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Heart of the community no more

A century ago this was a treasured hub for social functions, meetings, church services and acquiring library books. Today the old hall sits quietly at the top of the rise, a structure you’re vaguely aware of as you fly through the blink-and-you-miss-it settlement of Woodhill on State Highway 16.

woodhill hall

Woodhill – about 10km south of Helensville – was somewhat bigger back then. By the late 1800s a farming community was well established and with it, a school. As the railway pushed north, a post office, creamery and store appeared. A while later, the hall was built, and in time tennis courts complemented the facilities on offer.

woodhill hall

woodhill hall

By the 1920s, Woodhill’s location near the coast brought the problem of encroching sand dunes. While the land had originally been covered in bush, the introduction of European settlement and farm animals saw it gradually get stripped back.

woodhill hall

woodhill hall

The potentially dire consequences of sand for the railway and road led to the creation of what is today a 12,500 hectare forest. Forestry workers came to live in Woodhill, boosting the local population until the forestry became privatised in 1987.

woodhill hall

woodhill hall

Today the post office, creamery and shop are long gone. The tennis club thrived until sometime in the ’60s – the site remains but is a shadow of its former self. And the hall: I don’t know when it closed but would be very interested to find out.

woodhill hall

woodhill hall

Despite all this, the community lives on thanks to a few remaining houses and most importantly, the school. Rebuilt four times and now with a roll of 100 or so pupils, I remember coming here for the annual combined primary schools cross-country event and running up the hill behind the old hall.

woodhill hall

Then it was just an object I barely gave heed to. Now it’s the kind of thing that intrigues me hugely. Who knows long it will be left to sit – unfortunately it’s not realistic to expect all such buildings can be saved and surely it will be pulled down long before it gets to the state of my old play house.

But for now I love that it’s still there.

From under the old hall's lean-to, looking across the old tennis court to the very much alive school

From under the old hall’s lean-to, looking across the old tennis court to the very much alive school

References:

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Haunting photos! I’m intrigued by the ebb and flow of settlements in our relatively short history – interesting about the sand encroaching on Woodville.

    21 January 2014
    • Ebb and flow is a great expression. I had no idea about the sand issues until researching the post – I frequently learn a lot from this blog!

      21 January 2014
  2. Janice Strong #

    Your photos definitely emit a feeling of the past Hayley. Great photos. So interesting learning about these places that I hear about and know nothing about until I read your blog Hayley.
    Thanks for this.

    9 February 2014
  3. Ali #

    Beautiful photos. I love how much time you put into learning the history of a place before you post your stories. Reminds me of many smaller towns in the area where I grew up that are a shadow of their former hey-day selves.

    20 February 2014
    • Thanks for noticing that Ali! Sometimes there isn’t much information at all about these places – I guess that may be the case over your way as well – or maybe there is, it just isn’t online for people like me who want relatively easy and immediate access to it!

      24 February 2014
  4. Choosing black and white was perfect. Too bad all the buildings can’t be preserved.

    20 February 2014
    • Thanks, Shelley and yes it is too bad. If that ideal world existed though, they should still let a few go to pot just for the fascination factor. (Or maybe I just need to get out more 🙂 )

      24 February 2014
  5. Sigh. LIving near history from which there are few remains still left. Your photos are great.

    23 February 2014
    • Thank you! It’s nice I think to notice and acknowledge these traces of the past before they inevitably disappear.

      24 February 2014
  6. Love the black and white and then the color shot at the end.

    6 March 2014
    • I appreciate your visit and the comment Steph, thank you.

      6 March 2014
  7. Stephanie Beeton #

    We used to play badminton and table tennis in that old hall on a Wednesday night 🙂 Remember our group cleaning / waterblasting and painting it at least twice after it was restumped. This was mid 1980s. I think the hire cost was raised and our little club disbanded. Dont recall the hall ever being used after that

    9 August 2017
    • Thanks for that information! So, potentially it’s been idle for 30 years or so. Sounds like its life was extended thanks to the efforts of your club – great community spirit!

      9 August 2017

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