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Historic Greytown house given new lease of life

Bey House is so large that it needs to be moved by a digger. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

GRACE PRIOR
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Renovation work has begun on Greytown’s Bey House, originally built in about 1885, as the home and surgery of Dr William Bey.

Bey House in its early years. PHOTOS/FILE

“In the middle of June 1885 an advertisement appeared in the Wairarapa Standard, calling for tenders for the erection of a “Dwelling House” in Greytown, plans and specifications to be collected from Doctor William Bey,” Wairarapa Archives historian Gareth Winter said.

“Although there was no news of who won the tender, the newspaper reported in October of that year that the house was approaching completion and would rank among the best residences in Greytown. It had 12-foot [approximately 3.6-metre] studs and was floored in native timbers,” Winter said.

According to Greytown Community Heritage Trust, Bey had emigrated from Scotland, where he had studied to become a doctor at Edinburgh University and graduated in 1871.

He set up practice in Greytown and became Superintendent of the local cottage hospital in 1881.

“Early residents owed much to Dr Bey. He supervised the expansion and modernising of the hospital until his death during the 1918 influenza epidemic. One of his innovations was “a 5-shilling coupon system that allowed the purchaser free treatment for the year”, a signpost on the site, erected by the trust, stated.

Dr William Bey.

New owner Sandy Palmer said she found the house during lockdown and instantly fell in love.

As an interior designer, Palmer loved renovating houses, but this project was to be her “last gasp” and forever home.

Palmer said the house had not been touched since the 1960s, aside from some small additions to the kitchen that looked like they were done in the 1980s.

“An older woman told me that she remembered playing in the house as a child in the 1960s and that nothing had been changed since. She had seen the house come up for sale and had a look online at the 3D walkthrough,” Palmer said.

The house was being re-piled before any further renovations could take place.

It was double the size of an average house because it was both a doctor’s surgery and home, Palmer said.

“Often just four men can move a house, but because it’s so large they have to pull it with a digger,” Palmer said.

Palmer worked with clients in Wairarapa to design interiors. She was looking forward to renovating the old house and giving it a modern life.

Having owned and operated interiors store ‘Urban Mythology’ in Petone for 20 years, Palmer was confident she could take on the job by herself.

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