Mansion with ghostly history put up for sale

By Vomle Springford of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
Martinborough winery Vynfields includes the historic Maranui homestead. Photo / Supplied
Martinborough winery Vynfields includes the historic Maranui homestead. Photo / Supplied

Vynfields historic Maranui homestead in Martinborough, a former home to Maori leaders, is for sale.

Owners Kaye McAuley and John Bell are selling the restored Edwardian villa as well as the rest of the Vynfields wine business.

The husband and wife are retiring after 16 years of running the award-winning business in Martinborough.

The house was built in Maranui (Lyall Bay, Wellington) in 1905 by a wealthy merchant named William Nash and the couple moved it to Martinborough in 1999.

Mrs McAuley said the house was dismantled into five parts for the move, rebuilt and restored according to the original plans.

"It was in a terrible state," said Mrs McAuley, who first saw it when she was 5 and it had remained a favourite.

Years later when she and Mr Bell were looking for property, they had walked past the house and "luckily he fell in love with it too".

The house was an important centre for Maori leaders visiting Wellington on political business and was also home to a few.

The Hon Te Heuheu Tukino, chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, lived there in the early 1900s with his family. He is known for leading a committee of chiefs who worked in Wellington to support Maori members of Parliament and to see petitions through the native affairs committee.

Notable visitors to the house have included King Mahuta, Sir James Carroll and Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward.

The house was also home to Wiremu Ratana, the founder of a Maori religious movement that, in the late 1920s, became a major political movement.

The house was eventually turned into a boarding house in the 1950s and, after that, remained empty for many years.

Rumours persist of a ghost, Te Heuheu's sister Te Kahui, weeping in the grounds of the house, remembering its former glory.

Mrs McAuley said a lot of Lyall Bay locals visiting Vynfields reported their parents had talked about seeing the ghost.

She said that on one occasion a plumber who had gone to the house to do a job sent another person to do it when he heard about the spirit.

She said she was sceptical but lots of people had been "absolutely sure about it".

"We think it stayed with the land," she said.

The two-storey house has been the couple's home and also includes a cafe and wine bar.

Besides the vineyard, the 5.3-hectare property also has an orchard.

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