Neville Kennedy Norwell Interview

Today is the 6th of October 2014. I’m recording the life and times of Neville Norwell, retired architect of Havelock North, Hastings and he will outline from woah to go, or from go to woah about his life. Right Neville, welcome and I’d like you to start telling us something about where your folks came from original, that’s your grandparents, where they came from over the waves.

Hello Frank. It’s quite a long story, I’ve got to think and go back in time. First off my father came from County Antrim in Northern Ireland. He came out to New Zealand and I have no idea what brought him out here, I cannot answer that one. My mother was born and lived in Hamilton and she ended up in Hawke’s Bay. My father came to Hawke’s Bay, I think there was work here that brought him down here, and he worked for Dick Sunderland at Undercliffe. He was head gardener there for a number of years. From there, thinking of myself, I was born in Havelock North. My parents lived in Te Mata Road opposite the 18 hole Havelock North golf course which was a very upmarket golf course in the years up to the war and following the war years it never got off the ground again.

Just whereabouts was that? You said you lived opposite it, where was the golf course?

Yes, I’ll tell you where the golf course was. Um, look at Fulford Road, with the Fulford pottery and brick set up at the top of the Fulford Road and the golf course spread from Fulford Road up to where at present the Black Barn restaurant is.


And it followed up to the back of Peloha which exists up that long driveway and up to the low slopes of the – back area there, which I think is all still in grapes.

That’s right.

The golf course was a real hunting ground for me as a youngster, probably a five year old. I used to scrabble around over there and find a number of lost balls and I did quite well by selling these balls to players who used them as practise balls and some of them didn’t even have the slightest scratch on.

Now we move from there to my schooling days, that started at Havelock North Primary School. I just don’t really know, Frank, exactly what year it was but I’m – we can look at that at a later date. I went to Havelock North Primary School played a lot of cricket and a bit of rugby but cricket was my real game and in those days you never played cricket with cricket bats, they were all axe handles or that type of thing that was used out in the domain. And I still remember vividly on the domain, here was a great big metal roller that was used to roll the tennis courts, which no longer exist which were adjacent to the present pavilion, and I remember one day, I don’t know whether you were one of the boys Frank, but I remember there was a somebody McKinley, there was Percy Clapperton, and I just can’t think –

Colin Wake.

Colin Wake.

Frank Cooper, the whole lot of us, we were all guilty of that.

Wheeled the roller and it got away from them down the bank into Napier Road and of course there was no way they could drag this roller back up and it was quite a sight to see this roller being wheeled down Napier Road, around Havelock and back up to the School.

What were the roads like up in Te Mata Road when you were growing up Neville? Were they shingle, or were they?

No they were tar sealed Frank but I think there was a wide shingle edge to the roads, I still remember the gum tree which still exists in St Columba’s grounds there, and the swimming baths, the buildings around there haven’t changed at all.

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

Yes, I had two brothers, brother Ronald was 21 years older than me, he worked on our orchard in Te Mata Road and also worked for the Apple & Pear Board, refrigerating freezers at the Apple & Pear Board. My other brother, Hughie, who went to the War, Ronald didn’t qualify because of his eyesight, Hughie went to the war, came back and carried on with his secretarial work working for W R Richmond in Hastings. He married a Tan Welby and built a home in Lucknow Road, Havelock North where he lived for a number of years until his death, he died suddenly at an early age of 49. He was too young.

To go back to golf, he did exceptionally well at golf with the Havelock North Club. He was Club champion there on three or four occasions, but I was too young to sort of know much more about that set up, other than the Club custodian then was a chap by the name of Bill Peck, he looked after the Clubhouse and the other bits and pieces. Now Frank where do we go from there?

Well, you made mention that the family had an orchard.


Was it an apple orchard?

It was an apple and a pear orchard.

Can you remember what sort of apples they were? Green ones!

Yes and pears.

And did, the family pack them?

Yes, we had a grader in the shed. I can remember that as a youngster and it must have – went the length of the shed, which wasn’t a huge long shed, but there must have been oh, six or seven bins along the grader and that was all packed. I can remember the tissues and cardboard going into the apple cases and in turn the fruit being taken off to Apple & Pear Board.

So your orchard must have boundaried the Joll orchard? Len Joll?

Right, yes.

North of it.

No, no, no, no, Len Joll’s parents, was it George Joll? I can’t remember but they were just Mr and Mrs Joll to me and Len lived in the cottage which was then on the corner of Te Mata Road and Arataki.

