Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker's Hut

269 George Harvey Road, Willowdale Farm, Mahana

  • Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker's Hut, Mahana 2012.
    Copyright: Tasman District Council.
  • Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker's Hut, Mahana. Original tools for use with hop drying - from left to right: ladder from original kiln, scuppet, hop fork, scuppet, bushel measure, hop fork, hop cat, pitchfork.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 16/12/2009.
  • Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker's Hut, Mahana. Hop Kiln Worker’s Hut, from north.
    Copyright: Eileen Thawley. Taken By: Eileen Thawley. Date: 1/06/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9308 Date Entered 15th October 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt 1 Sec 32 A Moutere Hills District (CT NL 125/194), Nelson Land District and the buildings known as Harvey Hop Kiln and Workers' Hut thereon, and their fittings and fixtures. The following chattels are also included in the registration: the sickle-like hop cat; a bushel measure in the form of a tin bucket; two handmade Manuka brooms; the wooden ladder from the original kiln; two hop forks; a small pitchfork; two large scuppets, or shovels; and the horse-hair drying mesh. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Tasman District


Tasman Region

Legal description

Pt 1 Sec 32 A Moutere Hills District (CT NL 125/194), Nelson Land District

Location description

The Harvey Hop Kiln is located approximately 85 metres down a long driveway on private land, but is visible from George Harvey Road. The structure built to accommodate a worker is located on the other side of the driveway from the hop kiln. GPS Location coordinates: At front entrance to Kiln building: E 2512576; N 5994365, +/- 7m.


The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut, built in 1939 and 1944 respectively, are significant buildings in Mahana, Tasman. This is the only region in New Zealand in which hops are grown, therefore these kilns are not found elsewhere. Visible from George Harvey Road, the distinctive chimney and cowl of the wooden hop kiln make it instantly identifiable as a representative remnant of a unique aspect of New Zealand’s industrial heritage. These buildings have also been important to the social history of the region by not only giving employment to many people over the hop picking season, but also for providing opportunities for social interaction.

The first settlers of the Nelson region in about the twelfth century found the land to be rich with food and minerals. This was taken advantage of, and gardening quickly became an important activity, as the soil was found to be naturally fertile. Following the first European settlement in the area in 1841, immigration from Europe continued. Of note among the settlers were the English and Germans, many of whom brought hop seedlings, so that they could continue to brew and drink beer. The Nelson climate, with its lack of wind and large amount of sun, was found to be just right for hop growing, and this was begun in 1842. Hop-picking in the nineteenth century became an important social activity, where people from neighbouring towns could meet and enjoy themselves as well as work. Once the hops had been harvested it was vital they were dried properly, otherwise the harvest would be lost. The kilns were designed and built specifically to perform this task.

The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut stand on land which is part of the original Crown grant to George Harvey, the one of the first Europeans to settle in the Mahana area. The original timber kiln was built by George White and Will Ewers in 1913. However, due to a discarded cigarette in 1938 that kiln was destroyed. The present kiln was built in 1939 by Upper Moutere builders Adolph Bensemann and Crick Eggers, along with help from other members of the community who pitched in to get the kiln ready in time for the next harvest. The kiln was built on the same site and to the same measurements as the original, and the structure consists of the kiln and a storage shed, the shed taking up about two thirds of the overall building. Built using rimu timber, the storage shed has a peaked corrugated iron roof, this roof also rising in a pyramid above the kiln itself and forming a cowl to allow the hot air to escape. In 1944 the tents which were erected each season were supplemented by the construction of a Worker’s Hut, which was built by Eric Heine to replace an earlier building which provided more permanent facilities and accommodation for a seasonal worker. This stands opposite the kiln across the driveway to the south-west, and contains a cooking lean-to and wood range.

The Hop Kiln was originally fired by coke and charcoal and needed to be stoked every twenty minutes. In order to make drying the hops a less arduous task, in 1961 the kiln had an oil burner installed, and an electric fan was put in the cowling in order to draw the heat up faster. In 1981 the present owner retired, and the kiln ceased to be used for its original purpose and has since been restored and utilised for storage. It retains original equipment used in the hop drying process, including the horse hair drying mesh upon which the hops were laid.

