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Our Heritage 

Established 1882

Dive into our farms rich history

Rissington Station

Rissington was the name Colonel George Whitmore gave to Pekapeka, the large sheep run he and his business partner, Captain John Carstairs McNeill acquired in Hawke’s Bay, in the 1860s. Whitmore and McNeill were on the staff of Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron who had been appointed to command the British forces in New Zealand. They arrived in Auckland in March 1861 and soon began buying land in Hawke’s Bay. Within a decade they controlled about 110,000 acres, much of it leasehold. Land that Whitmore boasted “stretched from the Kaweka range to the sea”. Access to Rissington, as they named their estate, was by boat from Ahuriri to Poraiti. Then on horseback or by bullock wagon to Puketapu. From there it was on a rough track beside the Tūtaekuri river to the junction of the Mangaone river, then up the Mangaone to Rissington, where Whitmore built his homestead. McNeill continued his career as a professional soldier and took no active part in running the station, although the tallest hill in the Rissington area is named Mount McNeill after him. To begin with McNeill’s cousin managed the property, bombarded with instructions from Whitmore in Auckland. In November 1862 Whitmore sold his commission in the army and moved to Rissington to take charge himself. He managed the estate with military precision, raising sheep and purebred shorthorn cattle. He also introduced rabbits, pheasants, and quail for game and a thousand gorse bushes to use as fences. He named it Rissington after Little Rissington, a village near his home in Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire in England. In 1866 Whitmore reverted to his military background and led the Napier militia against the Hauhau at Omarunui. When the New Zealand government appointed him to command the colonial forces, he considered it his duty to accept. Rissington was no longer his priority. In 1872 Whitmore leased 30,000 acres of his Patoka land to Robert Heaton Rhodes from Canterbury. The following year he sold the Apley portion of the farm. Finally in 1873, he sold the remaining land to the Canterbury syndicate - four businessmen who traded as Messrs Rhodes & Co. George Thomas Seale managed the Rhodes estate from 1873 to 1882 and reported back to his bosses in Christchurch. The newspapers were full of advertisements for shepherds (with dogs preferred), a steady man to drive a team of horses (must be accustomed to hill country), men to sow grass seed, plough, shear, cook and erect wire fences. In 1881 he advertised for 24 shearers to shear about 75,000 sheep. To oversee the vast acreage Seale and his family moved between houses in Patoka, Rissington and Woodthorpe. All this came to an end in 1881 with the death of one of the partners. Rhodes & Co gave instructions for the estate to be divided into blocks and sold. In 1882 Francis Hutchinson, who had arrived from Yorkshire with his wife Sarah and young family the year before, bought the homestead block. Until the First World War, Francis owned approximately 11,000 acres at Rissington, when land was subdivided for returned soldiers. Two of Francis and Sarah Hutchinson’s children lived in Rissington all their lives. Frank, their eldest son married Amy Large and in 1907, they moved across the river to live at Omatua. Francis’ youngest daughter Geraldine married JH (Jack) Absolom. Jack managed the station under the watchful eye of his father-in-law until Francis died in 1930. Jack continued to run the farm until his death in 1944. Today it is Geraldine and Jack’s great grandsons who run Rissington.


Late 1880

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Late 1880's Geraldine Hutchinson (nee Absolom later) aged about 10 with her little dog. She was 3 years old when she came out from the UK with her parents to Rissington in 1882


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Early 1900s the original Rissington Bridge on Puketitiri Road a vital link to the coast with picket fence in the foreground around the family cemetery still in use today


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1907 John H. Absolom (standing) and Frank Hutchinson Jnr (right) Grandfather and Great Uncle respectively to John P. Absolom and 2nd generation (now 6th generation) and their farm team. All bar one of the dogs were beardies in those days.


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1924 J Robin Cooksey a cousin who lived most of his life on the farm at Rissington after returning from fighting both the Boer War and WW1. He was a pioneer in the Scouting movement in the early days. In this picture he’s all dressed up and heading to town!


