Early colonial settler Alfred Buckland, who is renowned for making longstanding contributions to provincial Auckland in the 19th century, constructed Highwic with the intention of making it his family home. Buckland always had a keen enthusiasm for the New World, which inspired him to opt for an American Carpenter Gothic architectural style for this exceptional manor. The land was bought by Buckland’s first wife Eliza in 1861 for £1,000 and the house was built a year later. Upon completion, Alfred and Eliza moved into Highwic House with their seven children. Eliza bore two more children in the short time she spent in the family residence, before dying from pneumonia in 1866. As the Buckland family grew and Alfred’s wealth prospered, the eight-room house was extended to suit: new rooms and additional features were installed in 1874, 1883, and 1884.
In May 1867, Alfred married his second wife, Matilda Jane Frodsham. She was 20 years younger than her husband, outliving Alfred and spending the latter years of her life in Highwic. The house then remained with the family until 1978, when it was jointly purchased by Heritage New Zealand (previously known as the New Zealand Historic Places Trust) and Auckland City Council. Highwic House was opened to the wider public as a museum and historic site in 1981.
As the years went by and new additions were made, different period features were incorporated into the manor. True to Gothic style conventions, light, airy rooms were evident right from very beginning. On the outside, the Victorian themed gardens consist of high hedges, mature trees, stables, croquet and lawn tennis courts, a fern house, and a winding pathway known today as the Lovers’ Walk. Inside the house, one would find an expansive kitchen with a coal range that, even in present times, is considered to be the heart of the manor. The original building also included a ballroom, seven bedrooms, a boy’s dormitory, the laundry, and a billiard house. By the 20th century, two new bathrooms were added, with flushing toilets, baths, as well as hand basins with hot and cold water taps.
These days, Highwic is open for self-guided tours, which usually begin with an introductory briefing by the local hosts. There are also House Hunt discovery and Whimsical Garden tours, both of which have been devised to be fun and kid-friendly. Coal range cooking days are now a long-held tradition, and the house also hosts a number of exhibitions, public events and private functions.