Community Contributed

Foxton 1888-1988 - The Borough - The First Fifty Years

Kete Horowhenua2020-01-27T18:37:30+00:00
The first meeting of the Foxton Borough Council was held on the afternoon of 21 May 1888 in the Public Library building. E.S. Thyn­ne was in the chair and although Mayor for only a short time was a worthy founder of the list of citizens who followed him in that office.



Ernest S. Thynne


Thos. Wilson


Geo. Nye


Geo. Nye


T.P. Williams


Geo. Nye


John R. Stansell


Alf Fraser


W.B. Rhodes


Fred E. Jenks


Philip J. Hennessey


Fred E. Jenks


Philip J. Hennessey


Geo Simpson


Bernard G. Gower


Geo A. Simpson


Bernard G. Gower


Geo H. Stiles


Alf Fraser


John Chrystall


Mark E. Perreau


Harry Podmore


Edward A. Field


L.G.A. King


W. Stuart Donnelly­


D. Neal Hunt


James L. Titcombe


Kevin J. Farrell


Robert A. Fraser

The councillors present at that first meeting were T.U. Cook, T.P. Williams, Geo Nye, J.R. McMillan, F.E. Jenks and C. Furrie with J.R. Russell acting as Town Clerk. The new Council had to set about formu­lating by-laws and to set the level of the rates. One of the advantages of becoming a borough, it was claimed, was the paying of only 15 pence in the pound as against two shillings under the dual County and Town Board control. The Borough began with a public debt of £718 and hoped to reduce it by £118 in the first year. An indication of the importance of the town's hotels is given by the estimate that Publican's Licences would bring in £122 of the £586 expected receipts for the Borough. The Borough was a very large one stretching to Kere Kere Road in the east and the Manawatu River in the south. To the north it included the Target Reserve which is still part of the borough. Which of the access routes around the Borough were to become official streets was another early decision to be made. At this meeting it was resolved that "All Streets in this Borough that have been opened for 12 months or more, used as thoroughfares though not graded or metalled be taken over as streets by the borough." Officers had to be appointed and the first was the Town Clerk. Russell was replaced for a short while by W.G. Robin­son before F. Gibson took over for a tenure of ten years.



W.G. Robinson


F. Gibson


James McQueen


Robert Chapman


Alfred Fraser


J.H.A. Pedder

(only 6 days as no




C.J. Kent-Johnston


R.H. Irwin (16 days



W. Waters


Wm. Trueman


Ian Parlane


R.G. Cox


J.D.C. Wilmott


L.E. Sisley


F.N. Sheridan


C.A. Belcher


C.J. Gill


R.E. Chesney


D.F.I. Webb


T.A. Baker.


G.J. Drew

Alf Fraser served as Town Clerk in between two terms as Mayor. He first came to Foxton as a bookseller but developed his accounting and secretarial skills to become Town Clerk before resigning and estab­lishing his own accounting business. This is carried on today by the present Mayor, Bob Fraser, grandson of Alf.


At the second meeting the council began to formalise the street pat­tern of the Borough and to allocate names so that confusion might be avoided. The council decided "It shall be lawful for the council from time to time to cause to be painted or affixed on a conspicuous part of some house or building at or near each end, corner or entrance of every street and in the direction of the line of such street, the name of such street in legible characters not exceeding three inches in length and proportionately broad and near to each other, and the council may, where more than one street in the Borough is called by the same name alter the name of all or any of such streets save one (to be described in the order altering the same) to any other name which the council may seem fit." As a result of the consequent decisions the streets of the Borough have been named as below. Where possible an explanation of the source of the name is given although some of these may be just part of local folklore and consequently the names might have different de­rivations.

1. Avenue Road

Originally The Avenue probably because it was cut through an avenue of bush.

2. Bergin Road

Mr Bergin was a local lawyer and was close­ly associated with the Racing Club.

3. Brown Street

Mr H. Brown was a baker in Foxton in the 1870s.

4. Churchill Crescent

Named after Winston Churchill.

5. Clyde Street

Unknown - perhaps after a ship which traded here.

6. Coley Street

After George Coley Businessman and farmer, owner of the "Star" Mill. Has many desendents still in the town.

7. Cook Street

T.U. Cook and family claimed this land from the early days of settlement.

8. Duncan Street

Rev J. Duncan had his land in this vicinity.

9. Easton Street

The Easton family owned land in and around Foxton.

10. Field Street

Mr E. Field, a Mayor, owned this area.

