A Long Local History
Mr James Corbett passed away in 1908 and Mrs Julia Corbett continued to operate the local Pioneer Hotel with her family. In 1920 Julia Corbett began the building of Corbett House. It was designed by Hamilton Architects, Messrs. Edgecombe and White. It was finally completed around 1925 when the power arrived at Hikutaia. Mrs Corbett shifted from the hotel, leaving it's management to her children Patrick, Winifred and Nora. Mrs Corbett died in 1933, a very successful business women. Her family members continued to live at the homestead until her last living daughter, Nora went to live with her niece Mrs Catherine Mellows at Komata around 1981/2
The two storey house is built of concrete stucco and hardwoods, predominantly Totara. It has a Marseille tiled roof. It's features include Bay windows, verandahs, four fireplaces, and french doors. The interior of the house is predominatly Rimu and the floors (Matai)
In 1876 the Licensing Commission granted renewals for hotels around the area, one being the Pioneer hotel situated on the Thames Highway. The Licensee and proprietor was a Mr Robert Kelly. It appears the Hotel was operating at least a year before 1876, as there is a record of a Mr Kelly erecting a large Hotel on leasehold property owned by Henry Alley. Robert Kelly is also reported to have owned land at Puriri, on which mineral water was discovered with an interesting content of soda and carbonic acid. With minor ingredients added, it was aerated and bottled by a Mr Hogg. In 1878 the first consignment of Puriri mineral water had reached Thames-bottled in the natural springs of Kelly & Fraser, the enterprising proprietors of this new industry. Robert Kelly was to die just two short years after this new venture leaving behind him a noted hotel at Hikutaia for bushmen and gum-diggers to frequent.
Mr James Corbett and his wife Julia are recorded as the next licensees of the Pioneer Tavern Hotel. Their names were listed at the Hotel around 1883.
James Corbett and his brother Thomas had left Ireland to try their luck in the Australian Goldfields some ten years before 1883, but their luck was such that they decided to come to New Zealand and engage in mining at Thames and Ohinemuri. In 1881 two daughters from the Keohane family in Ireland also arrived in Thames. James was to marry Julia and Thomas married Mary. Both couples moved to Hikutaia and had large families. Thomas and Mary later returned to Thames.
The Corbett family bought various blocks of land in and around Hikutaia and in 1904 a nephew from Ireland, John Corbett (David's grandfather), settled on what is known as Corbett Road. His marriage to Johanna Donlon produced seven children, Mary, Josephine, (former Matron of Thames Hospital), Winifred, Lawrence, Patrick, Jack and Thomas.