Those unfamiliar with the history of our town will likely assume the arterial road of Norsewood South follows that loveable rural New Zealand tradition of blatantly descriptive road names. We all know and love that charming simplicity in a Golf Course Road or a School Road. However, it is not Norsewood South Street here. We have Hovding Street.
The story of the Hovding is the story of Norsewood. It was the Hovding that brought 365 Norwegians and 11 Danes to the shores of New Zealand from Norway. It was these Scandinavian migrants that would found the town of Norsewood. As you can see, the Hovding was a three-masted wooden sailing ship.
The 1872 voyage of the Hovding made the journey from Kristiania (modern day Oslo) to Napier in 108 days. This was a fairly standard sailing time for the three-masted Hovding with ‘fast’ journeys of that time covering the seas from Europe to New Zealand in 80 days. For many of us, reflection on the journeys of those 19th century European migrations conjures thoughts of hardship and poverty. What is often overlooked is the hardships that faced settlers once the journey was complete.
The Hovding arrived on the 15th of September 1872. Having paid £5 for their passage on the Hovding and another £1 for their means of transport from Napier to what became Norsewood. They then forked out an additional £40 for their 40 acre farm plots. The thing was that land was terribly unfit for farming when they arrived. The land that had been earmarked for settlement would come to be referred to by Europeans as 70 Mile Bush.
Another group of Norwegian immigrants arrived just over a year later when the Hovding landed again in New Zealand in December 1873. What do you get when you put hundreds of Norwegians into the dense bush of the Ruahine Ranges? – Norsewood, but only after years of logging and the creation of a timber town.
In timber, the need to remove vast amounts of forest had given rise to the Norsewood and Dannevirke area’s first major industry. Timber mills were established throughout the district and eventually land was cleared to finally make way for farming. By 1883, the Hovding immigrants had built Hovding Street (as pictured below) and were lining it with an industrious village.
Today, the Hovding is more than the name of a 19th century sailing ship. It is also more than the dangerous high-seas journey of hundreds of Norwegians in search of a better life. The Hovding is also the history of what came after it, what was possible because of it. For the 21st century, The Hovding is a reminder of hard-work and creation in Norsewood, and rural New Zealand as a whole.
The naming of the Hovding Gallery in Norsewood South is recognition of that. Norsewood’s history is testament to that fact that creating and building it what brings life to a community. We are taking inspiration from those pioneers in our exciting development of Norsewood South.