After the end of the South African War (or Second Anglo-Boer War), the 13th Governor of New Zealand, the Earl of Ranfurly, proposed that a memorial be built in the form of a home and hospital for veterans who had fought for the British Empire. It would be the country’s first dedicated medical facility for returned servicemen, and would also serve as the official national memorial to the Second Anglo-Boer War.
Lord Ranfurly called on the public for donations to help fund the construction of the building. His successful campaign raised £8000-£9000, and plans for the building were drawn up by Wellington architect W.E.G. Coleridge. The Auckland Veterans’ Home, built by W.E. Hutchinson, was officially opened on 10 December 1903. Lord Ranfurly laid the foundation stone for the building, which was later named after him.
The grand building was constructed of mainly kauri and featured four double rooms, five large dormitories, separate spaces for reading, smoking and dining, and a large kitchen. Incorporated within the design was an elaborate memorial to the South African War, Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. Some of the trees originally planted in the home’s spacious grounds still remain today, under heritage protection.
The first superintendent was Major Carpenter and in the early days, there were just 15 veterans in residence. By 1949 the home cared for over 40 veterans and by 1974 the number had peaked at 140 residents. In recent years, due to declining veteran numbers, the Veterans’ Home diversified to take in police and fire servicemen.
Changing with the times
The first round of improvements were made to the Veterans’ Home building in 1910. Between 1921 and 1923, a further £1200 was spent on renovations, which included the addition of verandas and new flooring.
A new wing opened on the site on 2 December 1953, with a second under construction at the time. By February 1961, a new, three-storey accommodation block had been built on the site.
Further additions took place in 1997, with the construction of a 20-bed dementia patients wing known as the Bob Reed Memorial Unit, named after a former resident of the home.
In 2011 the Ranfurly Trust finalised an agreement with a privately owned retirement village to jointly redevelop the site. Plans included a 60-bed Hospital and Home, the refurbishment of Ranfurly House and a retirement village of 170 apartments.
The new Ranfurly Hospital and Veterans’ Home was completed in November 2013. The first block of 27 apartments was completed in November 2015 and the second block is due for completion in 2016.