Wainui House stands on the corner of Domett and Nile Streets. The white weatherboard façade on the Nile Street footpath gives no clue to the park-like garden behind it.
The land on which the house stands was one of the first acres to be taken up in the settlement of Nelson by a Mr. George Wales Lightband who arrived in Nelson in 1842 on the Thomas Harrison emigrant ship. George was the first person to start a leather industry in the colony and to use birch bark for tanning purposes. He was also the first to manufacture parchment in New Zealand. In 1857, while in Sydney on business, he purchased the plant for the Colonist.1
Lightband was also an enthusiastic gardener. A custom developed that each year, on the anniversary of the occupancy of the home, the first gooseberry pudding of the season was eaten. This continued for many years and is documented on the 76th occasion.2 His home was well known for its hospitality.
Martin Lightband was ten years old when the family arrived in Nelson and, apart from one year away, lived in Wainui house until he died in 1914. Martin represented the Nelson electorate in the House of Representatives in 1871 and later in 1902 was a member of the Nelson City Council.3
The grounds of Wainui House were affected by a large flood in 1904 when ‘over 100 pounds of damage was done' when the river washed away the croquet ground soil.4 Today, however, there are still heritage trees growing, puriri and huge northern rata and a pomegranate and citrus from the original orchard. The large flat lawn remains where the original lawn tennis court was located.5
Throughout the early 1900s there are numerous advertisements in the local newspaper for Wainui House as a private guest-house of superior accommodation with tennis lawns and bowling greens, several staff and a dining room. An advertisement in the 1915 Nelson Mail lists 'room for 40 boarders and known throughout New Zealand'. It cost 2 pound 2 shillings per week or 8 shillings a day with “letters and telegrams attended to” (in 1917).6
Emily Acheson was proprietor of Wainui house from 1920 until her death in 1938. Here she met travellers from all over New Zealand and the world. Throughout this period there were regular newspaper updates about who was staying at Wainui House, sometimes for long periods. It was particularly popular over the Christmas and Summer months. The leasehold business was put up for sale after Emily’s death.7
Emily's daughter Sybil Acheson married accountant Ivan Mackersey in 19338 and for a time they lived in Wellington. The ownership moved into the hands of the Mackersey family from the 1940s. Sybil died in 1977 and Ivan Mackersey lived at Wainui House until 1993 when he died aged 89. Their son Bruce remained at Wainui house for some years and died in 2022 aged 87.
The house was converted into flats in the 1950s and is now run by a private company. In 2022 Wainui House was advertised for sale for $3.651 million, nearly all of which is land value. Most of the flats are still tenanted. The Victorian villa has a Nelson City Council Group B listing due to its cultural, social and historical significance.9
Sources used in this story
- Nelson Evening Mail XXV, 252, 23 October 1891, p.2
- The Colonist LXI, 14903 28 October 1918, p.4
- Obituary. Nelson Evening Mail XLV, 48, 3 August 1914, p.4
- Evening Post LXVII, 67, 19 March 1904, p.5
- Hidden treasure in Nelson City, Nelson Mail Dec 05, 2003, p.19
- Greymouth Evening Star, 28 April 1917, p.1
- Press LXXIV, 22526, 7 October 1938, p.24
- Nelson Evening Mail LXVI, 9 November, 1933, p.9
- Nelson Resource Management Plan. Appendix 01 Heritage Buildings http://www.nelson.govt.nz/assets/Environment/Downloads/RMP-PDFs/most-recent-RMP-documents/Volume-3/appendix01-heritage-buildings.pdf
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Further sources - Wainui House
- Phillips. V. (2022, May 12) New future for landmark building. Nelson Mail on Stuff:
- Martin Lightband. Retrieved from Wikipedia: