Averill, Edward Piddocke (Ted) & Shirley Interview

I’m introducing Edward Averill and his wife Shirley from Hastings, and this is on behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank, 11th of January 2017. Good morning Ted, and I’d like you to tell us all about your side of the Averill family from when they first arrived and moved into Hawke’s Bay. Thank you.

Echills:  This property was originally one thousand six hundred and ninety acres and was purchased from Mr Hector Smith by Edward Averill in March 1916. Prior to this Edward Averill had been farming two properties in the Dannevirke district after relinquishing the management of Maungaturoto Station. He arrived in New Zealand about 1880, having served a period with Lloyds’ Bank in Staffordshire, England.

He joined the staff of the Bank of New Zealand at Woodville on arrival in New Zealand, and after a short time was sent to Matamata Station in the Waikato which was then owned by the New Zealand Assets Board (Bank of New Zealand). Matamata was originally owned by the Firth family but owing to bad times they were unable to meet their commitments at the bank. His first job at Matamata was evidently in the role of bookkeeping but later was put in charge of the eighty or so plough teams, which proved to be valuable training for future years.

A great deal of breaking in of the country was at this time – as much as five thousand acres being sown in swedes and a further thousand acres annually in oats. A lot of this team work was done by contract. Matamata at this stage was about a hundred and twenty thousand acres and was supervised by John McCore. E (Edward) Averill was eventually put in charge of the Okoroire Block, which was about thirty thousand acres.

About 1901 he was sent by the Assets Board to manage Maungaturoto Station in Dannevirke, about thirty thousand acres. This station was originally taken over from the Maoris by Captain Hamilton who descended from whose ancestry who had helped to make Scottish history.  Hamilton, like the Firths at Matamata, could not meet his obligations to the bank and so lost the property.  In the course of a few years, 1902, the Assets Board subdivided a big portion of Maungaturoto into small farms. The Homestead Block which was left with about three thousand five hundred acres, was bought by the Knight brothers who appointed E (Edward) Averill as Manager.

In 1909 he gave up the management of the farm to farm the two properties mentioned before on his own account.

In 1914 Olrig Station, now known as Olrig and Whanakino Stations, totalling fourteen thousand acres, was managed by R B Humphreys.  The latter about this time had made arrangements on taking over the management to be allowed to purchase one thousand sixteen ninety (1,690) acres of the Station for himself. However, he died prior to being able to stock it, which left the Smith brothers in a bit of a quandary. On the recommendation of the late Mr Jack Lane, E (Edward) Averill was appointed manager of Olrig with the [same] [word deleted by loud noise] conditions of the right to purchase land when he took up management.

Echills was the name of the farm at Kings Bromley, Staffordshire, England which was farmed by the Averill family for many years. After the disposal of the Dannevirke properties that E (Edward) Averill owned, the sheep from this district were brought to Echills by his sons, C G (Cecil George) Averill and L R (Leonard Rochford) Averill, being railed from Dannevirke to Waipawa and then driven overland through Argyll, Tikokino and Kereru. These sheep, being well into the Lincoln breed and on better land down there, did not do so well at Echills. Echills had all been ploughed, cropped and grassed prior to purchase.

In May 1924 a further ninety and a half acres were purchased from H J Smith at £7 per acre. This was part of the paddock called the Upper Horse Paddock, Whanakino Station – part of it. In March 1928 a further eighty-five and three quarter acres were purchased from Mr Smith at £8 per acre. This consisted of the paddocks known as the Wedge and the Rileys. In August 1929 fourteen and a half acres were purchased from Mr Smith being part of the Williams Hill, Whanakino Station block. This land which was purchased for £7 an acre resulted in putting the boundary on a much better line. The property now consisted of eighteen hundred and eighty-two acres, and the total cost was approximately £15,700.

In 1931 when the disastrous worldwide slump set in, which lasted for several years, it was agreed by Mr Smith to make an adjustment to the interest charges. During the slump the Mortgages Relief – that was set up by the Government, which allowed people to apply to the Court when arrangements could not be made privately concerning the payments on interest, rents etcetera. And the following will give some indication of prices received for stock during this slump –

  • In June 1930 forty-nine yearling steers and fifty-three yearling heifers and one hundred and eighty-seven five-year ewes realised £317.
  • In December forty-six bales of wool £337.
  • In 1931 one fat heifer and one bullock realised £6 and three cents (surely a mistake).
  • In 1932 a hundred and thirty-four five-year ewes realised £58 12s 4d, eighty-seven ewes at Stortford Lodge £28 1s 2d.
  • October 1932 two bullocks, twenty-two cows, £121 3s.
  • In March 1933 two hundred and thirteen five-year ewes £90 10s.
  • April six fat steers £39 14s 11d.
  • In 1931 the loss on the farming of the property amounted to £915.
  • In 1932 the loss amounted to £435.

