The farm was settled by John Grigg, who emigrated from Cornwall to Auckland in 1854. In 1864 he ventured south to pioneer the 'Valueless Bog' as described by the Lands Office Map. This land was to become Longbeach and total 13,000ha stretching from the Ashburton River in the North to the Hinds River in the South, and from the Pacific Ocean on the East to State Highway 1 in the West.
Between 1870-84 John Grigg began confining the Hinds River by cutting a system of open drains which helped drain the swamp and then laying clay tiles which were made on the property to deal with the constant seepage.
These tiles were laid at a rate of 50km a year leaving a network of at least 240km of tile drains and 112km of eleven parallel open drains.
By 1884 Longbeach was carrying 30,000 sheep, 3,000 pigs, 1,000 head of cattle and 150 working horses, plus 2,000ha in wheat, 1,200ha in oats and a permanent staff of 200.
In 1882 Longbeach provided part of the cargo of the first shipment of frozen meat sent to England.
The Station was a self-supporting community with its own Post Office, School, General Store, Flourmill, Brickworks, Chapel, Smithy, Bakery, Cookshop as well as Stables, Dairy Shed, Woolshed, remarkably all of these buildings still remain today.
The Chapel which is situated in the homestead gardens was bought for ₤38 in 1873 from Prebbleton (outskirts of Christchurch) and moved on skids by oxen. It was dedicated by the Primate of New Zealand Bishop H.J. Harper and the burial ground near the Chapel was consecrated, where today a number of the members of the Grigg and Thomas family are laid to rest. The Bishop also baptized two children on that day 25th May 1873, the first two baptisms to be recorded in the Ashburton register.
A memorial in the Chapel records the names of the men from Longbeach who gave their lives in World War One, there is also a memorial to John Grigg which quotes the words “Who laboured for the common good; Large was his bounty; His soul sincere.”
The Garden was first established in 1864 with trees planted as shelterbelts against the Nor West winds and over the years the garden has grown up inside the shelter. Longbeach garden has prospered over the years as each generation of the family has continued with plantings and maintenance. Today there is 12ha of sweeping lawns and garden.
The present homestead is the third on about the same site. It was completed in 1940 after the second home burnt down and is constructed from bricks originally made on the property and salvaged from the fire that destroyed the second homestead. The architect was Heathcote Helmore and the shingled roof is made of Canadian cedar.
Longbeach has remained in the same family passing from John Grigg to J.C.N. Grigg to his son J. H. Grigg, who in turn passed it on to his daughter and son in law Virginia and David Thomas.
THE FARM TODAY
Today Longbeach Estate is run by Bill and Penny Thomas with their son and daughter-in-law James and Rachel, 5th and 6th generation respectively. The farm is a mix of arable, livestock and dairy, with a wedding and events venue.
The arable farm is 900ha and grows a range of crops including wheat, barley, oats, grass seed, brassicas, maize and peas. Young dairy and beef cattle are raised and finished on the farm, lambs are traded and finished throughout the year.
Longbeach Dairies is 270ha and milks 980 cows, the farm uses the latest technology including Halter, variable rate irrigation and liquid fertiliser to minimise nutrient runoff and water wastage.
Longbeach aims to farm as sustainably as possible so future generations can enjoy farming the land as their ancestors have done for over 150 years.