Yes, that’s right, yes. So looking back, Havelock in your growing up period was fairly sparsely housed wasn’t it?

Yes it was. I can remember Havelock North, Bourgeois Brothers, a grocery store and I can remember one day, from Havelock Primary School there was Arthur Kwai, Bevan Langley and Ron Greenfield and I, we decided to wag the afternoon – we went to the dairy, bought a packet of Capstan Plain, I remember that but I don’t know where the matches came from, but we went to Bourgeois Brothers and got a penny’s worth of broken biscuits and we took off for the rest of the day. We went down Middle Road and back up – oh I don’t know – roundabout Lucknow Road and all up over the place and next day Arthur Black, our teacher, wanted to know where we were yesterday. The other three got the strap because their excuse wasn’t good enough but I told the story that I’d been to the dentist and I had to tell Mr Black where the dentist was. It was a Miss O’Meara in a green building in town and that got me off, because I seemed to know where we were going. So that’s that.

So then, once you – we move down into the village proper, you left Havelock Primary School and you went off to High School. Which High School did you attend?

I went to Hastings Boys High School and that was under – it was before Mr Tier – it was Penlington that was the name.

That’s right W A G Penlington.

That’s right he was the headmaster. I enjoyed my time at High School. I was in the technical class, and I did engineering, draughting and woodwork, and I did quite well at those subjects. I played a lot of cricket, I didn’t play rugby at High School, but I played a lot of cricket – I was in the 2nd XI and I played two or three games for the 1st XI, thoroughly enjoyed it all. I enjoyed the athletic sports each year, I was more a long distance runner, didn’t do anything spectacular, but I enjoyed the sport.

Just coming back to the Village and the Domain, the Park as we call it, where the big roller was, do you remember Mr Lindsay used to mow that park with a sickle mower about three foot wide, a Gravely sickle mower and left all the grass, this long grass that we used to wrap up into these clubs and beat hell out of one another, do you remember that?

Yes, I do remember that Frank, yes.

I said to one or two other people that I’ve been talking to that we never thought that those days Mr Clapperton, Sam Clapperton who was Percy Clapperton’s father, he used to do the verges with the sickle bar mower round the footpaths and so did Mr Lindsay, and we never sort of, they didn’t have these ride-on mowers that we see today, but those men just quietly moved the stuff.

It was amazing.

So then – once you left High School you went off to architectural – or university.

No, prior to that I left school and my brother Hughie who played golf before the war with Sid Chaplin, took me along to be interviewed by Sid Chaplin because I was mad keen on draughting and drawing plans, and from there I got a job with Davies, Phillips & Chaplin and that lasted for five years, but in that time I grew very interested in becoming an architect and after four and a half to five years I enrolled at Auckland School of Architecture and at this stage I was married, or – when were we married – December the 6th – you’ll have to ask Delcie what year it was. We were married and went and spent five years at Auckland University qualifying as an architect. Came back and went into the firm and as Eric Phillips and Pop Davies retired over time I then joined the partnership and then Sid Chaplin retired and the name changed to Kingsford Sands Norwell and Partners and from there it carried on until John Kingsford retired and it was just – yeah it was Kingsford Sands Norwell & Partners.

So what were some of the notable projects that you worked on in that period, Neville?

Hospital. I did a lot of the hospital buildings in Hastings. Didn’t do any in Napier, that was handled predominantly by the Napier architects. I did a lot of country farm homesteads which was my real forte – I enjoyed those – and I met a lot of wonderful farming people from Central Hawke’s Bay and out and about, Blackhead Beach and all those backwood areas, Porangahau and Wanstead. There are some great families down there. I always ended up coming back from those homes in association with two or three chops or a leg of lamb, it was marvellous.

Yes, yes. Any of those properties really stand out and you sort of look back and think wow, that was really great?

No, I can’t just say that Frank, no. I did a lot of work for the Waipawa Hospital Board but that was not real what you’d call architectural brilliance, it was you know hospital needs, but I got on very well down there in the days that Jack Knobloch was secretary and we did a lot together.

Now during this period of being in Auckland, you were married to Delcie, Delcie Westerman.


And children?

Yes, we had Sharon was number one, and then we had Brent who unfortunately was killed in a car accident a number of years ago and then little Tessa was the baby.


Sharon is married to Davie Holden and they farm at Tikokino, Tessa is married to Marcus Averill, he, at the moment is managing a large farm on D’Urville Island and thoroughly enjoying it.

Now in your own pattern of living, your homes, the first home I knew that you lived in was the one in Simla Avenue, but you must have lived in another one in Havelock before that one.

