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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, September 1977

Waimea West

Waimea West

For some years the pupils of Brightwater School have been working on local history projects, and producing very worthwhile accounts of various topics. We are pleased to print part of their 1976 effort on Waimea West, the oldest farming area in the Nelson Province. We have omitted the Maori part, but, except for some slight re-arrangement and a few additions in square brackets, this is the work of the young historians. The School (and the Historical Society) will be pleased to hear from anyone who can fill in omissions or offer corrections. It is the hope of the School that some day a full history of the Waimeas will be written and that their work will be of assistance. This project started with one class making a tour by bicycle of Waimea West—it took four and a half hours. They have consulted any printed source available as well as talking with descendants of early settlers. Thank you, Brightwater School, and best wishes for your 1977 project.—Ed.

When Captain Arthur Wakefield decided to establish the second New Zealand Company Settlement in what we now know as the Nelson Province, he had to find a quantity of farm land. Not only had land been sold to immigrants in England, but it was necessary for the colonists to start to grow food as soon as possible. Waimea Plain was the first farm land to be surveyed and cleared. At that time the plain was a combination of flax and raupo swamps, of open farm country and heavy bush. What was known as Suburban South stretched from the town site to about present day Stoke. Land in Richmond, Appleby and Hope on the eastern side of the rivers comprised Waimea East. Waimea South began on the south bank of the Wairoa, on about the line of the present Appleby page 20Bridge, and extended up country as far as the limits of organised settlement, which appears to have been between Wakefield and Foxhill where the "Spout" began. West of the Waimea and Wai-iti Rivers was known as Waimea West. [In it the surveyor, Tuckett hoped to find 167 sections comprising 8,350 acres (3340 ha) and eight rural sections giving 1,200 acres (480 ha) a total of 9,550 acres (3820 ha).—Ed.]

All this area was well covered with fern and scrub, with patches of swamp grass and bush. At the town end of Waimea East was a "prodigious swamp extending from the mud flats up to Richmond. Behind the coastal bog, however, lay a 'kind of natural meadow land' with fine grasses and sow thistle like a thick carpet where cattle could graze." Some of the higher ground on the eastern side was dry and stony, and some near the hills produced fern 'of enormous growth'. Waimea West also had grass and fern, but it carried more bush, especially to the south and west.

"The land fell into three principal types—flax land or marsh, fern land and woodland. Swamps were to be one of the chief drawbacks—'swamps without end'. The deep bogs and the raupo, bullrushes and giant flax growing therein made survey work in some areas a nightmare. Yet when cleared and drained, some of the swamp proved to have good black soil which produced healthy crops. The fern land, by far the greatest part of Nelson, was divided into two classes, according to whether it supported high or low fern. The former was usually found to be richer. Fern included manuka. The woodland in the valleys was, with its alluvial soil and mantle of bush, the richest and the most highly prized."

Opening of Waimea West

[The first priority was the surveying of the land, and as soon as the town sites were marked off attention was turned to the "rural" land near Nelson. Tuckett was the chief surveyor for the colony, but most of the country work was done by contract. J. W. Barnicoat and T. J. Thompson had the contract for Waimea East. 12,000 acres (4800 ha), and J. S. Cottrell agreed to survey 8,000 acres (3200 ha) at Waimea West, Conditions were that 2,000 acres (800 ha) a month were to be completed with sections marked off with stakes. The renumeration was to be a shilling an acre (25 cents a ha approx.—Ed.]

As there were no roads at this time the principal means of access to Waimea West was by boat up the Waimea River which entered Nelson Haven much further to the east than it does now, the Wairoa. Wai-iti and the Waimea were all broader and more navigable in those days. Both parties of surveyors left Nelson on the second of March 1842, and travelled by boat some miles up the Waimea River to "Cottrell's Landing" which seems to have been situated on the banks of the Waimea somewhere about the present boat sheds at Pearl Creek (which was named after the boat Pearl which used to carry cargo and Waimea grain). Barnicoat and Thompson had considerable difficulty in getting their gear across two miles of swamp to dry land. Cottrell established his head-page 21quartersat Pennsylvania Station, there was less swamp in his area, but more bush, however he was enthusiastic about the district, and did not complain of undue hardships. While burning off the fern he uncovered the site of a pa on a tributary of the Wai-iti River, which the Maoris told him had been sacked by Te Rauparaha's men about ten years previously. By the sixteenth of July Cottrell's survey of 8,350 acres (3340 Ha) was completed, the area was divided into 500 blocks which were each divided into ten 50 acre (20 Ha) sections. Roads were constructed and drains dug along them by labourers who had been brought out by the company for this work. Ditches were also dug around sections for boundaries, and the earth thrown up served as a line for the planting of hedges of hawthorn, gorse and barberry. These provided cheap and effective boundary fences of a permanent nature, particularly the hawthorn; some hedges are still growing today.

