Sedcole Flagpole is a tall timber structure located in central business area of the northern Wairarapa rural service town of Pahiatua. Constructed in 1900, Sedcole Flagpole is a prominent landmark on one of Pahiatua’s distinctive Main Street squares.
European settlement in the Wairarapa was gradual and began from the south after lengthy negotiations between the Crown and iwi in the early 1850s. Settlement further north was delayed which meant Pahiatua was founded in the early 1880s after local landowners, including the Sedcole family, subdivided their land to provide town sections. Pahiatua quickly rose to become the main service town in the district despite the early setback of the railway by-passing the town. When Pahiatua was planned Main Street was made three times the width usually required in order for the rail reserve to run down its centre. When this extra space became surplus the County Council decided to create recreational ‘squares’ in the large median strip. In a period when Pahiatua was gaining public institutions, such as Post Office and police, Henry Sedcole donated a flagpole in order for the local community to have a focal point to mark civic occasions and important events. After this initial structure, further commemorative monuments and public facilities were gradually added to the squares.
Sedcole Flagpole is approximately 18 metres tall, constructed from timber, and consists of a mast, topmast, and yardarms, secured at various points to the ground by guy-wires. In 1972 the continuance of the structure required a restoration project undertaken by the local council. Later in the twentieth century a picnic shelter was constructed around the base of Sedcole Flagpole, which changed the function of the structure.
As a place directly associated with an important local family who were involved in the founding and development of Pahiatua, Sedcole Flagpole has local historical importance. It is also of value because its construction was a marker of the maturing of the town, coinciding with the creation of other civic institutions in Pahiatua. The social significance of Sedcole Flagpole is inherent in its function, which it maintained for most of the twentieth century, as a place for local people to commemorate or celebrate important events and occasions.
Historical Significance or Value
The construction of Sedcole Flagpole, in a period when Pahiatua was beginning to accrue its public facilities, answered a perceived civic need and is therefore of historic value because it is indicative of the maturing of Pahiatua from a settler township into a firmly established and main local service centre. The Sedcole family were among the founders and early settlers of the private township of Pahiatua. They continued to make key contributions to the community which are recognised with the street named after the family and the Sedcole Flagpole. Designed and donated by Henry Sedcole, this structure is directly associated with this important early Pahiatua family and therefore is of historical importance as part of their local legacy.
Social Significance or Value:
The Sedcole Flagpole has social value because it was the first public structure in Pahiatua’s distinctive Main Street squares and helped cement the future function of the land as a place for commemorative structures and recreational use. Sedcole Flagpole also has local social significance because for over a century it has been a prominent landmark in central Pahiatua, as well as a focal point for public celebration and commemoration.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The construction of Sedcole Flagpole was a response to the local need for a civic structure at which the community could mark important occasions. It was erected during a period when other public institutions were being first founded in Pahiatua, and therefore Sedcole Flagpole is representative of the general spread of civic buildings and facilities around New Zealand as settler townships matured into firmly established communities.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
Because of its height and central location, Sedcole Flagpole is a prominent landmark in Pahiatua which generations of community members have therefore had an association with. Prior to the late twentieth century it was used as a place to mark important occasions and the continued esteem for the structure, despite a loss of original purpose, has been demonstrated by its retention and continued maintenance.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
As well as having significance as a place where generations of local people marked important occasions, Sedcole Flagpole also commemorates Henry Sedcole who, along with his extended family, was important in the founding and early development of Pahiatua. Dating from 1900, Sedcole Flagpole is linked to the maturing of the settlement by the twentieth century and the corresponding increased desire for public structures and civic facilities. Therefore, Sedcole Flagpole has symbolic value as a hallmark of Pahiatua’s coming of age.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, and h.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
The discovery and settlement of the Wairarapa region is connected with several prominent figures of New Zealand’s history. Ancestral figures such as Hau-nui-a-nanaia, Kupe, Whatonga, Tara Ika and Toi have all been said to have connections with the region and are responsible for the naming of many of the Wairarapa’s features and places. It has been estimated that Rangitane settled in the region by about the sixteenth century. Marriage links with Rangitane saw a group of Ngati Kahungunu retreat to the Wairarapa in the subsequent century as the result of internal hapu conflict. The two groups cohabitated mostly in the south Wairarapa for a period, but then the Ngati Kahungunu newcomers negotiated several sections of land for themselves. This process was not seamless and instances of conflict continued between the two iwi over the centuries. The next significant period of change in the area was in the early nineteenth century with the progression south of Te Rauparaha and others. This ushered in an era when many different iwi, including Ngati Whatua, Ngati Awa, Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tama, and Ngati Mutunga, made advances into the region and some Ngati Kahungunu hapu withdrew.