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1929 The old iconic single lane Rissington bridge across the Mangaone River replaces the temporary one following the loss of the first bridge in the 1924 flood.


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1941 John H. Absolom, Rosemary Anne, A. Richard. H. and Geraldine (left to right) with the first grandchild Barbara Susan (Sue) at Awataha – an exciting moment in any family with the start of a new generation.


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1950s A. Richard H. Absolom having a smoko break at the old cookhouse clearly putting on a pose for the camera with his dog Sharp and another working dog in the background


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Early 1970s A. Richard. H Absolom and Tamihana Nuku busy drenching sheep. We knew Tamihana as Tom as back then Maori names were often anglocised when they were young but obviously these days there is a much deeper appreciation for the language, pronunciation and culture shared by everyone. We kept a connection with Tamihana through his long involvement in the Te Awahohonu Trust who we’ve worked with for nearly 30 years. They own and operate Tarawera and Gwavas Stations in Hawkes Bay.


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1985 Star Absolom at the Poverty Bay A&P Show leading Rissington Monitor the Supreme Champion. One of the things we enjoy about what we do is getting around the country spending time with other farmers and those in the industry and in the 1980s this involved many fun weekends in Gisborne for their annual show helping to put the Simmental breed on the map


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1986 Bull Sale with Jane O’Malley leading Simmental bull Rissington Rambo sold to Gerald and Sue Kemp (in the background) from Pouriwai, Gisborne

Early 1880

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Early 1880s the original house on the Omatua site on the farm where early relations Frank and Amy Hutchinson lived prior to the site being gifted to the Girl Guide Association in 1962 before coming back to the family in 2019. Now run as Omatua - Riverside accommodation by Katie Absolom. Omatua is great for Family Reunions, Self-Contained Accommodation, Special Events and Birthday Celebrations, Corporate Planning Workshops, relaxed Wedding venue and other group getaways if you want to give her a shout


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1890s some of the Rissington Clydesdale team being worked to cut the chaff for stock feed


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1906 Geraldine Absolom (nee Hutchinson) stooking the hay with two of the farm hands. Topical as we look to climb out of a severe drought after some good rain and months of feeding out. Given her outfit though we suspect she may have been doing it just for the photo


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1920s J. Robin H. Cooksey (cousin who lived and worked at Rissington) at Awataha on his old horse Ben who was hand selected as a young horse by J.H. Absolom for his spirit to confront the strikers in the 1913 Great Strike later dubbed the Cossacks against the Wobblies. The farmers took the train to Petone and then rode into Wellington where Ben let the strikers have both back feet when confronted which was said to justify his selection!


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1924 the Royal Agricultural Show delegates at Dominion Farmers Building in Featherston Street, Wellington where it still stands today. John H. Absolom front row 2nd from right with others from the land all dressed up and surely enjoying a rare trip to the capital


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1930s A. Richard H. Absolom on a rare trip to town looking the part. Hard to believe that even today nearly 100 years on it might again feel like a special occasion when we're allowed off the farm to go shopping!


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1950: John P. Absolom and older sister B. Susan Absolom (now Upton) sitting on the deck at Paritea where they grew up. Both along with their respective spouses Star Absolom and John Upton still actively involved with the farm today.


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1960 Shearing time in the old Rissington Woolshed with Percy Edwards shearing gang in the days of doing full fleece (no second shear)


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John & Star Absolom won several prizes for Rissington Cattle Company at the Annual Beef Competition 1981 at the Hawkes Bay A&P Show: Simmental Angus – 1st on hook and 3rd on hoof Simmental Hereford – 1st on hoof and 2nd on hook


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1985 John and Star Absolom at the Bar 5 Simmental Sale selling embryo calves imported as embryos from Canada with Daniel hanging on the rail in the background.

To be continued...

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