting a Kauri tree planting ceremony in the grounds of the historic Hastings homestead. photo: HB Knowledge Bank.