Fitchett family legacy lives on in Brooklyn

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 08:13 27/06/2014

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The Fitchett family owned part of Brooklyn for many years and their legacy lives on in the suburb's street names.

On May 1, 1842, The London sailed into Wellington harbour with John and Louise Fitchett and their seven children on board.

In 1852, John bought blocks in Ohiro and established a 100-acre dairy farm called Ohiro Farm, known also as Fitchett's Farm.

By the 1860s, a township named Fitchett Town had formed in what is now the built-up area on Polhill, west of Ohiro Rd.

John died in 1875 and his son Ashton took over the farm.

Ashton Fitchett Dr, near the top of Polhill, was named after him in 1989.

The Fitchett family farm was one of the main suppliers of milk and dairy products for Wellington in the mid-1800s.

The farm owned 90 cows, which were in milk all year.

To help with the daily processing of 140 gallons of milk, Ashton imported a mechanical milk separator.

He was the first person to do so in New Zealand.

The Tuxon and Hammerich Cream Separator could churn 40 gallons of milk an hour, separating the cream or butter from the milk. It was driven by a 4-horse power steam engine.

Ashton teamed up with R B Todman in 1888 and subdivided much of the area, including turning the family farm into 208 lots for sale.

He bought out Todman's interest, and in 1902 sold another 37 lots.

Upon creating the western Brooklyn township, Ashton named some of the streets after his family and employees.

Bruce Ave is named after Bruce Fitchett, grandson of John. Bruce was still a Brooklyn resident in the late 1940s.

Reuben Ave is named after after Reuben Short, who was a long-time employee of the Fitchett family.

The females of the family were recognised as well, with Laura Ave named after Ashton's wife and Helen St after his eldest daughter.

The original settlers were recognised with Karepa and Apuka streets and Tanera Cres was named after three Maori residents on the land.

They were frequently employed by Ashton.

These streets are mainly residential today.

Karepa St features the hilly Elliott Park, which used to be a farm, and still has wild pigs and goats.

A more recent Fitchett link in the area is Dr Ashton Fitchett, who was a GP in the area for 32 years.

Upon his death The Dominion reported that he was a "lanky and good-humoured individual with a pronounced sense of duty to his patients".

He practised from rooms built at the front of his house at 151 Ohiro Rd, sat on numerous medical boards, training boards, advisory committees, was a member of the New Zealand Medical Association, and a lecturer in medical practice.

He was awarded an OBE in 1984.

Off Ashton Fitchett Dr is the road to the suburb's best-known landmark - the wind turbine.

Built in 1993 by the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand, the turbine was part of a research project into the feasibility of a regional wind farm.

It was bought by Meridian in 1999 and upgraded in 2010.

In winds between 50kmh and 80kmh, the turbine can generate up to 225kW of electricity - enough to power 80 Wellington homes.

Also at the top of Ashton Fitchett Dr are the Polhill gun emplacements.

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In March 1942, the emplacements were built because of the fear of a Japanese invasion or air-raids.

The site also provided accommodation for 109 army personnel.

- The Wellingtonian

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