Feilding is situated at the junction of the Oroua Valley and the Manawatu Plain. The Oroua River, a north-bank tributary of the Manawatu River, forms the eastern boundary of the borough. To the west and south of the town the land is open plain, but to the north and east it rises to the hills west of the Ruahine Range. The North Island Main Trunk railway passes through Feilding which by road is 41 miles south-east of Wanganui (51 miles by rail) and 12 miles north of Palmerston North by road or rail.
The rural activities of the district include dairying, sheep farming, mixed cropping, and market gardening. Feilding is a trade and distributing centre but supports a variety of secondary industries. These include the manufacture of bricks and tiles, concrete products, organic fertilisers, joinery and furniture, cardboard cartons and containers, clothing and knitwear, and flour-milling and bacon and ham curing. Motor bodies and trailers are manufactured, and wool and skins are processed. There is a seed-cleaning establishment, a meat and smallgoods packing works in the town, and general and precision engineering. A large meat-freezing works is established at Aorangi (1 mile south-east) and there is a wool-scouring works nearby. Butter is manufactured at Makino Road (2 miles north), and textiles (chenille) at Halcombe (8 miles north-west). Extensive stock saleyards are maintained at Feilding.
The town came into existence as the result of a special settlement scheme promoted by an English body called the Emigrants' and Colonists' Aid Corporation, which had been created in 1867 and over which the Duke of Manchester presided. The Hon. Lt.-Col. William Henry Adelbert Feilding, as chief representative of the corporation, visited New Zealand in 1871. He selected 100,000 acres of Manawatu land which was named the Manchester Block after the chairman, and which contained the future town site that would bear his own name. Arthur William Follett Halcombe, after whom the neighbouring township of Halcombe is named, became local agent of the corporation in 1872. When the first small party of settlers reached Feilding in 1874 the survey of the town site was still in progress. Much of the initial period of settlement was occupied with the clearance of the surrounding heavy bush and the improvement of communications towards Foxton (then the port and main point of entry for the district) and elsewhere throughout the block. On 20 October 1876 the railway from Foxton to Palmerston North was extended to Feilding. In April 1878 it was continued to Halcombe and on 20 May the gap between Marton Junction and Halcombe was closed. Thus rail communication with Wanganui was established and an additional outlet for the town was provided. With the arrival of the railway and the clearing of the bush for farming, town growth accelerated. The plan of Feilding was prepared in England and an attempt was made to copy the general layout of Manchester. Feilding was constituted a borough on 7 July 1881.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 5,812; 1956 census, 6,784; 1961 census, 8,160.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.