Edward Browne built “The Retreat” in 1867. He arrived in New Zealand in September 1863 on the ship Annie Wilson, with his wife Eliza. They were part of the Albertland Special Settlement Scheme, which was responsible for 3000 people leaving England to start a new life in a new country and enjoy a non-sectarian lifestyle. Each adult was given, free, 40 acres of land by the Auckland Provincial Government.
Edward trained as a wheelwright in Norfolk, but initially in New Zealand found very little demand for his craft, as there were virtually no roads. He used his woodworking skills to build houses and eventually became a timber merchant, exporting kauri timber from New Zealand.
He became active in local body politics and rose to become Mayor of Rodney County.
Edward and Eliza had a big family and needed a large house, so the house they built was designed with eight bedrooms to accommodate their twelve children.
After Edward’s death in 1898, his son George took over the farm, which by then had grown to over 600 acres. Alfred Dixon briefly owned the farm and then the Underwoods arrived. They were here for two generations, so in “The Retreat’s” first one hundred years virtually only two families lived here. During this last period, the farm was built up to 1200 acres.
Gradually the farm was split into smaller units and today we farm our sheep on just over 7 acres.