While writing Inking the Wolf (which is now available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Google Play – Kobo coming soon!), I decided I needed to learn a little more about the layouts of Victorian homes. I wanted to make Bianca’s home – Primrose House – feel very real, and that meant ensuring I had all the period details correct.
I was trawling through books on Amazon, looking for a decent resource, when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t need a book – I could visit some homes in the flesh.
Here in Auckland, the Heritage NZ manages some historical buildings, among them two prime examples of fancy Victorian homes. Alberton House, built in 1863 as a farmhouse for Allen Kerr Taylor. As his fortunes grew, he enlarged the house to an 18-room mansion, with an Indian theme inspired by the home of his birth. He lived there with his second wife, Sophia, who was a suffragette, and their 10 children. Alberton was famous for grand balls and garden parties, and it staying in the family until 1972, when it was gifted to public. And Highwic House, a rambling mansion built in 1862 for the early colonial Alfred Buckland, who fathered 21 children. The house is built in the American Gothic Carpenter style.
With my awesome friends Amy and Iris in tow, we set off on a Very Victorian Day Out to tour the homes.
Our first stop was Alberton House. When we arrived, we were the only visitors, so we chatted with the docent about the home’s history and the family that had built it. All three of us had visited Alberton before, for a friend’s amazing gothic wedding a few years previously (the docent even remembered it) and Amy has also done photo shoots in the house for her bridal couture company, Northwic. Still, it was great to wander around again.
My amazing friends Tim & Tarah getting married (by me!) on the steps of Alberton House.
I love standing in the ballroom and imagining what it must’ve been like to attend dances there. How much fun to swirl around the floor with your beloved? I used this room as inspiration for Bianca and Robbie’s wedding (both of them).
I want to go to a ball with these ladies. Alternative wedding dresses by my friend Amy of Northwic.
Amy has found herself a wee corner.
By far my favourite part of the house was the attic bedrooms where the maids and staff would sleep. These three tiny bedrooms . Anyone who’s read Inking the Wolf will recognise Hattie’s bedroom …
After Alberton, we made our way over to Highwic House, which is built in a later Carpenter Gothic style, borrowing heavily from American homes of the time. You can tell it’s later Victorian because the decor is a bit lighter and airier – not so many heavy patterns on the wall paper and carpet – and because of the gabled arches and Gothic detailing.
I learned that the layout of the dining room to the left of the entrance hall and the ladies’ drawing room to the right was typical of the period, so this is what you’ll see in Bianca’s house. I hate hallways in homes, so I often forget about them when I write, but Victorians just loved their big, grand hallways, so I made sure to add them in. Kitchens were toward the back of the house, and in the case of Highwic, even sort of “outside”, to separate the servants from the family and be near the cool stores where milk and meat would be kept.
Our guide at Highwic was a bit taken by my story of writing about Victorian homes, and of Amy’s love of Victorian costuming, so he gave us an impromptu behind-the-scenes tour. We got to enter some of the bedrooms, touch some of the beautiful clothing, and even see where the children had scratched their names into the glass windows!
We finished our day with lunch at Sip Kitchen in Newmarket (and a sneaky lemon cake from Little and Friday in the car on the way home).
If you’re in Auckland, I definitely recommend a visit to both Alberton and Highwic houses. Try to go when they have special events on, like high teas or market days. And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Inking the Wolf! (which is now available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Google Play)
When I’m not exploring beautiful Victorian houses and forgetting to update my blog, I write dark urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels. Join my VIP Reader’s Group to stay up-to-date with all my series, and get FREE books.