chichester renovated 2

Chichester Cottage

"If anything terrifies me, I must try to conquer it."
- Sir Francis Chichester

Chichester Cottage stands on the left under the tall trees at the far end of Buckley Avenue. Originally it stood in the grounds of Mill House, the larger building next door, which is set to become a childcare centre once current renovations are complete.

The cottage was built by Doug and Audrey Mill around 1927. After their marriage and a long overseas trip they lived in this little house while they built their big new residence. Later the cottage was used to develop photographs when the Mills developed a pioneering aerial photography business.

Francis Chichester and his de Havilland Gipsy Moth, 1931. Photo credit: PICT-000003. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

It is named after Francis Chichester, who stayed in it nearly 90 years ago as he prepared for a great adventure. In 1931 he became the first person to fly alone across the Tasman Sea in a Gypsy Moth bi-plane, via Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

Hobsonville engineering staff helped him get the small aircraft ready, giving it a careful overhaul, installing long-range tanks and attaching floats he found lying around in a hangar. No GPS then! He navigated by the sun after teaching himself to use a sextant.

The Gypsy Moth name was painted on the bow of a yacht in which he sailed the world more than three decades later. He was 65 when he became the first man to singlehandedly circumnavigate the globe, a feat for which he was knighted.

As plans were laid to change Hobsonville Airbase to a residential community, the cottage stood out as a special piece of local history that needed to be preserved. The Hobsonville Land Company (now Homes. Land. Community) offered to gift it in a restored state to HPRS to be used by the society and as a community facility.

The HPRS committee consulted with its members and accepted ownership of the cottage. The land around it lies on Te Ara Manawa – The Hobsonville/Onekiritea Coastal Walkway and is the responsibility of Auckland Council.

After long delays, Chichester Cottage’s meeting room and adjoining kitchen should be ready to open late 2019 and will be available for hire as a community facility. The idea is to use it for group meetings, small classes, performances or demonstrations. There’s a petanque court out front, too.

Keep an eye out for more news…

"When were your spirits at the lowest ebb?"... "The obvious answer seemed to be, "When the gin gave out."
- Sir Francis Chichester