In 1935 prices had started to improve.

  • In June 1935 sixty-seven in-lamb five-year ewes made £75.
  • August thirty-nine fat ewes £28.
  • March twenty-seven steers £212.
  • February seventeen fat lambs 16/- each; a hundred wethers £1 each.

In 1924-25 Olrig Station which had been run as a partnership up until this stage had been managed by E (Edward) Averill. The Trustees of the late C A Smith and Mr Hector Smith at this time decided to dissolve the partnership and run each of their respective properties separately. One of the reasons I suspect because Ned Smith – Ned Nelson Smith – was coming of age and he was going to inherit his share of the estate, which happened to be Olrig Station as it turned out. The Trustees retained the name of Olrig, and Mr Hector Smith’s property was called Whanakino.

In 1926 E (Edward) Averill took a trip to Europe – his only trip back to his old country – returning the following year to final settle at Echills. The latter property, until this date, had been run by C G (Cecil George) Averill and L R (Leonard Rochford) Averill and M P (Maurice) Averill, his three sons, under the supervision of E (Edward) Averill. At this stage L R (Leonard Rochford) Averill was appointed manager of Whanakino Station and the late Alec McKenzie was appointed manager of Olrig. L R (Leonard Rochford) Averill remained at Whanakino Station as manager until 1938 and then went to Maraekakaho to farm the Cottage Block, as it was known. This was owned by a Mrs Fountaine who was a daughter of Sir R D D McLean. She lived in England and had been married to Admiral Fountaine.

In 1921 C G (Cecil George) Averill took over the present property known as Woodgate which he farmed for many years, finally taken over by his son Edward. Woodgate was named after a property farmed by the Averill family for three hundred years at Kings Bromley, Staffordshire, England and separated by about a mile from the Echills Farm previously mentioned in England. Woodgate was originally part of a settlement after the ’14-’18 War and Cecil Averill added a hundred and twenty acres to that in a purchase from Mr Smith at a later date.

Edward passed away in June at the age of eighty-two, the property being left in equal shares to the three sons, which they farmed in partnership until 1960. The property was then surveyed into three blocks, Mr M P (Maurice) Averill retaining the Homestead Block of six hundred and seventy-nine acres;  L R (Leonard Rochford) Averill retaining the Sugar Pots and Kereru Blocks totalling five [hundred and] ninety-six acres. C G (Cecil George) Averill took over the paddocks called Whanakino Triangle and the Square, totalling six hundred and eight acres.  The Square was never part of the original Olrig Station, being purchased by the Smith Bros [Brothers] from the then owners of Kereru Station who found it awkward to work being cut off from the farm for the rest of the Station.

C G (Cecil George) Averill’s portion of Echills was taken over by his son, George, and Charles, his brother, also having an interest in it. This farm is called Merlindale. To get access to this property a small block of country was purchased from Kereru Station on which George built his present home, and a cutting and bridge had to be put across the Whanakino Gorge, which was quite a formidable job. Mr M P (Maurice) Averill and L R (Leonard Rochford) Averill continued the farm in partnership.

After Roche Averill went to Maraekakaho the management of Whanakino was taken over by Ian Smith, the only son of Hector Smith. He continued to farm there and became very friendly with my mother and father, Cecil and Zillah. When the War started he decided he’d have to go away to the War and he asked my father, Cecil, if he would take over the management of Whanakino on a short term basis until something else was found. He went away to the War and got killed in action and Cecil stayed on farming Whanakino until 1946 when he had to go back to his own farm. So he suggested to Mr Smith that his son-in-law, Moore Renton who was manager of Dalgety’s in Nelson, should come up and have a look and see if he felt like taking it over. This was duly done and Moore Renton came up and had a look around and decided – okay, it was on, and he and Rachel moved up and took over Whanakino.  And Dad went back to running Woodgate.

The other Averill son which hasn’t been mentioned and didn’t farm was Eric, and he was the eldest. He went to England on a trip at the beginning of the ’14-’18 War and stayed with a bachelor Uncle at Worthing. Well one day the Uncle received a letter from him saying he’d disappeared – that he was on the Western Front and it gave him a bit of shock. Well, in 1917 he was offered a Commission with a Gurkha Regiment in India, and decided to take that and get out of the hellhole, and went to India and was killed in a riot there in 1921 – he’s buried in India. And that’s the only part he takes in this story.

Two men came out from England, Averill cousins. It will be difficult to find two men so unlike in physique and character as these men were. That is emphasised by the contrasting nature of their callings, for Edward was a banker, Walter a churchman. Edward died so closely resembling a recluse that it would be splitting hairs to attempt to deny it. Walter wrote his biography shortly before his death, so the life of one is a closed book;  that of the other an open book, thereby simplifying the task of my review.

