The History of Wilson's Mill Garden

A Wealth of Heritage

In 1854 Isaac Wilson arrived in New Zealand with his family and worked as a sawyer in the Papanui bush with his brothers.  After a few years in the bush and sometime running a coaching business, Isaac moved into the flax industry in 1870, building and operating a flax mill on the south bank of the Ohoka Stream.

In 1872 Isaac also built a flour mill there.  The mill was one of three along the stream.  In later years of operation the mill used coal-fired steam to boost power output when the water supply was low.  (The mill is shown in its heyday in the large image that appears above.)

To service the mill he had a private railway siding from the Kaiapoi-Eyreton line built in 1876.  The Wilson’s Siding Station remained standing until the early 1970’s when it was pulled down (even though the branch line closed much earlier in 1954).  In 1882 the mill was running at 1600 tons a year when Isaac Wilson sold the mill to Richard Evans.

In 1879 at the height of a wool boom, Isaac Wilson and other prominent businessman formed the Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company, running the business from premises that had also been a flax mill originally.  Isaac was the first chairman of the company.  A Member of Parliament for Kaiapoi from 1881 -1884 Mr Wilson was also the organist of the local Methodist church from its opening in 1860 for the next twenty years.

Isaac Wilson died in 1912.This plaque and memorial mill-stone were dedicated to his labours by the Eyre County Council and Alan Wilson, Isaac’s youngest son in 1987.  The memorial project began in 1976 when Dr Alan Wilson retired from his medical practice and he and his wife grew more interested in the family history.

The memorial can be found outside the Wilson’s Mill Garden property approximately 100 metres along on Mill Road.


Wilson’s Mill Garden began in 1987, by Alan and Ann Izard, and covers 7.25 hectares (16 acres). The Garden today,  is the result of the team effort of previous owners Alan and Ann Izzard, Rob and Dorothy Brown,Tony Williams and Lee Dunster. The new owners, Kelvin and Lesley Finlay look forward to continuing the legacy.   Originally a flax mill, the flax has been replaced by deer and cattle in adjacent paddocks.

An understanding of design and scale and an ability to visualize are evident in the planning of the garden, which has evolved since the house was built and then the major elements of the design put into place.

The Izard’s love of trees is evident throughout the garden. There are long avenues and large scale planting of woodland trees, planted for enjoyment over many years. The use of cabbage trees, a tree which is normally seen dotted on coastlines, in farm paddocks or in the bush, in a formal avenue tells you that this is no ordinary garden.

Reaching the lake you look across its lily-clad waters to a long avenue of Tasman poplars ending in a raised mound. The mound is home to an interesting sculpture, which reminds us of the area’s agricultural heritage. From the top of the mound there is a view back, across the lake, to the architecturally designed house.

Throughout the changing seasons, visitors to the Garden will be captivated with the colours of summer, appreciate the beauty of the dazzling foliage of the deciduous trees in Autumn, while in Spring, the green vistas will equally impress.