European incursion into the Wairarapa only began after the New Zealand Company’s Port Nicholson settlement was established. Based on the reports of the company’s exploring and surveying parties the southern Wairarapa became one of the first extensive tracts of land to be occupied by Europeans, although the Crown titles, negotiated by Donald McLean, were not obtained until 1853. However, it took substantially longer for settlement to progress beyond Masterton, which was linked to Wellington by road in 1859. Further incursion was slow because the northern Wairarapa was heavily forested. In particular, the forest north of Mount Bruce was dense with rimu, tawa, matai, maire, kahikatea, and rata, and was known as Forty Mile Bush, which was within the larger Seventy Mile Bush that also encompassed places as far north as Dannevirke and Norsewood. Maori referred to this forest as Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga (The great forest of Whatonga) and an abundance of birdlife resided there amongst giant ancient trees, some of which were large enough for groups of local Maori to shelter within their trunks.
The forest acted as a significant barrier and therefore, while there was some European settlement in the northern Wairarapa before the late nineteenth century, it was not until roads were extended further and the railway link to Wellington established that the area was opened up for substantive settlement. In preparation for the construction of railway the government had an active role in the foundation of several places in the Wairarapa and Tararua regions. Towns such as Mauriceville, Eketahuna, Norsewood, and Dannevirke were all initially formed as bases for the railway labourers. Part of the preparation for railway construction included building a road through the district which had progressed by the mid to late 1870s.
This increased, albeit rudimentary, access meant that land sales in the Pahiatua area earnestly began in the early 1880s. An initially slow sales market was boosted greatly by purchases made on behalf of Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), who later went onto become British Prime Minister and Earl Balfour. In this way, when Pahiatua township was eventually established in 1881-82 it differed from most of the other settlements in the area because it was not created by the Crown, instead it resulted from private subdivisions of land. The site of Pahiatua had previously been a Maori village called Te Pohatu. It is thought that Pahiatua’s founder, Masterton nurseryman William Wilson McCardle (1844-1921), named the township after his friend and local Maori Chief, Koneke Pahiatua. Pahiatua, which means resting place, or camp, of the atua refers to a seventeenth century event when an atua rescued a Rangitane chief from invading forces to the south.
Among the first settlers in Pahiatua were members of the Sedcole family who had immigrated to New Zealand in 1855. The Sedcole and McCardle families were related by marriage and it was through this connection that the two Lyttelton-based brothers, Henry and Albert West Sedcole, became aware of plans to create Pahiatua. The scheme obviously appealed to the brothers because they purchased land in Forty Mile Bush in 1882. It was part of this land adjoining the main road north through the Wairarapa that they agreed to subdivide at the proposal of McCardle, and in doing so helped to create Pahiatua township.
Once the subdivisions were made, Pahiatua quickly emerged as a frontrunner to become the main service town of the area, which attracted further settlement and businesses to the town. The Sedcole’s moved to the infant town in 1882 and while both of the Sedcole brothers had a high profile locally, Albert took more of an active role in the running of the area being instrumental in the foundation and early years of the Road Board, and then the Pahiatua County and Borough Council. Henry, on the other hand, focused on business setting up the town’s first sawmill on the road which was eventually named Sedcole Street in the family’s honour.
With this type of tenacity, by the mid 1880s Pahiatua was a burgeoning town of about 500 people. Despite Main Street having been specifically made unusually wide to compensate for the potential railway line down its centre the town was dealt a blow when it by-passed by the railway. The fact that Main Street was prone to flooding was a valid reason for the government engineer to recommend the railway tracks be laid west of the town, but Pahiatua people saw this as a deliberate snub. Because it was a privately created town Pahiatua was slow to accrue many of the public facilities that were established comparatively early in other towns. Although a state school had already been opened by the time the County Council was established in 1888, it took years of pressure for other institutions to be granted to Pahiatua. For example, the first post office was only built in 1894, the same year as the town received its first permanent police officer.
