Historical Significance or Value
The significance of House, Ashhurst primarily derives from the fact that it is one of the earliest remnants of planned European settlement in the Manawatu which is on its original site. This residence dates from the development period of the Manchester Block settlement, the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited’s immigration and settlement scheme, which was counted among the most successful in New Zealand.
Architectural Significance or Value:
House, Ashhurst has architectural value as a characteristic standard building type from the late nineteenth century. Additions, in this case a second storey, to double-box cottages were a common occurrence and typically represent the expansion of the occupant’s resources and changing needs. Despite an evident focus on providing basic living requirements for the early owners, some decorative features were also included, such as the bargeboards and a verandah, which demonstrate an awareness of international architectural trends and a desire to elevate the house above the purely functional.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
This modest semi-rural cottage is the legacy of the early years of the Manawatu’s Manchester Block settlement; a settlement which reflects a representative aspect of New Zealand’s history because planned settlement was a popular means of establishing European settlements in this country from the 1840s onwards. Although the Manchester Block settlement was established in the 1870s, its aims and settlement formula was similar to earlier examples.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
Because it is a Manchester Block settlement building House, Ashhurst, is associated with Julius Vogel’s immigration and public works policies which saw an influx of European immigration to New Zealand in the 1870s.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a and b.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Various iwi inhabited the Manawatu, primarily along the rivers, for approximately 300 years before European incursion into the area began. The riverside pa included places such as Raukawa and Ti Wi, near what would become Ashhurst and Palmerston North respectively. Despite the presence of these settlements the area was not heavily populated, but it was known as a wonderful hunting and gathering ground for eels, waterfowl, and other native birds and fruits. There were instances of dispute between the various Manawatu iwi and hapu, but perhaps the most significant sustained period of conflict occurred in the early nineteenth century as a result of the southward movement of some Waikato tribes and Te Rauparaha.
As a result of this movement, and the subsequent dispossession of some existing iwi and hapu, when the Government was negotiating the purchase of the Ahuaturanga and Rangitikei-Manawatu Blocks, they did so with several iwi, including: Ngati Apa, Ngati Kauwhata, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, and Rangitane. The purchase of the Ahuaturanga Block from Rangitane progressed from 1858 with intense periods of negotiation involving parties whose relationship was tumultuous. This meant the purchase of the block was not finalised until 1864. Despite this, it was not until the early 1870s and the advent of Julius Vogel’s (1835-1899) public works and immigration scheme that European settlement began to any extent.
It has been said that ‘in the field of state-aided colonization no other had proved such an unqualified success as the settlement of the Manchester Block in the Manawatu District.’ This settlement initiative had its origins in England during the 1860s when a group of influential men, imbued with a philanthropic spirit, formed the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited. The corporation was founded in 1867 and its chairman, the Duke of Manchester, and other members were motivated by their shared concern for the plight and living conditions of Britain’s working and lower classes. It was felt that by providing people with the opportunity to go to New Zealand and make their way in the world through farming and hard work that they would ultimately have a better life. This was not a completely selfless venture by Henry George Ashhurst (d.1882), the Hon. William Henry Adelbert Feilding (1836-1895), and the other directors of the corporation, as they also endeavoured to make a profit if at all possible.
In late 1871 Feilding travelled to Australia and New Zealand to search for possible land that the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited could purchase. He found that the atmosphere in New Zealand was more receptive to the aims of the company, especially because their plans coincided with a push by the government, led by Vogel, to undertake large scale public works programmes. Feilding was sufficiently impressed with what he saw on his quick tour through the Manawatu that he entered into negotiations to purchase the approximately 100,000 acres, which was named the Manchester Block, and the sale was formalised. One clause of this agreement was that the corporation would settle at least 2,000 immigrants in the area by 1877 for which the government would provided free passage from Britain.