The Harvey Hop Kiln, visible from the road, is a prominent landmark in Mahana and has architectural, historical, social and technological significance as its unique structure made it vital to the hop industry and of economic and social importance to the region. With Nelson/Tasman being the only area in New Zealand where hops are grown commercially, the hop kilns are an important part of the district’s industrial history as they were an efficient way of drying the hops. The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s hut also has the potential for public education, as it is the owners’ intention to open the kiln to the public, with many of the original tools used in hop drying displayed.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Harvey Hop Kiln is an excellent example of a wooden hop kiln, and represents one of hundreds of these buildings built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for an industry vital to the area. Immigrants from Europe settled in the Nelson region in the nineteenth century, bringing with them the knowledge and ability to grow hops to sell to breweries. Although their numbers are dwindling now, many kilns could once be seen across the countryside, drying the hops that became so well respected overseas, with companies such as Guinness and Heineken using them in their beer. With public interest in brewing increasing with the rise of micro breweries and enthusiasm for beer seen across the country, the Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut are an important remnant of this industry unique to the region, and as such are of historical importance.

Architectural Significance or Value

The Harvey Hop Kiln has architectural value as a kiln structure uniquely designed for drying hops, and as a rare example of a wooden kiln in good condition. No other buildings are designed like this, and it is instantly recognisable by its chimney and cowl, providing a landmark on the horizon.

Technological significance

The Harvey Hop Kiln is an example of a unique type of building designed to perform a function quickly and effectively. Hop kilns provided a way of drying a large quantity of hops at one time. The cowl at the top of the chimney drew the hot air up from the furnace through the thin floor where the hops were spread out, drying them in the process. The method of firing changed with time, the kiln changing from being fired by coke and charcoal and needing to be stoked every twenty minutes, to oil firing in 1961. However, the process of drying remained the same. The Harvey Hop Kiln retains original features and equipment.

Social Significance or Value

The economic success of the hop growing industry played a large part in the social well being of those who lived in the Nelson-Tasman region. The work itself provided a seasonal fulcrum for the lives of the communities. Many women in the area worked as pickers in the hop season, and schools would close so that the children could help with the picking, and be with their parents. This was an excellent opportunity for young people to meet and socialise. The Harvey Hop Kiln is an example of one of these places where people would gather. Tents were initially erected around the kiln for the workers, and these were supplemented by the construction of the workers’ hut with cook house, illustrating the fact that the hop kiln was a place where people would gather, not only to work, but to eat and spend time together. This was done on a regular basis, and the fact that a permanent structure was built for the workers reflects this.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut is an important site as it reflects the fact that the growing and drying of hops was, and continues to be, such a large part of life in the Nelson region - the only region in New Zealand with this type of agricultural industry. Both German and British immigrants settled here, many bringing with them hops to begin growing. The development of this industry was of huge benefit to the locals, who were able to find employment in hop picking. The Harvey Hop Kiln is important as a symbol of this industry and shows how hops were dried in the early twentieth century, and how this process changed over time.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The Harvey Hop Kiln has the potential for public education as many tools associated with hop picking are currently stored within it. It is the owner’s intention to have these items on display to the public in the kiln, giving an idea of what life was like for a hop grower in the early twentieth century. There is much general public interest in these structures. This is evident in the accommodation building in the area designed like a hop kiln, and the cycling tours around the area, during which people can view the various kilns.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The Harvey Hop Kiln is of particular technical value. Hop kilns have a unique design to allow the hot air from the furnace to flow up through the drying floor and out the cowl at the top, ensuring the hops are dried thoroughly, and this example retains much of its original equipment.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The hop industry in New Zealand is unique to the Nelson/Tasman region. Where once there were many hop kilns, these are now dwindling in number. A Hop Kiln Inventory published in 2008 notes the destruction of 12 hop kilns since the previous inventory in 1988. The 2008 Inventory also records the fact that many of the kilns that remain are in a state of disrepair. The Harvey Hop Kiln is an excellent and rare example of a wooden hop kiln in good condition, many others having been destroyed or deteriorated due to neglect.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut stand on land that was part of the original 1859 Crown Grant to George Harvey, one of the first Europeans to settle in this area, and the fourth generation of the family still own this land. George Harvey’s Cob Cottage, in which he and his wife raised nine children, stands nearby, and the region contains hop gardens which set the buildings in their wider context.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Heine, Eric

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Eggers, Crick

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Bensemann, Adolph

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Traditionally, the first people to make Nelson their home are the ancestors of the Waitaha people. The canoe Uruao is said to have brought these people to the Boulder Bank by Whakatu. Here the crew split up, with the captain Rakaihautu leading an expedition through the interior and his son Rokohouia exploring the East Coast, the two parties meeting up in Waihao in South Canterbury. Although there is no complete archaeological evidence, carbon dating in and around Nelson suggests that the region was first settled about the twelfth century. Settlers found ample sources of food, predominantly moa and seals, and hunting, gardening and quarrying quickly became important activities. Minerals were also plentiful.

