The residents of the Clarke Homestead



Campsie, Scotland was the birthplace of Dr Alexander Clarke, who studied medicine in Glasgow- qualifying with honours. He married Miss Mary Reid of Egremont, in the north of England where he practiced for some years. Having previously visited New Zealand as a ship's doctor he brought his wife and three sons to settle in Whangarei at the end of 1884. The following year he bought some 200 acres in Maunu and built "Glorat", his lovely colonial home which was completed in 1885.



Dr Clarke and Grandmother Reid and the Robson Family Family Portrait 2004.33.t27


Surrounded almost completely by a wide verandah, this old home has a spacious hall that leads to a drawing room, a dining room, kitchen, scullery and four large bedrooms. There are a maid's room and workboy's room as well. In the backyard is a long building or outhouse which comprises a wash-house, woodshed, storeroom and dairy.


Glorat's Outbuildings


Dr Clarke was on the medical register as of 1886 noted as residing in Whangarei. The homestead had been designed with a surgery and waiting room and these modifications are still visible where walls once were running through the living room. From January 1, 1886 under ‘the Public Health Act 1876’ a Vaccination Station was established at Whangarei at the Surgery of Doctor Clarke. It was open on Wednesday from 11am until noon for performing and inspecting vaccinations. In 1887 the doctor asked a pharmacist friend in England about establishing a Pharmacy in Whangarei and his friend sent his newly qualified assistant to set up Clement and Bently in Cameron Street. Dr Clarke had rooms there while also seeing patients in his home at Maunu. Perhaps one of the more exciting roles the Doctor played in the medical history of the time was when he accompanied the Resident Magistrate and police to attend to the wounded in a native uprising at Poroti after problems had arisen over royalties paid for kauri gum. The Poroti Gum Wars of 1888 could really be called the last inter-tribal musket war of Northland.


Dr Clarkes brass plate


On 26 July 1890, a note appeared in the Northern Advocate stating that Dr Clarke was severely indisposed and confined to his house and Dr King of Auckland would take over. Later, in November that year, Dr Clarke travelled to England seeking his own medical advice. He returned to Glorat in August 1891 as a very sick man and died at his home on the 1st of February in 1892. He was interred the next day at Glorat.


Dr Clarkes wheelchair in Glorat's front room



Life at Glorat continued for the Clarke Family. Gracious living was the keynote and the ladies had formal "At Home" days once a month when visitors presented their calling cards to the maid before being conducted inside. From the time the house was built in 1885, there was always a housekeeper and a maid to do the chores. From 1923, Miss Myra Carter was housekeeper and kept "Glorat" spick and span, just as Mrs Clarke liked it to be. Miss Carter continued on as housekeeper to the family until she retired to Selwyn Park in 1979.



Miss Myra Carter retires June 1979



Alexander and Mary’s three boys married. After their marriage in 1902, James Clarke and his wife Mabel took over "Glorat" and lived there the rest of their lives. They had two daughters, Doris (Mrs C.L Brett), and Joan (Mrs K. Laurence) and two sons, Basil and Neville. Basil a bachelor, continued to live in "Glorat" until his death in 1983. On the far knoll, just outside the bush, are the graves of Dr and Mrs Clarke who share the one headstone.



Basil Clarke handing over the keys to his family home- February 1973. Despite new ownership by the museum, he lived out his final days here.



Dr and Mrs Clarke's grave site


 Dr Alexander and Mary Clarke's sons- Alexander, William Reid and James McLean Clarke



As James' family grew up, their social life increased. They organised tennis parties, garden parties and dances. On the slightest excuse, the dining room furniture was put out on the verandah, which was first screened off from the weather at one end, and a scrumptious supper laid out. While the young folk danced in the dining-room, the older ones played euchre or some such game in the parlour. In the years following the family had affiliations with the Whangarei A&P Society, Maunu Anglican Church, Maunu Tennis Club and Women’s Institute. They entered fully into the social occasions of the district- weddings, dances, parties, wider family gatherings and afternoon teas- often hosting them.




Afternoon tea on the verandah c1935. 2004.33.t35


Doris, Joan and Basil ready for a game



History as recorded by:
Mim Ringer, History of Clarke Homestead, 2006
Florence Keene, Heritage Park, 1984


Read Next:

Glorat Farm   

Glorat the Home

Glorat the Project