Edward was cautious and uncommunicative. Walter was gregarious, a man of the people, an extrovert. Edward was none of these things. The paths of the cousins did not cross frequently. As men and citizens they were poles apart. Edward was lean and spare of figure … according to one of his daughters-in-law ‘thin as a rake all his life’. Walter was a man of all round better physique, he was a rounder feature, and genial. At Varsity Walter had rowed with distinction, whereas Edward’s chief form of relaxation seemed to be walking. He would have made a good harrier. Edward was not a Varsity man. Walter on the other hand was a man of God. He rose to the rank of Archbishop in the Anglican Church.

Edward spent most of his life managing farming property. He owned land and farmed it on his own account. He had an impressive record in public life.  Edward Averill took an interest in local affairs. He was one of the prime movers in the formation of the Dannevirke A & P Association and served a time as President. He was Chairman of the Howard Estate Board;  a member of the Hawke’s Bay Rabbit Board;  a director of the Hawke’s Bay Farmers Co-operation; on the committee of the Hawke’s Bay A & P Society;  and was assessor on the Land Management Board. He was also on the Land Board which was formed in 1913.  The following people were on the Land Board: Pope, Berry, Buckley, Dingle, Punk, Orvill, McKenzie, Hogan, Alport, Paul, Wilson, Massey (Prime Minister), Grigg, Reynolds and E Averill.

When Cecil and Zillah Averill retired from Woodgate, their eldest son Ted, who had married Shirley Dineen, took over the property in 1961. We farmed there until 1993. We had three children, two sons and a daughter.  Eldest son Simon, second son Stephen, and last, daughter Caroline.

Cecil drew Woodgate in the ballot and moved from Echills, and a house was built in 1936 and he and Zillah moved into that house and farmed Woodgate. They had quite a lot of children – they had Anne first, a girl, and then Joan and then Ted, and then George, and then Charles and then Mary. Anne was killed tragically in the Napier Earthquake at the Napier Hospital before Ted was even born, aged five. Ted – probably to his disadvantage – left school and farmed with his father ’til he took over – he probably should have gone and farmed somewhere else for a while … worked somewhere else for a while. George took occasional employment at other farms and then took over Merlindale at the back of Cecil’s share of Echills, and Charles was in partnership in there as ownership went, and he farmed in Gisborne when he married. The boys went to Hereworth and then Nelson College. It’s interesting that both Cecil and Ted, and Ted and Shirley’s two boys went to Nelson.

Why’d you go to Nelson – it’s not a great school?

Shut up.  [Chuckle]  We beat you at football. [Laughter]

Not this year, 2016.  Christ’s won it.  [Chuckle]

They still have that in Collegiate do they?

Where was your luggage? 

Well the Nelson boys in my day – there was a big contingent from Gisborne, came down on the steam trains through to Wellington and then on the overnight ferry across to Nelson direct. There were two old ships, the Matangi and the Arahura. The Arahura was an old wool ship, and one memorable time it was at the wharf and a man was going along with a hammer banging the plates, like they do on the railway wagons, and suddenly his hammer went through.  [Chuckle]  However that was quickly patched up.

She was a great old sailing ship though, she went through some good storms. But they had to stop in French Pass, which was sheltered water to pick up the Webber boys whose father farmed in French Pass.  And they came out by boat alongside the ship, their luggage was pulled up by rope and they climbed the rope ladder, and the ship could stay stationary only for twenty minutes because of rip tides and then it had to move. So you’d wake up in the night and hear this bang, bang, bang, bang as the Webber boys climbed up, and then the engines would rumble and we’d be on our way again – quite interesting. And we pulled into Nelson Port one morning rather early and there was a cutter, coastal cutter, tied up along the wharf.  And we were thinking as we were coming in, ‘we’re moving quite fast here’, but we continued quite fast and gave the cutter a damn good bang [chuckle] which got a rather raucous and voluble remark from the fella who came out of the cabin. [Chuckle]

So I mean, how many years were you at Nelson College?

Three. Simon and Stephen went … we went down there a lot – we love Nelson. It’s quite an interesting place.  Out in the country in Motueka and places like that they’ve got a glass works and they’ve got antique shops and things that you just don’t see anywhere else.  And I asked a woman in an antique shop – it was actually a second hand shop, but it was an antique shop in my opinion – and I said to her, “where do you get all this wonderful stuff from?”  And she sort of said “a lot of English people come out and retire in Nelson and die”, and she said “we get the stuff.” And that’s why they’ve got such good quality. But we like Nelson, and up all the little valleys, the potters and pot smoking and God knows what … it’s really quite interesting.

Thank you Ted and Shirley … thank you for an interesting talk from you, Ted and on behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank, thank you once again.


  1. In 1993 Ted and Shirley retired from the farm and their son Stephen took over management.
  2. See also Oral History for George Rochford (Hanson) Averill & Ann Averill

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Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin


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