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Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941)


Agricultural and Pastoral Development

The first farmer was the first man, and all historic nobility rests in possession and use of land.—Emerson.
The first care of the newly-arrived settlers was to provide shelter for their families and themselves. After this they cleared small patches of land in order to plant the seeds they had brought with them. The Maoris, of course, had their cultivation patches, where they grew potatoes, etc., from seeds left by Captain Cook.
The first sheep and cattle were landed from Australia on the 9th March, 1840, and increasing quantities of sheep, bullocks and horses continued to be imported. The first Romney Marsh sheep found a home in the Hutt Valley. These were brought out for Mr. Drake in the ship "Cornwall." Mr. Ludlam, of Waiwhetu, who was also a keen horticulturist was the first purchaser, and Messrs. Riddiford, Bidwell, J. Dick, G. C. Wheeler and W. B. Allen later bought Romneys. These sheep were the foundation of the meat and wool industry, which the gentlemen mentioned were largely instrumental in developing.
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Molesworth's House, 1846.

—Redrawn by A. L. Andrews from a sketch by S. C. Brees
The first St. Andrew's Day in November, 1840, was celebrated in the usual Scottish way, and to commemorate the event the first Scottish thistle was sown on Mr. William Lyon's farm at Petone.
By December, 1840, the first harvest was gathered at the Hutt, and promised equally good returns for both root crops and grain. Luscious grasses had replaced the brush, scrub and fern.
The clearings and cultivations at the Hutt looked cheerful and promising, and wheat grown from seeds brought from the Cape of Good Hope was sent to England to show its superb quality.
It is recorded that wheat yielded 58 bushels per acre, and barley 74 bushels per acre, compared with the New Zealand averages to-day of approximately 32 and 37 bushels respectively.
Eighteen thousand acres of rural land round Port Nicholson had been selected by the end of 1840.
In June, 1841, horses were plentiful, and by November of the same year Mr. Molesworth had cleared 120 acres of land on the eastern side of the river at a cost of £12 per acre, and Mr. Bowler, at the Waiwhetu, had cleared the timber off 86 acres.
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The Farming Lands of the Taita District, 1940.

The Anglican Sunday School, recently destroyed by fire, is on the extreme left.
—Photo "Evening Post"
S. C. Brees records that in May, 1845, twenty-nine 100-acre sections in the Valley, two at Wainui-o-mata, and two at Lowry Bay were under cultivation. In these were included 353 acres of wheat, 79 1/2 acres of barley, 101 3/4 acres of green crops, and 42 3/4 acres of grasses.
His estimate of stock around Port Nicholson was 200 horses, 1900 cattle, 5000 sheep, 40 mules, 10 asses, and 1000 pigs.
In 1846 Mr. J. E. Boulcott had cleared about 20 acres of land.
Sundry extracts from "The Spectator" in 1847 reveal that Hutt-grown hay was advertised for sale by P. M. Hervey, and Levin & Company offered 10 tons of Hutt-grown potatoes, while Captain O'Connell, who was in charge of Fort Richmond and occupied Captain Compton's house near the bridge, was alleged to have had green peas ready to eat in May.
The greatest settlement had been made on the western bank of the river near the bridge, the locality generally being referred to as River Hutt.
There were also a good many settlers at Waiwhetu and along the main road as far as Taita, and in these districts there are some farmers still working land originally purchased by their ancestors from the New Zealand Company.
In 1872 most of the bush had been cleared off the flat lands of the Valley and the people began to feel overcrowded. A Small Farms Association was established, and purchased some 5000 acres in the Rangitikei District for £1 per acre, and several Hutt families migrated there.
With the advent of the railway in 1874 the Hutt began to change from a farming into a residential district, and this became more pronounced as large estates were cut up and access was improved. The process is still going on
For many years Hutt Valley has been one of the principal sources of the supply of milk and eggs to the City of Wellington, and its market-garden lands at Taita have been producing vegetables for the same market for nearly a century. About 480 acres are used for the latter purpose, returning approximately £120,000 per annum to the growers. Recently several growers received a net return of over £300 per acre, and one reached nearly £500.