11, Francis Street

Named after a member of the family of Gaius Brewer who developed the area.

12. Futter Street

Mr Futter was an early proprietor of the Manawatu Hotel.

13. Gladstone Street

Mr Gladstone was a P.M. of the United King­dom.

14. Hall Street

Originally Loudon Street but renamed for the Public Hall which stood there.

15. Harbour Street

Named for the Harbour Board but was origi­nally known as Mill Road.

16. Herrington Street

Herrington was the home of the Robinson family.

17. Hetta Street

Origin unknown.

18. Hillary Street

Mr John Hillary was a well-known ferryman last century.

19. Howe Street

Mr C. Howe was proprietor of the Family Hotel and farmed in Moutoa Road.

20. Hulke Street

Mr C. Hulke was the first headmaster of the State School.

21. Huntley Street

Mr George Huntley was Road Foreman for the Borough Council for many years.

22. Jenks Street

Mr F. Jenks was a member of the first coun­cil and later became Mayor.

23. Johnston Street

Hon J. Johnston, a Wellington businessman, had an interest in a flax mill in this area.

24. Ladys Mile

The stretch of road was said to be a favourite place for the fashionable young ladies of the town to go riding.

25. Liddell Street

Mr J.W. Liddell was one of the town's early businessmen and lived in this street.

26. Maine Street

The street originally terminated at the Te Awahou Stream from where Gray Street ran down to the riverbank.

27. Mark Perreau Place

Mr Perreau was Mayor of Foxton and a businessman of long standing.

28. Norbiton Road

Mr B. Gower, Mayor of the borough, named this area after his home village in England and he intended building a village on his land.

29. Nye Road

Mr Geo Nye was an early settler and later became Mayor.

30. Park Street

Named after the park that the street leads to.

31. Patrick Street

Probably named after Patrick Neylon who farmed here.

32. Purcell Street

Mr J. Purcell was the town's first policeman and later farmed in the vicinity.

33. Ravensworth Place

Mr Liddell's home in Liddell was named Ravensowrth.

34. Reeve Street

Mr W.H. Reeve was a contractor who owned land here.

35. Robinson Street

Capt. F. Robinson was the first settler in the Foxton area.

36. Russell Street

Messrs J. and G: Russell founded the Man­awatu Herald.

37. Spring Street

Mr Spring, an early councillor, owned land here.

38. Stewart Street

Mr J.T. Stewart, the original surveyor of the Manawatu, lived in the area.

39. Thynne Street

Mr E. Thynne was the first Mayor of the Borough.

40. Union Street

Originally known as Tram Road. Reason for Union unknown.

41. Victoria Street

Named in honour of Queen Victoria on the occasion of her record reign.

42. Wharf Street

The original line of the railway to the wharf followed this route.

43. Whittaker Street

Of unknown origin.

44. Whyte Street

Mr A. Whyte was first publican of Whyte's Hotel.

Streets not only needed naming, grading, metalling and claying but also had to be kept clear of overhanging trees. Also adorning the streets were patches of flax and tendering this for cutting was one form of Borough income. Although most of the problems the early councillors had to deal with are still areas of concern today (e.g. water, streets, footpaths, hygiene, parks and reserves, rate collection, refuse, sewer­age), the nature of the problem has changed with time. In 1897 the Council found it had to construct a fence along the Whirokino Main Drain as it was dangerous for travellers on the road when floodwaters hid the edge! A special meeting of the council was called in 1898 to decide whether to control the use of "Bicycles, Tricycles and similar machines" within the Borough. It was decided on a By-law that would prevent their use on footpaths and that they should have bells or some warning device, a lighted lamp if used at night, and that "No person shall furiously or negligently ride such machines in any street of the Borough". Roads and footpaths have required constant attention with repairs and redevelopment. At times new streets have had to be laid out and one major occasion in this respect occurred in 1899 when the block of land set aside for the children of T.U. Cook was subdivided. A lot of council time was also spent in organising a connection between Reeves Street and Johnston Street which went through land owned by Mr G. Brewer. The original name for the new street was to be Emu but thankfully it was changed to Francis. At times streets have been stop­ped because of changing traffic patterns. The Council Chambers are built on what was Gray Street and Watson Street is now part of the property of the Feltex plant.

