Reunion for Palmers of The Gables
March 5 2018
Reunion for Palmers of The Gables, Waimea West
Descendants of an original, somewhat eccentric pioneer of the Nelson region are hoping some of their yet-to-be-met relatives will come out of the woodwork for a celebration at Waimea West this Easter.
John Palmer arrived in Nelson on The Phoebe on the 29th March 1843, -175 years ago- from Suffolk in England and settled at Waimea West, first establishing an inn called The Volunteers’ Arms. He operated a ferry across the Wai-iti River, then later built The Gables which he operated as a store, accommodation house and base for his carrying business. The Gables, built around 1860, still stands today and has a Class 1 Heritage New Zealand classification although has been in a state of disrepair for decades. It is a rare and impressive example of early architecture using 60,000 sun-dried bricks from clay mined on the site, and is classed as an archeological site being of pre 1900 habitation. It has recently been purchased and is being renovated as a private dwelling.
Descendants of the pioneer include John Palmer, who has instigated the reunion and owns the land originally settled by his great Grandfather. He grows apples and kiwifruit and has been prominent in promoting these industries, and is also Chairman of the Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA). He says,
“John was the classic pioneer, starting out with almost nothing. But he used his wit and energy to develop the land and start businesses. Early on he grew hops and corn, and had one cow. He was very active in the community not only in business but education, recreation and politics, and he hosted parties in The Ballroom in the back yard of The Gables. It’s special and quite rare, that some of this land has been in continuous family ownership for 175 years. My forebears settled on the land here in the 1843 and we’ve been on the same land ever since. We’ve lived and worked the same land for all of the 175 years so our roots run deep”
Another descendent is former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer who will also attend the event. An extensive investigation into the early years of the Palmer family features in Palmer’s memoir, Reform, and Sir Geoffrey, a lawyer himself, was particularly interested in the amount of litigation with which his forebear became involved, much of which is detailed in newspapers from the time.
The Palmers owned over one thousand acres of land in the district when John died from influenza at 82 yrs in 1898. John and Mary Ann Palmer had 12 children and fifty grandchildren but it is not known how many relatives are alive today. All descendants and other interested parties are cordially invited to attend the Easter Sunday event which will comprise a shared potluck lunch at the Waimea West hall, followed by a walking tour of the original farm area, and tree planting.
A Facebook page has been set up with registration details and information called “The Waimea West Palmers 175thCelebration”. Descendants are asked to share this information with their relatives please.
Enquiries may be made to: Cynthia, 03 5423763 during office hours.