Hurworth was a settlement established near New Plymouth in the 1850s. Of the six houses in the settlement four were destroyed in the New Zealand Wars and another lost to fire. Built in 1855-56 by pioneer settler and future four-time Premier of New Zealand, (Sir) Harry Atkinson, this modest cottage (also christened Hurworth) is the only remaining building of the small Taranaki settlement that flourished during the 1850s.
Harry Atkinson, having learned from a sawyer, cut the wood for it himself and by 1857 the house was finished in its original form. The outbreak of the Taranaki War in March 1860 threatened the idyllic lifestyle at Hurworth, with Harry sending wife, Jane and their children to safety in Wanganui after burying their valuables.
Harry joined the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers and fought in many battles around the province over the next few years, rising to the rank of Major with the Forest Rangers.
He had become involved in politics, and in 1861 he became the member in the House of Representatives for his local Grey and Bell constituency. His political career rose to greater heights, and he held a number of provincial positions including MP for New Plymouth and Superintendent of Taranaki, and served as Minister of Defence, Minister of Crown Lands and Immigration, and Colonial Treasurer.
In 1876 he became Premier of New Zealand, an office which he held hold four times between then and 1891.
Atkinson was away from Hurworth for much of his political life, with the house considerably changed and enlarged before his death in 1892 when the property was sold.
Hurworth is typical of early settlers’ dwellings in its simplicity – rectangular in shape, clad in vertical board and batten with a pitched roof and French doors opening onto a four-sided veranda.
The cottage was donated to Heritage New Zealand in 1967 and restored to its original specifications. It was during this time graffiti from the New Zealand Wars was uncovered - which continues to fascinate visitors today.
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