Greytown, a potted history

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An hour from Wellington on the other side of the Rimutaka hills is the small town of Greytown. Greytown owes its existence to the energy and initiative of early settlers in Wellington who were looking for small affordable portions of land to farm and to the assistance of the Governor, Sir George Grey.This was acknowledged by the settlers who named the town Greytown in his honour.

The Small Farms Association was set up in 1853. Each purchaser would have a town section of 1 acre, costing 1 pound and a 40 acre farm block nearby for which they were to pay 10 shillings an acre. The layout of Greytown with its long Main Street, dates from the original survey in 1853,when 120 one acre sections, 60 on either side of the main road were surveyed by W Corbett. This makes Greytown the first planned inland town in New Zealand.

The Greytown Soldiers Memorial Park with its native bush,camping grounds and sports grounds is part of an original 40 acre block. Not all the sections were sold. In 1871 the Greytown Trust Lands Trust was set up, by Act of Parliament and its investments and land rents have enabled it to be a generous benefactor to the town, especially in recent years.
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In late March 1854 the first party of six intrepid souls, including one woman, their possessions carried by 4 bullocks crossed the Rimutakas on foot and arrived to camp near Cobblestones A small memorial shelter marks the spot today.They immediately set to work to build shelters and small cottages.Within five years more substantial buildings,shops, hotels and larger houses were built. Fire was a continuing hazard but enough remains today to give a strong Victorian flavour to the Main Street.

Conservation of trees and the environment has always been important for local citizens. In 1890 the first Arbor Day planting in New Zealand was held in Greytown and trees from that planting still stand alongside the main highway just south of the town. In 1919 an opportunity arose to buy 20 acres of O'Connor's Bush, an uncut remnant of lowland forest.Farsighted citizens gave money generously & the beautiful Memorial Park remains as a memorial to the men of Greytown who gave their lives for their country in both World Wars.

When the railway by-passed Greytown in the 1870s, Greytown's position as the pre-eminent town in the Wairarapa slowly declined.The years passed quietly until the 1970s. In a strange way this has helped modern Greytown, as little building went on from 1920 to 1970 and the lovely old colonial buildings with their exotic trees were left largely untouched.

The current inhabitants of the town are increasingly proud of their heritage. Old buildings have been sensitively upgraded and put to new purposes... cafes, craft shops, week-end cottages and homes of Wellington commuters. Today Greytown is an attractive and thriving community.

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Cobblestones Wairarapa's Early Settlers Museum Once Hastwell's Coaching Stables, dating back to 1857. The Museum Project was initiated in 1969 by the Greytown Jaycees with assistance from the Wairarapa Horsedrawn Society. Since then many early buildings of note, all with an interesting history, have been moved to Cobblestones from other parts of the Wairarapa. The first Methodist Church built by Hart Udy in 1865 from timber sawn at his Matarawa mill just north of the Waiohine River, and the original Greytown Hospital, the first one in the Wairarapa, built in 1875 are now part of the complex.

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