House on the Hill of Welcome

Te Puke Naumai, Manakau was built for Percy Simcox in two sections, the first on the western side about 1900 and the second in 1916 with a walkway between.

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The name, meaning the Hill of Welcome, is derived from a location (a small hill now covered in scrubby bush) just north of the farm gates, adjacent to the main highway.  This was a favourite feasting and meeting place of the pre-European Maori.  The site is now covered in blackened burnt soil. 

William Henry Simcox (known as Will) arrived from England in 1862.  He worked as a cadet learning sheep farming on Ashton St Hill’s property near the Tuki Tuki River in Hawkes Bay in 1863.  After a few years around the Auckland area he married Francis Mary Colenso in 1870 and they went back to England for four years. 

Returning to NZ in 1874 the couple lived in the Auckland area again until 1878, when they came to Otaki, living there until 1883 when Will bought 100 acres of land south of the Otaki River and west of the present railway. 

Here a two-storied 13 roomed house was built.  By this time nine children had been born to the couple, Martin, Percy, Selwyn, Edith, Millicent, Christine, Elaine, Constance and Heath. 

For some time Will had been interested in a block of Maori land leased by a former cadet mate, John Hadfield.  The Waitohu Stream was the southern boundary running from there to where the Manakau North Road intersection is taking in most of the land west of the railway to the sea.  With more land acquired east of the railway later, there was 4203 acres in total.  This was known as the Forest Lakes run. 

In 1878 he bought a half share in the lease.  Later in 1878, John Hadfield sold his half share to F.W. Rutherford. 

The run was farmed by the partners with sheep and cattle until 1888 when Will bought Rutherford’s share.


Local Affairs

In 1897 he built a large house at Forest Lakes.  During this time in the Otaki area Will was very involved in local affairs.  He was chairman of the Otaki Highways Board, 1878-1883 and a member of the Otaki Roads Board when it was formed after 1883.  He was also chairman of the Te Horo Roads Board. 

When the new Horowhenua County Council was formed in1885 he was a member of that and chairman from 1887 to 1901.  Will had been a JP since 1869 and conducted court hearings in Otaki with another JP for many years.  He was also Coroner of Otaki from 1887-1908.

Will was chairman of committees endeavouring to obtain a state school and hospital in Otaki, success being achieved in 1884 and 1897 for both. 

He was conductor of the early Otaki Philharmonic Society and the earlier Glee Club. He was the convenor and captain of the first cricket club and first president of the Otaki Golf Club. 

Mrs Simcox acted as amateur doctor, not as a nurse, at times when there was no doctor in the area.  She was very conversant with the Maori language and customs and a great help to the Maoris with their troubles. 

In 1919 Will transferred his interest in the property to his three sons, Martin, Percy and Selwyn, in separate titles.  By then much of the land leased had been bought.  Later most of the leases were disposed of and most of the land sold to other owners. 

Very little land is now owned by descendants.  Will died in 1923 at the age of 82 and his wife in 1928 at the age of 84. 

As said before, Percy Simcox built the first part of the house at Te Puke Naumai about 1900.  In 1931 Mr and Mrs Dorset bought the property of 105 acres and farmed it with the help of their son Bert.  Later he took the farm over and still runs it. 

Bert married Mary MacDonald.  Her mother was a descendant of the early pioneering MacDonald family. 

The two sections of the house are entirely interior lined with stained matched lining.  There are some unusual small metal ventilators with closable louvres.  Much of the house is unaltered except for windows and the back porch.  The roof of iron is original.  The buildings are sited on a levelled hill and a magnificent view is seen from the site.  There are some large trees, especially some maples which must have been planted by 1900. 

Most of the furniture and other antique items inherited from both sets of parents tone in well with the interior décor of the house. 

Bert Dorset has been interested in dog trials having been placed five times on the North Island trials and three times in the NZ trials. He is the present holder of the Southern Hawkes Bay Wairarapa Centre Championship Shield. 

Mary Dorset excelled at basketball at school and later in club play being a representative in the Manawhenua team.  She was active in administration and refereeing later.



Thanks to Mary, Bert and Janice Dorset for their help.  Appreciation to Miss Barbara Swabey, daughter of Edith Simcox for help in research. Will Simcox’s son, Francis Selwyn, was the author of Otaki, The Town and District, published in 1952.


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House on the Hill of Welcome

Creator:Corrie Swanwick
Creation date:22/09/1982
Publisher:The News