In the immediate aftermath of the decision for the railway to circumvent Pahiatua there was considerable local debate about what to do with the excessively wide Main Street. The road was three chains wide compared with the standard one chain. Therefore, one suggestion was that the outer land should merely be subsumed into the sections either side of the road. However, the status quo was maintained with what had been planned as the central railway reserve kept as recreational area upon which the County Council organised fencing and tree planting in the late nineteenth century. From this period the ‘squares’ in the middle of the road were developed as park areas, the southern-most square even featured tennis courts in the 1930s. Because this was a prominent open space in the centre of town, the Main Street squares soon began to accumulate commemorative and public structures. The first of these was a flagpole donated by Henry Sedcole, which has been described as a ‘sentinel over Pahiatua.’
In 1900 Henry Sedcole designed a flagpole for Pahiatua and erected it in Main Street in November. Given his involvement in the timber industry the wood construction of the flagpole was appropriate, and to crown this civically minded gesture his youngest daughter, Annie, made the first flag unfurled using the newly erected flagpole. It is unclear whether the construction of the flagpole was singly motivated by a perceived need for one, or if it also had a specific commemorative function. There were a number of important events during the period which the construction of the Sedcole flagpole could have been associated with for example the South African War was still being fought, and New Zealand was also looking forward to the mid-1901 royal tour of the Duke and Duchess or Cornwall and York. If not specifically associated with such occasions the flagpole would at least have been used to mark these and subsequent celebratory and commemorative occasions such as the death of Queen Victoria in early 1901.
Whatever the motivation for the construction of the flagpole, the official unfurling on 13 February 1901 seems to have been greatly anticipated locally. Dignitaries in attendance included the Acting Premier, Hon. Joseph Ward (1856-1930), and Hon. Charles Haughton Mills (1844-1923). As such, a large gathering of people were reported to have attended the ceremony and the presence of these gentlemen, as well as the contribution of Henry Sedcole, inspired rounds of applause. Interestingly, this was not the only unfurling that Mills attended on his visit as the public school also held a ceremony at its newly erected flagpole.
Therefore, from the beginning of the twentieth century with its central flagpole Pahiatua had a focus for civic commemorations. Following the events of World War One the town’s war memorial and also the Kenneth Anderson Bayne Memorial were added to the Main Street squares, as well as other public facilities such as picnic and play areas. The flagpole continued to preside over the squares however, by 1972 its structural integrity was questioned. It was suggested that the flagpole be removed and replaced with a fountain but this was avoided when the local council initiated a restoration project. Later, in the 1980s a picnic shelter was attached to the lower half of the Sedcole Flagpole which changed the function of the structure. Recently, because the Sedcole Flagpole can no longer be used for its intended purpose, a smaller equivalent has been erected close to the War Memorial.
The large grassed median-strip of Pahiatua’s Main Street features six squares which are planted with mature tress. With the exception of the northern and southern park spaces, each have central lengthwise concrete paths as well as intermittent perpendicular pathways. The squares are defined by the roads that intersect them, which correspond to the size of the blocks in the commercial area of Pahiatua. The Sedcole Flagpole is located in the largest square, which is between Mangahao Road/Princess Street and Tui/Wakeman Street. This main square is flanked by two squares to its southwest and three northeast squares. Along with the Sedcole Flagpole the main square also features the Pahiatua War Memorial and another commemorative flagpole. Prior to 1980 this main square had been divided road but in the late twentieth century this was removed in favour of providing a further picnic area at the centre of the now larger square.
The Sedcole Flagpole is approximately 18 metres (60 feet) high and is constructed from timber, most likely totara. Because of its height and central position it is a focal point of Main Street, whose buildings are generally single storey. The flagpole sits within a circular concreted area in the southwest half of the main square, and a colour steel roofed and timber frame picnic structure was constructed around it in the 1980s. Picnic tables and low benches were also built as part of this sheltered eating area.
The flagpole consists of a squared mast, which is approximately half the structure’s total height, and a tapering topmast. Beneath the picnic canopy the mast is widest and has strips of metal reinforcing on each side which may have been the result of the 1972 restoration project. Towards the apex of the shelter on the northeast side of the mast is the engraved dedication plaque for the structure. Above the shelter at the junction where the mast and topmast components overlap there are yardarms on each face. Numerous guy-wires extend from metal fitting at various places on the structure which are anchored into the concrete at ground level.
Picnic shelter added
13th October 2010
Report Written By
A. G. Bagnall, Wairarapa; An Historical Excursion, Trentham, 1976
An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966
Grant, I.F., North of the Waingawa: The Masterton Borough and County Councils, 1877-1989, Masterton, 1995
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.