The large size of the original Borough meant that it had more roads to maintain than at present. The biggest task resulting from this was the provision of a means of crossing the Manawatu River at Whirokino. After a lot of work a new bridge replaced the ferry in 1900. Problems such as that led to the size of the Borough becoming a concern of many of the ratepayers. In 1905 the suggestion was made that the area be reduced to that under the control of the old Town Board. The reduction was made in the next year and the Manawatu County Council took over the control of the area divested including the upkeep of the Whirokino Bridge. A suggestion of the Minister of Internal Affairs in 1909 that the area be further reduced was strongly opposed. The Council were more interested in pushing ahead the construction of a good road to the beach even though it was not within their area of jurisdiction. Whether the Borough was large or small the problem of drainage was ever present.

Open drains were the usual way to get rid of the surface water although there were times when there was flood damage within the Borough. For example in 1906 the Avenue Road culvert through which the Awahou Stream flowed was washed out and for some time detours had to be used. Individual householders and businessmen had to obtain council permission to build bridges across the open drains to their properties. Another major step in the development of the town's streets was the replacement of the bridge across the Awahou Stream in Main Street with a culvert. A particular problem of the Foxton environment was sand and the council had to get out and clear sand drifts that often blocked footpaths and roads. It was decided to plant trees on streets over one chain in width and a start was made in Clyde and Park Streets. Many of the streets in the town were very wide and in 1910 the propos­al was that some be reduced in width. One that was suggested was Robinson Street. The traffic gradually changed from horse to motor vehicle and the council found it necessary to appoint an examiner of traffic licences. The man chosen was E.J. Murphy. As well as the flax mentioned earlier the streets also grew turf which was often cut to place on new sandy areas. Although the Council generally frowned on such activity they did allow the District High School to cut turf for its new ground in 1928 as long as the householder whose verge was being cut did not object.

Above: Park Street looking south (c. 1916). The frames around the trees planted by the Borough Council in its first steps to beautify the town's streets are clearly visible.

The organisation of a water supply for Foxton has been reported fully in Huntley's Fiftieth Jubilee publication and is reproduced below.

"The pressing need of a good water supply for the township had the effect of producing a series of proposals that had no satisfactory results until the comprehensive 1924 water and drainage scheme was com­pleted. Water for domestic purposes was sometimes obtained from the river and retailed at 1/- per barrel. A well was sunk at either end of Main Street, but did not seem of much service.

In November, 1890, a public meeting was convened by the Borough Council "to consider a proposal to sink wells at the north end of Park Street to supply the townspeople with water". This proposal was spon­sored by Councillor George Nye, who later explained in details the proposals at a council meeting. He estimated the cost at £1167 for a reticulation through the Main Street area with a 4-inch pipe. The Town Clerk said the valuation of properties within Johnston St and Russell St and the river amounted to £2767, which at a rate of 1/- in the £1 was £138 7/-; on either side of Main Street the valuation was £2000 which at the same rate would be £100. The matter then was dropped.

In August, 1892, the Borough Council, still exercised over the water supply question and the fear of fire decided them to bore for artesian water at a cost not exceeding £100. It was resolved that the site of the proposed bore be near the Main and Clyde Streets junction. This ven­ture was a total failure, the contractors, Messrs Lord and Lewis failing to get the pipe to sufficient depth and asked leave to try a site "7 or 8 chains" to the eastward of Main Street", which proved to be the site opposite the bowling green. Lord and Lewis having commenced the sinking of the pipe on the new site, went out of business, and Mr E. Battersby later took over the work. The well was sunk 246 feet, and produced an outflow of 30 gallons per minute. The venture cost the borough £188 10/-, and it was decided then to erect a No. 6 force pump to deliver the water. This well served the public for many years right up to recent times, and was familiar on account of its windmill.

In February, 1905, the question was again considered at a public meeting. A gravitation scheme from Shannon was considered too costly, and Mr Nye again put forward his racecourse proposition. At a later meeting, after a committee set up to inquire into the question had presented its report, it was decided to approach Mr John Robinson to consent to the sinking of a bore on his property near the railway, part of the idea being to pump the water to tanks on the adjacent hill. This proposal was dropped.

In 1908 Mr John Chrystall blew out a bore in the Triangle at the 460ft level, which well supplied water per hand pump up till recent times.”1

The first substantial scheme for water (artesian) and drainage was considered in 1910, when a proposal to borrow £20,000 was placed before the ratepayers and lost by 150 to 90. Subsequently a proposition was suggested to the Borough Council by the Levin Borough Council that Foxton enter into arrangements for a gravitation supply from the Levin Borough's intake at an annual charge. This proposal was not entertained by councillors.