At the first Horticultural Show held in Wellington, in January, 1842, Hutt-grown vegetables and flowers secured the highest awards.
A Horticultural Society was formed in the Hutt in 1842, and held its first show in December of that year. All classes of vegetables, flowers, grain and small fruit were exhibited, and prizes were awarded for cottage gardens.
The first nursery in New Zealand was established by Mr. Trotter, who had a few acres of land on the south side of White's Line, on the eastern side of the river. He named the place "Louden's Vale," and described it as "one of the sweetest spots that was ever beheld by the eyes of man." Trotter grew the first grapes in New Zealand, and his nursery was the forerunner of several old-established nurseries in the Valley to-day.
The Hutt District Agricultural, Horticultural and Pastoral Society functioned in the 1880's, and shows were also organised by churches and other bodies.
The Wellington Agricultural and Pastoral Society was established in 1889, with Mr. W. H. Levin as its first President. Their first three shows were held in the Hutt Park, and about 1893 this Association acquired twenty acres of land at £100 per acre between Lower Hutt and Petone, where subsequent shows were held.
The Hutt Valley Horticultural Society (Inc.) was formed in 1903, and at the present time holds four shows annually in its own hall, built in Laing's Road in 1936. This Society and the New Zealand Alpine and Rock Garden Society, which is the only incorporated society of its kind, and which was established in 1928, are affiliated with the Royal Horticultural Society, London.


Surprise has been expressed by visitors on learning that the Lower Hutt was once covered with heavy bush.
There is a Maori tradition that 700 years ago timber for a pa at Miramar was cut in the Hutt Valley and rafted across the harbour.
When Dr. Dieffenbach, the naturalist who came out on the "Tory," explored the upper reaches of the Hutt River in 1840, he recorded that there were many trees 75ft, high to the first branch, and 6 to 7 feet through. Wakefield tells us that these trees were mainly totara, birch, rimu, white pine, and pukatea. The land was covered with scrub, toi-toi and flax from the beach to about White's Line, where the real forest commenced.
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Log Cabin Lock-Up Designed For Port Nicholson.

—From the original drawing in the possession of the Lower Hutt Borough Council.
This drawing was signed by Governor Hobson in July 1840. but there is no record of the building having been constructed.
Much of the timber for early constructional purposes was cut with pit-saws, and the sawyers in those days were an important class of the community. They appear to have been well paid, for there is a record that these men used to earn enough in two days to keep them for the rest of the week.
In the process of clearing the land there was great devastation of timber, and, on the 12th October 1840. Mr. Murphy, the Magistrate, issued a prohibition against wanton destruction of the forests by the sawyers.
In 1842 Mr. E. Catchpool, who owned land at Lowry Bay, had a steam sawmill in Wellington which cut about 10,000 feet of Hutt grown timber per
day. The price of inch boards was about 12/- per 100ft. Grimstone's "Southern Settlements" quotes "sawn timber at 8/- per 100ft. and timber for export at 4/- to 5/- per 100ft."
The "Spectator" in that year advises us that the timber tor the second bridge was taken from the Taita Gorge, and much of the totara used in the construction of the Government Buildings in Wellington came from the Hutt Valley in 1875.
Brees records that in 1847 there was a rata tree on a hilltop near the Hutt 56ft. in circumference. This had a well-formed trunk and was tall in proportion. This is indicative of the great age of the forest which once covered the Valley.
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Pit-Sawing Timber.

—Photo N.Z. State Forest Service.
Two men with a pit-saw, which cuts only on the downward stroke, can produce about 500 feet of timber a day. The top man pulls the saw up and guides it along a chalk line while it is being pulled down by the "tailer" below. Pit-saws are still used occasionally to cut bridge timbers in isolated places.
By about 1870 most of the standing limber was cleared from the flat lands of the Valley, and when the railway was put through a few years later much of the precious totara was used for post and rail fences on either side of the line. The last sawmill to cut virgin timber on the hills surrounding the Valley ceased operating about 1903.


