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  • Keith Newman

Haddington Estate: Heritage of highland hills

Scotsman John Hutcheson Macniven, a former banker, lived in New York and Australia, before attempting to forge a life on the land in New Zealand, eventually settling in the hills above Te Awanga in the early years of the 20th century.

Initially John and his wife Annie Ellen (Nelly) Mills from Horsburgh Castle Farm, near Peebles in Scotland, purchased a farm in Lawn Rd which they named Greenfields. Without drainage, the large block of mainly wetlands proved unsuitable for farming or cropping so they moved closer to the coast.

The influential Murray Roberts syndicate which brokered the sale of much of the former Clive Grange Estate from Barney and Joseph Rhodes to Colonel George Whitmore still had interests in the area or at least represented those who did. Portions of the once wide-ranging estate were on-sold to James Macfarlane of Tolaga Bay in 1902 who subsequently subdivided 1100 acres into 30 blocks of 210 acres from 1907.

Through Murray Roberts, John and Annie Macniven purchased about 700 acres from Macfarlane, on the south side of Parkhill Rd, Te Awanga in 1906, calling their new property Haddington, after the area in East Edinburgh where J.H Macniven’s family originated.

John Macniven, from Haddington, Scotland, turned the pastoral land into a profitable business where he bred and fattened sheep, ran cattle and trained racehorses. He also raised crops of ryegrass and clover for harvesting. He was involved in the A&P Society, was president of the society for a term, and helped develop the Hastings Showgrounds, planting an avenue of horse chestnut trees.

Haddington Station, Te Awanga, seed harvest in 1940 - combine harvester & seed sacks
Seed Harvest in 1940

After serving in the airforce at the very end of WW1, John and Annie’s only son Campbell, returned from England to take up farming along the East Coast near Hicks Bay. He arrived in Hawke’s Bay in 1935 to take over the Haddington farm when his father wanted to retire.

Love of horses

Helen (Tiny) White, described her grandparents John and Annie Macniven to Knowledge Bank interviewer Jim Newbigin in August 2015:

“He was as Scotch as they come and he used to sit there with his tam o' shanter on and Granny would sit there (on the porch).” He had beautiful horses and stables and help from Freda White of Feilding to train them. “She was rough as bags…She had a vocabulary of ‘language’ (that was) pretty long…and she came and helped there in the house. She was the most brilliant person you could get for needlework and cooking and doing flowers. Just natural.”

Helen says Freda “was with Granny for a long, long time and looked after her and did all the horses and all the flowers and cooking and everything in this lovely little house.” She remembers her grandparents as “just lovely people” and one incident, “riding over the hill with grandfather and they had all the piles put in for the house (Haddington homestead built by her “uncle Cam”) before they came down from Gisborne.

Campbell was a member of the Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club, involved in local body politics and a committee member and president of the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society for three years. He and his wife Dorothy rented a cottage in Te Awanga with their three daughters Margaret, Jocelyn and Barbara while a new home was built for them on a hill overlooking the farm. Campbell’s parents remained on the property in the original Haddington house, now considered the farm cottage.

Barbara, the youngest of Campbell and Dorothy’s children, was only five years old when the family moved into Haddington, recounts some of the history of the family land. Adjoining the Macnivens Haddington property was a 200 acre farm leased to the Husheer family from Waikari Karaitiana who had a horse racing stable nearby.

The Husheer family moved from Pakipaki to establish their tobacco growing farm. To plant the tobacco a machine was pulled by a team of two horses, a driver and two ‘plant servers’. It could plant up to 15000 plants a day which needed constant attention, weeding and watering. Young people in the district were given jobs weeding the seedbeds and removing the California thistles that proliferated.

“At the Hawke’s Bay Spring Show at the Hastings racecourse, the three Husheer boys joined the Hickling family watching the horse events where Macniven horses took many prizes in the jumping events. The show was a must for all famers and for their wives and daughters to show off their hats and dresses,” said Barbara.

