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  • Writer's pictureJess is a Wanderer

Jess is a Wanderer at St. Stephen's

Jess is a Wanderer explored the former Maori Boys' Boarding School in Bombay Hills, Auckland. An eerie yet real privilege of an experience.

By a complete stroke of luck and the kindness of an absolute stranger, I managed to get access to St Stephen's Maori Boys Boarding School. I had noticed the tip of the main building whilst driving down State Highway 1 a few months ago. My interest had peaked and I just had to see this work of architecture for myself. After dropping a pin on Google Maps, further investigation provided no information about what this structure might be. There was only one thing we could do - drive around until we found it.

Rather incredibly, we were able to find the exact location of this mysterious rooftop. Unfortunately, it is located on private land and accessible only through a remote-activated gate. We were so disappointed! Until something miraculous happened and we met a friendly local who agreed to give us a quick peak and allowed us to go inside as his guests. Can you imagine! What are the chances? I was elated! Not only that, his brother had attended the school so we also had a back story. What a stroke of luck!

Despite not knowing about this place until literally entering the site, there was a real sadness hanging in the air. I could just imagine all of the boys pottering about between classes, lounging on the pristine lawns, wandering through the archways in their freshly-pressed uniforms, the sound of chatter echoing off the walls. It's such a shame to think that it's been closed up for almost twenty years and left to just rot away.

The tennis courts, swimming pool, rugby field, principal's house, bus stop and various buildings allowed my imagination to run wild. Currently working as a teacher, I strolled around imagining what it would have been like to work here. Finding the truants hiding in various outhouses, playing tennis in the evenings, looking out at the pristine countryside and teaching in a beautiful work of architecture. Now condemned, it's unlikely this site will ever re-open as an educational institute. Unless anyone's got a couple of million they're wanting to invest to fix it up?

It was a real privilege to walk around St. Stephen's. I'm so grateful that a random encounter with a complete stranger enabled us to experience this place. New Zealand, you've done it again... fabulous sights and friendly folks.

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