Sheep station stays stationary in history

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 10:19 01/12/2012

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A century and a half of hoarding has turned a Wairarapa sheep station into a valuable and quirky time capsule.

Brancepeth Station, established by the Beetham family in 1856, is a Historic Places Trust Category 1 listed site.

Boasting a large homestead and several outbuildings, the station, 20 kilometres east of Masterton, has been scrupulously preserved.

Some of the rooms stand as they did a century ago, complete with the original books, paintings, furnishings and a range of assorted curios.

A book entitled In the Boar's Path: Brancepeth, published by Masterton's Hedleys Books, will be launched tomorrow. It celebrates the station's history, from humble beginnings to becoming one of the largest sheep stations in the country, with 100,000 sheep on 31,000 hectares.

Descendent Edward Beetham, who now owns the house, said the reason for the level of preservation was simple.

"Our family are terrible hoarders, and very poor thrower-outers."

As the household shrank, the various rooms and buildings were left as they were.

"The clerk's desk is pretty much as he left it when he finished up in 1936."

Son William Beetham said many of the rooms looked like "someone just walked out".

"The trick is to keep it that way, that's the challenge."

The property includes a large stable, a coach-house containing a collection of buggies and motorcars, a library of 2000 Victorian books, a school, a smithy, a store and a cookhouse.

At its peak a staff of more than 300 were on the Brancepeth payroll, and 100 lived on site.

In 1905 the enormous 32-room, 10,000 square foot homestead was built, complete with a battlemented tower.

Historian Gareth Winter, who wrote the book's essay, said the Beethams originally walked over the Rimutaka Hill from Wellington.

"The remarkable thing about it is it must be one of the best-preserved farm buildings in the country."

Brancepeth is supported by the Beethams, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, local trustees and friends.

Contact Seamus Boyer
Wairarapa reporter
Email: seamus.boyer@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @SeamusBoyer

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- The Dominion Post

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