On Friday, 22nd January 1875, Provincial Council chairman Mr. Arthur Standish dashed a bottle of champagne against a tree trunk and officially named the tiny settlement around him as Inglewood. Three cheers were raised, and the Council members toasted the success of the district and predicted a prosperous, thriving future. Back then, the little town consisted of just a few huts in a bush clearing, but the councillors were correct in their vision, and from that time on Inglewood has prospered.
Before this, the first settlers had called it Moatown in reference to the Moa Block, an area of 32,830 acres of dense virgin forest that was surveyed in 1874. Trails used by Maori crossed the area, and there was a small pa and three bush clearings, but no permanent settlement. The land was bought from Maori for 5,650 pounds, with the intention of clearing the bush and creating dairy farms. It was part of government-assisted immigration into the Taranaki area, and European immigrants arrived from England (Kent, Lincolnshire, and Sussex) and Poland (some were German-speaking), Denmark, Switzerland, and Italy.
They toiled in the difficult conditions, cleared land for farms, cut lines for the road and railway, and bought sections with the money they earned. Buildings appeared along Moa Street (then the main street) and in 1878 the railway line was opened, and Henry Brown's sawmill began operation. The mill was to become one of New Zealand's largest. By 1889 the population was 500, and the farmland surrounded the settlement. The dairy industry grew and associated industries flourished - blacksmiths, boarding houses, general stores and others.
In 1894, a raging fire threatened to destroy most of the businesses on Matai Street, but quick thinking and organized action with buckets and blankets averted a complete tragedy. Like other towns, Inglewood suffered during the Depression and the two World Wars, but it continued to function as a servicing town to the rich dairying area, and the Moa-Nui Dairy Company eventually became the fourth largest in the country.
Unlike many other pioneer towns, Inglewood was a quiet town, and there was no need for a policeman and magistrate in the very early years. Today the town retains its quiet, unhurried ambience but it has not stood still. While many long established Taranaki businesses continue to thrive in Inglewood, the progressive nature of the community encourages growth. The TET stadium with its world-class, all-weather Mondo track; a new home for the strong local theatre group; a nationally-recognised collectors' museum; an award-winning cafe and a stylish street upgrade are but a few recent innovative developments.
When the early councillors drank their toast in the shadow of tall matai, rimu and rata trees, they envisaged a lush pastureland surrounding the town in every direction. If they could be here today, no doubt they would raise another toast to both the pioneers who successfully hewed farms from forest, and to today's community, which plans boldly for the future, yet still celebrates the district's rich heritage.
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