Settlement Of Weraroa - Township Based on Sawmilling

This issue we look at the settlement of the land south of the Levin Village Settlement – Weraroa.

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This was the area bounded by Mako Mako East (now Liverpool Street), Mako Mako Road West (now Mako Mako Road) and a line east including the now Bush Street. 

The west boundary was close to Lake Horowhenua on the same line as the Levin Village Settlement with the east boundary being somewhat east of Arapaepae Road. 

This block must have been bought from the natives by the Government in about 1890, though I know of no record of it’s purchase, as Prouse Brothers had erected a sawmill, (sited about the rear of the present Power Board sub-station) and a house for Richard Prouse, (sited on the now Totara Street in front of Prouse Bush), by 1891. The house, large and two storeyed, was demolished in 1961. Being built in the best of a sawmiller’s selection and of ten rooms, the still-sound timber was used in several new buildings in Levin. 

Richard and James Prouse bought all the land east of the railway line, (900 acres, 360ha) and Peter Bartholomew bought all the land west of the railway line. He subdivided much his block in 1894 forming the Weraroa township on the west side of Oxford Street from Mako Mako Road West to Keepa Street. This was named for Meiha Kepa Rangihinui (Major Kemp), his friend. 

When the Bartholomew sawmill was established near Roslyn Road, the Maoris living in the Poroutawhao area were alarmed by all the smoke and steam of the steam engine. Major Kemp intervened and calmed them down. 

 Keepa Street should be pronounced Kepa as in pepper. Kemp used both spellings in his writings. 

The block bounded by Keepa Street, Oxford Street, the then Beach Road and Mabel Street was apparently reserved for a future sawmill site. A small shed was erected about opposite Ward Street as a railway station, probably soon after Prouse’s sawmill was established in 1891 and named Levin. 

Bartholomew’s (the additional name of Dunn was dropped by this time) sawmill was shifted to Weraroa in 1895. It was sited at the rear of the now Gypsy Hire Centre. The concrete foundations of the steam engine were only removed and the water well filled in about two years ago.

I can remember a hollow starting at the footpath, about six feet wide (1.9m), gradually deepening to about four feet (1.1m) at the foundation site. Apparently the tramway ran into it with the truck decks being level with the ground for easier removal of the logs. 

This scoop in the land ran at a south-east angle as if the tramline from the Ohau Valley and the now Tararua Road area ran into it. 

In the 1920’s a house was built over it, now Gypsy Hire Centre and it is still visible under the building. When the original building was built, the rest of the scoop would have been filled for garden and lawns. 

Another small station was built opposite Bartholomew’s mill about 1895, named Weraroa. 

In 1904 “Manawatu Farmer” a writer said these small stations were the home of fleas and at night the homes of tramps, and only very cold or wet weather would entice passengers to wait in them.

The Bradley Brothers, who ran a coach service to and from the station, said that each station was used for up or down trains and some passengers waited at the wrong station and had to scurry to the right one, as the stations were wide apart. 

From 1895 the Weraroa shopping centre began. 

The Weraroa Hotel was built in 1895 and owned by J. Staples and a Company from Wellington. It was sited where the Weraroa Dairy is now, on the corner of Ward Street. The hotel was of a two-storied, wooden construction, built by Laurie Williamson, an early builder of Levin. 

The Weraroa Town Hall was built 1898 behind the hotel in Ward Street, where the Ward Street side of the Cosmopolitan Club is now. 

I do not know who owned it or whether it was community owned. It probably was as I doubt if the County Council would have built it as the Council was still domiciled in Otaki. 

The Levin Meat and Cold Storage Company built a butchery in 1896 on the north-west corner of Keepa Street and Oxford Street. A bakery was built probably about the same date, at least well before 1900, probably by Charlie Williams, certainly he was an early proprietor. This was sited where the South Pacific Restaurant is now on the corner of Rina Street and Oxford Street. 

In the front there was the bakers shop and living quarters with the bakery at the rear. 

A small shop was situated in the south part of the building, used by footwear repairers, an early one being a Mr Retter. 

North of the bakery, a blacksmith and farmers business was established at least before 1900. Syd Jones, if not the first was an early occupant. Home and Outdoor Products are now on the site. North again were two small shops, also probably built before 1900. Barbers occupied the south shop and the north shop having a variety of businesses in it. 

The shops were demolished in 1971 to make way for a new Cosmopolitan Club. Another two shops were on the Ward Street corner, also probably built before 1900. 

The corner one is said to have been occupied by Charlie Williams as a grocery at an early date. 

The occupant of the next shop north is unknown to me. Weraroa Auto Services south part is on the site now and using the corner site as a caryard. 

In Seddon Street there was a small shop which is part of the Church of Christ now. Marco Fosella advertised in 1897as being in business there. Charles Welby (97 now) remembers looking in the window and seeing the ornate women’s hats of the period. Later he said it was a paint shop. 

Where Weraroa Auto Services car wash is now, there was a building the history of which I do not know, but it was probably built early.

In my earliest memory it was a bicycle shop and had been a dairy/engineers business in about 1915, with Ted Allmand being the proprietor of both.

 

This completes the shopping area of Weraroa up to 1900.

 

There were three houses amongst the shops. One where the north extension of the Cosmopolitan Club is now, one behind where Canvasland is and one where the Kiwi Grill is in the Weraroa Shopping complex. The house existed until 1987.

The Record Reign Committee of Queen Victoria planted plane trees on the east side of Oxford Street in 1897 from near Mako Mako Road to the station, these being removed in 1970 on the feeble excuse the trees prevented kerb and channelling to be built. 

A new station was built in 1898 opposite Ward Street. 

The block from Oxford Street to Mabel Street and from Mako Mako Road to the then Keepa Street was subdivided in 1894 into residential sections with Seddon, Reeve, Ward, Rina, Ballance and MacKenzie Streets being formed. 

By the age of the buildings still there, many of the buildings were built quite early. 

There are three cottages still existing that are thought may be original cottages for the mill hands. 

These are in Keepa and Reeve Streets. They have ridge and lean to roofs.

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Settlement Of Weraroa - Township Based on Sawmilling


Creator:Corrie Swanwick
Creation date:13/09/1989
Publisher:The News
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Settlement Of Weraroa - Township Based on Sawmilling by Pippa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License