Hutt City Libraries Online Heritage Collection > Texts

Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941)

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Industrial and Commercial Development

Since what by nature was denied by art and industry's supplied.—S. Butler.
The first white man known to have conducted an industry in the Hutt district was Joe Robinson, a Scotch sailor, who, in 1839, was found by Wakefield building an open 8-ton boat on the banks of the Hutt River. It is recorded that this boat, subsequently named the "Venture," was bought by one of the "Aurora's" passengers, and played an important part in the founding of Wanganui, and in the transfer of the Britannia settlers to Thorndon Flat. Freight was carried for £1/-/- per ton and passengers for 2/6 each.
On the 5th March, 1840, a boiler for a 20 horse-power steam engine was floated up the Hutt River. Presumably this was intended to be used for grinding flour or cutting timber, but there is no record as to whether it was actually put into service.
In the second edition of the "New Zealand Gazette," printed for the first time in New Zealand by S. Revans at Britannia in April, 1840, it is stated that Henry Meech and Oxenham had a shipwright's business on the left side of the Hutt River. In the same edition reference is made to Edward Chance's produce and general store, and the virtues of Manning's portable colonial cottages are extolled.
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Molesworth's Farm, 1843.

Brees.—Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library
Newry Barn and the wharf may be seen in the foreground. The windmill was built by J. H. Percy in 1843.
In July 1840 two of the three partners of Messrs Betts-Hopper, Molesworth and Petre, established an engineering business next to the Hikoikoi pa, near the mouth of the Hutt River. Mr. Betts-Hopper, however, was drowned in September of that year whilst rafting a load of timber down the river.
A 16-ton schooner, "The Sandfly" was launched in 1841 at a yard on the banks of the Hutt River for Messrs Molesworth and Hart. Unfortunately, this vessel was wrecked at Kapiti in August of the same year.
In the following year an American shipwright named Willcox built several vessels and also a four-storey flour-mill at the junction of the Waiwhetu
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Stream and White's Line. Whether the mill was originally driven by water, wind, or steam is not recorded, but the mill operated until about 1885 and had then been using steam for many years. There was a suitable depth of water for launching vessels in the Waiwhetu Stream until the earthquake of 1855 which ruined the shipbuilding portion of the business. It is said that Willcox also located a quartz reef on his property, but whether gold was found in it remains a mystery.
In October 1843 Molesworth's windmill was built, about a quarter of a mile below the Hutt Bridge, on the eastern bank. The illustration also shows a wharf, presumably for loading timber and produce, at this point, and the Newry barn close by.
Another flour-mill, driven by a water wheel, was begun by Mr. Job Mabey
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Cleland's Store, Built in 1861.

This stood near the corner of Queen's Road and High Street, and was the home of Captain Cleland, who was in charge of the Hutt Militia in the 1870's
in 1849 on his property at Taita, and in the following year this was completed with the help of Mr. A. W. Renall, who operated the mill. It was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1855. The destroyed portion of it was quickly rebuilt, but three years later the great flood rendered the mill useless. Renall, with other Taita settlers whose properties were destroyed in the flood, approached Sir George Grey, who allocated them land in the Wairarapa, and Masterton was founded. Renall took the remainder of his mill at Taita, part of another mill at Ngahauranga and a pair of mill-stones brought out by Mr. Molesworth, and with them built a mill in Masterton which he operated for about thirty years.
Another water-wheel was built for Messrs. Farrelly Bros. at Naenae about 1881 for chaff-cutting. Only one water-wheel is still in operation in the Valley. This is at the Hutt Flock Mills at Norton Park and was erected in 1894.
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In 1852 W. & J. Hall commenced business on the main street, and during the subsequent eighty years members of this family built many homes and several churches in the Valley.
The Hutt Branch of the Bank of New Zealand, which was the only trading bank in Lower Hutt until a few years ago, was opened on the 1st. July 1877, on a site south of the present Library facing the Main Road. This was opened on alternate days for about a month, but later business was conducted daily. The property was sold in 1905, and the building was moved to a site facing Woburn Road. The original part of the present bank premises in High Street was opened on the 13th July, 1908.
Trevethick's brushworks was commenced in 1879, and is still in operation. This is probably the oldest established industry in the Hutt trading under the name of the founder.
One of the early general stores was that established in 1847 by T. Burt, on the main road. The family continued in the business till some twenty years ago.
In 1861 Cleland's Store was established just north of Park Avenue, and his brother also commenced a store on the main street of the Hutt near Queen's Road. In 1866 Mason's store was established on the western side of the main road near Knox Church, and part of the original building still exists.
Other stores which operated in the early days were those of Potts, Keys, and Mullins.
In 1867 Mr. George McIlvride commenced a blacksmith's and wheelwright's business on the main street.
In 1889 Feist's store was established on the site at present occupied by the Municipal Public Library and "Hutt News" office.
Thus far the story has been one of small enterprises purely local in scope, and later chapters, till recently, are of no special interest. But, almost suddenly, industry in the Hutt took a new turn. In less than twenty years the placid, easy-going village was transformed into one of the leading industrial centres in New Zealand.
This development can be said to have commenced with the opening of Seaview Road in 1929 and the reclamation of the Hutt Estuary, which was commenced in 1936. The promise held out by the Hutt Valley, with its large open areas, ample water supply, and reasonably-priced land conveniently close to the Capital City, attracted the attention of many large manufacturers both in New Zealand and overseas. Land along the sea-front was quickly taken up and important industries were established.
An important event in this progress was the transfer from Petone of the Railway Workshops, which were re-established on most modern lines on the Mandel estate, south-east of Randwick Road. This was followed by the establishment of large oil stores and the building of the Ford Company's extensive assembly plant.
These pioneering firms were quickly followed by other enterprises, until
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An Aerial View of Part of Lower Hutt's Industrial Area, 1939.

