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Coromandel house prices have increased 15 per cent. File Photo: ALAN DUFF

History in abundance at Thames abode

Living in a home that was designed by a famed architect from the 1800s and once housed the Thames School of Mines’ first president has been a “privilege” for a family who are now saying goodbye.
Robyn Leach and Matthew Downes have owned the Kilgour House at 300 Queen St, Thames, for the past six years.
The historic homestead was a love affair for the couple, whose sons Alexander and Oliver were the catalyst to the purchase.
“They met as friends at Parawai School and our marriage came from their friendship,” Robyn said. “They were six-year-olds and [Matthew and I] were sorting out their playdates, and we talked together and decided to buy this house, so, friends became brothers here.”
The house, which sits on 622 square metres of land, was designed by Thomas Mahoney, the son of architect Edward Mahoney, circa 1896-7.
In 1876, Thomas joined his father’s architecture practice and the firm was responsible for a wide range of designs including domestic buildings, commercial and public buildings, churches and hotels. 
They won a competition for the design of the Auckland Customhouse in 1888, and were also responsible for the design of Auckland’s Pah Homestead and St Patrick’s Cathedral, as well as the St George’s Church in Thames, which showcases the Mahoney’s fine tradition of combining wood with neo-Gothic architecture.
“It’s been such a treasure and a privilege to live in such a beautiful home,” Robyn said.
“It’s the craftsmanship of every detail that you notice, and the children have enjoyed it; there’s lots of rooms to tumble through and doorways and decks and there’s a little Harry Potter under-the-stairs spot, too.”
Robyn, of Ngāti Maru heritage, has family connections to Thames, and moved to the town eight years ago. After obtaining her home’s LIM report, she learned that it was the former Kilgour House, once owned by Dr James Kilgour, a Thames Mayor and the first president of the Thames School of Mines.
She said there were still some misconceptions that the home was the former Macdonald House, but Robyn told The Profile that the Macdonald homestead was located next door.
In a Shortland, Thames Heritage Area report authored by Dr Ann McEwan, Queen St housing associated with the Macdonald and Kilgour families was “particularly significant both historically and architecturally”.
“Some of the buildings in the area, among them the former Kilgour house at 300 Queen St, demonstrate a higher standard of construction and craftsmanship than the majority of the building stock,” it said.
Now, Robyn, Matthew, and their sons are moving to Dunedin, and the historic property is on the market for sale.
Robyn invites people who are interested in the homestead’s history to call in during one of the open homes.
“It’s been a privilege being able to have our family dinners around the table in a kitchen you know many other families have been in,” she said. “We hope the next family takes their place in this homes’ history as custodians of this Thames treasure.”
DETAILS: The house has been listed with Trinity Network Thames and can be found online.