In the late 1950s, teenager Sylvia Bartlett of Waterview met the love of her life in a tramping mishap. She had injured herself and couldn't walk, so a rescue party was organised by fellow members of the Auckland Tramping Club. The quickest and easiest way for her to be taken out of the bush was for her to be winched down over a waterfall, held tight by a young man who had arrived to help her.
In 1960, when Sylvia was 19, she married her rescuer, Peter Siddell, who was six years her senior and had grown up in Grey Lynn.
In the following decades they became parents to Avril and Emily, shared many interests, entertained with style and forged successful careers as artists. In 2008 Peter was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art and the couple subsequently became Sir Peter and Lady Sylvia. Sadly, their lives ended within two months of each other last year after both succumbed to illness.
Now, although it's "heartbreaking" to do, Avril and Emily are selling the Mt Eden villa close to the village that had been their parents' home since 1986. The Siddells had moved to Mt Eden from Blockhouse Bay to be closer to the city and live in a bigger house, room enough for the family and for studios each could work in.
The stimulation of the Mt Eden artistic community was also a drawcard. "Terry Stringer was just around the corner," says Avril. "There were also Pat and Gil Hanly and Claudia Pond Eyley close by," adds Emily, herself an artist.
After starting his working life as an electrician, Sir Peter became a primary school teacher and then took the plunge to become a full-time artist when the children were young. Sir Peter and Lady Sylvia were both self-taught and passionate about painting. They painted until they were physically unable to do so.
Sir Peter was most well-known for his finely detailed oil on canvas paintings of actual and imaginative suburban landscapes around Auckland - most notably its villas and volcanic cones. Lady Sylvia's art focused on domestic scenes, initially with pencil drawings, before arthritis meant she turned her hand to painting.
The artists' daughters recall how their parents used to love walking around the neighbourhood.
Sir Peter would take the family dog for a walk up Mt Eden every day and Lady Sylvia would stroll to the village, a trip that usually took a while because she would chat to people along the way. "She might buy some fruit and a fish from the village and then come home and quickly paint them before she cooked the fish for dinner," Emily says.
Sir Peter was a practical man and turned his hand to many projects around the house. There's the wooden gargoyle that serves as part of the guttering, visible from the dining room, plus several stained glass windows he made. The painted kitchen cabinets are excluded from the house sale, but the artistic kitchen floor will remain for new owners.
From the road, you don't really get much of an idea of just how large the house is. Upstairs, with a wonderful view to the Manukau Heads, is where Sir Peter painted. Downstairs, there are five bedrooms, one of which was Lady Sylvia's studio, and three bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms and a bathroom are part of a self-contained flat, which Avril and her husband Nik and son Peter, 8, stayed in when they visited from the United States.
Coming to Fairview Rd was also a highlight for Emily and her partner, Stephen. Boys Max, 19, and Louis, 9, could run around and help Grandma in the garden. It's a home that's imbued with memories, but now their beloved parents are gone, Avril and Emily hope this house will mean something special to another family.By Penny Lewis