With the land deal made and the recruitment of prospective immigrants beginning in Britain, it was time for the corporation to put its settlement plans into action. This involved employing several surveyors to lay out the towns and roads within the block. When the Manchester Block was surveyed, three places were identified as natural places to establish towns based on prospective routes of the railways to Wanganui and Napier. The order that these towns were founded traced the construction progress of the respective routes, and therefore Ashhurst’s settlement in 1877 followed that of Feilding in 1874, and Halcombe on the Wanganui railway route.
Ashhurst and Feilding were named after directors of the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited, and Arthur William Follett Halcombe (1834-1900) was also honoured in this way. Halcombe was the attorney and agent for the company in New Zealand and seems to have been a type of ground level project manager responsible for the practical aspects of establishing the settlements, including meeting the first settlers on their arrival in Wellington in 1874. Halcombe astutely planned to settle the immigrants in the towns first and when these consolidated the settlers were encouraged to start moving out and create farms in the surrounding areas.
Ashhurst was established on the eastern boundary of the Manchester Block at the base of the Ruahine Ranges. Ashhurst’s early settlers benefited from Feilding having been established first because a good proportion of the land had already been cleared and they also had a supply route over a newly metalled road. Because of these advantages the new settlers were able to focus on clearing the surrounding farmland and pushing further into the fertile Pohangina Valley quicker than their counterparts in the other Manchester Block towns.
Situated at the northern end of the original surveyed Ashhurst town area, House, Ashhurst, was most likely constructed in the 1880s when the burgeoning township was still in its infancy. The peripheral location of the property is indicated by its position at the end of the long arterial road, Cambridge Avenue, which then transitioned into Pohangina Road. It was in 1888 that the three sections which made up the House, Ashhurst property were purchased from the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited by a local labourer, Thomas Whitehead. Little is known about Whitehead, however, he appears to have been an early Manchester Block settler and in 1896 this was given as his description in the Wises directory.
The semi-rural nature of the property probably appealed to the next set of owners of the house. For the decade from 1892 the property was owned by the Gardiner family who were farmers from Ashhurst, and also Pahiatua. Then when the property was again sold in 1902 it was to Mary Wilkinson, a Pohangina farmer’s wife. This theme continued through until the mid twentieth century when Cyril Peck, an Ashhurst farm labourer, occupied the site. The house then remained in the Peck family for over 50 years, until the closing decade of the twentieth century. The house section was subsequently subdivided from the bulk of the land retained by the Peck family which characterises the corner of Cambridge Avenue and North Street.
House, Ashhurst is located at the northern end of the township and is built on one of the original sections of Ashhurst which marked the transition of the town into the surrounding farmland. Initially the house property included two other flanking town sections, and was semi-rural. However, because of recent subdivisions this has now been significantly reduced. Despite this the square portion of land in which the house is positioned in the east/rear half, still allows a suitable curtilage. At the street front the property has a simple post and rail picket fence and a central gate and concrete path in line with the front door of the house. There are some mature trees on the street frontage and northern boundary, however, most of the landscaping is recent.
House, Ashhurst is comparable in its original size and form to another modest contemporary early Manchester Block houses like, Broxt Cottage in Feilding, and from the wider region House, Eketahuna, both of which are Category II historic places. House, Ashhurst is also similar to Totaranui, a cottage built in Palmerston North in 1875 (now at Te Manawa Museum in Palmerston North) and to another Category II registered cottage also known as House, Ashhurst.
These later two houses are characteristic two gabled double box cottages. The original section of House, Ashhurst appears to be the lower storey front portion that conforms to this common double box cottage layout, but because it is slightly smaller that its counterparts it may have been able to be contained within a single gable. As is typical of double box cottages, the original section of House, Ashhurst comprises of four compact rooms leading off of a central passage. However, as is also typical with this form of cottage there have been several periods of additions made at a later date which reflect the expansion of owner resources.
