As part of our Summer Series of regular features, Chronicle reporters have been visiting some of the less well-known spots in the region. This week, Zaryd Wilson checks out Crofton.

I had a cup of tea with the Naked Pie Man during an afternoon in Crofton where there wasn't a bottle of booze in sight.

William Fox would have been proud.

While Crofton today is a handful of houses dotted along the semi-rural intersection of Makirikiri Rd and Wellington Rd just 2km outside of Rangitikei's largest town, Marton, the former Premier of New Zealand created Crofton in an attempt to start a temperance town on his estate in the 1870s.

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You pass through by skirting around Marton if you take the back road from Feilding to Whanganui.

"Teetotallers alone will be the privileged residents of Crofton," the Evening Post said in 1873.

"The sound of the roystering wassailer will never be heard there, nor will the most thirsty traveller be able to obtain a pint of beer."

The idea was the subject of ridicule of many - especially in the press - at the time. Crofton didn't stay dry for long.

A Feilding Star reporter took a train trip to Whanganui in 1883 and wrote the Crofton project had never been a success.

The Wanganui Herald in 1878 spoke of a "mundane life" in Crofton and as reported in the Chronicle "the Christmas holidays having witnessed many cases of back-sliding.

"They were always a tolerably steady drinking lot up Rangitikei way, and we notice that the [Rangitikei] Advocate adopts the very free and easy doctrine that there is no harm in going on the burst occasionally."

No one on the burst on this day.

Just Joy Kerr arriving home to where she lives in Crofton's most recognisable building - the one that everyone who drives through regularly will know, even if they don't know Crofton.

It was the old Crofton store which she and her husband took over in 1960 but were forced to close six years later.

"It was a hard decision because it was good life and we enjoyed it.

"We would have liked to have kept going but then the supermarkets all came and the petrol - we used to sell petrol as well - was all dearer here than in town.

"We liked it we got on with people and all that but you can't blame people if there's a supermarket up town.

'We cut it down as much as we could - that's probably why we didn't come out of it with as much money.

"It was a seven day a week - 12 hour a day business. We came with four kids and shut the shop with six.
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Crofton sits on the intersection of Wellington Rd and Makirikiri Rd which skirts past Marton. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson
Crofton sits on the intersection of Wellington Rd and Makirikiri Rd which skirts past Marton. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson

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"Now my son lives here and he's buying it off me."

Joy says Crofton has got bigger over her half-century there.

"But not a lot bigger. People like living out here, you know, they come here and they basically seem to stay."

And in modern times Crofton has got closer to Marton.

"I used to walk up town all the time - with the babies in the pram. We tried to get a footpath but they'd only go to Hawkestone Rd."

But it's not Marton.

"When people say where do you live? We say Crofton."

One of Crofton's newest residents is Leighton Haar - who bought and built on a property in 2011.

"I'm known as The Naked Pie Man," he says, making a cup of tea.

Harr is a Palmerston North Cult figure who owned and ran Central Pie and Smoke Shop on Fitzherbert Ave and still works there at Broadway Express.

He came across the property while driving past.
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The old Crofton Store is still a prominent landmark in the area. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson
The old Crofton Store is still a prominent landmark in the area. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson

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"I came back about three times," he says. "I don't know what made me come here. There was just something about this place that drew me too it."

Bulls too windy, the beach to corrosive, he says. But Crofton was just right for the man who grew up just up the road in Hunterville.

Growing up in the Rangitikei meant several trips through the Crofton intersection.

"I guess this was the big smoke when I was a kid... and my grandparents, both lots were in Whanganui," Haar says.

"It was part of the circuit."

And now, for Harr, it's home.

"What you see if what you've got," he says. "I've got great neighbours. Friendly, nice neighbours.

"But I'm the outsider here too, as much as you coming in here."

Crofton was intended to be a temperance town when started by New Zealand politician William Fox in the 1800s. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson
Crofton was intended to be a temperance town when started by New Zealand politician William Fox in the 1800s. Photo/ Zaryd Wilson