The Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation
The Emigrant and Colonists’ Aid Corporation was set up in 1867 by a group of upper class Englishmen. Headed by the Duke of Manchester, their aim was to help the labouring classes — particularly agricultural labourers — who were at that time experiencing great difficulty in finding employment in England because of industrial advances and changing social patterns. Colonel William Henry Adelbert Feilding, one of the directors of the Corporation, was sent to Australia and New Zealand to buy a suitable block of land for emigrants selected by the Corporation to settle on. Colonel Feilding bought 106,000 acres in Manawatu from the Wellington Provincial Government in 1871
The land became known as “The Manchester Block” Feilding was the first of three towns established within the block. The first group of immigrants selected under the scheme arrived at the site of Feilding in January 1874. Halcombe was settled next, then finally Ashhurst. The towns were intended as bases from which settlers could move into the surrounding bush, break in the land and establish farms for themselves as they got used to their new life.