Topic: Sawyers Way (TDN 25/02/2020)

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Sawyers Way 

So named because a timber yard once operated on the site, Sawyers Way runs through a housing development in central New Plymouth near Kawaroa Park.

The timber yard was originally owned and operated by Henry Brown (1842-1921) who emigrated from England to New Plymouth with his family in 1858. The Browns farmed at Ōmata where Henry’s father ministered to local Māori, earning himself the nickname of “the backblocks clergyman”.

Henry trained as a carpenter, but when his father purchased 800 hectares of bush at the top of Carrington Road, he established his own sawmill. First bullocks, then bush trams powered by teams of horses, and finally locomotives were used to haul huge 600 year old rimu logs out of the forest. Rimu had been used by Māori for waka, tools and weapons but settlers like Brown valued the abundant reddish-brown timber for building houses. Frames, flooring, doors and roof tiles could all be made out of wood in the colony, meaning that the towns that grew up in Taranaki looked completely different to those full of stone and brick buildings back in England.

Henry Brown & Co. eventually ran sawmills throughout the region but their head office was located in New Plymouth along with their main timber yard, constructed beside the railway line in 1901. The company employed hundreds of men, manufacturing everything from window sashes to butter churns, with butter boxes being a specialty – as many as 40,000 were produced out of white pine every year. Henry Brown & Co. is still going strong, now based in Auckland and run by the fifth generation of this family of pioneering sawyers.

Sawyers Way was named in 2013, after plans to put a luxury hotel on the site fell through. Property developers Sarvee Acquisitions purchased the land in 2004 but went into receivership and so homes were built instead, providing an opportunity to honour the history of the area with a new street.

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