After struggling through seasons good and bad and in the end being faced with a waterlogged crop and fungus making the tobacco unsaleable, the Husheers moved away to Napier in July 1918. Between 1918 and the mid-1920s the Bridgeman family farmed the property, running sheep on it.

In the 1930s the Hedley Harveys purchased the farm. Hedley owned a hardware and china shop in Hastings and he left management of the property to his brother Ernest who purchased the Te Awanga side, leaving the middle block, the house and farm to the boundary opposite the Haumoana School down to Beach Rd.

Barbara recalls her paternal grandfather John, taking her and her sisters to the movies in Hastings in the late 1930s, early 1940s. “We used to love the Shirley Temple pictures”.

Portrait photograph of Barbara Caseley, Te Awanga
Barbara Caseley

She remembers hay seasons on the rolling hill country, and crops of grass seed that were sold to stock and station agents … the old traction engine going down the rows with its belt, sledging seed into the tedder before being forked into bags to go to the mill.

Farm girls at work

“Grandfather employed a cowboy who would milk the cows in the morning and then I would take the milk in cans to the front gate where a lorry would pick them up. We had a churn and would make thick cream as well.” Barbara says there was a shortage of boys in the district. “Many of the farming families had girls who were involved in much of the farm work including haymaking and grass seeding.”

In 1954 Barbara married Trevor Caseley from Gisborne and in 1959 a family trust acquired a further 180 acres (73 ha) from the Harvey family where they had bred and fattened lambs. In 1959 her mother Dorothy Macniven purchased Hedley Harvey’s 175 acre block next to the property where she and Campbell lived. She sold land at Tikokino to the Butler family who were renting it, enabling her to make this independent purchase.

Her grandson Andrew says Dorothy had built the Haddington homestead herself around 1936. “Her father, William Rathbone a successful Central Hawke’s Bay merchant, gave all his children an endowment. She was a woman of means in her own right.”

Dorothy named the fat lamb breeding property Peebles after the small town in Peeblesshire, Scotland where Campbell’s mother was born. A couple from Scotland, Frank and Mrs Haughs lived in the old house and worked on the farm for many years. Barbara describes him as “an excellent stockman”. Crops of peas were also grown for Watties over many years.

After Dorothy died on 10 March 1976, the farm was left in a trust, named for her parents William and Lissie Rathbone, for her three daughters, Margret, Jocelyn and Barbara. Each daughter decided on the block they wanted and farmed it according to their own preferences.

Jocelyn sold her block to the Hardings who then on-sold the land which Elephant Hill Winery is today located on. Margaret took the block nearest Te Awanga which her family transformed into a vineyard and leased it to Craggy Range Winery.

Barbara Caseley retained the middle block with the old house and sheds which is today owned by her son Andrew who removed the house and built a new home on the hill in 2003. Part of that block is leased to Craggy Range winery.

In 1969, the name Haddington was given to the refurbished hostel at Woodford House, Havelock North hostel after the home of old boy and former board chairman and supporter Campbell Macniven. His wife Dorothy (Rathbone) was also a former student as were many members of their family.

The building reverted to a boarding house in 1993 and after failing seismic tests was demolished in 2015.

Barbara and Trevor had two children Felicity and Andrew. Andrew Caseley, a former CEO of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and his wife Katie now own the remaining block of Peebles land. The Haddington farm, only slightly reduced to 540 acres (218 ha), was leased from the late 1990s to fatten sheep.


Interviews with Barbara Casely, Andrew Caseley and Felicity Melville

History of Peebles Farm, compiled by Barbara Caseley, 2011

Additional material: Farms and Stations of New Zealand, G.A. Tait and Allison, Cranwell Publishing, Auckland, 1961

Interview Jim Newbigin, Knowledge Bank, 11 August, 2015 with Helen White.

Haddington & beyond, Gaye Robertson, archivist, Woodford House magazine Tempus, September 2016


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