Farms & Houses
Williams Houses Nearby
Four of Henry and Marianne’s sons married and farmed in Pakaraka or in areas adjacent. In recognition of the likelihood that only a few of his family would be able to have a career in the Church, Henry began purchasing land in 1833 for their ultimate support. It is evident that he was looking to a future where there was some sharing of daily and spiritual life, and which would provide income and resources for families for whom farming was virtually the only occupation at the time.
To begin with, six unmarried sons worked on the farm at Pakaraka, inhabiting basic accommodation they built some time in the late 1830s. This structure was still standing at the time Henry and Marianne were compelled to move to Pakaraka in 1850, and served to provide storage space and accommodate family and visitor overflow – such as when the first Holy Trinity Church was opened. A drawing by Henry Williams made in 1854 shows the Retreat at left, the spire of the Holy Trinity Church in the background, and the house of Henry Jnr. and Jane Williams at right. To the right of this and towards the rear is a structure with a chimney and shingle roof, partly obscured by vegetation. This is almost certainly the original basic accommodation. Its fate is not known but it is likely to have remained standing into the 1860s, its function much as before. Prior to this, in 1848, Henry Jnr. and Jane built their house in front, very much in the Georgian style his parents would follow. It was here that his parents stayed while the Retreat was being built. Both houses were still standing into the 1860s, by which time Henry and Jane had moved into their new home at Pouerua leaving their first one empty. It seems likely that John and Sarah Williams and their growing family then moved in.
As their family continued to grow, John and Sarah Williams used Henry and Jane’s first house as the basis for a major extension: a two-storied Victorian structure, connected to the original house at the rear which provided a kitchen and servants quarters - exactly when it was added is not clear, although the early 1870s seems likely. Called ‘The Homestead’ it survived for many years until destroyed by fire early in the 20th century, with only the foundations remaining. The Williams inhabitants had long since moved on and the house had been operating as a care facility and Pakaraka’s first school. A modern house now occupies the site. Remarkably, three other wooden houses built by the sons survive today and are described below.
Puketona (Choat House)
This was the house of Edward and Jane Williams, built some time between April 1860 (when their latest child was born at Waimate) and 1861,when Edward was appointed Resident Magistrate with his address given as Puketona. Of two stories, the house was attractively built in colonial style with a central wall dormer above the verandah and a gabled front with a bay window at the right hand side. Edward moved to Auckland in 1881, and from 1887 James Choat and his growing family lived in the house. Prior to 1914, the house served for a period as a place where the settlers could collect their mail. The house and farm was bought in 1921 by the Choat family and is still known as ‘Choat House’. Although over time parts of the interior have been modernized, little has been changed and the exterior has retained its original appearance. The house has a Category One Heritage Listing.
Built for Henry Williams Jun. and his wife Jane, the foundations of this house were laid in 1861 and the planting of trees and shrubs began. The structure was completed in 1863. Originally built in a post-Georgian colonial style with gable-fronted dormer windows and a surrounding verandah, it is an elegant structure that has maintained much of its original appearance in spite of some alteration. Henry’s father (Henry Williams snr.) initially was unenthusiastic about his son’s proposal to build a house, instead urging him to get on with developing the farm. It was a substantial house for two people (their only child had died long before) although it became the focus for his Council activities in the late 1870s. It has a Category Two Heritage Listing.
Built in 1867, Joseph Williams’ house was described by his father as ‘very beautiful,’ reflecting its design by the prominent Auckland Architect, Richard Keals. It was the most imposing of the Williams houses in the area, with an impressive façade in the Victorian style, and 13 rooms although Joseph Williams had no family. It has a Category Two Heritage Listing. A watercolour of the house by the noted painter, Alfred Sharpe, is dated 1882. It has kept much of its original appearance and is undergoing restoration by its current owners.
Collectively the houses demonstrate a growing prosperity within the colony and a desire of individuals to give an impression of substance to their properties, reminiscent of their landed counterparts in Britain. The houses themselves occupied a transition from Georgian style colonial to Victorian solidity. For several of the family, their tenure in the North was relatively short, as there was a slump in the 1870s and positions in the commercial, legal and political world beckoned. For those with a continued interest in farming the Eastern regions of the North Island, and family connections, were attractions. Although relationships with the Church were still strong, something of a line was now being drawn under the solely missionary preoccupations of the family.