About Us

2009 - Present
Avril Druker and Andrew Michaels

Captivated by the majesty of the Estate, Avril S.Druker and Andrew Michaels, and their two teenage daughters, relocated from Hawaii to the Manawatu to purchase Highden in 2008. Whilst in America they accumulated much of the ornate furniture, chandeliers and drapes needed to fit out the restoration. Eight months later, and with the renovation completed, Highden Manor Estate was once again open to the public, and the “jewel of the Manawatu” began to shine again.

2003 - 2008
School Down Under

In 2003 Highden Manor was purchased by The School Down Under, founded by Kent Fergusson. The School Down Under is a free spirited, alternative schooling system designed for overseas students to study in NZ for a semester. During this time the chapel was converted into a school hall for the students of Kopane School who lost their school to the February floods in 2004. The School Down Under ran for about 3 years and for the last 3 years Highden was left vacant apart from hosting the occasional brunch and tours.

2000 - 2003
Dr Humelgaarden

In 2000 Highden Manor was purchase by a Danish Doctor, it is understood Dr Humelgaarden was working on an alternative treatment for cancer however it is unclear whether or not this had anything to do with the purchase of Highden. During the 3 years Highden was owned by Dr Humelgaarden it was used as a Shambala learning center. Shambala is based upon the Ageless Wisdom and utilizes comprehensive teachings intended to create a soul-based education. Shambala is responsible for the Stone Mandalas which were intricately place around Highden in 2001.

1990 - 2000
Dalziell Family

On the 12th February 1990 Highden was sold via auction to Ken and Mary Dalziell who moved in with their family of five children on May 18th 1990. The house required some renovations to make it appealing to live in and at this stage the family still had no plans for the figure of Highden. One day a lady asked if she could hire Highden for a wedding. The family thought hospitality would do very well as a future option and planned accordingly. Over the next ten years the efforts of the family were rewarded with an international and national reputation as a venue note.

Towards the last years the Dalzeill family came to realise that their goals at Highden had been met and that life was going to move on in other directions. The property was put on the market.

1923 - 1990
Marist Fathers

In May 1923 Highden Manor Estate was purchased by Father Charles O'Reilly and his counsel for 17,000 pounds ($34,000). It was constituted as a Novitiate House for the Society on 31 January 1924 and used by the Marist Fathers for the next 67 years; Father David Kennedy was appointed Master of Novices.

The Marist Fathers built the Chapel in the North-West corner of the gardens and also some dorm rooms which is where the Novices resided. Devastation struck on 3rd February 1931 with the disastrous Napier earthquake causing the collapse of the Chapel and seriously impairing the newly-built accommodation block. The collapse of the Greenmeadow Chapel occurred during a retreat meditation claiming the lives of two priests and seven students.

The Chapel and accommodation section were rebuilt out of materials which in the time of the Johnstons had been the stables, coach sheds and grooms’ quarters but were excellently preserved. Another disaster stuck in November 1955 when a fire broke out in the Chapel and although it was detected early it was already climbing the walls of the corridor between sacristy and the chapel. The fire spread at a remarkable pace through the dry, old building as the on-lookers watched in helpless despair. The fire was a serious blow but eventually it bore fruit in a new separate Chapel and better accommodation (now know as the Annex).

Brothers Kevin and Joachim set out to make Highden an economic farm unit capable of supporting a community of twenty to thirty people as well as maintain the huge homestead. This involved making a bold decision to clear a large area of native bush, 10 to 15 acres a year, and developing a system of farming that fitted with the Brothers’ religions life. Eventually Highden became self sufficient consisting of 30 acres of pasture, a low maintenance piggery, sheep, cattle, chickens and eventually a bee-keeper.

1888 - 1923
Honorable Walter Woods Johnston

Highden Manor Estate was originally built by the Honorable Walter Woods Johnston, a Member of Parliament for the Manawatu for 13 years, and was named after the Sussex Estate of his wife's father, Sir Charles Forster Goring, 7th Baronet of Highden. Walter Johnston obtained possession of the land in 1888 which consisted of over a thousand acres and built Highden Manor 10 years later 1898; as far as can be ascertained an east wing and conservatory was later added in 1903.

When the Honorable Walter Woods Johnston died in 1907 his wife, Cecilia Johnston, continued to own Highden which was supervised, along with its thoroughbred stud farm, by her eldest son, H. Goring Johnston, until her death in 1922. In winding up the estate it was decided to divide the property into two lots - a large block of about 1,000 acres and the homestead block of 222 acres with the house, farm buildings and the stand of native bush. This part retained the name Highden.