In 1866 Trent bought 150 acres to grow chicory. This expanded to 670 acres by the early 1870s. In 1920, 446 acres were sold to the crown for returning soldier settlement. From the 1920s, until purchase by the present owner’s family in 1967 of the remaining 50 acres, the farm was mostly owned by horse trainers. The end of the building where the kitchen, toilets and coffee area are now, was divided into four stables, with the main dining / bar area being used for chaff and hay storage. The horse drawn agricultural implements, displayed to the east of the barn near the water race, were retrieved from under a shelter belt on the farm.
Original Trents chicory kiln in Templeton (Aotearoa New Zealand Centre, Christchurch City Libraries; The Press, 1 Feb. 1969)
The first buildings (1866) were a large wooden interconnecting complex of kilns, root storage houses, machine and warehouse rooms (totalling about 17,000 square feet) to dry and store the chicory. In addition were chaff storage buildings, manager’s house, workers’ bunkhouse and other usual farm buildings. A fire started in a chaff shed in 1873 and destroyed the majority of the foregoing (uninsured) buildings, at a loss of about 5,000 pounds. Trent immediately rebuilt the present barn in brick. To the side of the main doors is a commemorative stone placed in 1873, that has a phoenix carved on it. By the late 1960s, the word “RESURGAM” (I will rise again) was still visible below the phoenix, but has since eroded away.
Barn after construction
There is a display of historical documents relating to the chicory enterprise on the wall opposite the coffee machine. The originals of some of these documents were found in a time capsule bottle placed in a hollowed out stone by Trent in 1873 in the walls of a brick chicory kiln that existed where the pagoda now stands. This kiln was burned down in the 1950’s and the documents were discovered when cleaning up the area.
Edwin arrived in Nelson in 1855 as a sixteen year old with 5 pounds in his pocket. He remained a bachelor until, as a 35 year old, he married 43 year old Mary Duckmanton in 1874. About this time, he built a large house on the farm, complete with observation tower, from which he could observe his workers by telescope. (Unfortunately, the original house was built with Kahikatea timber, which was irretrievably borer- ridden by 1968, when the house had to be replaced). Trent died childless as a 43 year old, leaving an estate of 18,000 pounds.
The house of Edwin Trent (1839-1883) on his chicory farm at Templeton (Aotearoa New Zealand Centre, Christchurch City Libraries; The Press, 1 Feb. 1969)
Chicory is a root vegetable, similar to a parsnip, that was dried, crushed and mixed with coffee essence. It has a bitter taste, and served mainly to bulk up the coffee. Trent Bros chicory won a world award at the Vienna Exhibition in 1872. The tall square dark “Coffee and Chicory Essence” bottles were popular throughout NZ until the advent of instant coffee in the 1960s. It was usually served with sweetened condensed milk, and was far more deliciously decadent than any of the cappuccinos or long/short blacks served today.
Weeders at work on Mr W. Roberts’ chicory farm, Spreydon (Aotearoa New Zealand Centre, Christchurch City Libraries; The weekly press, 29 Mar. 1905)
A hectare each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes were planted in the spring of 1995 as cuttings. The first harvest was in the autumn of 1998, with the wines becoming available in late 1998 / early 1999. There were two vineyards, a smaller, well sheltered but more frost prone vineyard to the west of the barn, and a larger vineyard to the east.
John and Don covering the vines with bird netting.
Graham Shanks (father of John Shanks, who, together with his wife Sue, presently owns the farm) was bequeathed the David Bell Daffodil Collection in 1976. This world famous collection of over 2000 different daffodil varieties, at that time the largest varietal collection in the Southern Hemisphere, was grown on the farm until they were sold in 1996 to S & J McLachlan of Leeston. The five acre block where they were last grown, on the Trents Road side of the vineyard to the east of the barn, still contains many thousands of daffodils.
A common belief exists locally that a cellar exists under or near the barn. Extensive digging during renovations revealed the fire pit and tunnel (3.5 m long) behind the picket fence near the southwest of the barn, and a similar pit and trench with a fire grate under the pagoda. This trench has been filled in, but the pit remains under the wooden staging. Previous owners thought that the cellar may be where the pond, formed in 1969, is now. However, there is also a large basement (dating from 1874) under the main house, which may have contributed to the cellar rumour. Maybe the 50 ft deep by 4 ft wide brick lined well adjacent to the house has also confused the issue. Anyway, we have given up looking, but maybe one day ??.
Postscript : On the 12 June 2004, a cellar was discovered when landscaping a path for bridal parties to approach the Victorian Garden Gazebo. The Cellar is 4 m high by 5 m long by 4 m wide and is accessed via a vertical shaft 0.75 m long.
An interesting variety of new and recycled timbers were used in the barn renovation. The large beams, placed for seismic strengthening purposes (as the barn is a 125 year old unreinforced triple brick structure), are mixed Australian Hardwoods, previously used as beams in the old Selwyn River bridge. The beams supporting the roof above the dining area are from a Blue Atlantic Cedar, milled on the farm 20 years ago. A similar tree, probably well over 100 years old, still stands below the house today. Macrocarpa from Banks Peninsula was used for the dining area ceiling, the mezzanine floor and stair posts. Sustainably milled Red Beech from the West Coast was used for the dining area floor, the bar front, and exterior door panels. The bar top is Matai, the door frames and stairs are recycled Canadian Oregon, and the stair balustrading is Eucalyptus. The original main doors to the barn were used for the hanging signs at the front gate and driveway entrances, but have since been replaced and are now beside the small cottage to eth east of the building. The green picnic tables are from the (now demolished) Cave Rock Hotel in Sumner.
The strengthening and restoration of the barn was undertaken by Bryce Stringer, Kelly Te-Kopa Kairau, and John Shanks. The work took a year starting in October 1996 and took a lot of blood, sweat and beers to complete.
This description of that portion of Trents Road that ran between Derek and Peter Jones’ training establishments (this was on the left as you approach the barn up the driveway), and the Main South Road, as the “Golden Mile”, is based on the fact that, over the last 40 years, seven N.Z. Trotting Cup winners have been trained along this 1.5 km strip. Among these horses were the famous “Lordship” and “Johnny Globe” stallions, raced by the neighbouring Don and Barry Nyhan families, and “Blossom Lady” trained by Derek Jones, who sadly passed away in June 2006.