Athenree Homestead Trust Inc.
Welcome to our project, we're in the process of restoring the settler Homestead Of Captain Hugh & Adela Stewart
"Athenree" was the home of Adela and Captain Hugh Stewart from 1879-1906. Hugh was the brother of George Vesey Stewart, the founder of the township of Katikati. George Vassey Stewart brought over 4,000 settlers out to New Zealand from Ireland.
His first journey in 1875 was aboard the ship "Carisbrooke Castle" and again in 1878 aboard the "Lady Jocelyn", to establish the only planned Irish/Ulster settlement here.
Adela Stewart chronicled her 28 years at "Athenree" in a book she wrote in a diary form entitled "My Simple Life in New Zealand". In it she tells of the hardships and of the joys and of the many notable people who visited them.
Among the more famous the Govenor General of New Zealand Lord Ranfurly, Prime Minister of New Zealand Richard John Seddon (1899), rebel Maori warrior Te Kooti (1884).
Adela was 32 years of age when she arrived from Ireland with her husband Hugh aboard the "Lady Jocelyn" landing in Auckland. From there they came to Katikati via the port of Tauranga aboard the Hinamoa steam ship, in 1878.
It took them a whole year to clear their land where they eventually built their homestead "Athenree", which she was determined to make as beautiful and as gracious as possible.
Her love of gardening, planting and tending her flowers, helped establish Athenree as a well known landmark in the area, a homestead which became the centre of many activities and "entertainment of a more decorous kind".
She was highly regarded by her fellow settlers as a very hospitable and kind woman. She is referred to as "a capable and accomplished wife"(Gray. An Ulster Plantation). She was intelligent, well-read and an excellent conversationalist, fluent in both English and French. Through her perseverance and quiet determination she managed literally to carve out an enriched life from rough, raw state of bush existence, so typical of early New Zealand settler life.
Her garden was her "special joy" and must have been a welcome respite from the drudgery of churning butter and making bread. Although she missed the gay social life and her friends in Ireland, when they eventually returned there, 28 years later inn 1906 - she found her plants and trees hardest to part with. "With closed eyes I passed the plantations of fine trees, which so many years ago, when young, strong and hopeful I had made; they seemed like friends."(My Simple Life In NZ)
For Orders of My Simple Life In New Zealand by Adela Stewart
NZ$35; AUS$35; US$18. including postage.
Send Your Cheque to:
The Secretary AHT inc. 3, Stewart St., Katikati, 3063., Bay of Plenty., New Zealand.
The Western Bay of Plenty District Council have purchased the property for the community to restore and enjoy as a Historical Reserve for future generations.
In our Landscape Plan exact detail has been followed from Adela's book to re-establish the gardens as they were in her time.
One of Katikati’s murals features the homestead as it was in its hey day in the 1930's - "a treasure to be sure."
Our Vision (an executive summary):
Athenree will be a living historic Homestead and garden park reflecting the cultural heritage and pioneering foundations of the Katikati/Athenree/Waihi District for appreciation and use of the community, visitors and future generations.
In this vision, Captain Hugh and Adela Stewart's Homestead will be restored as an authentic and exact rebuild (style, character, size), re-using original materials wherever possible.
The grounds, orchard and gardens will also be restored in their original style, character, and planting of the era.
1/. To restore, retain and maintain the asset for the community and for future generations as part of our cultural heritage.
2/. To have for the community a pioneer heritage homestead complex that truly reflects pioneer New Zealand.
3/. To develop and protect the vision for future generations.
4/. To allow and encourage activities to operate in keeping with the vision and within the control of a community-based management structure.
5/. To ensure the Park and Homestead are accessible to the public (locals' & schools, tourists, overseas visitors)
6/. To foster the Ulster-Irish links.
7/. To provide local people with employment opportunities.
The Athenree Homestead Trust has identified four major functions to achieve the vision, and has established an Action Group to implement each function:
1/. The Rebuild / Restoration of the Homestead.
2/. Garden and Orchard Restoration and Development.
3/. Fundraising and Financial Management.
4/. Publicity and Promotions.
The Trust has appointed one Trustee per Action Group who works as a liaise with that functionary Group.
The Trust is responsible for the overall management control and
administration of the whole project.
Athenree Homestead's Benefit to the Community:
The development the Athenree Homestead brings together a number of significant benefits to both the local community and the wider Region, making this project potentially an important asset for the District as a whole.
(i) Historic and Cultural Significance:
The proposal provides an opportunity for the preservation, interpretation and display of significant history for this area. Cultural interlinking with not only other pioneer settlements throughout New Zealand, but also throughout the world draw national relevance.
The historic value of the Athenree Homestead is immense. George Vesey Stewart was unique in New Zealand’s early history by introducing over 4000 settlers to the Bay of Plenty area. This was the largest known organised emigration of its kind in the world.
Not only did he bring settlers to the area, but it was such an organised event unlike any other in New Zealand's history. George Vesey Stewart returned to Ireland and convinced prospective settlers to not only sell their farms and lands in Ulster, but to plan for the future, and so to also bring with them their servants, and with them the colloquial flavour of Ireland. Everything was so well organised, to everyone's satisfaction allocations of land was given.
His brother and sister-in-law, Captain Hugh and Adela Stewart settled at Athenree and built the Homestead which became the focal point of the District.
Adela Stewart’s hospitality, home and garden became very well known, not only in New Zealand, but also in Ireland.
There's no other facility like this in this area. Rather the Katikati / Athenree / Waihi region is unique in having, but is presently lacking this facility. It is so important to the community that everyone (local, national, and international) have the opportunity again to experience the first hand taste of a pioneer settlement, rich in colloquial Ulsterism, passive in its tranquil environment.
