John Edmonds was born in Worcestor, England, and was sent to New Zealand to build the Stone Store in Kerikeri by the Christian Missionary Society who, unfortunately, omitted to inform the Missionaries of this fact.
In the meantime, William Parrott, a stonemason from Sydney, had been employed to do this job since July 1832, and by the time that John Edmonds arrived with his wife and four children on 7 February 1834 the stonework was almost finished. He did, however, help with the finishing off of the Stone Store.
Henry Williams found him somewhat of an embarrassment and wrote on 9 July, 1834: "Spoke to Mr Edmonds at the request of the brethren, respecting his removal to the colony, as there did not appear to be any prospect of employment for him. Mr E. to give his views of the subject in a few days." But John Edmonds refused to leave NZ, and for nearly six years rented a house near the foreshore close to the Stone Store. During this time he did odd jobs such as putting in chimneys, etc. for the mission.
In their report to the CMS, the missionaries wrote: " Of those who are here, there is Mr Edmonds, costing the Society 300 pounds per annum, of little more use than a fifth wheel on a coach."
During 1837-1838, John Edmonds, seeing the writing on the wall. Bought about 2,700 acres on both sides of the Kerikeri River, and described it as: "Covered with fern, stones of a volcanic nature, caves. Swamps and rough grass and a very little wood.
In March, 1839 he agreed to retire from the mission, but he did not move onto his property atPaetae on the Kerikeri Inlet until 1840, when he had a house "imported from Hobart Town" to live in. Sometime between 1841 and 1859 he built his sturdy stone house which had walls over half a metre thick. The building itself appears to have been about 38 feet long and 28 feet wide. It had a large living room with tall windows on two sides, and a big open fireplace.
Next to the living room was a large bedroom, while at the rear was a roomy kitchen in which was a stone oven. Directly opposite the kitchen door was another smaller building, also with a fireplace, while at the back door was a stone wash basin. The roof was of shingles and descendants of the Edmonds family think the house had a wooden verendah on three sides. He called his house "Belle Vue" after his home in Worcestor.
John Edmonds and his sons then set to work to surround their home, garden and orchard with rock walls, and eventually it was almost impossible to approach the house from any direction but the north without first scrambling over one, two or even three of these near-impregnable stone fences. Within his compound was a cowbail, also of stone. To help him clear the land and plant it in wheat, potatoes, maize and fruit trees, he constructed a stone roller, the first to be made in New Zealand.
Locally, John Edmonds was described as a "character who supervised his sons in the planting of wheat and building of stone walls with a stock whip."
Nevertheless, even though the wooden part of the house was later destroyed by fire, the Edmonds Ruins remain as a unique example of a farmhouse of an early settler who worked in stone.
By Florence Keene, "Legacies in Kauri, Old Homes and Churches of the North" Northern Publishing Co, 1978