The name LaValla (loosely translated as The Valley) was given to these grounds in 1921 by the pioneering Brothers who saw a vision of a school to further the Faith and train the next generation of Teachers within the Catholic Church. LaValla named in remembrance of the quaint French town where the Marist order was formed, speaks to the history that came before and has created it’s own history sharing its heart, soul and passion with the community.
LaValla began as a Catholic Juniourate College where young men trained alongside their normal high school education to join the Catholic Faith as teachers. Over six generations students and Brothers called LaValla home sharing in the comradery of farming, schooling and faith. Described as a great environment for young men, LaValla and its teaching provided, adventure, work ethic, education and friendship. While a exciting and adventure filled, past students remember it as an all male environment, it was not soft living and the transition from home leaving their mothers and sisters was often difficult. Hard work and a stiff upper lip were required to succeed in all aspects of life but in amongst the work many memories were created as the boys became men by strengthening their minds, skills and heart living within these walls and grounds.
The school grew quickly from it’s initial 5 students, and in 1926 the vision of the main school house became a reality. The opening celebration that saw 1000 people arrive from all over New Zealand to mark the occasion, a significant event when the local township of Tuakau had only 400 residents at the time. In a time where the horse and carriage was the main form of transport, a special train service was put on from Auckland and over 100 cars arrive on site. Over the coming generations, the Community, Brothers and Students combined their skills to build and develop the property and buildings base on the needs of the time. Many past students, brothers and members of the community still return today to share their memories and stories of a more simple and carefree time, often pointing out the bricks they laid and the walls they built adding to the impressive facility.
In the 1970’s the Church closed the Juniourate and moved studies to a more central Australian location, however, LaValla continued as a home to many Brothers who retired on site and funded the vast property by opening the doors for retreats, school camps, weddings and many community events. One of the most common themes in the history of LaValla has been adapting to the needs of the times, changing both inwardly and out. Controversially in 1999 LaValla saw change again from a home for the Brothers and Community to a new facility for troubled youth. Initially very successful in providing a “safe” and positive environment for our most vulnerable people, time and increased needs and reduced funding saw the decline of the property and facilities to a point it was no longer suitable for purpose.
In 2011 the now dilapidated property was purchased by the Jackson family, a local family of three generations who soon became to see LaValla as far more than bricks and mortar, but an important piece of New Zealand the Community and its History, and so the story continues…..
To Truly respect the past, you must create a future….
“When we came here we saw nothing but potential, and by “potential” I mean lots and lots of work to be done. There were no gardens, the buildings were broken, there was graffiti on every surface and the farm was covered in gorse and weeds but the bones were good. It took over two years of full time work by the family to bring the property back to its former glory. In this time we grew to understand that LaValla was not just our’s, it was part of a much greater Community and must be shared for generations to come.”
So we fixed what was broken…. Took a deep Breath, opened our minds….. and then opened the doors…..
Today LaValla welcomes guests again to create new memories, all are welcome, from corporate groups, to weddings, lazy weekend stays, birthdays, picnics and even theatre performances in the most amazing intimate theatre built within the existing walls.