The property was bought from the Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation Limited by a local labourer in 1888 and it is probable that the original cottage dates from this period. It then had another owner before being sold to the Wilkinson family in 1902. Physical evidence provided by the 1901 newspaper lining of the underside of the stairs suggest that the upper level of the house may have been added in the early twentieth century, probably in association with the building acquiring these new owners. The front lower section may have been altered at this time, which would account for the differences in window size and type, with those of the front double storey being uniform large double-hung sash windows, while those to the rear are a combination of smaller casement and sash windows. This scenario of construction and early additions seems the most plausible as it is consistent with what we know to be the most common form of early Manchester Block settlement house, and it is supported in the physicality of the structure.
The inclusion of the concave verandah on the front façade of this simple building is characteristic of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and indicates ‘pretension to style.’ The verandah posts subtly confirm this because they are gently moulded inwards to soften the edges of their otherwise squared and utilitarian form. At some stage the ends of the verandah have been partially enclosed with a lower level of weatherboards, and the upper section contains trellises.
The bargeboards elevate the house above the purely functional, are the only overt decorative flourishes on the building’s exterior, and reference the detailing common in popular international architectural styles from the period, such as Carpenter Gothic. The bargeboards on the gable ends of the house’s main section, including the central front dormer, each have finials at their apexes. Each set of bargeboards features two picot-like shapes along each side and terminate in a downward curve.
The interior of the front/main section of the house consists of linings from various periods, but predominantly those associated with the two main construction periods in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ground level rooms have battened ceiling lining. Up the steep and narrow early twentieth century dog-legged staircase, the upper storey rooms are currently having their original exposed timber board lining covered with Gib. The timber floor boards remain uncovered. The skirting boards and scotias appear to be contemporary with the respective periods of construction.
The front section of the house has four ground level rooms and two upper, which are all compact, with a high stud, and very few decorative features. One exception to this is in the two adjoining rooms on the south side, which have connecting brick fireplaces and matching timber early twentieth century fireplace surrounds. The mantelpieces on both the surrounds feature acanthus leave ornamental brackets on either end. The other decorative touch in this section is the wave motif on staircase. The staircase banister is utilitarian however the end and newel posts are moulded timber.
The current form of the building is a rambling structure due to a series of further additions that have been made. A small gable structure has been subsequently added to the rear of the original cottage, spanning the northern half and attached to the main portion of the house through a connecting area that features a widened extension of the central passage and the main bathroom. The connecting section has rusticated weatherboard cladding while the gable seems to have been re-clad with sheeting in a faux board-and-batten style. This has also been applied to the rear façade of the original cottage section. There is a brick chimney on the east façade of the gable addition which suggests it may have been used as a kitchen. However, a possibly mid to late twentieth century extension to the north end of the gable currently houses the kitchen and laundry and is clad with aluminium which is moulded to mimic weatherboards. This shed-like structure has a shallow pitched roof and, like the gable section, has an external access point to the building. Unlike the main part of the house, this rear area of the building has a concrete base.
The interior of the rear additions is characterised by a variety of different ceiling heights. Most of the linings appear to date from the late twentieth century, however, the gable and connection area have maintained their initial match lined ceiling. It is unclear whether the arch between these two spaces was also an initial feature, or if it was opened up at a later date.
Original cottage constructed
Front second storey added
Addition of rear gable area
Addition of kitchen and laundry area on north of gable addition
Aluminium, concrete, corrugated iron, brick, glass, timber.
25th August 2010
Report Written By
Buick, 1903 (1975)
TL Buick, 'Old Manawatu', Christchurch, 1903 (1975)
D. A. Davies & R.E. Clevely, Pioneering to Prosperity 1874-1974: A Centennial History of the Manchester Block (Feilding & Oroua Borough Councils, Feilding 1981)
T A Gibson, An Account of the Settlement of the Feilding District (First published Feilding 1936, this copy: Capper Press, Christchurch, 1983)
G. Petersen, Palmerston North; A Centennial History, Wellington, 1973
Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.