Monday, 12 September 2016

A Step Back in Time- The 'Big House'; Part 2

Continued on from Part 1

The Hayes Homestead-

After exploring in and around the Hayes factory, we passed through the gate and into the house compound and first up is a visit to the dairy at the back of the homestead...

...where all the necessary equipment was kept including a very familiar Alfa Laval separator. I'm not so sure the one on my childhood farm was an Alfa Laval but it had the same spouts; one into the skim milk vat and one into the cream can.....or our mouth, if we were quick and weren't caught, or a fast wipe through the cream stream with our finger and into our mouth. I think it's the reason I hate (with a passion) pouring cream, especially warm cream!

Beside the homestead is a small garage, a Pedal Car Garage (1938) ...

... and inside the garage is the pedal car that was made for Ernest & Hannahs' first grandchild, Les Hayes, with suitable photo as provenance.

The 'Big House' (1920), as the Hayes family referred to the homestead, was built from sun-dried bricks which had been stored nearby and under tussock during the First World War. The 11-room mud-brick home was the first in the district to have a flushing toilet and electricity and comprises five bedrooms, a drawing room, laundry, kitchen, pantry, bathroom and large passageway.

The vegetable garden at the rear of the house is still in use and supplies Hannahs Cafe with fresh veges and herbs. 

Not far from the backdoor is the water tank tower. I'm sure the small room underneath it would have been used as a coolstore. Nowadays it'd make a great wine cellar.

The home had many innovations for the time, these included an indoor laundry, flush toilet, a shower over the bath and radio piped throughout the house- there are small pipes protruding through the ceiling in some rooms. 

The Drawing Room
Power was supplied to the house years before the national grid was switched on. It was generated by the pelton wheel at the factory. 

Dining Room
The only problem was that when the Hayes switched off the power for the night, it was 'lights off' for all the other homes connected to the system!

Ernest's bedroom- from the information board; Ernest was born in Warwickshire in 1851 and served a 5 year apprenticeship as a millwright, a highly skilled profession. He helped set up flour mills in the district, first the Vincent Flour Mill in Ophir then the Ida Valley Flour mill (500 metres from this site).

Ernest turned to engineering his engineering skills to produce equipment needed by farmers to succeed in the 'new world', tools for fencing, irrigation & pest control and the firm Ernest hayes & Sons was born. Ernest was keenly interested in education and was the first chairman of the local school committee.

He died in 1933, aged 82 years, and is buried in the Hills Creek Cemetery, Oturehua.

Hannah's Room- Hannah Pearson was born in Whittington, Norfolk, England in 1862. She married Ernest in 1881 and the following year, together with baby son Llewellyn, they arrived in Dunedin. Hannah brought up her family of nine children in the mud-brick cottage (now the cafe).

She helped establish the business by selling tools and equipment from farm to farm on bicycle, and was arguably New Zealand's first travelling saleswoman. Hannah was involved in local community activities and worked hard to raise money to build the Anglican Church, St Aidans, in Oturehua.

She died after a long illness in 1946, aged 84 years.

What isn't mentioned on the information board is the fact that when Hannah cycled off, in her full skirts, with catalogue and order book in hand, she travelled to far off  MacKenzie Country and was often away for days on end leaving her eldest daughter, aged 12, to look after her eight siblings.

Quirky design features befitting the engineer builders (Ernest & sons) were sash-opening cupboards, bookshelves secured by wire from the ceiling and as shown here in the bathroom, sheet-metal surfaces. The indoor flush toilet and overhead shower were well ahead of their time.

One of the childrens' rooms.
Some of the original furniture and linen pieces feature in the restored homestead which was known as the ‘‘the grand house" of the district. During restoration, a chattels list was obtained from the Hayes' oldest son to work from, and there were generous donations from daughters-in-law and grandsons who gave items back to the house. 

Side entrance and hallway
The gardens have been restored as close as possible to their original design...

The rock garden and water feature looks very familiar; I'm sure it was a regular feature in 1920s gardens.

I read somewhere that in 1975 the workshops and homestead were just $100 away from falling into the hands of a scrapmetal dealer. Thank goodness that didn't happen and this fascinating look into our past has been preserved for future generations.

There was one more place we wanted  to visit to complete the story- the Hills Creek Cemetery which  we visited later in the afternoon after a couple more stops on the circuit we were travelling.

The family plot includes Ernest's sister and two unmarried daughters. There are a number of other graves close by that hold more family members and it was with interest that I noted the name 'Pearson' making a regular appearance. My father's middle name is Pearson, which is not a usual middle name. 

It wasn't until I was working on the first blog that I realised the Hannah's maiden name was Pearson. The Hayes obviously gave many(if not all) of their children her maiden name as a middle name, which I thought would have been quite forward thinking for their time. 

If you'd like to see many more photos from our visit to Hayes Engineering Works, I've uploaded them to their own special Flickr folder- click on this link to view.


If you haven't already, a visit to E Hayes & Sons, a hardware store in Dee Street, Invercargill is also a must visit if you're in Southland. Irving Hayes, one of the Hayes' sons, opened the store in 1932 and it's still run by 4th & 5th generation family members today. 

Not only does the shop sell just about everything anybody ever wanted, it is full of memorabilia, vintage machinery and over 100 classic automobiles & motorcycles. The 'pièce de résistance' and main attraction is the original 1920 Indian Scout belonging to Burt Munro; that's Burt of  'The World's Fastest Indian' fame.


  1. Gawd blimey...another place to visit...big Bert Munro fan....what a step back in time!

    1. On, you'll just love Hayes Hardware store, the collection is amazing. And you should time your visit with the Burt Munro Challenge, Invercargill put on every year- it's in November.

  2. Thanks for that Challenge on the Burt Monro Challenge...noted!


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