On 26th September, 2013, a good muster of old and new members enjoyed Warren Thomas’s talk on “The Gables” in the Tasman District Library.
Warren is a direct descendant of John Palmer (1816-98) who built the Gables in 1865 beside the main road between Brightwater and the Moutere. It comprised a store, accommodation and held a “Bush Licence” which in those days could be purchased for 20 pounds. This was the third shop and accommodation house built by the Palmers; the first two were on other parts of their 1,000 acre holding at Waimea West.
Warren focused on the construction and layout of the house and his attempts at restoration. It was built of 60,000 bricks manufactured on site, native timbers and was constructed in 4 months. The design was based on a house in Ipswitch where the Palmers originated.
Although the base runners were Matai, unfortunately the use of White Pine was prevalent and it has suffered from borer infestation over the years. Warren personally experienced this when part of the flooring collapsed under him during renovations. Another problem was dry rot caused by the lack of sufficient ventilation at ground level. Several of the air vents in the foundation had been partially blocked by bitumen laid on paving along the frontage of the house.
The house holds an Historic Places Trust Category A rating, but this did not help when Warren applied to the local council for approval to fully renovate and restore the old building. For him it eventually was put in the “too hard basket” and he has since moved on. One wonders if this is nearly the end of the road for one of the oldest colonial buildings in the Waimea area.