Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

15 November 2009

Hororata Hotel

I wrote and illustrated ‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’. It was published in 1995 and was a snapshot of some New Zealand pubs as they were at the end of the 20th century. I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.

Hororata came close to being a railway town when a line from Christchurch to the West Coast via Browning Pass was surveyed. It’s on record that the Hororata Domain Board members kicked up a stink when they heard that it might pass through the eastern part of the domain.

In 1865, fortunately for Hororata and the travelling public, Arthur Dudley Dobson found Arthur’s Pass where it had always been, and the threat disappeared. All the same there was pedestrian demand for accommodation along the old Maori greenstone route, from hunters, and from drovers taking cattle from Longbeach to Hokitika via Browning Pass. A chain of accommodation houses grew, one of which was set up in Hororata by Edwin Derrett. Having arrived in 1852, he was one of the first settlers in the district and it seems he spread his interests between farming and hospitality. Sometime later he built a hotel which was sold as new in 1873 and re-sold in 1874 to Thomas Napier.

In 1882, Napier had a new, two-storeyed timber pub built by local tradesmen. It was described as: ‘large and lofty… almost entirely surrounded by tall pines, and the crescent-shaped roadway by which it is approached from the main road gives it a pleasing appearance.’

A 1903 photograph from the ‘Cyclopaedia of New Zealand’ shows Thomas Napier’s pub, owned at the time by Patrick Crowe. It is a fine clapboard building with modillioned eaves, and ornamented lintels over the doors and windows. Arranged before the pub, in attitudes of studied indifference, is a group of local patrons; the whole scene is framed by large macrocarpa trees. It is that same hotel that stands today; macrocarpas still frame the scene and the windows and doors still have their bracketed lintels but the modillions have disappeared and the clapboard exterior is hidden under a stucco cladding. The pub was ‘re-designed and modernised’ in 1967 but I suspect that the old timbers are still slumbering under all that plaster.



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By Don Donovan