Larnach Castle (also referred to as "Larnach's Castle"), is an imposing mansion on the ridge of the Otago Peninsula within the limits of the city of Dunedin, New Zealand, close to the small settlement of Pukehiki. It is one of a few houses of this scale in New Zealand. The house and its grounds are regularly open to the public.
The Larnach Castle gardens are one of only five gardens nationwide to have been given the rating of "Garden of International Significance" by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. They were the first gardens in the South Island to be given this award; the only other in the South Island with this ranking is also in Dunedin - Dunedin Botanic Gardens.
The house was built between 1871 and 1887 as the residence of William Larnach, a prominent entrepreneur and politician in colonial New Zealand. The first architect was R.A. Lawson, who was also responsible for many other buildings in Dunedin. The resulting complex eventually contained 43 rooms and a ballroom and required a staff of 46 servants. The ballroom was built as a 21st birthday present for Larnach's favourite daughter Kate in 1887. Kate died at the age of 26 of typhoid, and her ghost is still reputed to haunt the ballroom. The ghost of Larnach's first wife, Eliza, is also said by some to haunt the castle. The building, which Larnach himself simply called "The Camp," did not ensure his happiness. After a series of personal and financial setbacks he committed suicide in New Zealand's Parliament Buildings in October 1898.
Following bitter legal battles over Larnach's will, Larnach Castle was sold in 1906. The place went through constant changes of ownership and usage, and after many years in which it fell into disrepair, it was bought by Barry and Margaret Barker in 1967 and has been restored. It affords spectacular views of the Otago Peninsula and Harbour and is 10 kilometres by road from the city centre.
In 1985 it was used as a location for the filming of the TVNZ Dunedin production "Hanlon". The same year, it was used in the introductory scenes in the US-New Zealand film co-production, Shaker Run.
In 1994, a play about the Larnach family tragedies, titled "Larnach - Castle of Lies", was performed by Dunedin's Fortune Theatre before 100 invited guests in the castle ballroom.
"It was a night to remember. As the guests arrived a terrible storm blew up from nowhere. The smoke from the fires blew back down the chimneys so that you couldn't see - and your eyes hurt. Hail crashed on the iron roof so that you couldn't hear. Doors mysteriously opened by themselves and it got very cold. In the play - just as Larnach shot himself there was a blinding white light. Afterwards at supper people were talking about the lightning strike as Larnach held the gun to his head. I said `Oh no that was stage effects.' We asked the stage manager. He said `It was none of our doing, it was lightning.' I think that Larnach was present that night. He didn't like the play."
-- Margaret Barker (Co-owner)
Larnach Castle continues to be a significant tourist attraction in Dunedin. The owners have acquired another modern house nearby, whose design is a revived form of the city's Victorian tradition. The expanded complex successfully trades on the old building's reputation - a sign of its enduring interest. The building has been visited by paranormal investigators and featured on local New Zealand television shows such as ”Ghost Hunt” and ”Spookers” as well as international television shows such as the American ”Ghost Hunters International”.
According to an article in the New Zealand Herald, as of November 2008, there had been close to 30 reported sightings of “cranky spirits”, “touches”, “pushing” and other “odd occurrences” at the castle.
- NZ gardens gain international rating
- David Loughrey (15 July 2010) Botanic Garden earns quite a laurel. Otago Daily Times, p. 5.
- Otago 1
- Larnach Castle - Early History
- Larnach Castle - Intervening Years
- IMDB: Shaker Run - Filming Locations
- "Historic Dunedin castle rich in myth". One News. 14 July 2005. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
- Lang, Sarah (30 November 2008). "Otago: Eerie episodes haunt Kiwi castle". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
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