A major early activity was gardening. Many ancient gardens have been found around the North of the South Island, often with the soil’s natural fertility being enhanced by the addition of vegetable matter, wood ash, sand and gravel, making the area perfect for growing kumara.

It is thought that the region was occupied by Ngati Tumatakokiri by 1642, the time of the area’s first contact with Europeans. In this year Abel Tasman, the Dutch navigator, anchored off Golden Bay, where fighting broke out between his men and the local Maori. Captain James Cook was the next to visit the area in 1770, followed in 1827 by the French explorer Captain Dumont D’Urville. However, the first European settlement was not founded until the New Zealand Company’s establishment in Nelson in 1841.

Known as the ‘second colony of New Zealand,’ the settlement of Nelson was conceived in early 1841, Wellington having been settled the previous year. In 1841, Captain Arthur Wakefield met with local iwi and established terms for the purchase of the land, although confusion as to what had been purchased led to a number of confrontations in the 1840s, including the Wairau Affray of 1843 in which Arthur Wakefield was killed. Despite much of it being mudflat or swamp, the area of Nelson was considered ideal, due to its harbour and quantity of fish, birds and pigs.

Despite poverty being common in Nelson in the early 1840s, more immigrants arrived. A notable community among these settlers were the Germans, who gave Upper Moutere (also known by its German name Sarau) and Waimea East (Ranzau) their own distinctive character.

Hops in the Area

From earliest times the Nelson region was significant in terms of farming. At the end of the 1840s, the land produced a third of New Zealand’s total crops. An essential ingredient in the brewing of beer, hops first began to be grown in Nelson in 1842, and by the 1850s large hop gardens had been established by local breweries. The hop plant’s flower (Humulus lupulus) adds flavour and bitterness to beer, being used for at least 1,000 years in brewing. Using hops brought over from Europe by German and English settlers, the area quickly became well known for the quality of the beer produced, with the standard being so high that there was no demand for bulk imported beer. The region’s climate, with little wind and much sun, is perfectly suited to hop growing.

As hop growing became a bigger industry in the area, an article in the Nelson Examiner from 1871 reassured would be growers that there would always be a demand for Nelson’s hops: The demand for hops in this and the neighbouring colonies is so large, while their growth must be considerably circumscribed by climate and soil, that where, as in Nelson, everything favours the plant reaching its highest perfection, there need be no doubt of the demand keeping pace with the supply.

Hop marketing in the Nelson area was dominated by the merchant Frank Hamilton, who owned the business E. Buxton and Co. 1883 was a boom year for the hop growers, and the success of which inspired others to begin growing. However, this led to the market becoming flooded, and in 1885 the price crashed. This had a huge impact on small farmers and casual labourers, who lost almost all of their cash income. After another successful year the yield dropped in 1890, with Hamilton stockpiling his harvest in his warehouse for six months. Subsequently, the English crop failed and prices for New Zealand hops rose sharply.

In the nineteenth century, the hop-picking season was an important social feature for many. The picking was done in large part by women, many being accompanied by their children, as the school holidays were often timed to coincide with the picking season. It also provided an opportunity for young people to meet. Historian Jim McAloon states that ‘the town of Collingwood became largely deserted in the picking season, and young single workers got some ready money and a chance to socialise and to brighten up their love-lives.’

Once the hops had been harvested, they needed to be dried. This posed a significant risk, as if they were not dried adequately the harvest would be lost. This was something quickly learned by farmers as some at first made little money through their crop not being properly dried. The process of drying was done in one of the hundreds of kilns, built for the purpose, which became features of the landscape. These hop kilns are significant in terms of New Zealand’s history, as Nelson was the only region in New Zealand where commercial hop growing existed. There were over one hundred hop kilns in the Nelson region originally, with the growing and selling of hops being important to both British and German settlers. However, there are thought to be less than twenty growers left today.

There are a number of factors that have contributed to the change in the hop-growing industry in the region. From the 1920s New Zealand’s dominant hop cultivar suffered from Black Root Rot, causing many plants to die. Growers were so concerned about this disease that they approached the Government, leading to the establishment in 1949 of the Riwaka Hop Research Station in Motueka. Resistant cultivars were developed, and by the 1970s production had grown, with supply exceeding the domestic demand. In the 1960s mechanised picking became widespread, and by the 1970s the world market was oversupplied, resulting in the number of growers halving. Hop prices fell, and many small hop farms became uneconomic, with grower numbers falling from 76 in 1962 to 32 in 1980.

