Originally, the little hexagon building now called the Jane Mander Study, was the tower room on top of "Pukenui", the house built in 1906 for Francis Mander, Jane's father, who was member of the House of Representatives from 1902-22. Before settling in Whangarei, Francis Mander was what could be called a "Timber King" for he had a series of timber mills in different parts of Northland, including at Pukekaroro on a remote arm of the Kaipara Harbour. This was the setting of Jane's book, "The Story of a New Zealand River" and Whakapara and Puhipuhi was that for her novel, "Allen Adair".
Because the Mander Family had lived in some of these places in her earlier years, Jane had an initimate and authentic knowledge of life in timber country. She owes her place in New Zealand literature to the fact that she was one of the first writers to use New Zealand settings in her novels. Read more about Jane here.
In 1902, Mr Mander, in partnership with Mr Fred Foote, bought out the Northern Advocate, the Whangarei local paper, which they owned for about eight years. During this time, Jane was more or less chief journalist and reporter, and she did nearly all her writing in the tower room which was exclusively hers. As she was a writer who needed peace and quiet when she was writing, it was an ideal place for her to work.
In 1912, the Mander home was bought by Arthur Pickmere, and on his death it was inherited by his son, Hereward. The tower room, as it was then, had its access by a steep ladder at the back of the house, and then along a "duck-walk" to the door of the tower. In 1948, when Hereward had three small children who claimed it as their playroom, he felt it was unsafe, so he took it down and set it up as a playroom and later as a summer-house in the garden where it remained for many years. On his death, the Pickmere family presented it to the Northland Regional Museum.
By January, 1979, it had been set back among the trees and shrubs in front of "Glorat" and was ready for its opening ceremony. A pageant depicting the characters in Jane Mander's most well known book, "The Story of a New Zealand River" was written by Florence Keene, and narrated by Kate Reynolds nee Pickmere, who had been brought up in "Pukenui". As the "actors" dressed in period clothing walked across the lawn from "Glorat" to the Study, Mrs Reyolds described each character briefly. Lady Turner, who wrote the biography of Jane Mander and whose mother was a Pickmere, gave a talk about Jane before cutting the ribbon and declaring the Study open.
An interesting visitor to this ceremony was 92 year old Mr Norman Lyon who had been an apprentice to Mr C.R Lovatt who built the house in 1906. Mr Lyon, who well remembers helping with the tower room, came all the way from Otahuhu for the occasion.
In the Jane Mander Study are several of her books, and it is hoped to acquire others. Jane's grave is a short way further up the road from Kiwi North at Maunu Cemetery (for those interested in visiting her she's in Old Portion Block Eight Plot 2062).
History as recorded by Florence Keene (1908-1988)