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 disposition 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 that it took until 1864 to finalise the purchase of the block. 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 at the time 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 then 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. Based on 1878 newspapers which lined original parts of House, Ashhurst, it was probably one of these early Manchester Block settlers that built the residence its an elongated rural section of land between Ashhurst and Whakarongo. This date also fits with Halcombe's policy of rural development after a central town had been firmly established.
Just over a decade later the property was owned by Joseph McLeavy and the section was bisected by the Palmerston North to Napier railway, which is not surprising given that railway construction was one of the main impetuses behind the settling of the Manchester Block. However, the farm's homestead was already segregated from the rest of the section by being located on a lower terrace with the ridge of the higher one rising behind it. With the establishment of the railway the house became sandwiched between it and another infrastructure asset, the main road between Palmerston North and Ashhurst.
McLeavy sold the property in 1909 and from this time it was farmed by several different parties. The most consistent period of occupation occurred from the early 1950s when the Parkes family purchased the homestead and farm. Several generations of this family lived in the house before it was sold as a separate section in 1998. However, the Parkes' retained the farm and continue to work this section of land.
House, Ashhurst is comparable in size and form to another modest contemporary early Manchester Block house, Broxt Cottage in Feilding, and from the wider region House, Eketahuna, both of which are Category II historic places. House, Ashhurst is remarkably similar to Totaranui, a cottage built in Palmerston North in 1875 (now at Te Manawa Museum in Palmerston North).
Totaranui and House, Ashhurst are characteristic double box cottages comprising of two corrugated iron clad gables. As is typical of this type of house, the original section of House, Ashhurst comprises of four compact rooms leading off of a central passage. However, as is also common with this form of cottage a lean-to was added to the rear at a later date, probably in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, in order to relocate the kitchen and free-up one of the original rooms for another bedroom.
The lean-to is clad in rusticated weatherboards, as is the rest of the house, and its large brick chimney is visible on the east façade. There is a small enclosed porch at the rear of the lean-to which also seems to be an early addition and it includes a meatsafe on its western side. All of the windows of the original section, and most of those elsewhere, are double-hung sash windows of a similar type and size. The original brick construction of the chimney at the centre of the east gable is still visible at its base, but it was altered by the late twentieth century to feature a concrete upper section and steel cap.
The inclusion of the concave verandah that sweeps around three sides of this simple building is characteristic of the period and indicates 'pretension to style.' However, the verandah was not only an aesthetically pleasing aspect, but inherently practical as it provided shelter at the front entrance, and would also have afforded a private covered space for a washing line. The floor of the verandah is timber and the roof is formed by shaped corrugated iron. The spacing of the verandah posts is symmetrical on the three sides, with each corner having an associated timber post and every side two centrally spaced posts. The cottage's verandah does not feature any ornate fretwork brackets or friezes, but muted decoration is present in the form of the simple capitals formed from timber mouldings towards the top of the posts, and the chamfered edges beneath. Originally each post would have had a capital, but the majority have now been removed or have degraded. Each post sits on a concrete base.
Bargeboards on the front face of the two gables, and the finials at their apexes, also elevate the house above the purely functional and are the only overt decorative flourishes in the building. These reference the detailing common in popular international architectural styles at the time, such as Carpenter Gothic. Each bargeboard is scalloped from its apex and terminates in a teardrop shape, the effect of which is reminiscent of Gothic tracery windows. A section of the central lower section of the east gable bargeboard is missing. This gable has also had a plain board attached to it to support overhead wires for the house. The capping of the gables is completed with simple timber fascias. This simplicity is repeated in the plain bargeboards at the opposite end of the gables, a distinction that clearly defines the south façade as the main public face of the house.
At the centre of the front façade is the main entrance to the building which leads into the central passage. This is the artery of the house and features a match-lined dado with simply moulded top and the ceiling is also match-lined. The passage is lit by the fanlight over the front door and the door's two arch top glass panels. Original match-lining is also present in the middle hall, which widens to allow for storage spaces, and provides access to the back rooms of the house which are approximately half the size of the two front rooms. There is a doorway which separates the two hallway areas, but the door has been removed. Natural light in the middle hall is diffused through the door and fanlight of the large lean-to which is adjacent.
Like the upper walls of the central passage, the four rooms in the original section of the house have been relined with plasterboard, however they still maintain their original substantial simply moulded skirting boards and the floorboards are exposed. The main bedroom is at the front of the west gable and the living room is opposite. These two rooms are compact as befits the original purpose of the house and the social and economic position of its owners. The living room features a fireplace whose enclosed chimney creates recesses on either side.
The lean-to section at the rear spans the entire width of the original section of the house and previously contained separate bath, kitchen and dining rooms. However, in the late twentieth century the interior spaces were rearranged creating a smaller bathroom space, and a large open plan room that incorporates laundry, kitchen, and living areas. At this time the bathroom and laundry spaces were relined, however, the remainder of the space has retained its initial match-lined ceiling and walls. The back door, which opens into the porch and provides external access, completes an unimpeded sight line through the centre of the building which is characteristic of double box cottages.
Lean-to and porch constructed
Internal lean-to spaces re-organised
Brick, concrete, corrugated iron, glass, timber
14th December 2009
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)
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dalziel, R. 'Vogel, Julius 1835 - 1899,' updated 22 June 2007
Swainson, G. M., 'Halcombe, Arthur William Follett 1834-1900,' updated 22 June 2007
All: URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/
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
Waitangi Tribunal Report, www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz
Anderson, R. and K. Pickens, 'Rangahaua Whanau District 12 - Wellington District: Port Nicholson, Hutt Valley, Porirua, Rangitikei, and Manawatu,' Waitangi Tribunal Rangahaua Whanau Series, August 1996. Updated 14 August 2009
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.