The area from Halcombe to Ashhurst forms a rectangle of land, on a north-west–south-east axis between the Rangitīkei River and the Ruahine Range. The terrain varies between hill country to the east and plains to the west.
It comprises the former Ōroua county (1901–1989), originally the Manchester block. The block was bought in 1871 by the British-based Emigrant and Colonist’s Aid Corporation, headed by the Duke of Manchester. Settlers arrived from 1874, and three townships – Feilding, Halcombe and Ashhurst – were laid out on the block. All were named after individuals active in the corporation. 13 km north-east of Feilding, Cheltenham was a point of entry to blocks further up country.
Township 13 km north-west of Feilding, with a 2013 population of 534. Halcombe was established in 1876, and has thrived as a rural centre. Nearby Stanway is named for the family of Edith Halcombe. The recently established Ngāti Manomano marae, Taumata-o-te-rā, is in the township, and the Tokorangi and Te Hīri marae are both near it. All three have links to Ngāti Raukawa.
The ancient Greeks thought the dense expanse of stars in the heavens was like milk, so named it galactos (meaning milk). English has ‘the Milky Way’ and the word ‘galaxy’. The Nathans, who owned a Manawatū dairy factory, came up with the name ‘Glaxo’ for a new powdered milk.
Township laid out along the Whanganui–Woodville railway line. It was the site of a milk-powder factory built in 1904 by the Nathans, a Wellington business family, but was destroyed by fire two years later. The factory was rebuilt, but within a few months a gelignite explosion destroyed the boiler. A rival dairy factory owner, John Gillies, was arrested for the explosions and may also have been responsible for the fire. Local feeling was on his side, and a jury acquitted him. The Nathans later branded their Bunnythorpe product as Glaxo, and for decades it was the principal milk-powder product sold in the United Kingdom.
Outlying suburb 14 km north-east of Palmerston North, with a 2013 population of 2,778. Ashhurst is near the eastern end of the Manawatū Gorge. As a Manchester block settlement, it was laid out at a small clearing in the bush, known as Ōtangaki, in 1877. It was first called Raukawa, then Ashurst. This was corrected in 1889 to Ashhurst when it was realised this was the spelling of Henry George Ashhurst, the director of the Emigrant and Colonist’s Aid Corporation after whom it was named. In 1989 it was amalgamated into Palmerston North City.