Homestead enticed folk to its doors

After 46 years, Bruce and Alison Albiston have sold the more than century-old Burnside Homestead, about 17km inland from Oamaru. The historic home and its sprawling grounds are treasured by both locals and visitors — and revered by the couple who have spent so much time looking after them. Daniel Birchfield finds out more.

When Bruce (81) and Alison (75) Albiston leave the place they owned for more than 45 years for the final time, they will do so not with regret, but a sense of pride and contentment.

They will also take with them recollections of their years at historic Burnside Homestead, which is today a guest house, inland from Oamaru.

Alison and Bruce Albiston, of Oamaru, have decided to sell Burnside Homestead, at Elderslie,...
Alison and Bruce Albiston, of Oamaru, have decided to sell Burnside Homestead, at Elderslie, after owning the sprawling property for 46 years. PHOTOS: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

"What we will miss is more than made up for by the memories," Mr Albiston said.

"We have got remarkable memories. Not many people would have the memories we have got."

The couple bought the estate in 1974 and are, or rather were, its third owners.

Mr Albiston has extensive knowledge of the history of the property, completed at the turn of the 20th century, and its surroundings.

"The first owners were the Reids, of Elderslie. They bought the first 2000 acres (of Elderslie estate) in about 1860 and John Reid had brought his family here by 1864. They lived in a house through the trees and the front of this homestead.

"From 1864 to 1874, they lived here on the Burnside. Burnside is simply a nickname. Elderslie is the name of the property.

"They shifted from here into the big, two-storey Elderslie manor house which was the feature on the main Weston-Ngapara road. They lived there from 1874."

Burnside Homestead at Elderslie, about 17km inland from Oamaru.
Burnside Homestead at Elderslie, about 17km inland from Oamaru.
Burnside was the working farm of that property.

The family’s eldest son, John Forrester Reid, inherited the Burnside area of the 35,000-acre Elderslie estate and developed the homestead site in the 1890s, completing it in about 1900.

He, his wife and two children lived there until his death in 1928, before it was sold to the Hudson family in 1930.

It was sold in 1974 to the Albistons, who recently sold it to Marcus and Cathy Holgate.

"We bought it as our private home," Mr Albiston said.

"Essentially, we knew it was too big in one sense, but we raised our family here and lived here until 1987. Then we were away for six years in Auckland and we had friends and associates who lived here.

Burnside’s grand hall gives guests a stunning welcome.
Burnside’s grand hall gives guests a stunning welcome.
"We didn’t really use it for bed and breakfast until the mid-1990s. From then, it was a very low-key bed and breakfast until the Alps 2 Ocean [cycle trail] started in really 2011 onwards. It’s been an almost full-time occupation since."

The decision to buy the property was driven by the couple’s love for heritage, and they saw it as the perfect opportunity to share that heritage with people not only from North Otago, but other parts of New Zealand and around the world.

As with many older properties, there was work to be done to keep it up to scratch.

The couple had done just that, Mrs Albiston said.

"Initially, we lived in it as it was, but we have done quite a lot of restoration. We haven’t wanted to change anything — we have just redecorated. We’ve gone room by room and we’ve been doing that for 45 years, really, to keep it as original as we could."

Over the years, they have hosted countless community, senior, heritage and church groups, as well as other activities such as car rallies and musical performances.

Burnside’s drawing room is a favourite with guests.
Burnside’s drawing room is a favourite with guests.
However, as the couple have got older, their stamina has waned, hence the decision to sell up.

"It’s time for us to retire," Mr Albiston said.

"My wife works far too hard. Her husband doesn’t work nearly as hard.

"It’s been a house for ourselves and the community. It’s really time for us to recognise we’re not really able and wanting to do that."

Mrs Albiston shared her husband’s view, and said it was time for them to focus on themselves.

"We will relax and enjoy our home in Wansbeck St ... just to feel we’re in a small, normal house.

"We will travel to Auckland a little bit because our family are up there, but we have chosen to live here. We’ll travel to Australia, because Bruce has got a lot of family over there."

Asked what the couple would miss most about the homestead, Mr Albiston said it would be spending time with the couple’s eight grandchildren at the property.

Mrs Albiston said it would be two things — her "cherished" drawing room and meeting people from around the world.

"We’ve been so privileged to live in a place like this. There’s very few people who would have the opportunity we’ve had. The world has come to us ... we’ll miss that."







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