Most of us in the comfort of our modern day luxuries have no idea of the hardships and endeavours these people had to endure. As if the ship's voyage wasn't severe enough - three months at sea, mostly laden with sea-sickness, poor provisions, disease - what to speak of the blistering sun of the 'doldrums', or the raging seas of the South Atlantic and Antartic regions. I reflect and wonder, if it had been me, would I have survived.
(ii) Recreational Park:
Amid the existing stand of valuable and historic trees, the meandering walk-ways, and the natural amphi-theatre affords the Homestead's grounds the perfect setting for numerous cultural and recreational activities such as receptions, concerts, recitals, etc. In Adela's book the gardens have been given specific and detailed documentation of the plantings, and what interesting, exotic, and original species are available. All of this provide the means to develop this asset as a passive recreational park, function and picnic facility.
(iii) Pioneer Nurseries:
Having such a stock of original mature trees, shrubs and self sustaining plants that Adela Stewart planted between 1879-1901 there’s great potential for marketing some of these old world varieties, organic by nature and original to their planting that any garder would love. Further more Adela brought many plants with her, or sent for many seeds from places where she had been, or where she had friends of similar interest, consequently there are some rare plants and trees from other parts of the worlds too.
(iv) Educational Asset:
The historic facility will become a valuable resource centre for schools of the area, as well as for the local public, and visitors. Schools will be able to bring pupils to practically experience an authentic pioneer homestead; learn about the history and background to the settling of the region, the long sea voyages, what the people gave up to come here, their roles, class structure, etc.; learn of the conditions, working for a year to clear their land in the bush and mud, the Stewart's living in their temporary dwelling that was in actuality the stables, while building the homestead; the challenges of the clothing of the period, hair styles, sanitation and cleanliness; despite the short-comings and the austerities, their resourcefulness, and pride in their craftsmanship, turning rough un-managed bush into parklands, vegetable gardens, and a beautiful homestead that became the central focus of many in the area, with it's own post-office, livery stables, etc.; see genuine artefacts from the era, learn of how they were made, and what they were used for; the vision and pride that they had in their home and the quality of life which even though simple delighted in natural opulence's grown on the land, cooked or preserved, woven, knitted, crochet, forged or carved; what were their expectations and aspirations in choosing Athenree as their base, and amidst achieving their goals the frustrations, home-sickness, etc.
A visit to the Homestead will provide a cultural experience that will allow you to experience the flavour of "settler life". We have found that many of the people who have come through have been very positively affected by the entire experience, giving appreciation to their own lives, and perspective to the struggle for something worthwhile.
We are already getting reports based on the visits of tourists from Ulster, the USA, as well as people who reside in New Zealand being inspired by the book of Adela Stewart which clearly shows in a humble ethnographic way the amazing successes that they grew to be; the resourcefulness and adaptability that has become famous as being the intrinsic nature of what most people today understand "a pioneer" is or was; and depicting how there's so much to be learned from such "Salts of the Earth" that will enhance our appreciation for what we have, and the legacy of culture in the making that makes us who we all are.........as New Zealanders today!
(v) Facility for Community Uses:
The building and grounds will be available to the public for receptions, meetings, seminars, exhibitions, as well as T.V. documentaries, filming and movie settings, etc., set with an appropriate and realistic scale of fees to assist the maintenance of the homestead.
(vi) Local Employment:
During the actual restoration period there have been and will continue to be numerous openings for skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers to dismantle the present building, clear the site and land and help with storage and the re-building of the actual homestead.
There will also be a need for labourers to clear vegetation, gorse, bamboo, remove rubbish, etc, etc., before and as restoration work continues.
On a sustainable maintenance level The Athenree Homestead, Park and Gardens will provide a number of jobs that will develop on a part-time and full-time basis for members of the community ranging from; gardening/gardeners, lawn maintenance, tree surgeons; housekeepers, maintenance, handymen/women, painters, plumbers, electricians; sales staff, cooks, cleaners, tour guides; office staff, security, etc. There's also a potential for craft, cultural and educational outlets adding to the repetoir of work opportunities.
(vii) Tourism Potential:
The site marks the "Gateway" to the Western Bay of Plenty.
The proposal includes projects which capitalise on the mass of the thousands of tourists that come to the Bay of Plenty each year. The tourism potential of the historic and recreational features of the Homestead is brilliant.
This project also builds on and complements, the activities and goodwill already established by the Katikati Open-Air Society and other groups working for the development of this area (One of the Katikati Open-Air Society’s famous Murals features the Athenree Homestead).
Recently we have made contact with many overseas groups and individuals who are very interested in organising to in some way utilise this amazing facility.
The Restoration Project:
The proposal plans to accurately "rebuild" the homestead keeping to its former character, style and size, etc. The University of Auckland has provided plans of the Homestead, from which working drawings have been prepared (attached), including preliminary costing.
We now have the expert advice, experience and practical work function of the Carson Group (Auckland) who specialise in restoration, working with Philip Hamilton (our building supervisor). Together they will oversee and supervise the entire restoration, and development, engaging other local qualified/certified builders, handymen, carpenters, who volunteer their services and expertise, or who are employed by the Trust.
Development Funding Options The Athenree Homestead Trust Inc., is a registered charity (AK / 808196) and is authorised to accept donations, grants, funding, etc. As a community based organisation, and with the help of our supporters realises the commitment and effort required to finance the development proposed.
The opportunities which are being explored include:-
(i) Local Fundraising Activities.
(ii) Donations, Pledges, Bequests.
Some companies might like to provide funding, or sponsor by providing materials, or expertise.
iii) Sponsorship & Support.
Some companies, or individuals, might prefer to sponsor a particular part of the project which falls in line with their philosophy, saleable commodity, or service.
Please let us know how you would like to help.