Historic site: Mungavin Homestead and Gardens

"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down."

- A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture

 
Image of Mungavin homestead and gardens, 1918.
Mungavin homestead and gardens, 1918.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.1a 29.
 

Patrick Mungavin an Early European Settler

Patrick Mungavin was born in 1853 on the ship carrying his parents to New Zealand from Ireland. The family purchased 365 acres of land to the east of the present railway line at Porirua. It was this land that was later inherited by Mungavin and it covered much of what is now the suburb of Porirua East and extended north to Cannons Creek. The homestead was built on a small rise at the south-western part of the farm in 1915 for £1,300.

Mungavin Homestead Gardens

 
Image of Mungavin Homestead Gardens, 1918.
Mungavin Homestead Gardens, 1918.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.1a.35.
 
Image of Mungavin Homestead Gardens, 1918.
Mungavin Homestead Gardens, 1918.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.1a.37.
 

The 3.5 acres (1.4 hectares) of landscaped grounds originally around the house were developed by Alfred Buxton of Christchurch, a well-known landscape designer of the day, for a handsome fee, said to be £1,000. The grounds were bordered to the north by the meandering Porirua Stream, extended to the west past the position of the present railway station, to the south at least to the foot of the rise (at the end of the driveway) and an unknown distance to the east.

The grounds were arranged in a scenic way sympathetic to the pastoral setting of the house in the Porirua basin. The grounds included a tennis court, an artificial lake fed by the Porirua Stream, a large orchard, many exotic specimen trees (including a magnificent golden macrocarpa that still stands) and extensive formal gardens. Native trees were planted on exposed banks and as an under-storey to the exotic trees.

Reduction of the Mungavin lands

 
Image of Mungavin Homestead farmlands.
Mungavin Homestead farmlands.
Photo from Porirua Library Collection.
 

Over time, the grounds have been progressively reduced by the encroachment of transport infrastructure work and by state housing development. The first serious reduction came in 1928 when a large block of land to the west was appropriated by the government to construct the rail line - the railway station now stands roughly opposite the house, 180m away, and on part of the former gardens - this left the gardens more or less intact but with their pastoral setting irretrievably altered.

In the late 1940s compulsory acquisition of a large section of the farm for state housing development drastically reduced the size of the estate. The Mungavin family were paid compensation of £100 per acre, but were left with an uneconomical farm.

The landscaped grounds were significantly impacted by the development of the motorway from the 1950s through to the 1990s. Between 1950 and 1990 the motorway was progressively straightened and widened and now the centreline of the motorway passes through the location of the original tennis court. In 1958 the family sold the property.

Use of Mungavin House after it passed out of family hands

 
Image of Mungavin Blues Restaurant.
The former Mungavin Blues Restaurant.
Photo by Russell Murray, 2007.
 

The house had a variety of uses, including the No.41 Air Training Corps squadron, the Salvation Army and the Hartham Centre, an arts and craft society. The building became progressively run down and there was debate concerning whether it should be restored or demolished. After vigorous debate, the Porirua City Council purchased the house in 1986/87 for community use and it stood vacant pending motorway works, a future move, and restoration.

Late in 1987 the homestead was moved 38 metres to the east to create space for a slip road to the Mungavin Interchange (Kapi-Mana News 24/11/1987); the building remained vacant. In both 1988 and 1989 there were serious fires, both arsons, which caused significant damage to the house. The building was subsequently restored by Porirua City Council and then converted into a restaurant which opened in 1990. It is now an Indian restaurant.

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