Tanner Hop Gardens and Oast House
In 1882 a brewery was established in Ellison Rd, Hastings. With a large and successful brewery in the township it is not surprising to find that one of the growth industries was hops. Tanner turned his hand to growing hops after an unsuccessful venture into the tobacco growing business.
Tanner started growing hops on a large area of Riverslea land. The vines extended along the north side of Havelock Road between what is now Windsor Avenue and St. George’s Road, in a 10 chain wide strip. They were grown on large manuka poles dipped in tar which lasted for years. In the early years the hop gardens were of great importance to the infant town.
A double kilned oast house reputed to have been the largest in the Southern Hemisphere was built in 1882. Two brick towers containing the kilns and drying floors were built each end of a long two storied building. Tanner installed a powerful hop press under E.J. Whibley’s management. By 1986 250 hop pickers were required. The bales of hops Tanner sent to the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in 1887 were said to compare favourably with “our best Kents”. In picking season, whole families camped in tents in the plantation, then men, women and older children all hop picking with payment by the bushel basis. The whole crop was absorbed locally, but later on unwise adventure in shipping hops, contributed to Tanner’s other losses.
In the early days then cooling and storing floors of the two storied building were the centre of social events. The oast house provided shelter for many settlers in the disastrous 1897 floods. The building was later used as a school, Sunday school, community hall and Mission hall. In the 1931 earthquake the brick towers collapsed.