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The Life of Katherine Mansfield



Karori is a secluded valley 800 feet above the sea, closed in by rugged hills covered by gorse. In the 'nineties, before the gorse had been planted for a thorn-hedge and had spread beyond control, these hills were still bush-covered. The very valley had once been a forest. Wakefield wrote in 1842:“The floor of the valley was a tract of the very finest totare timber.” But by that year the pioneers had already begun to clear and settle, finding their way in by an old Maori trail. Generations before the Maoris, who always chose the best locations for their pahs, had settled in Karori. By 1843, the road had crossed the steep part of Kaiwharawhara, and Karori was the first rural settlement connected with Lambton Harbour. The very name,“Devious,” indicated the tortuous, difficult mountain road which wound for three and a half miles S.W. from Wellington.

This was the road which the “store-man” followed on that windy night in 1893, when he page 96 collected Kezia and Lottie from their old home at 11 Tinakori Road and delivered them at “Chesney Wold.” The road began at Hawkstone Street, in Wellington; ran up Tinakori Road past the red fire-house to the Botanical Gardens, where it turned to the right (not the left as the newer tram-road does), around the horseshoe bend (where Lambton Harbour disappeared from view); to the “Shepherds' Arms”; across the Kaiwharawhara Valley and its broad stream; up the rocky gully, and down the hill where the wild bush nearly met on either side; to St. Mary's, the old Karori Church, and the white cemetery; on to the “Karori General Store”; then along the flat and out into the Karori valley.

There a little village of white houses clustered, almost like the ring of tombstones on the flat. The first settlers had gathered together around the house of Chief Justice Chapman, whose stockade would serve as refuge and rallying place. It never had been necessary to use this for safety, but it had drawn the early homesteads together.

The Beauchamps' home was beyond, on the further side of the valley, not far from the South Karori Road. There was only one other homestead near. Mr. Beauchamp had bought “Chesney Wold,” a house built by Stephen Lancaster, an early pioneer. It was one of the first houses built in Karori—in the style of Colonel Wakefield's, with low, sloping roof (which had been raised before the Beauchamps' time), a broad verandah banked with periwinkle, and wide paddocks. The Karori stream wound below the house, down to the sea beyond the far page 97 hills at Tongue Point. There were orchards of damsons and old apple trees below the garden. It was an historic place and an old landmark; the first church service in Karori had been held in this house in 1852.

It was most unusual, in the 'nineties, for a family to move out to Karori from Wellington, especially when the father had his business in town. Those who were children then still remember their delighted astonishment when the doll's house arrived on the dray with the Beauchamps' goods. Karori was an old settlement. Most of the residents had lived there for two generations.

The move to Karori meant that Mr. Beauchamp must be driven twice every day by the new gardener, Pat Sheehan, over the mountain road; or he must walk the distance. It took an hour to walk down to the Government Buildings on Lambton Quay; but the land would be valuable one day. And Karori—with its seclusion and its freedom, its fresh sea and mountain air—was a most healthful and desirable place in which small children could grow up.