Apart from the raupo huts and whares built by the Maoris as temporary shelters for the settlers, the first houses were sent out from England by the New Zealand Company in 1840. The principal local timbers used for building in the early days were totara and white pine, and early builders soon recognised the superiority of the totara. Bricks became popular, but the earthquake of 1848 gave them a severe setback, and wood was again extensively used. Until the 'seventies, most of the buildings were roofed with shingles, which in 1846 could be purchased for 6/- a thousand. In the "New Zealand Journal" of that year a report appeared concerning cob-houses, built by a Devon man at 3/- per superficial yard on terms, and 2/3 for cash. Walls were made of turf two feet thick, pared down to 18 inches. The report added that a "large and commodious cottage could be made for £125."
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One of the Earliest Houses in the Taita, 1843.

—Photo H. K. Maybury
This was built for Mr. Job Mabey, and his son still owns the property.
On account of the floods many of the early houses had their floors three or more feet from the ground, and several of these houses may be seen in the Valley to-day.
Most of the settlers had their own plots of land and made their own arrangements regarding the financing of their dwellings.
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An Old Building on Site of the Council Chambers

This house was built in the 1840's. Photograph taken about 1870
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Captain Daniell's House, Which Stood at the Corner of Bloomfield Terrace and Bellevue Road.

One of the gables is shown as a trig station on a survey plan dated 1852. It was afterwards owned by Peter Laing, after whom Laing's Road is named. The timber for this house was rafted up the Black Creek.
Almost from the inception of railway transport to the district, the Hutt Valley, with its level and fertile land, attracted city people with a taste for quiet and a garden; and as the amenities improved, Lower Hutt soon earned the title of "The Garden Suburb." Architectural and horticultural taste flourished together, and the town is rightly becoming noted for its many attractive residences, graced by beautiful gardens which the owners tend more and more to leave open to public view. Wide grass verges and plots of flowering plants along the front walls of sections add to the beauty of many of the streets.
Ever-increasing variety in appearance has followed the adoption of new methods of construction. Concrete walls finished in stucco were introduced about 1920. A few years ago wooden frames with brick veneer or reinforced plaster became popular, and allowed much flexibility in design. Latterly high-pitched roofs have been found unnecessary, and the "flat-roof" effect makes a striking change.
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Modern Homes in Lower Hutt.

There are many new blocks of flats in the borough, and several large areas of land in various parts of the borough have been developed in recent years under Government housing schemes.
The State first became associated with the housing of the people under the Seddon Government in 1894, when an Advances to Settlers' Act was passed.
In 1905 the Workers' Dwellings Act enabled a worker to acquire a home by payment of a nominal deposit, on a fifty years' lease with right of renewal, and right of purchase. The tenant could also acquire the fee simple of the property by a regular system of monthly payments.
In 1910 the Ward Government enacted a more liberal Workers' Dwellings Act, under which homes could be acquired by workers paying a deposit of £10. and weekly instalments.
The next development was the Housing Act, 1919, under which a Housing Board was set up and which incorporated the original Workers' Dwellings Acts. Some 800 houses were built in the Lower Hutt, mostly at Moera, under this scheme. The Town Planning Acts of 1926 and 1929 and the Housing Survey Act, 1935, were further progressive movements.
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Some of the Newer Homes in Lower Hutt.

—Photo by J. B. Grey.
The Department of Housing Construction was established in September, 1936, and the following statement shows the development of housing contracts in the Lower Hutt Borough:—
Contracts Let.
Total to
Units, handed
over for
Number of
March 31, 1937 285 0 1
March 31, 1938 436 87 12
Sept. 30, 1938 617 347 16
March 31, 1939 688 500 22
Sept. 30, 1939 928 590 23
March 31, 1940 1159 701 25
Sept. 30, 1940 1276 876 25
About 750 acres have already been acquired in the Hutt Valley by the Government, which is rapidly proceeding with a comprehensive development scheme on modern town planning lines. About 1000 houses have already been built in the Valley by the Department of Housing Construction, and nearly 900 of these are within the Lower Hutt Borough.
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Upper—Government Houses in a New Street.

(The absence of service poles will be noted).
Middle—The Lily Pond in Riddiford Park.
Lower—A Charming Home in Lower Hutt.
—Photos by J. B. Grey.

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