Skip to main content

Worksop Farm, Charles and Mary Dixon, pioneers

William Mein Smith: Watercolour of Worksop Farm ; Dixon's ; Walter Tiller's grandfather's home, Worksop Road, Masterton, New Zealand. [ca 1863]

Charles Dixon was born in Worksop, England, in 1819 and married Mary Kirton in 1838. They came to New Zealand in 1841 and Charles set up a dairy farm in Karori.  Charles was part of the group that set up the Small Farms Association in 1853 whose aim was to provide affordable access to land for the ordinary man.

At that time much of the land in the Wairarapa was tied up in 21 year leases to  runholders, who were making it very difficult for anyone else to buy land.  Joseph Masters and Henry Jackson, representing the Small Farms Association, met Retimana and his son-in-law Ihaiah Whakamairu at Ngamutawa Pa in March 1853 and as a result the necessary deeds were signed to enable a small farm settlement to go ahead in what is now Masterton. Whakamairu returned to Wellington with Masters to complete the sale.

Charles and Mary Dixon came to Masterton in 1854, possibly as Masterton's first settler, and set up Worksop Farm and an accommodation house which was located between Casel and Kaka Streets.  The accommodation house burnt down in the 1880s.

The Small Farms Association had been set up on the premise that common grazing would be available, using the Hundred concept used in English villages, which gave villagers their own smallholding (40 acres) as well as access to a common grazing area. This put Charles Dixon head to head with local runholder W. H. Donald who made it clear he would drive off any of Dixon's cattle that strayed out of the area set aside for town acres.

Dixon Street in Masterton is named in honour of Charles and Mary Dixon.

Henry Bannister writes in 1940:
The little band of pioneers arrived at Worksop Farm, as they called it, on May 21, 1854. After unloading their pack bullocks, of which there were three, and each man had a good swag on his back, there was a good heap on the ground consisting of cross-cut saws, pit saws for cutting timber for the house, axes and wedges, grubbers for cultivating land for wheat, cooking utensils, groceries, clothing and carpenters' tools. While some were unloading the bullocks, another put the billy on and they had their first meal under the spreading branches of a large titoki tree. After finishing their repast they all gathered heaps of bracken fern for bedding, and as it was a fine night and they were all tired, they slept well.
Later he writes:
Another old place of interest is the remains of Dixon's Worksop Farm. The old house is there, although a large poplar tree that was blown down by the heavy gale a few years back knocked off one corner. The timbers are mostly sound. One can see the numbers on the bedroom doors, and the boards have Grandfather Jones's saw marks on them. These were the first boards sawn for the Masterton pioneers in 1854.

Charles and Mary Dixon, who owned Worksop Farm.

Alexander Turnbull Library
Street Stories: How Masterton's Streets got their names, Gareth Winter, 1998
North of the Waingawa, Ian F. Grant, 1995
Wairarapa Archives
Early History of the Wairarapa, Charles Bannister, 1940

See also:
Last remaining children of Charles Dixon die - 1935


Popular posts from this blog

Featherston Military Camp

B Company, 22nd reinforcements, on the Rimutaka Hill, 1917. The men are wearing toitoi on their hats. 00-38/

In January 1916 the biggest army training camp in New Zealand opened in Featherston. The camp occupied the land on both sides of the main road between Featherston and Tauherenikau. In 1916 the camp was the biggest settlement in the Wairarapa at a time when Masterton’s population was 5,500. It covered almost 30 hectares. Today there is only a memorial to the camp by State Highway 2.

McRae-Tatham wedding, 1902

Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XXVI, Issue 7325, 1 December 1902, Page 2

One of the prettiest weddings which has taken place on the East Coast, for a long time, was celebrated on Wednesday last, at Homewood, the residence of Mrs Tatham.

The contracting parties were Nehemiah, youngest son of the late Nehemiah McRae, Esq., of Nelson, and Effie Mabel, second daughter of the late Frederic E. Tatham, of Homewood. The bride, who was given away by her brother, Mr J. H. Tatham, was dressed in soft white silk trimmed with lace insertion, and wore the usual bridal veil and orange blossoms. The bridesmaids were Miss Ivy Tatham, sister of the bride, and Miss Marjorie Ward, niece of the bridegroom, and were prettily attired in white silk dresses. The bouquets, which were carried by bride and bridesmaids, were composed of white roses, syringa, and maiden hair fern.

The bridegroom was attended by Hugh Morrison, Esq., of Blairlogie, as best man. The bridegroom's present to the bride w…

1942 Earthquake: Masterton's business area badly wrecked

Evening Post, 26 June 1942


Masterton's main street was a sorry sight yesterday.

With huge piles of brick and masonry sprawling across the footpaths and roadway, shattered shop windows, and trailing high-tension lines, the condition of the mile-long thoroughfare was testimony to the intensity of the previous night's earthquake. In the residential areas householders suffered considerable damage to property, and it appears that Masterton took the main shock. Miraculously no casualties of any sort have been reported.