A derelict, ex-orphanage in Grey Lynn reputed to be haunted by a ghost could be saved following a breakthrough between the owner and Auckland Council.

The stately, two-storey Carlile House on Richmond Rd is in a perilous state after 15 years of fruitless negotiations between council and a Tongan church which has owned it for the past 40 years or so.

In a recent development, the United Church of Tonga has indicated it may be willing to sell the landmark, according to council heritage manager Noel Reardon.

"In the past, the church has been an unwilling seller and does not have the funds to restore the building," Reardon says in a report to council's heritage advisory panel.


The ex-orphanage has a Category A protection from Heritage New Zealand, meaning the building is of outstanding heritage significance.

It was built in 1886, the first purpose-built orphanage in Auckland, for "boys of good character" with a bequest from local businessman Edward Costley, and named the Costley Training Institution. It also received financial help from Sir John Logan Campbell.

The brick building with grey stone detailing was variously used as a live-in training institute for boys, a remand house and hostel for Tongan workers.

Local legend has it that there was a fatal fire in the home and it is haunted by the ghost of a nurse bewailing her lost children.

Carlile House is boarded up and protected by razor-wire fencing. Photo / Michael Craig
Carlile House is boarded up and protected by razor-wire fencing. Photo / Michael Craig

Carlile House has stood abandoned and derelict for many years, boarded up and with razor wire security fencing. Before it closed, the church sold tapa cloth from the building.

Reardon said the stone building has extensive exterior and internal water damage. There is little in the way of downpipes and deterioration to the corrugated iron and slate roofing. Many of the arched windows have no glazing and two fires, in 2003 and 2013, have destroyed much of the interior, he said.

Estimates to restore the building in 2014 were costed at $6 million, but would likely have increased since then, Reardon said in his report.

The heritage advisory panel is being asked to support council buying Carlile House at its next meeting on Tuesday.

Heritage advisory panel chairman Mike Lee.
Heritage advisory panel chairman Mike Lee.

The chairman of the panel, councillor Mike Lee, said Carlile House is a wonderful old building with all sorts of history that should be preserved.

"It's a landmark and very olde world. You would think you were in France looking at it," he said.

Lee said the first priority was to secure and protect the building and then find creative ways to tackle the restoration.

No-one from the church could be reached for comment.