Roselle House Officially Opened!

February 09, 2018 at 2:51 PM

For over 140 years, Roselle House has sat graciously at the end of a long Remuera driveway, standing sentinel over Roselle Lawn and beyond to the Hauraki Gulf. Since 1959, the busy day-to-day life of a boys’ school has carried on around her; her dignified presence visible at the heart of the campus – until early last year, when the site was fenced off, scaffolding went up and she disappeared under plastic shrink wrapping! For a year, the stark, white plastic concealed a hive of activity as an extensive renovation project got underway. 

Built in 1876, only 30 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Roselle House was generously gifted by John Martyn Wilson to the St Kentigern Trust, a charitable entity with links to the Presbyterian Church.  He stipulated that his bequest was for the sole purpose of education, bequeathing a further £5,000 pounds to develop the first classroom block. Generous of nature, Martyn also offered three acres of land in Shore Rd to the Council, expressing the wish that the School, when established, should have the use of the land for field sports. To this day, Roselle House and Martyn Wilson Field are used by the School for this purpose.

The majestic house has been at the heart of the Boys’ School since the bell first rang on 1 February, 1959. In those early days, Roselle was filled with the noise of young boys as many of the rooms were given over to classrooms for ‘Primers 1-4’ and the library. As the roll expanded over the years, new classroom blocks were established and Roselle’s primary function shifted from classroom use to become the administration centre of the School.

This morning marked a moment in history, as after months of work, a new era for Roselle House was formally dedicated at a special service of blessing. Our invited guests for the morning were piped into the hall by Nick Forgie, whilst the rest of the Pipe Band played in the foyer. Guests included foundation old boy No 20, Peter Nelson who introduced fellow foundation student and first Head Boy of Saint Kentigern School, as it was then known, Roland Lennox-King. Mr Lennox-King, along with Matthew Wilson, a prefect in 1986 and great-nephew of our generous benefactor, John Martyn Wilson, were to be given the honour of cutting the ribbon following the service.

The choir followed Principal, Mr Peter Cassie’s introduction with a gentle rendition of the beautiful ‘Saint Kentigern Blessing.’ School Chaplain, Reverend Reuben Hardie reminded the boys that the School was founded on a gift and a vision, one that has left a legacy of generosity of spirit that will continue to be honoured.

Mr Cassie gave thanks to the current Board for their vision, as well as to architects, Architectus, Dominion Construction and Outline Design for their careful work – and especially the generous support of our School community who helped to make this project possible.

Mr Cassie concluded by showing the boys a time capsule that had been hidden in Roselle since 1992 – it’s been on his desk a while and he has shown great restraint not opening it! That is saved for next week when the boys return to Roselle and start to make use of the new Learning Commons upstairs.

On a day that started with sheets of rain, the heavens were merciful as the entire school joined our guests for the ribbon cutting ceremony on the front steps of Roselle. Scissors in hand, Mr Lennox-King and Mr Wilson did the honours as three cheers rang out from the boys!

Now, 59 years after the boys first entered Roselle, they are about to be let back in! But not until next week! 

Renovation has seen the former residential rooms on the top floor of this historic home become transformed into a light and airy Learning Commons with library nooks for quiet reading and open spaces for the boys to work collaboratively. Each space flows easily throughout the interior and continues out onto the wide verandas that have now been glassed in for safety. Walls have been removed, a new stairwell and lift have been installed and the floor plan has been reconfigured to maximise the available area. 

Colourful, thought provoking artworks now adorn the walls and the eye can’t help but travel upward to the ceiling. As walls were removed, the original ceiling cornice and wall paper were revealed and a section of this, along with raw brickwork, has been left exposed as reminder of the room’s stately origins. Around the edges of each room, former floorboards have been incorporated as carpet edging to create another talking point. 

The ground floor of Roselle House has long been the home of the administration team, including the Principal’s office and a traditional wood-panelled Board Room. Over the course of last year, the whole ground floor was also transformed, with walls moved and repainted and a striking Saint Kentigern tartan carpet laid throughout. The school office has been remodelled and will offer a more welcoming and spacious environment for the boys and our school visitors. Our administration team has been pleased to return to Roselle, having spent over a year tucked away under JC Chalmers Hall! Much consideration has been given to their new working spaces. The reconfigured area outside will also allow for more parking spaces. 

As a listed Category B Heritage building with significant heritage value, not just to the School but the wider Auckland community, all work has taken into account its heritage status; accordingly, planning and consenting of the project took some time. The plan originally gathered momentum in 2016 with completion of the design documentation and receipt of the necessary Resource Consent approval, and later that year, Dominion Constructors Ltd was appointed as the main contractor. Throughout the project, they impressed us with their safe and efficient management of the construction site and its daily operations. They were always considerate of the School’s requirements and minimised any disruption on campus. 

The work they were required to undertake went far beyond cosmetic, involving major structural upgrading, alteration and refurbishment to a two storey building that has seen many changes over its life – well documented in Jane Mackie’s, ‘Sons of Kentigern,’ the history book written for the 50th Jubilee. One of the main drivers was to ensure seismic safety under the stringent guidelines set following the Christchurch earthquake. An example of this particular work was the removal of the ornate heavy brick chimneys (a potential risk in a seismic event) and their replacement with lightweight replicas precisely matching the original structures. 

With the ribbon now cut, we look forward to next week when Roselle once again becomes alive to the sound of boys and is used according to John Martyn Wilson’s original bequest – ‘for the sole purpose of education.’ 

Look out for photos next week as we reveal the interior!

Click here to see more photos.

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