[Cottrell undertook the survey of Waimea South in October 1842, and in the same month he and his partner, H. W. Burt, began a regular boat service between Nelson and their landing. The boat left Nelson on Mondays and Saturdays four hours before high water, returning the same day, the fare was three shillings (30 cents) each way. From the "Landing Place Hovel" as it was unkindly called, goods were delivered by bullock cart to any part of the Plain. The Examiner tells us that at that time Cottrell also had a store on his Pennsylvania Station, and "could supply residents with necessities on the lowest terms". The store was not a great success as Cottrell was often away surveying or exploring—in December 1842 he discovered the pass to the Wairau (Tophouse) and explored the Wairau Valley. On a later expedition he discovered Lake Rotoiti, but despaired of finding good farm land to the south-west. He was one of the victims of the Wairau Affray the following year. His work is commemorated by a plaque near Tophouse on Highway 63, and by Cottrell Peak in the Lakes National Park. –Ed.]

Early Waimea Settlers

John Kerr, a Scotsman and practical farmer had emigrated with his wife and six "sturdy sons". He had the honour of putting the first plough into Nelson soil on May 25th, 1842, in a town section in Hardy Street, adjoining the site of the Union Bank (now the A.N.Z. Bank), it was generally agreed that the ground "turned up beautifully". Captain Wakefield was most anxious to have some land ready for spring sowing, and to establish an experienced farmer as a model for the "amateur gentleman farmers". He chose John Kerr who was given a lease of a Company section (No. 129) which had been burnt off by the surveyors and so was ready for ploughing. In July 1842 John Kerr, his sons and his neighbours the Tytlers, emigrated to Waimea West. As fast they could they broke up the land with their light ploughs, the Waimea soil, however, really needed heavier ploughs and bullocks rather than horses. The first harvest was somewhat disappointing as they had not realised that the fern roots needed to be removed, not just broken up. Other settlers followed and before long there was a page break page break page 24farming community known as the "Village". In fact in November 1842 the first Bachelors' Ball was "held in Mr Kerr's barn which was beautifully decorated for the occasion", and before long Church services were also being held there. John Kerr Senior died in 1863 at the age of 68 and was buried in St. Michael's Churchyard.

John Palmer was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England in 1816, educated in England and came to Nelson in the ship "Phoebe" in 1843. He settled near the Wai-iti River and established the "Volunteer Arms Inn", which had a Bush License as stated in the Provincial Council Records of 1857: "Mr John Palmer, license from June 30, 1856, 14 miles (19 km) from Nelson, fee £20 ($40) per year two bedrooms for travellers and stablery for 2 horses". The two-storey building of mud brick, with an adjoining hop garden, served travellers plus those who crossed on Avis's Ferry and was facing the river where the hop kilns are on Palmers Road today.

Later, in 1863, The Gables was built for Mr Palmer as a general store, using 60,000 sun-dried bricks made from clay nearby in its double walls. The Bush License was transferred and a shop opened—it is still there today, as it was in those days, facing the Waimea West Road, complete with shelves and counters. Mr Osborne built the Gables, Mr Tomlinson was the carpenter and Mr Thomas the plasterer. Settlers with pack horses would come down Eves Valley from Dovedale to buy groceries, they often stayed the night, and were able to have a drink of ale if goods were purchased. Mr Palmer carried on business until within a few days of his death in 1898. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. Until recently his grand-daughter, the late Miss Marian Palmer, lived in the Gables.

Thomas Price established a business as blacksmith and farrier in 1884.

In 1905 the business was being carried on by his son Joseph, who did considerable business as a farrier and repairer of farm implements.

[Dr (later Sir) David Monro first emigrated to Australia in 1841. He visited his brother but did not desire to settle there and came on to New Zealand, where he had bought land from the New Zealand Company. He returned to Australia in June 1842, to collect his "traps", including his dog, Oscar, 300 sheep and some cattle. In January 1843 he returned and almost at once set out for the Waimeas. He built his home Bearcroft, on section 61, and set about planting an attractive garden and many trees. He did not practice medicine except to help his friends and neighbours.—Ed.]

John Livingston, whom he employed as gardener planted the group of English trees near the corner of the Waimea West—Redwoods Valley roads, and also Livingston's Bush. Dr Monro's wedding in May 1845 was the second to take place in St. Michael's Church. (later owners of his property, Bearcroft, 1943: Mr Walter Russ. Mr B. Russ 1976)

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[Dr Monro took a leading part in public affairs in Nelson, became a member of the Provincial Council, a member of the New Zealand Parliament, and later Speaker. He died in 1877 and was buried in the Nelson Cemetry.—Ed.] Mr Walker—Constable. His home was situated on or near the property of Mr John Palmer, near the Volunteer Arms Inn. Like many other houses at this time it faced the River Road. Sawmill—Mr Schwass. This was sited on the northern side of the Gables at a later date, to make timber from the many white pine trees, (kahikatea) in that area. Hon. C. A. Dillon (1976 Occupier Mr N. Chillies). [He arrived in December 1842 in the "George Fyfe" which also brought the Redwood and Ward families and Costers who all proceeded to Waimea West (Dillon to Section 68.—Ed.]. His property was named "Ditchley", now "Enstone". He soon enclosed one section and had 15 acres (6 ha) in crops of corn and potatoes. [He "began vigorously to cultivate" within a few days of his arrival.—Ed.]

