Historic Hawke's Bay: Stoneycroft

By MICHAEL FOWLER'S HISTORIC HAWKE'S BAY

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Built around 1875, Stoneycroft - a Victorian-styled colonial house at 901 Omahu Road, was the town house of Taihape Road farmer, W J Birch. The original property was 49 acres, but land sold by the various owners since the 1870s, meant the property now has only 2.4 hectares of land.

The photo shown of the property - then shrouded by ivy and roses, is around the late 1930s. The occupants were Dr Barcoft and his wife Fanny (Beamish).

The last private owner of Stoneycroft, Dr D A Ballantyne, purchased the property in 1954, after joining the Hawke's Bay Hospital Board in 1953. That same year, his wife Joyce, was the first woman to be elected onto the then Hastings Borough Council.

Joyce Ballantyne outlived her husband - who died in 1984, by nearly 20 years, when she passed away in 2003. Before she died, Joyce wanted to make sure the property would have adequate safeguards from alteration. While Stoneycroft had received a Category II status from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 1993, Joyce felt Stoneycroft needed more protection, so Joyce entered into a covenant in 1995 with the Trust, which would protect the originality of the property.

In 2005, the Hastings District Council purchased the property from the Ballantyne Estate, who wanted a green space area near the Lyndhurst Estate development, and would look at future uses for the homestead.

The Hawke's Bay Digital Archives Trust was successful in their application in December 2009 to lease the property for their Knowledge Bank facility from the council.

It is fitting perhaps that Hastings's oldest house, Stoneycroft, is now the site of the Knowledge Bank, which will assist in preserving the past for the future, by means of computerising pictures, film, biographies and oral histories of Hawke's Bay.

The Knowledge Bank will be opened today by Hastings Mayor, Lawrence Yule, at Stoneycroft, and representatives from five of previous owners, the Birch, Beamish, Barcroft, Edmonds and Ballantyne families, will be in attendance.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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