In 1920 the ratepayers sanctioned a loan of £36,000 for the present comprehensive scheme."1

This scheme is based on artesian wells with the water being pumped to a water tower in order to provide sufficient pressure for the Borough. With this supply of water available a sewerage system could be designed for the Borough.

Humans create a lot of waste and the middens of early man have provided archaeologists with a mine of information. Organised settle­ment, however, demands organised waste disposal and the duty to pro­vide this belongs to the local bodies. It seems that the first provision in Foxton was made in 1900 when Henry Coley agreed to part of his lease at the Target Reserve to be used as a rubbish depot, a much more pleasant description than the "dump". Rubbish continued to be depo­sited at the Target Reserve until 1935 when a new site in Ladys Mile was opened up. There was much discussion at the council table about choosing this site as there was variation of opinion as to whether the move would cut down erosion of the river bank or cause the river to be clogged up. Cr F. Robinson claimed that planting willows would solve the erosion problem as well as retain the aesthetic beauty of the loca­tion. Willows have since grown over the old site and the river has ceased to be an erosive agent. The collection of night soil was another service the council had to organise. The cess pits of the early outhouses began to be replaced when a nightman was appointed by the council. To ensure that the townspeople took the necessary steps to make a success of the night soil collection the council resolved that "the Inspector of Nuisances be instructed to see that all privies within the Borough are fitted with a 5 gallon pail in accordance with By-law 91 by the first of February 1913 and all cess pits filled in". Problems continued to arise and in 1907 council decided "That advertisements be put in the paper warning persons from depositing tin cans, bottles, etc., in closet pans or action will be taken against them. Further that the nightman attends private houses fortnightly only. Halls and boarding houses every week and that where necessary extra cans must be obtained by large house­holders"! The dump for the night soil was the Government Reserve which the Purcell brothers were leasing. In 1907 the introduction of the septic tank system began the first step towards removing the need for the nightman. His services were to continue until 1927 with his round gradually growing smaller. In April 1925 Avenue Road to Spring Street, Norbiton Road, Russell Street and Jenks Street was all that was left on the night carts round. The question of a daily rubbish collection was raised in 1923 but it was decided that the cost of such a service was too much to contemplate.

Above: Main Street looking south from Ihakara Gardens. This view in the forties shows the water tower poking up from behind the tall pines on R.N. Spiers' property.

When new technology became available council looked at its applica­tion in the borough. In 1901 the use of electricity was discussed and it was decided to make enquiries about the cost of a small electric plant
for the Borough. The decision was that if any supplier of electricity could have it up and running within 12 months then they would be given a 42 year contract for supplying the whole town. In the same year
tenders were called for street lighting using either kerosene or acety­lene. The successful tenderer intended using the former. The borough was quick to see the potential of telephone poles for street lighting and
in 1903 successfully sought permission to use them. An estimate for electric street lighting was obtained in 1906 and although electric plants were to be introduced into the Borough earlier (e.g. the installation of an engine and dynamo in the Town Hall in 1911), it was not until 1925 that electric street lighting was utilised. In 1905 the first steps towards the idea of circulating gas through the town were taken but a poll in 1906 rejected the idea. The delay was only short lived for in 1908 a privately operated gas plant was opened. Councillors Jenks and Gray proudly moved "That a record of the date of first lighting of coal gas be recorded in the Minute Book of the council, the date being Friday 9th October 1908". There were teething problems. "The first few week's experience of gas lighting caused dismay among consumers on account of the pungent odour emitted during combustion, but the defect being finally eliminated, the townspeople settle down to the enjoying of the new facility. The council in the deed of agreement with the company, held the right of taking over the works at succeeding periods, price apparently not specified. Although the council seriously considered tak­ing the works over in 1909 ... the purchase was not made until 1910".2 The council decided that the gas street lights in Main Street would be located in the middle of the road and in all other streets, at the corner of the kerb.

The first municipal chambers were constructed in 1906 on the site of the present building. A ratepayers' sanctioned loan of £1040 enabled the construction of Council Chambers, reading room, library and living quarters. This building was destroyed by fire in 1920 and the present structure erected at a cost of £1120. This does not include library or living quarters. A library was built to the south of the chambers later but became surplus when a library was included in the Memorial Hall. The fire destroyed much of the Borough's records including the collec­tion of photographs of the past Mayors which was started in 1909. Replacements were procured however, and there is a complete record of those who have held that office in the chambers today. The council had other buildings to maintain. For example, a band rotunda was constructed in Victoria Park although in 1904 it was converted into a sports pavilion as the athletes were more active than the bandsmen at the time. In 1906 a morgue was constructed on the Pound Reserve opposite the council yards. The first Town Hall, the Coronation, was built in 1911, but was destroyed by fire in 1926 and replaced by the present building.

