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Daleton House – overflowing with fun

In the next part of our Out of the Past feature, Marlene Ditchfield pays a visit to the beautiful and imposing Daleton House – which has had a variety of inhabitants in its 140-year history.
 

Hidden behind trees on the corner of State Highway 2 and Dalefield Rd, at the south end of Carterton, is the elegant and lovingly restored Daleton.

The two-storey, six-bedroom house was built 140 years ago for James and Jane Stevens – who filled their home with seven daughters and many pets. All the girls were born in the house.

A ballroom, running the length of one side of the upstairs, was used by convalescing soldiers. Young mothers rested at Daleton when it was a maternity home, travelling backpackers stayed in more modern times, and multitudes of children revelled in the large upstairs space, using it for cricket, skating, and bowls.

Major G. G. Carlyon from the Hutt Valley purchased the original section of 210 acres. He moved on to establish Gwavas Station in Hawkes Bay and his son, Arthur, sold the land to James Stevens in 1875. The Stevens family were among the earliest settlers to the Wellington colony with James born there in 1852. He was educated at the Porirua private school and worked in the mill industry, which brought him and Jane to Carterton in 1873.

James set up Stevens Mill at Waihakeke, in partnership with John Udy, and later another mill in Masterton. In 1883, he built Daleton in neo-Georgian style with a surrounding veranda. Each façade was symmetrical, with the centre marked by a pedimented roof. Square, trellised balconies hung off the centre window of each facade, giving the design a tropical flavour.

The family of nine loved to entertain, and Daleton soon became a festive base. As director of the Dalefield Dairy Factory, borough councillor, and member of the Taratahi-Carterton Road Board, Carterton School committee and Carterton Masonic Lodge, James had a wide social circle.

Around 1915, Mrs Kate McKay from Masterton purchased the house. She never lived there, but Daleton was put to good use as a maternity home run by Sister Whitehead, and later as a refuge for soldiers returning from World War I.

In 1920, George and Lottie Hayes came in from farming at Homewood and took over the lease on the property. They lived at Daleton for 36 years, where they raised a family of 11 children, six girls and five boys.

George Hayes had arrived in New Zealand from Tipperary, Ireland in 1911, working initially as a shepherd in Manawatu and then for the Tathams at Homewood. One of his children was Nell Trotman who lived in Greytown. In 2005, she recalled growing up in the large house and the wonderful adventures the children had upstairs. “There was always excitement in the homestead, spurred on by Father’s Irish humour. Mischief and pranks abounded.”

George is remembered for his dislike and suspicion of anything mechanised. His farm work was all achieved with manual labour. He was a familiar sight on his horse and cart, laden with milk churns, driving down Dalefield Rd to the dairy factory.

Nell also remembered the property owner, Mrs McKay, visiting in a chauffeured car, dressed all in black, to inspect the farm. When the childless Mrs McKay died, she left the house and land to her relatives, Ralph and Iris Tatham of Homewood. George and Lottie retired in 1956 and moved to Greytown. George died in 1974, aged 96, and Lottie died in 1987, aged 87. At that time, they had 52 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. Nell jokingly said she felt related to everyone!

Ralph and Iris moved into Daleton and made the house a family home. Their son Mike and his wife Chris lived there from 1975, where they raised three children. During this time, they opened Daleton as a backpackers’ hostel – until stringent fire regulations forced the service to close. Again, the upstairs area was a popular space for guests. A workman’s cottage which sat alongside the big house had been lived in by various family members and workers.

In 2001, Mike and Chris subdivided the larger house and moved into the cottage. Daleton was purchased by the Bells from Dalefield shortly afterwards, but they owned it only briefly and it was on the market within a year.

Ken and Phillipa Edwards, born and bred Wellingtonians, holidayed with their three children at Riversdale for many years and loved Wairarapa.

When Daleton came up for sale, they were one of several bidders. Some wanted to move the entire house, others wanted to turn it around “to face the sun”, another wanted to turn it into a restaurant.

Ken, a talented engineer, and Phillipa, an avid collector, wanted it as a family home. In 2002, Daleton became theirs and the exercise in restoring and renovation began. A special incorporated feature in the downstairs lounge is an ornate mantlepiece from the Prior homestead in Masterton’s Perry St, demolished in 2013.

Daleton is as solid as when it was built in 1883 – ensured by its totara, rimu, and matai timbers. The decorative balconies slowly decayed, and a chimney was lost in the 1942 Wairarapa earthquakes but the exterior design is original. Radiator heating has been added, the odd wall removed, and extra doors built onto the veranda to let in light – but, otherwise, entering the foyer is like taking a step back in time to early Carterton.

It is a step into Daleton which Ken and Phillipa have never regretted.

1 COMMENT

  1. I too have a piece of history at Clareville.. Dakin Cottage… Charles Dakin built it, have the Deeds which shows us to has also owned it over the years, Deeds were given to me years ago, as we moved up here also from Wellington in 1991. Ivan Ordish, a descendant of Dakin family, when Charles came to NZ he came with his new wife, and one of the Ordish cousins, his mothers side of the family from Tutbury. Staffordshire. Charles was friends to Charles Rooking Carter, I hold copies of letters from Charles R. Carter to Charles Dakin. have met many folk related to Dakin. Fairbrother. Ordish. Reynolds.. all connected!!!

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Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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