Yes, we rented a home in Guthrie – Nimon Street, which is off Guthrie Road from a home that Don Burgess owned.

Now isn’t that a coincidence because Kay and I rented that house off him too.

Is that right?



So carry on.

Small world.

Right opposite Don Grooby.

Yes, that’s it. We had a lot of fun there. A lot of parties. I have always enjoyed playing the piano and the old piano sort of rocked …

The area.

Yes it did.

And then you moved to Simla Avenue, that was a house that you designed yourself?

Yes, yes, we moved to opposite what is Black Barn Restaurant, opposite the road there there was a home owned by Vidals.

Yes I know the house you mean, up on the Terrace.

Yes, we rented that for a short period of time while our home in Simla Avenue was being built. And that was a very successful home in Simla Avenue. We had a lot of fun with our family there. What else can I tell you about that?

Then you moved from Simla Avenue down to Undercliffe.

Yes, and we had a number of acres down there. We bred donkeys which was Delcie’s love. We had picked up – some will remember the stables that were in Te Mata Road opposite Durham Drive on the Blackmore property I think it was.

That’s right. Yes, old Charlie Brown.

Yes, Charlie Brown used to live there and Charlie Brown had a lot of stories he could tell up and down Te Mata Road.

Yes, I know.

He let the car drive itself coming home from the hotel.

He did indeed.

Each night and three times I can recall we ended up in quite a deep culvert which is outside Warnes’ property which was just past us in Te Mata Road and the breakdown truck had to come and pull him out. Yes, dear Charlie Brown. And then of course there was the hard case that we used to give what for to, and that was a chap we christened Spooks and I think his problem was, the story goes that he suffered from shell shock during the war years and he used to ride this bike and talk away to himself and the bike was absolutely spotless. He must have polished it each day.

Of course he was dressed immaculately in a dark suit always his pants tucked in with clips and this Homberg on his head and we never knew whether he took offence to us riding at 50 feet behind him or not, but if he had of coughed or turned around we would have been gone like a rocket and so – then – yes – it’s interesting you talk about Undercliffe because before it was broken up an uncle of mine, Bob Wilson, who was a contractor, hay contractor, I used to go down and mow all those flats for all you people, for Haig, for the Sunderlands and later the Dutch – the South African people that owned it, and so yeah, it’s always been interesting, Undercliffe. So then Undercliffe when you – and I always remember Undercliffe because we had a Havelock North Primary School Reunuion there and it was a lovely party place.

Oh yes, definitely.

So the donkeys – when you left – what did you call the place out there – had a name?

Oh – Paremutu.

Yes, that’s right.

Which was Maori for ‘cliff end’.

Yes, when you left there the donkeys – what happened to the donkeys?

No the donkeys came with us to out to the Woolshed. And the donkeys sold when we left the Woolshed.

And then from the Woolshed – I must make a comment here that Neville and Delcie went out and bought a woolshed on a property at Raukawa and turned it from a woolshed into a most beautiful, beautiful almost contemporary ..?

Yeah, I would think so.

Just absolutely amazing, and the people that bought it are still living in it aren’t they?


So from that point you moved back into the Village …


… and built this here.

This was already built Frank.

Right, OK.

Yes, this was already built, and it was architect designed but I’m not mentioning the name, and we are very happy here. The family are all happy with our set up. They visit regularly, Sharon from Tiko and Tessa from out Salisbury Road. Sharon’s home on the farm, Tessa is at the hospital nursing and thoroughly enjoying that. And then – oh we got baby Daisy, which is Lucy’s first child. She’s – oh, five months I think? Eight months old.

So how many in total, grandchildren do you have?

How many grandchildren, just – five. And one great.

One great. Now one thing we mustn’t miss and that’s the piano. It’s always been a very central thing to your life.


Wherever there was a party or gathering of people and Neville Norwell was there.

We had some great nights round the piano didn’t we?

We did indeed.

Rotary parties, other private parties – yes, the piano went and the tunes were the old, old time tunes – ‘If You Knew Susie’, you know, ‘Me and My Girl’. A lot of the wartime tunes.

That’s right.

They were our favourites.

And the music is still alive. The interesting thing is that when someone strikes up the tune everyone knows the words.

That’s dead right.

Now you belong to several organisations during the period of your life, obviously you were involved with the architects’ group, what was your involvement there?

Just a member of the committee and meeting once every couple of months, getting together.


Yes, Rotary was great, I enjoyed every minute of that.

That was the Havelock North Rotary Club?

