Chesterhope Station had its beginnings around 1869 when John Heslop jnr began breeding racehorses in a 150 acre (61 hectare) paddock in the Pakowhai area.

The Heslop family had arrived from Northumberland, England in 1856, and there is an area there called Chesterhope – which is where the property's name probably came from.

John Heslop snr began to farm cattle on the property in the1870s. Two of his other sons, twins William and George, took control of the property which was initially leased, and likely purchased it around the mid-1870s.

The land area then was around 1440 acres (583 hectares). The property is now 1600 acres (648ha).


William was living in the homestead (parts of which apparently still remain in the present homestead) from about the mid-1870s.

In 1881, George bought his brother William's share of Chesterhope for £15,000 (2017: $2.478 million).

During 1882, horse trainer, J R Jones leased stables at Chesterhope to train racehorses. That year the nearby Tutaekuri and Ngaruroro Rivers burst their banks and flooded Chesterhope.

The flood caught out George Heslop and shepherd Martin O'Shanessy on their horses in a creek, and both fell into the water.

Martin was swept to his death, but George's horse carried him to safety as he managed to grip onto the saddle.

It would be the first of many floods that would cause thousands of stock losses, and also that of human life. (In a strange occurrence, they could not find the body of Martin O'Shanessy until another shepherd some days later had a dream of the body's whereabouts and led them to its resting place.)

The financial difficulties of Chesterhope Station meant in 1888 the property was forcibly sold. The property was listed as having a 10-roomed house (which would be the present house), a men's cottage, stables and shearing sheds in addition to other out-buildings.

There appears to have been an intermediary purchaser before William Nelson bought the property in 1890 for Nelson Bros of Tomoana Freezing Works.

The Nelson Bros also owned the adjoining property called Pakowhai of some 800 acres (324ha). In 1892 William announced he was going to cut up both properties into smaller lots and import irrigation systems to turn Chesterhope and Pakowhai into dairy farms.

However, the Chesterhope property remained a livestock farm, where William Nelson had also converted part of it into a training farm.

Another flood occurred in 1893, and Nelson Bros lost all of its sheep. Worse was to come in 1897 in April when another flood, the worst in European occupation of Hawke's Bay, devastated the property, killed around 8000 sheep and claimed the life of another shepherd.

Nelson Bros sold Chesterhope to D E Davis around 1905/6, who sold the property in 1907 for a profit of £6000 ($988,000). The buyers of Chesterhope Station were the Fernie Brothers of Tangoio.

One of the brothers, David, would settle at Chesterhope with his wife, Alice, and would have a daughter, Joan.

A succession of floods in 1917, 1924 and 1938 caused much damage to the property.

David Fernie nearly became another victim of the high floodwaters that have visited Chesterhope over its history.

In the 1938 flood he got caught when the rivers burst their banks, when what was described as a "wall of water" hit him, and like previous owner George Heslop in 1882, his horse swam him to safety.

However, all his working dogs and 6000 sheep were lost.

With occurrence of floods becoming a threat to their livelihoods and their lives, the Fernie family took an active interest in flood control.

In 1945 a section of their land was taken to aid in flood protection by the Hawke's Bay County Council. Alice Fernie (David had passed away in 1942) fought the council over compensation for the land taken when they offered less than was acceptable.

Alice turned the grounds of Chesterhope into a magnificent garden, with bridges over the stream running through the property, and many specimens of trees.

There are many concrete paths all over the property, and a story goes that David fed many itinerant swaggers during the 1930s Great Depression, but they had to pour concrete to earn their supper.

Joan Fernie, who was the only daughter of David and Alice Fernie, lived in the Chesterhope Station house until shortly before her death aged 91 in 2007.

Chesterhope is still a working farm, and divided by the Hastings-Napier expressway which runs through the property.

• If you know more about Chesterhope Station, email Michael Fowler at or call 027 4521 056