With the hop industry becoming smaller and export orientated, many hop kilns became disused and neglected, leading to these historically important buildings becoming rarer and significantly at risk from deterioration and demolition. In 2007 data was gathered for an inventory of the remaining Hop Kilns left in the Tasman district, updating a previous study from 1988. Since 1988, 12 of the 69 originally identified hop kilns had been demolished, with many others extensively altered or rebuilt, and others now in a poor condition due to neglect.

The Harvey Hop Kiln represents one of the many kilns designed to dry the hop flowers, built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These kilns are distinctive buildings, noticeable from a distance by their chimney and ventilation cowl. They reflect an important aspect of New Zealand’s history, as new settlers began a unique industry. Nelson/Tasman is the only region in New Zealand where hops are grown commercially. These hops are then exported all over the world, with 80 percent of New Zealand’s hops being exported. They are often used in well known beers such as Heineken and Guinness. Hops from this area are well respected internationally, with exports rising from $1.4 million in 1990 to $5.6 million in 2004.

Harvey Hop Kiln

The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut stand on land that was part of the original crown grant to settler George Harvey, who was one of the first Europeans to settle in the immediate area. The farm was formerly known as Willowdale, and George and Cornelia Harvey’s original cob cottage, which has been restored and is a Category II registered building, still stands nearby on George Harvey Road. This cottage, in which the Harvey’s raised their nine children, is on a Heritage Trail and has many visitors each year.

The fourth generation of this family still own the land on which the Harvey Hop Kiln stands. Prior to the first hop kiln being built on the site, the property owner James Harvey, son of George Harvey, took his hops from Willowdale by express wagon to Upper Moutere for drying. The first hop kiln on this property was built for James Harvey in 1913, by George White and Will Ewers. Its large size also housed a packing shed for the apples that the family grew, and the farm lorry. In addition, the building was used to seat 70 guests at a wedding shortly after it was built. This hop kiln was used by James Harvey and his sons Cyril and Sefton until 1938, when a discarded cigarette destroyed the building.

The present kiln was built in 1939 for the Harvey brothers Cyril and Sefton, by Adolph Bensemann and Crick Eggers, two builders from Upper Moutere. Other members of the community also helped with the construction. It was built on the same site and to the same measurements as the original kiln, and was completed in time for the following hop picking season. The structure consists of a kiln and its chimney at the south end, with a storage shed attached. The shed takes up roughly two thirds of the overall structure, and extends towards the north. There was originally a landing on the west side of the structure, used for storing the green hops, which was taken down in 1957. The owners intend to rebuild this landing at some point in the future. A new fruit packing shed was built separately on a different site. The Harvey Hop Kiln, being well maintained, is an excellent example of a wooden kiln. There are not many wooden kilns left, and many of those that remain are now in a bad state of repair.

The ground floor of the Harvey Hop Kiln contains a brick furnace, which was originally fired by coke and charcoal. This was required to be done every 20 minutes, and was an incredibly painstaking process. The hops would then be spread out on the drying floor, which was constructed of horsehair on scrim about three metres above the furnace. The heat from the furnace would be drawn up through the floors and escape out of the cowl at the top, drying the hops as it went. Having been allowed to dry for 12 hours the hops would then be removed using a large wooden framed shovel or scuppet, and once cool compressed into bales in the press on the lower floor. In 1961, the kiln was changed to oil firing, and an electric fan was installed above in the cowling in order to draw the heat up for faster drying. The original malthoid cladding of the kiln’s pyramidal roof was replaced with corrugated iron in 1958. The storage shed part of the building retains its original corrugated iron roofing material.

The hop industry provided many women with employment, handpicking the hops. In the 1920s the local schools would close to allow the children to help with the picking of the crop. Originally, large tents were erected on the property in order to house the women who would gather for the picking season. These tents were supplemented by a ‘whare’ near to the kiln, which contained a cook house. In 1944 a smaller, one person hop picker’s hut was built by Eric Heine to replace this earlier structure. This Worker’s Hut still stands today. The Harvey Hop Kiln was used every season until 1981, when the present owner retired from hop growing. Since this time, the hand tools associated with the growing and drying of hops have been stored in the building, and it is the owner’s intention that these tools be eventually placed on public display in the restored building. The area is a popular tourist destination, and there is much public interest in hop kilns. Bicycle tours are a popular activity in the area, and one company has specifically designed a route to take in hop kilns and George Harvey’s Cob Cottage on the Nelson Heritage Trail.

