Woodbourne Homestead and Historic Farm

720 New Renwick Road, Fairhall, BLENHEIM

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Woodbourne Homestead and Historic Farm, at 720 New Renwick Road in rural Blenheim tells the stories of early settler history from the 1840s, farming history including that of mid nineteenth century systematic commercial agriculture, early twentieth century aviation history and Second World War military history. Henry Godfrey was one of the early squatter sheep farmers of the mid 1840s in the district, who appears to have formally acquired a license for the land by 1850 and ultimately gained ownership through a Crown Grant process beginning in 1852. He named the property Woodbourne, purportedly after the Godfrey family home in Oxford, England. Godfrey married Eliza Harley in 1852 and they lived at Woodbourne, being actively involved in the running of this early sheep and agricultural farm. Eliza, initially one of only a very small number of Pakeha women in the Wairau, contributes to an important but often less prominent story of pioneer women in the district. Godfrey carried out landscaping of the property, planting trees that remain to this day, and initially utilised a ditch and bank system in lieu of fencing to contain stock. By the early 1850s Godfrey had constructed a six roomed cob house, and nearby were cob stables which contained rooms for employees at one end. A separate cob building, with a wide verandah and steeply pitched hip roof was built to the south of the main cob house. Another cob building was near the banks of Mill Stream and may have been associated with blacksmithing. By the mid 1850s Godfrey established a water powered flourmill on the stream meandering through his property, this being the first flourmill established in Marlborough. In 1862 a large two storeyed timber house with wide verandah was constructed on the property some 500 metres south of the original cob house and the Godfreys' shifted into this with their growing family. Remnants of many of these earliest structures survive. The timber homestead is easily recognisable as the large mid nineteenth century homestead erected by Godfrey despite having undergone some alteration and addition over time. Further to the north is the cob stable building as well as ruins of two cob buildings, a lined well and concrete horse trough. The mill dam wall and retaining wall of the mid 1850s survives largely intact, and some movable chattels from the mill, such as small parts of the waterwheel and cast iron machinery parts survive. The original timber mill building itself is no longer extant, as it was demolished in the late 1940s after having earlier been relocated to near the cob stables building and used as a woolshed. Foundations of a miller's house and a sheep dip survive downstream from the dam. Only three families have held ownership since Woodbourne Farm was first established in the late 1840s: the Godfreys (1840s-1907), the Fairhalls (1907-1946) and the present owners, the Walsh family (from 1946). An interesting series of aviation and military events occurred at the property in the first half of the twentieth century, during the Fairhall family's time. Marlborough Aero Club began using part of the property for a flying field, and in October 1928 Charles Kingsford Smith used these paddocks for his return to Australia in the 'Southern Cross', the first flight made from New Zealand to Australia. The government leased the property from the Fairhalls during the Second World War to create a satellite air training and defence station called RNZAF Fairhall. During this time, pilot officers lived in the timber homestead and purpose-built defence structures were erected around the plantation and farm buildings. Nissen hangars or 'pens' were built for aircraft, three being erected on and near the site of the original six roomed cob homestead. A temporary dining hall and a separate concrete safe were constructed to the east of the timber homestead, in the 'forest' area beside Mill Stream. Remnants of these survive along with one of the original 15 Nissen hangars. Woodbourne Homestead and Historic Farm forms a special historic place, with layers of history told through its combination of early plantings, archaeological features, chattels and its collection of structures and ruins. Both the dam walls associated with Marlborough's earliest flourmill and the Nissen hangar are rare survivors, the latter being a tangible reminder of a period of intense military and social activity at the property during the Second World War.

Woodbourne Homestead and Historic Farm (north-east) elevation | Robyn Burgess | 15/10/2009 | NZ Historic Places Trust
Woodbourne Homestead and Historic Farm. Graffiti of pilots names associated with fighter squadrons on back of living room door | Robyn Burgess | 15/10/2009 | NZ Historic Places Trust
Woodbourne Homestead and Historic Farm. Remains of part of Second World War dining hall, with concrete food safe at far left | Robyn Burgess | 15/10/2009 | NZ Historic Places Trust



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

4th April 2010

Date of Effect

4th April 2010

City/District Council

Marlborough District


Marlborough Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Part Deposited Plan 420, (RT MB4D/485), Marlborough Land District and the buildings and structures associated with Woodbourne farm thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following chattels: Parts of seven blade windmill; parts of timber waterwheel; parts of cast iron mill machinery; flourmilling grindstones; and Gray plough (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information). Key elements on the property that make up the historic place registration are: the two storeyed timber house known as Woodbourne Homestead, constructed in 1862 and altered over time; a set of double hinged cast iron gates; the structure of the mid nineteenth century landscaping, including the so-called 'forest', ditch and bank fencing and dray tracks; masonry and concrete dam wall and associated retaining wall, being the built remains of the mill dam of the early 1850s, all located at Mill Stream; cob stables of the 1850s that are still standing though much altered to function now as a shed; the remains of a cob building; a mid nineteenth century stone lined well near these cob remains; remains of a cob building located close to Mill Stream; remains of a sheep dip; foundation remains of miller's house; a 361 foot (110 metre) deep well to the south-west of the timber homestead; concrete horse trough; remnants of the Second World War defence structures including a rare surviving Nissen hangar, remnants of dining hall, concrete food safe, 'foxhole' ditches; archaeological features from all periods. Chattels included in the registration are parts of the timber waterwheel, cast iron mill machinery pieces, an almost complete iron turbine windmill associated with the stone lined well; flourmilling grindstones and a single furrow Gray plough.

Legal description

Pt DP 420, (RT MB4D/485), Marlborough Land District.

Location Description

A memorial marker with inscription, incorporating reused parts from the original mill from the site is situated on New Renwick Road, at the entrance to the long driveway leading down to the Woodbourne Homestead.

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