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1.  "The Rocks", built by J. A. Penman in 1886, now 707 New North Road.
2.  "The Rocks", soon after 1903.
 

"The Rocks" - 707 New North Road

The house at this address, in its original form, a 5 roomed cottage, was built by James Arthur Penman in 1886, soon after his purchase of 2 ½ acres of rock-strewn land and in anticipation of his marriage. Mr. Penman had been born in 1865 in Albertland, and brought up mainly at Te Arai in North Auckland. After his father’s death in a sawmill accident in 1879, his mother came to Auckland with her two sons, where James found employment as a builder’s apprentice.

James married Maria Ross in April 1887. Not long after the wedding, they were visited at their Mt. Albert house by Maria’s father, who looked with dismay at all the boulders on the property. Subsequent to the visit, he wrote a letter to the couple, and addressed it to them, simply, at “The Rocks”, Mt Albert. The letter got through and the house has carried that name ever since. At that time, New North Road turned down what is now the entry drive to “The Rocks”, in order to avoid a large outcrop of volcanic rock in front of St Lukes Anglican Church. It was not long afterwards that the road was straightened and James acquired the ‘front paddock’, enlarging his property by an acre. Rocks were cleared and used to build rock walls surrounding the property and a grass tennis court was constructed on the expansive front lawn.

James and Maria had 5 children, 3 sons and 2 daughters, who were all born at “The Rocks”. One son died in infancy and another was killed at Gallipoli. To accommodate his growing family, James enlarged and altered the house substantially in 1903, converting it into a classic villa. The original verandah was replaced by an extension forward of a bedroom, which was given a large bay window. A new verandah was constructed in front of the original bay window (which is still there) with a return verandah down the side of the house to a new extension. Being a builder by trade, he undertook the design and building work himself.

Later, James worked in partnership with his son Ross under the name: ‘J. A. Penman and Son’. James and Ross were sincere Christians by conviction, and built many churches, houses and other buildings from their base in workshops on the property.

After Maria’s death in 1917, Mr. Penman continued to live at “The Rocks”, cared for by his daughter May. She married Roy Thompson in 1926 and that event prompted a further extension to the house in the northwest corner. Then in 1937 the side part of the verandah was enclosed. That was necessary because as well as having their own 4 children, they had offered to 'foster' the 2 sons of friends while those friends were on missionary service in India.  James continued to be cared for at home until his death in 1955.

 Over the years, various parts of the land around James’ original 3 ½ acres were subdivided and sold or transferred to members of James’ family, so that the house is now surrounded by other dwellings. From May and Roy Thompson, ownership of “The Rocks” itself passed on to their daughter Gwen and her husband, Dr. Raymond Windsor. In 1981, the house was purchased by their eldest son, Dr John Windsor and his wife Christine. John, Christine and their 5 children are the current occupiers. Over the 124 years since 1886, “The Rocks” has been home to 5 generations of the one family.

About 1976, when the house was being repainted, the original decorative trim below the verandah roof was removed. However, that action was later regretted and in 1986, to mark the house’s centennial, new decorative trim was put in place. It is however, not of the original design. During their ownership John and Christine have undertaken a major renovation of the house, with new roof, foundations, lining and wiring. They extended the house in 2 directions but have taken great care to retain the character and appearance of the house. The mature trees which surround the house, some of them originals, add dignity to this family home.

Arnold R. Turner                                                                                                                                                  May 2010

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