Havelock North Rotary Club. I started at the Lions for 14 years there I think it was.

I know.

Made a couple of enemies probably, but made a helluva lot of friends. I remember one time a particular gentleman came up to me and said “Look you’re fining that man over there far too much, its being a bit tough on him.”   And I turned round and said “I’m fining him, but I’m giving him the money to put in the plate” and he never said another boo to me. And that’s what I did with a number of members.


I used to give them 10 cents to put in the plate.


All worked well.

Because some people were sitters to be fined.

I know. And other ones who objected always had to say well that’s not right.   Ron Nelson, sorry, was one and …

I know we all knew Ron, Big Ron.

Yes, but he was a good chap.

Yes, yes, he was just that sort of strong, rough …

He had to be on top.

… do it my way. Yes. So any other organisations?

Ah Pony Club.

Yes, Pony Club – with the growing family.

Yes, and that Pony Club we used to meet down at Tommy Cooper’s yards and sheds. He was a generous man. We went to him, Delcie and I started the ball rolling and asked if he would consider it. Yes – open house, he couldn’t do enough for us, but you know – we had to leave the place spotless like we found it and his woolshed was absolutely spotless all the time.

And so now, here we are, sitting in this lovely lounge, lovely rare sight, very private looking out on the camellias, sun streaming in and this is where you and Delcie have come to have quieter days. Which is great. Now Neville can you think of anything that we may not have covered?

Delcie might have.

Neville, you suggested there was one area we omitted and that was Sunday School and your deep training at St Columba. Would you like to make some comment on that?

St Columba Sunday School Bible Class was a lot of fun. The hall which is now demolished, and I was sad to see that disappear, that hall was never locked. It was open to us young folk 24 hours a day and our group, we used to go down there on a Saturday and a Sunday and play badminton and also have singasongs. Ron Jones was one and myself the other – we used to put two pianos, there were two pianos on the stage. One was round the back and one was right at the front, but we used to wheel them and put them back to back. Ron would play the base, I would play the tune on the other piano and that was really something and we used to do that for audiences for parents that – there would be an evening and there were other times when there was just Delcie and I, Delcie on the violin and myself on piano that did items. And we had plays there and one I remember vividly. Some of you may remember there was a record called “Sid Field Plays Golf” and that was a recording of Sid Field learning to play golf and I’ll never forget that. One part in the episode, Sid Field would be asked to make the tea and the fellow instructing him was looking out towards the audience and he turned round and he had wandered all the way back and the fellow taking it would turn round and say to Sid Field ‘what on earth are you doing away back there?’ He said ‘I’m going to make the tea’ which – the tea was the tee to go in the ground to hold the ball. We had a lot of fun there.

Was – you know, some of the identities in the Village ’cause we had Win Warnes as bakery.

The thrupenny pie.

That’s right, the little brown paper bag that you wrote your name on and paid your thrupence and picked it up at lunchtime, and you could smell – pies have never tasted as good as those pies.


Then there was Harold Bush and the broken biscuits…


Bourgeois and the floaty floors …

Estaugh & Horner…

That’s right and Mr Donkin and…

Estaugh & Horner and the garage And he had a great big jeep if you remember.

That’s right, after the war.


The other person was Bob Given.

Yes, the blacksmith.

Bob the blacksmith, you could smell that blacksmith when they were putting the shoes on the horses hooves, the smoke would come off them and…

Always bare-chested with his braces.

Yes, that’s right. A huge man. And of course Joe Nimon and the old buses that we used to go in to woodwork. It was a fun place to grow up in wasn’t it?

Sure was.

So I think that’s probably filled in some of the little bits and pieces.

The plumbers too, Graham Wall.

Oh yes, the Walls, yes.

The Walls and oh…


Ferguson, Frank Ferguson.

Old Frank Ferguson.

Yes, that’s right , the plumber. He was well respected in the Village. Knew every pipe and tap around the place.

Yes, I always remember we used to deal with old Frank Ferguson, then we used to deal with young Frank Ferguson, and then we used to deal with Graham …


… Walley. And now we still … with G A Wall and Son because the boys that were his apprentices still run under his name.


So yeah that’s …

Another identity too that we’ve missed out on and that was dear Bob Thorpe, menswear. He was quite a popular man and a real identity right in the middle of the Village.

That’s right.

Always standing at the door ready to have a chat. Great guy and a top golfer too was Bob.

Yes, and just incidentally I see Joan died.

Yes, I saw that.

Original digital file


Format of the original

Audio recording

Additional information

Interviewer : Frank Cooper

Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.