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The Hostel's History

Dorset House was built in 1871, and has a fascinating history. Here's an outline, if you'd like to know more, take a look at the display on the wall of the guest lounge.

1871 - 1943 (72 years)

The early years

Dorset House was originally called Remuera (Pronounced Remu-wera – a Maori word that roughly translates to "burnt hem of a garment"). It was built in 1871 by J.B. Way, who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1850's.

Way lived at Remuera with his wife Hannah and their children. He was a cash buyer of oats and barley who moved into importing and selling timber.

Remuera was a grand home with a large amount of land, stables, gardens, a boatshed, a fernery and all the trimmings of a well-to-do family in early Christchurch. The house was lavish for its time, complete with Persian carpets and three Italian marble fireplaces (one remains). At its grandest, the house had 27 rooms.

The site also included 6 stalls in the stable and a coach house, with double gates leading onto Dublin St. The location of our neighbour's white house at 112 Park Terrace was originally part of Remuera's garden. Although now known as 1 Dorset St, the property's original address was 112 Park Terrace.

Portulaca grew in the circular driveway, where the white house is now, and croquet was played on the lawn where the red brick house is now located. The land belonging to the house extended as far as Carlton Mill Corner in the early days (the entire block).

The Ways had a large family of seven children including five daughters and two sons. Only two of the daughters married and the house remained in the name of Jack Way who lived here with two of his sisters.

Dorset 1888
1943 - 1980 (37 years)

The middle years

War made life difficult for the Way family. In 1943, the house was sold to the Nutt family for the government-controlled wartime price of 3000 pounds. It was divided into five flats, The parcels of land bordering on Park Terrace were sold off.

In 1972, the Redemptionist Fathers brought the house and it became known as Hafbaeur House. The drawing room that was originally built for the JB and Hannah Way's golden wedding anniversary was converted to a chapel for meditation and prayer.

1980 - 2016 (36 years)

Dorset House

In 1980, the house was sold to the government and rented to the Richmond Fellowship, who renamed it Dorset House. It became a treatment centre and half way house for psychiatric patients.

Richmond Fellowship moved out of Dorset House in March 1996 and it remained empty for two years as the government tried to find a purchaser.

By November 1998, the house had become quite run down due to a couple of years sitting empty. Richard and Bronwyn Kay had been looking for suitable premises to establish a new backpackers for six months before finding Dorset House.

Over that summer they worked long days and nights renovating the house room by room. Dorset House opened as a hostel in January 1999. The Kay family operated Dorset House for eight years.

In November 2006, Michelle Abley purchased Dorset House from the Kay family. She came into the budget accommodation business with new and exciting ideas for Dorset House. Michelle has made many improvements over the last few years. Dorset House was freshly renovated in early 2012, and Michelle looks forward to providing backpackers with quality hostel accommodation for many years to come.