A small, peeling plaque at the gate of a local property is one of the last remaining signs of some of the earliest European settlement of Tamahere.
The plaque is emblazoned with the word, Wartle, the name given by a pioneer Scot, Patrick Leslie, to the grand, 14 room homestead and substantial 625 ha (1544 acre) farm he established there in the late 1800s. It earned him the title ‘Father of Tamahere’.
But when archeologists went digging recently for signs of the homestead, its extensive grounds and many farm buildings they came up short.
In the 1860s, Tamahere stretched further east to where Matangi is now and today’s Wartle sign – the name flanked by stylised horses heads – hangs on the white picket fence that marks the entrance to 202 Matangi Rd.
It was there that archeologists went looking for evidence of the homestead and farm outbuildings as part of preparations for the construction of the Waikato Expressway.
But Opus International senior archeologist Sian Keith said little was found on the site and information on the property was also sparse in written historical records.
She hoped local residents might have more information and possibly photographs of the elusive estate.
“I would be interested if any local people had information on The Wartle,” she told Tamahere Forum.
After Patrick Leslie the Wartle Estate was owned by other early Tamahere farmers Joseph Barugh and William Oliver.
One of the most detailed accounts of Patrick Leslie’s time in the Waikato has been pieced together by his descendant, Barrie Leslie, a Tauranga-born New Zealander who now lives in Australia and is Commissioner of the Scottish Clan Leslie for Australia and New Zealand.
Patrick Leslie was already legendary in Australia when he arrived with his family in New Zealand. He and his brothers, sons of the ninth laird of Warthill and eighth of Folla, were the first settlers of the Darling Downs, later to be part of Queensland.
Patrick was born in Warthill, also known as Meikle Wartle, in Aberdeenshire, on September 25, 1815. He went to Australia in 1835 and in an industrious few years until 1858 he explored and settled the Darling Downs, founded the town of Warwick and was briefly a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.
The Waikato years
Descendant Barrie Leslie takes up the story from when Patrick Leslie arrived, via Britain, with his wife Kate and several children in Auckland on October 20, 1868.
They Leslies were “armed with introductions to Governor Sir George Bowen … In May 1869, Queen Victoria’s second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, visited Auckland. During his visit, Patrick and Kate attended a Levee at Government House in Auckland, as well as a ball on the 24th May to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday.”
On November 5, 1869, Leslie bought the first parcel of land that was to become Wartle, named after the family lands in Aberdeenshire. His final purchase of land brought Wartle to a total of 1544 acres (625 ha). Patrick was gazetted a Justice of the Peace in November 1869.
“Wartle is 6km south east of Hamilton on the Matangi Road,” Barrie Leslie notes. “In the 1860s, Tamahere stretched further east to where Matangi now stands, and Patrick was regarded as the Father of Tamahere. The Matangi Road runs along the north boundary of Wartle but the road did not exist in Patrick’s time.”
Barrie Leslie says that when Patrick and Kate first arrived in Hamilton a small cottage was erected on the estate until the main homestead could be built. The homestead, when built, was made of kahikatea, which grew on the estate.
A substantial home, it had 14 rooms, excluding the kitchen, scullery, storerooms and offices. There was a also coach house, harness room, accommodation for 14 horses and a hay loft. The farm buildings consisted of four cottages, a dairy, stable, hay room, seed room, cart and implement sheds.
“The grounds were extensive, with gardens, lawns and shrubbery containing a selection of imported, as well as native, plants and shrubs,” Barrie Leslie notes. “Some of the trees are still there to this day and are up to 30m in height. There are exotics such as Atlas and Himalayan Cedars, Elegans Japonica, Mediterranean Cypress, Magnolia Grandiflora and Lombardy Poplars, and nine are listed in the book Historic & Notable Trees of New Zealand.
“The land was fenced into 28 paddocks, was well watered and planted in clover and English grasses. There was also an extensive orchard and, of course, a vineyard. In the gully behind the old homestead site, self sown grapes are still growing wild to this day.”
Access to Wartle was originally through Pickering Road, from the State Highway One end, but this added seven miles to the trip to Hamilton. The distance to Hamilton was halved when Patrick’s neighbour, Charles Ewen, granted Patrick a right-of-way over the Mangaone Stream. Patrick called for tenders to build a bridge across the stream. This became what is known as Leslie’s Gully on SH1 where Riverlea Wreckers is today. The gully formed part of the southern boundary of Wartle.
Patrick was very active in local affairs and in November 1870, he was invited by his friend, Donald McLean, Minister for Native Affairs, to stand for parliament. He declined which didn’t stop McLean trying again 12 months later also to no avail.
“In January 1876, it was Patrick who headed a petition to Frederick Whitaker asking him to stand for Waikato for Central Government. Whitaker accepted and later became Premier of New Zealand,” Barrie Leslie notes.
Patrick’s stud of Lincoln sheep, which he brought with him from England, were much sought after for breeding purposes and won many prizes in the Agricultural Shows in the district. In Queensland he is regarded as the father of stud breeding.
Patrick and Kate’s wastrel son Norman, who accompanied them to New Zealand with his wife and children, brought them great grief and financial hardship. Norman’s wife left him, leaving the couple’s four younger children with Patrick and Kate. A few years later Norman died.
“Patrick and Kate must have decided that as they now had responsibility for four young grandchildren it would be prudent to move to Sydney where they would have family support if anything went wrong,” Barrie Leslie surmises. “Wartle was put up for sale in 1880 but by then it had reduced in acreage [to 800 acres or 323 ha) and it was not a good time to sell because of the world wide depression.” The smaller Wartle was bought by Joseph Barugh.
“Some of the land was not sold until 1885, and sad to say the homestead lasted only 40 years as kahikatea is very prone to attack by borer,” Leslie records. “The third owners of the estate, the Oliver family, built a new home, and then in 1913 the homestead was burnt, as it was in a very dangerous condition.”
Patrick and Kate left Hamilton in April 1881. They settled in North Sydney where, a few months later in September 1881 Patrick, who had been in ill health for some time, died. He was 65.
Know more about Wartle or the Leslies, Barughs or Olivers? Have photographs or other records of the Wartle Estate? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below or click here to email Tamahere Forum’s Philippa Stevenson
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