He had a considerable herd of cattle, both for stock and dairy purposes, teams of bullocks, a horse, pigs, poultry etc. His was the first prefabricated house in the Waimea, it was brought out on the George Fyfe, the sections were transported by boat to the bottom of the Waimea and taken off, probably at Cottrell's Landing, near the present boatsheds. They were then dragged from the Landing to the nearest part of Dillon's section. Here they were left in a clear piece of ground surrounded by scrub and lost! The owner is reputed to have located the missing parts by climbing a nearby hill where he had a better view of the surroundings. The durability of the timber is indicated by the fact that part of the original house is still in use. Later, in 1844, when he had obtained implements, Dillon had 50 acres (20 Ha) ploughed and in crop, 12 working bullocks and 9 cows in milk. He was expecting 500 sheep from Australia. He was very fond of shooting and his letters reveal that he had come to a sportsman's paradise teeming with native duck, quail and other game.

"The Dillons, of course were hardly representative of the settlers living in or near The Village in those early days. They had more capital than most, kept a retinue of servants and maintained most of the obligations customary in the social station to which they had been accustomed. However, they did much to advance the interests of the young community without any suggestion of snobbery. Besides his services locally Dillon became a magistrate and a good friend of Captain Arthur Wakefield. His career came to a tragic end in 1853 when he was drowned while crossing the Wairau near Manuka Island. His son riding a pony, and two friends were with him at the time of the accident. Today the vault stands in the churchyard of St. Michael's with laurel overhanging it, and bearing the inscription:

Sacred to the Memory of The Hon. Constantine A. Dillon."

[Henry Redwood Sen., was a Staffordshire farmer—his family had long been tenants on the Clifford Estate (Charles page 26Clifford was also a passenger on the "George Fyfe"). He was accompanied by his wife and eight children. He immediately erected a huge tent about 60 ft (about 55 m) long and divided into compartments by board partitions. This was occupied by his family and his son-in-law, Joseph Ward. Francis, the future Archbishop was aged three. The Redwoods soon built a two-storied mud home, the first Stafford Place, while Ward built a wooden "castle" nearby. Both bought cattle at once. For two hundred pounds ($400) Redwood bought a cart, plough, harrows, cows and a bullock team of six. By December 1843 they were selling 50 pounds of butter a week (about 20 kg).—Ed.]

Other Early Settlers included:

[Lieutenant R. K. Newcombe, John and Henry Cooke, Wallace (perhaps the blacksmith), probably a Mr Appleby—Ed.] and many men from road parties who took up small plots or leased land, including one who was able to buy twelve acres (nearly 5 ha) near Cottrell's Landing for five pounds ten shillings an acre (Approx. S27.50 a ha). It was estimated that, by the end of 1842 there were about 50 sawyers, surveyors and squatters. A pioneer of Appleby, Charles Best, had saved enough from wages paid by the Company to rent and later buy a section.

Later Settlers included Robert Disher who came to Nelson in 1855 and became a successful farmer and member of the Waimea West Road Board and chairman of the School Committee. Frederick William Tomlinson, a native of Waimea, was, by 1905, the only resident engineer in the district. He invented the automatic balance tilt-over straw stacking apparatus for steam threshing machines. His shop was in Livingston Road on the Waimea West side of the present day hop kiln owned by Mr J. Hill.

Aldourie Homestead. This land was originally the home of George and J. S. Tytler. They had fifty acres (20 Ha) with thirty (12 Ha) in com and potatoes, and also ran cows and pigs. The original home was at the end of Palmers Road, next to Mr A. Palmer's house.

Brewery. This building stood at the end of Eves Valley Road and used the water from a well which is still in the middle of the paddock. Mr Satherley, the brewer, had a large two-storeyed building with four boilers in the top storey. It is said the beer was not of a high quality due to the type of the water.

Sunday School. For many years there was a small building opposite the home of Mrs C. Greig and under the trig station the "Village". It was built by public subscription and was used for many years by various churches for Sunday School and Church Services.

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Public Cemetery. This area of land is near the property of Mr T. A. Russell, it was used over a long period.

Captain Blundell's Home (Mr Dickers). This was the site of a very early home, the original was said to have been a wooden pre-fabricated building brought out by an early ship. Part still remains as a fowl house. The next building was two-storeyed and has been shifted by traction engine to a new site where three new rooms were added.

St. Michael's Church. The first services were held in Mr Kerr's barn on December fourth, 1842, and thereafter monthly. Saxton gave an acre of his land for a church and Tytler a further acre for a vicarage. The first building was used on December 24th, 1843. Many residents had given generously to the building fund. Set among the cultivated fields the little church "helped to create the illusion of an English Village".

Waimea West Post Office. This was at one time sited in the old school building at the tennis courts. In 1857 the postmaster received twelve pounds a month ($24), while the mail carrier was paid eighty six pounds ($172) a year to convey mail between Richmond, Spring Grove, Waimea West and Wakefield. Mr Lawrence Dron was the mail carrier.