The Brookfield Outdoor Education Centre is located on the site of the original 355 acres purchased by John Crowther in 1864 and developed as a farm. His daughter Mary lived all her life on the property and on her death in 1958 bequeathed it to Scouting.Adjoining land has since been purchased so that the Centre now extends over 650 acres. In 1961 a Campfire Circle was built on the site of the original farm cottage and evidence of the garden hedge is still visible along with a number of very tall camellias, hydrangeas and a magnificent magnolia tree. Mary Crowther supplemented her income with sales of fruit and a number of the old apple trees also remain in the orchard.
In the early 1920s two young pig shooters, Harold and Roy Nelson visited Brookfield and started a friendship with Mary Crowther that lasted until her death and was instrumental in the property being bequeathed to Scouting. They spent many weekends and holidays at Brookfield, doing odd chores around the place and introducing scouts to the outdoors.Roy Nelson died in 1986 and left his estate to Scouting and in 1989 the cottage he and Harold had lived in all their lives at Petone was moved to Brookfield. This was renamed Nelson Lounge and contains some of the Nelson brothers' furniture and memorabilia.
People who shaped Brookfield
22 June 1869 - 16 August 1958
Mary was the only living child of John and Nancy Crowther. John had purchased the bush clad property for a farm at the end of Moores Valley Rd in 1864 with his brother Frederick, later buying him out. The property was named Brookfield after the stream that runs through the valley. John built initially a four roomed house in the vicinity of what is now the McNair Campfire Circle. Mary lived all her life there apart from her schooling which was in Wellington at ‘Miss Ellen Greenwood's School for Young Ladies’ on The Terrace. She traveled back to Brookfield during holidays. On completing her schooling Mary returned to assist her parents on the farm, and in the orchard.
She gathered fruit for 72 years which was a good source of Mary’s income and that of her parents before her. After her parents death in 1911 her biography notes that Mary would walk or bike the four miles to the end of Moores Valley to borrow a horse and trap which she would take back to Brookfield, then next morning load up her freshly cut flowers and boxes of fruit before taking them to Lower Hutt for railing them by train to Wellington, returning the horse and trap and then walking home at the end of the day. If she was going to visit friends in Wellington she would get up early and walk to Lower Hutt Station from Brookfield catching the 7.14am train. Such was getting to and from Brookfield in early years.
On her death, Mary bequeathed her property to the Scouts. She was laid to rest in the Taita Cemetery
Royal (Maire) Cullen Nelson
after whom Maire Lodge is named
Maire Nelson was born in Aurora St. Petone. He lived in a family of fourteen. He and his brother Harold loved the outdoors, fishing, hunting, and tramping. Maire joined the Te Puni Scout Troop in 1912 but unfortunately the group closed. He wanted a Scout uniform so badly he got his School teacher to measure him up and sent away for it. He loved his uniform and wanted to wear it all the time. He became the first Lone Scout in the Wellington Area.
When Maire came back from WW1 where he served as a medical orderly, he and two other leaders formed the St. Augustine’s Scout Troop. Also at this time he and his brother decided 14 people in the family home was very crowded so they built another house on the section next door. (This house was moved to Brookfield on Maire’s death.)
About this time Maire started taking his Scouts to Brookfield – as such it is on record that St. Augustine's Scouts were the first Scouts to camp at Brookfield. They walked over the Wainuiomata Hill to the camp carrying their gear on a trek cart. At the end of the camp the Scouts made sure Mary Crowther had an adequate supply of firewood.
Because of his involvement with Scouting he also became president of N.Z Forest & Bird, an appointment he held for 20 years. Maire served more than 50 years as a Scout and became Chief Warden of Brookfield. He was awarded New Zealand’s highest Scouting award – the Silver Tui. He was also award the Silver Acorn from the Scout movement in England.
Maire was laid to rest at Taita Cemetry.
Nils Harold Nelson (Gjersen)
1890 - 25 Dec 1951; after whom Nelson Lounge is named
Harold Nelson was probably one of the most important men in Mary Crowther’s documented life.
Harold and his brother Royal Nelson (known as Maire, above), as hunters, befriended Mary Crowther in 1920 post WW1. They built a whare at Brookfield in 1926 - where Nelsons Lounge is now - spending many weekends on the farm. While Roy regularly brought his scouts out to the property to camp, Harold traveled out from Petone for his weekends or holidays, spending his time repairing fences, killing pests and spraying Mary’s fruit trees.
It was to Harold that Mary was to bequeath the property but unfortunately he died aged 61 on Christmas Day in 1951 at the whare. Subsequently Roy encouraged Mary to leave the property to the Scouts. If it wasn’t for Harold we might not have Brookfield as an asset for Scouts today.
When Roy Nelson passed away in 1988 he bequeathed his house in Petone to Brookfield. The original whare, having become very dilapidated, was demolished and the site cleared to make way for relocating the house to Brookfield, which was paid for by Maire’s estate.
© SCOUTS NZ 2020