Helensville Museum
Helensville & District Historical Society Inc     Click to enlarge images
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Cook house, Dip Lake, South Head.  
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Planting Marran grass  
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Local farmers touring Woodhill Forest C1920  
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Woodhill aerial 1959  

Woodhill History

The first settlers at Woodhill were of the Ngati Whatua tribe, with their important marae at Reweti.

As early as 1820 when Samuel Marsden passed through, there was friendly interaction with incoming Europeans, and by the 1880s there was a well established settlement of farming families such as the Holsts, Mackies, Pengellys and Vellenoweths, who had bought land. People had travelled from distant areas and some of their descendants remain.

Schooling quickly became a major concern to integrate the children, and in the 1870s Richard Monk senior spoke these words in Maori to his friend, Aperehama Uruamo (Porter), (Quote from the Woodhill School Centennial Booklet): “Porter, it would be a good idea to build a House of Learning for the children and future generations to teach them to understand the English language, which will be forever ahead of them".

These two men were instrumental in establishing Woodhill’s first school. It was a punga-type whare as early as 1871 on Mr J J Hoe’s farm with the headmaster, Mr W Fosbroke and his wife, also a teacher, staying at the Hoes’. A Government school was authorised in1876, before Helensville was granted permission in 1877.

In earliest days the flat land bordering the Kaipara River was a swamp, with many fallen kahikatea trees providing a kind of access to the hills behind. These were cleared, as were fine stands of puriri and kahikatea to be floated down the Wharepapa stream to be taken up to the mills in Helensville.

Other early developments were the railway stations at Reweti and Woodhill, established in the 1880s as the railway moved north beyond Helensville. A Post Office was put first at Reweti and later at Woodhill, and a store, built opposite Ambury’s Creamery on the main road, was a general meeting place. The cream was taken by rail to an Auckland butter factory.

The Woodhill Hall was a major community effort built at the turn of the century and widely used for church services and community celebrations and meetings. A library was housed within it in the late1920s. Tennis courts were laid down between the hall and school and used by a flourishing tennis club until well into the 1960s.

In the 1920s an important development took place. Reclamation of the sand dunes encroaching on road and railway brought a new community of forestry development workers, whose wives may or not have been able to follow them.

In 1934, a nursery was established at Woodhill to supply pine trees for the whole area. This created the nucleus for a later forestry settlement of many houses on the hill, where wives and families made a great contribution to the community life in general. In 1987 with the privatisation of Woodhill Forest this section was removed and community life altered.

A tragic loss to the district was the Brynderwyn bus accident on 7 February 1963, when a group of Maori representatives from Reweti were travelling home from meeting the Queen at Waitangi. The people involved were the chosen ones and their loss is still felt by Maori and European alike. In many ways the heart was knocked out of a community hitherto working together - the effects have been far reaching. Colleen Sheffield, author of Men Came Voyaging, was one killed in this accident.

About 1970 the Woodhill store burnt down. There was no longer a focus for gossipy gatherings, such a strong binding force for local activity. Since then people have moved in all directions, but the Woodhill School provides a strong community centre for new many arrivals.

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