Above: The Foxton Gasworks in Cook Street. All that remains today is the concrete base of the storage tank.

Parks and reserve cover a large part of the Borough and the council has had to tend these. The largest is the Target Reserve which "was set aside originally for the use of the Militia and Colonial forces, the idea of the range being conceived by Mr John Kebbell on the occasion of the visit by Sir Donald McLean to inspect the Cavalry Volunteers and the Manawatu Company of Militia, of which Mr Kebbell had command. The "Foxton Reserves Act, 1878" deals with this particular reserve".3 Much of this reserve has been leased for farming purposes but some sections have been used from time to time by sports clubs. The Recreation Reserve was renamed Victoria Park on the occasion of Queen Victoria's record reign in 1897. The bowling green section was originally set aside as the Town Hall site but was taken for use by the bowlers in 1910. At the northern end of Main Street there are two old reserves. The Triangl­e Reserve was first tidied up in 1899 when a post and chain fence was erected and this bounded the reserve until the Fallen Soldiers Memorial was erected there in 1920. The other old reserve, Ihakara Gardens, is among the earliest records left of European life in the Manawatu. It was the site of the town's first cemetery with Europeans being buried there from as early as 1850 and Maori from even earlier. Although used for the burial of Ihakara Tukumaru in 1881 the reserve fell into a state of disrepair after the present cemetery was opened in 1871. The council met with the Maori owners, including Ihakara's daughter, Te Aputa, regarding the site. The result was its donation to the town by the Maori people. The development of the gardens was undertaken by the Beautifying Society in the early 1920s. Seaview Gardens, the site of the water tower, was originally known as Ferry Hill as the town ferry was located at its base. This area was developed into a garden by the council during the thirties. Easton Park was donated to the Borough by Mr A.S. Easton as a commemoration of peace being made at the end of the Great War. How, and by whom, the park was to be used was a point of contention from the start but despite this it has proved to be a wonderf­ul asset for the town.

The Borough Council also has its human side. Not only do they have to decide how to raise and use money but also to provide the citizens with a pleasant and peaceful town to live in. In the early years of the Borough the council were often called on to carry out welfare activities.

Above: A Ceremony at the Triangle Reserve during the early twenties. Note the fire bell beside the Coronation Hall. The car and buggy in the foreground show how this period was one of transition in transport methods.

Part of the rates were raised for the Hospital and Charitable Aid func­tion of the council. This required the councillors to decide when to give aid to the injured, sick and needy. Costs for hospital stays, support for families losing a wage earner and support for the elderly were some of the areas of concern. This function was gradually reduced with the introduction on of social welfare. For example in 1899 one elderly citizen was advised that his keep would not be paid as he was now on an old age pension. Selecting staff and keeping them up to scratch was another important function. Beside the Town Clerk the council has had to appoint librarians, foremen, pound keepers, rangers, inspectors of nui­sances and dairies, lamplighters, nightmen, gas managers, health in­spectors, building inspectors, etc. In 1898 17 applicants for the position of Town Clerk had to be sifted through. The early records show that it was hard to find suitable people for some of these positions. The per­formance of some jobs was easy to assess and reports on the efforts of ranger, nightman, and gas manager are common in the council minutes. Several of these officers were told to carry out their duties more diligently and some were removed from their positions. Perhaps the appointment of D'Arcy Knewstub as ranger, inspector of nuisances, lamplighter, assistant caretaker of the Town Hall and registrar of dogs was one way to reduce the number of appointments that had to be­ made.

In 1938 in the forward to the Jubilee Souvenir Booklet "T W " observed "And so we find Foxton today, with its well lighted streets and shops, its asphalted streets and footpaths, its happy homes, well sup­plied with water, drainage, gas and electricity. Look backwards for a moment and appreciate to the full the progress that has been made since the memorable day, the 18th April, 1888, when Foxton was procl­aimed a Borough."' And more progress was to come.

1. Huntley, E.W. page 13.

2. Ibid. page 19.

3. Ibid. page 14.

4. Ibid. page 1.