Timber hop kilns in the Tasman district are relatively rare and are more at risk from deterioration, with the predominant construction materials of the other remaining kilns being concrete or corrugated-iron cladding over timber frames. It has been estimated that there are only about six timber kilns remaining. The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut have been well maintained, and the owners have always had the interests of the kiln and its preservation at the forefront of their repairs. Over the last twenty years repairs have included the roof being repainted, while the original timber structure remains in good condition. It is also a rare remaining example of a kiln that has not been converted for another use, with many other former kilns now being used for other agricultural industries or as residences.

Physical Description

The Harvey Hop Kiln and Worker’s Hut are situated on George Harvey Road, in Mahana and are visible from the road. Upon entering the property the kiln, with its unique chimney and cowl, is evident at once. Several large trees have grown up behind the kiln, and the small hop-picker’s bach, built in 1944, is visible in the paddock opposite, across the driveway.

The Harvey Hop Kiln is made from rimu timber. Above the kiln itself the roof rises in a pyramid, forming the cowl at its peak, with ventilation for the heat to escape. This cowl gives the kiln its distinctive look. A storage shed constructed from the same material extends from the kiln towards the north, to roughly twice the length of the kiln itself. The storage shed has a corrugated iron gable roof, which slopes down on either side from the ridge in the centre. Access is through a door on the west side, next to an awning of corrugated iron and a roof extension, also of corrugated iron, under which is housed a trailer.

At the north end of the structure the top floor of the kiln has been extended to form a landing supported by three wooden poles. Each side of this landing is of rimu timber, with the end being comprised of corrugated iron. The ground lowers towards the north end of the kiln, and the base of the extension has been supported by wooden posts. On the west side of the north end of the ground floor there is a narrow window. Another addition extends on the south end of the east side, corrugated iron being used for the walls.

Access to the Harvey Hop Kiln is through a door on the west side of the building. The ground floor is currently being used for storage. Exposed wooden floorboards make up the floor, with the ceiling being comprised of wooden beams. The hop kiln is located at the south end of the structure, with the storage shed taking up nearly two-thirds of the overall structure at the northern end.

A doorway to the addition at south end of the west side allows access to a stairway to the upper floor. The floorboards are again exposed, and the corrugated iron ceiling is visible. The main feature of the upper level is the drying floor, which is located at the south end. A wooden wall separates the drying floor from the rest to the upper level, with a large door at knee height which swings open to allow access. The drying floor is 4.6 metres square, and horsehair cloth is stretched over the timber framing. The horsehair drying cloth, as well as two handmade Manuka brooms (used for turning the hops to ensure even drying), can be seen on the drying floor.

A door opens on to the west side of the building, above the existing ground floor entrance. This would originally have opened on to the second-storey exterior landing where the green hops were stored, but which has since been pulled down.

Many of the original tools used in the hop drying process have survived and are kept within the kiln. A wooden ladder from the original kiln lies alongside one wall. Hanging up is a sickle-like hop cat, used to cut the hops down from the tall poles. There is also a bushel measure, a pitchfork, two scuppets or shovels, and two rake-like hop forks, which were used to move the dried hops around.

The small worker’s accommodation hut stands opposite the kiln, across the driveway to the south west. Visible from the kiln, the worker’s hut is constructed from overlapping weatherboards, and has a peaked corrugated iron roof. A small window looks out to the north. Access is through a door on the west side. A small lean-to of vertical weatherboards is attached to the south side, with a chimney protruding at right angles from the east wall from near the sloping corrugated iron roof. The chimney then bends ninety degrees and extends vertically above the roof. Access to the lean-to is from an opening on the west side and a wood range is within. As the worker’s hut is currently being used for storage access to the interior was unavailable at the time of the visit.

Construction Dates

1957 -
Landing removed from hop kiln building.

1958 -
Malthoid cladding of pyramidal hop kiln roof replaced with corrugated iron

1961 -
Kiln changed to oil firing from coke and charcoal.

1913 -
Original hop kiln built on the site

1938 -
Original hop kiln destroyed by fire.

Original Construction
1939 -
Present hop kiln built

Worker’s ‘whare’ building constructed

Original Construction
1944 -
Worker’s ‘whare’ demolished and replaced with new Worker’s accommodation Hut

Construction Details

Rimu timber, corrugated iron.

Completion Date

23rd September 2010

Report Written By

Morgan Bennet with NZHPT

Information Sources

McAloon, 1997

Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997

McAloon, 1997

Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997

New Zealand Historic Places

New Zealand Historic Places

'Nelson’s Historic Hop Kilns,' December 1991

Other Information

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.