As with many such stories, the history of the Earnscleugh Station homestead is a tangled tale made more twisted in the retelling.

Now, as the century›old mansion goes up for sale and the tales of battling brothers are widely reported, a family member has come forward to set the story straight, explaining that it was the daughters who were at odds.

In 1902, Stephen Thomas Spain took up the lease on Earnscleugh Station, a 28,000ha run of abandoned sheep country, its bare hills moving with rabbits.

He hired local men as rabbiters, selling the pelts then building a cannery to supply meat to the domestic market and soldiers overseas during World War 1.

In 1919, he had noted architect Edmund Anscombe draw up plans for a grand mansion in the Victorian/Edwardian/ Jacobethan style prevalent between 1880 and 1920.

The house was at one stage divided down its centre with a brick wall that extended out front and through the rose garden, and Bayleys Cromwell sales consultant Gary Kirk was given documents stating the division occurred after Mr Spain’s death, as his son and son› in›law feuded.

‘‘Not so,’’ said a descendant of the Spain family, who contacted Mr Kirk to set the story right.

A storied history . . . Earnscleugh Station Homestead as it appeared in the 1940s. The two upper balconies on either side of the sunroom have since been closed in.
IMAGE: PHOTO: New Zealand Herald glass plate collection, Auckland Libraries, 1370-217-8 New Zealand Herald glass plate collection, Auckland Libraries, 1370-217-8.

Barbara Chapman, whose grandfather was Stephen Spain’s cousin, said the feud occurred when Mr Spain and his wife were still living, but was between the older sister, Gabriella Helena, and a younger sister, Bernice Cecilia.

‘‘It’s been a family story, and quite an amusing story, all my life — and I’m 78,’’ Mrs Chapman said.

The friction began when Bernice returned home unwed and ‘‘with child’’.

Her child, also called Gabriella but known to all as Gay, was asharp observer and in 1969, under her married name of Gay McInnes, wrote a book of her childhood in the 1930s, splitting her time between a house and family divided and a convent school upbringing.

Thank book, Castle on the Run, is a major source for a Historic Places Trust report from which the tale of battling brothers originated, but one passage was overlooked.

Mrs McInnes wrote of returning home on time to find the emotional family divide had become one of brick and mortar.

“Before this they built the wall, a brick wall, to divide the girls, which completely cut off a section of the house,” she wrote.

Room with a view . . . Bayleys Cromwell sales consultant Gary Kirk explains some of Earnscleugh Station Homestead’s history from the second-story sunroom.

The homestead and adjoining land was bought seven years ago by noted pipfruit orchardist Con van der Voort, whose daughter Jackie van der Voort said the building’s history was of great interest to her father.

The family was selling the building to save it, she said, as they had realised they would not be looking at restoring the homestead for at least 10 years and wanted it owned by someone who could do so.

“It’s an asset to the community and it’s an iconic building in the community.”