The Clarke Farm was part of the area known as Maunu Flats, which lies between Kaipara and Maungatapere Parishes and is bisected by the main road heading from Whangarei to Dargaville. On its eastern aspect the land looks over Raumaunga and Whangarei City to the distant Whangarei Heads and Mt Manaia on the harbour. To the north the land slopes steeply down to Hihi Stream and then steeply up to the timbered Pukenui ridge. Now drained, the Hihi flowed through swampy marsh. To the south, the aspect slopes gently towards Otaika. To the west the land rises to Maunu mountain.
The soil is volcanic and very fertile. Numerous volcanic rocks, once scattered throughout the area, were utilised for stone fences, which are a characteristic of Maunu still visible today. When it was under Maori ownership, the area was cropped and there were many fruit trees (mainly peach). However by the 1880s, according to newspaper reports of the time it was regarded as wasteland.
Both the Homestead and farm were called “Glorat” when Dr Clarke settled in Maunu in 1885. He owned over 200 acres on which he ran a mixed herd, mainly shorthorns which were a favourite breed in England at the time. Following an English custom, he ran a goat with the cows as this supposedly kept away disease. As was done in England, the doctor employed a cowman, a ploughman and a man to care for the horses- each keeping to his own job. However at “Glorat” when the corn, oats and barley were ripe all the men joined forces to harvest the grain. At the end of the feeding out season, when the barn was emptied and before the last sheaves were taken out, all the boys nearby brought their dogs for a bit of fun. Over the months hundreds of rats and mice made their homes in the bottom layer of straw and hay. On the removal of their shelter, the terrified rodents raced in all directions desperately squeaking as they were pursued by boys and dogs.
Soon after the Doctor settled on the farm, one of the first things he did was to plant pine trees all round the property. These pines grew to a great size and when the Doctor’s son James took over, he had many cut down. The logs were taken to Whangarei Timber Company on the waterfront.
Before his marriage to Miss Mabel Armstrong in 1902, James Clarke was working on a sugar plantation in Gibson Country in Queensland. The Gibsons were cousins of the Clarke Family. On his return from Queensland, James brought a Hoop Pine seedling home which is now an outstanding landmark near the homestead.
Within the Clarke Family it was really the second generation that took on the land. In 1919 James McLean Clarke was on the committee of the Whangarei Sub-Provincial Executive of the NZ Farmers Union. In 1926 he established Glorat Jersey Stud of high quality dairy cows. Farm buildings were erected in the vicinity of the house, the cowshed of today by Basil around 1940.
By this time, Jersey cows with their high butterfat production were becoming popular and James established the Glorat Jersey stud. There were several farms in the district and included Austin’s after whom Austin’s Road was named (opposite Glorat on SH14) and “Beaulieu” belonging to Dr George Walker. The Clarke Family also owned a run-off at Otuhi, next to the property of Roland Hill, grandfather of Jum Hill who was on the management committee of the then Northland Regional Museum.
At the A&P Spring Shows, James was for many years Steward for the Dairy Section and as such watched a sample for testing from the morning milking of each cow being shown. Basil too had his duties and for weeks beforehand he trained young bulls to lead on a halter in preparation for the show and September Sales which was often more exciting than the shows themselves.
Glorat was a mixed farm and besides about 60 cows, there were 40-50 sheep and a number of pigs on the property. When heavy enough, these pigs were killed and scalded in a trough so that their hair could be scraped off until they were as smooth as a billiard ball. The animal was then wrapped in sheets and shipped to Auckland on the S.S Manaia. Most farmers had to be self supporting so they killed their own meat, salted down joints and made their own bacon which was hung from the rafters until needed.
On the farm the young men had plenty of fun and Basil, Neville and some of their friends had some exciting pastimes. Sometimes it was “Stockmans Competition” which was briskly cantering their horses and knocking bottles off posts with whips. Other times it was “Tilting at the Ring” which meant carrying a lance and galloping at full speed to see who could take the most rings off a peg. Or perhaps it was racing or jumping their horses in the paddocks. Another favourite pastime was eeling with torches in the moonlight. It was quite usual for Basil and his friend Maurice Barge to “jag” a sackful of silver eels which were skinned and cooked.
During World War II, Neville joined the airforce, but as farming was an essential service Basil could not enlist so he joined the Home Guard. One of his duties was to make a daily inspection for sabotage on the Black Bridge below Puriri Park Road. In 1939, when James Clarke died, his eldest son Basil continued on the farm until 1972 when the Northland Regional Museum purchased the farm. In this arrangement Basil was allowed 15 acres for his own use during his lifetime and he continued to live in his family's homestead until his death in 1983.
Since ownership by the museum there has been much alteration. The grounds around the homestead are kept mowed and trimmed. Roading and a train line bisect the property. Numerous buildings have been erected, some near the homestead. These buildings include the Whangarei Museum’s large exhibition centre on a commanding site west of the house, club rooms and display buildings, storage buildings, the replica Blacksmiths workshop and much later Kiwi House. A number of historic buildings have been transported to the site- Oruaiti Chapel, Jane Mander Study, Hardie House and Riponui Pah School. The original outbuildings alongside the homestead including dairy, tack room and wash house remain along with the graves of Dr and Mrs Clarke. Some other farm buildings have been replaced or absorbed into the development of what is now known as Heritage Park.
Much of the internal stone walling has been altered or removed during road and rail construction. The external boundary walls along SH14 are dilapidated.