—From a photograph by W. Hall-Raine.
The Government Railway Workshops can be seen in the foreground, with the Trotting Course at the Hutt Park on the right. In the distance are the Ford Company's works, several oil tanks and the Bays. The road to Wainui-o-mata and a portion of the Valley can be seen on the left.
to-day it is estimated that 6600 factory workers, or nearly a quarter of the employees in the Wellington provincial area, find employment in the Hutt Valley.
Many of the new industrial establishments are pleasantly situated and have been designed with an eye to the physical and mental welfare of the employees.
The swift industrial development of the area called for action on the part of the Lower Hutt Borough Council, which, under the borough's town planning scheme, defined industrial zones, and insisted upon all buildings being constructed of permanent materials and of approved design.
The expansion naturally resulted in increased population in the neighbourhood of the industries.
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Hotels.

In October, 1840, there were at least five inns or taverns on the Petone beach. There are still only five licensed houses in the Lower Hutt and Taita districts.
The first hostelry in the Hutt was Burcham's Aglionby Arms, at the Village of Aglionby (see Historical plan.) It is believed that this was built in 1840.
In 1847, however, there is record of this inn being situated near the bridge. On account of the river erosion it was again moved further to the west where, on a plan dated 1863, it appears where the south-west end of the present concrete bridge is. There was further erosion in the big floods of 1871 and 1872, when the building was undermined and it was taken down. Parts of it were used in the construction of the stables at the rear of the present Railway Hotel, which was opened in 1875 by Mr. Nat. Valentine.
The Central Hotel was built in 1880, and occupies the site of Whitewood's Hotel, built in 1847.
Little is known of the Rose Inn which, in 1849, stood where the Commonwealth Covenant Church was recently erected.
The Family Hotel was built in 1874, and was originally known as Osgood's.
The Bellevue Hotel, in Woburn Road, was originally situated in the Bellevue Gardens, previously known as McNab's, and now occupied by residences. The hotel was burnt down in 1912, and the present one was constructed shortly afterwards.
There were many hotels in the Taita in the early days, but little is known of their history.
In 1847 Hughes's Public House stood where the golf course now is, opposite the Anglican Church.
George Buck was "mine host" at the Travellers' Rest, which stood opposite Taita Hotel, in 1852. It is believed that this place was afterwards known as Honeymoon Cottage, and that the license of the present Taita Hotel originated here.
The Barley Mow Inn was mentioned in a report of the great flood in 1858, and the name of the Albion Inn appears in a list of local public-houses in 1865. This latter building is still standing, and was the half-way house for coaches running to and from the Wairarapa.
It is probable that many of these places existed before the dates mentioned.
These early houses were licensed and the fees provided a large part of the revenue of the township in those days.

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