The site was found in September 1998 when Peter Jackson and representatives from New Line Cinema were doing aerial searches for suitable film sites for the LOTR trilogy. When looking at the rolling countryside of the Alexander Farm, they realized it closely resembled the description of The Shire by J.R.R Tolkien. There was even a large pine tree already on site in front of a lake. It was renamed the Party Tree and was used for sequences in the first LOTR movie, The Fellowship of the Ring.
Construction on site started in March 1999 and initially involved earth-moving machinery provided by the New Zealand Army, who built 1.5 km of road into the site. Barberry hedges and trees were brought in; thatch for the pub and Mill roofs was cut from rushes on the farm. Thirty-seven hobbit holes were created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene and The Mill and the double arch bridge were built out of scaffolding, ply and polystyrene, then glued and painted. The oak tree at Bag End was cut down and brought in from Matamata; each branch was chopped and numbered and then transported and bolted back together on site. The tree weighed 26 tonnes. Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and then wired onto the dead tree.
It took nine months for total site construction; filming began in December 1999 and continued for three months. The set was rebuilt in 2011 for the movies The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. The site is now permanent and features hobbit holes, gardens, the bridge, The Mill and The Green Dragon Inn. The interior of The Green Dragon has been recreated, as all interior shots for the movies were filmed in Wellington. Now The Green Dragon Inn is open for business, and serves traditional ales, cider and non-alcoholic ginger beer.
The Alexander Farm where Hobbiton is built is 500 hectares (1250 acres) and is a traditional New Zealand sheep and beef farm, with approximately 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle. The Alexanders moved to the property in 1978 and it is still run today by the brothers and their father.
If you’re familiar with Matamata, you might like this shirt: http://bit.ly/Vn5MbV
For a map of what the geology of Middle-Earth is thought to look like: http://on.fb.me/Tf9BmC
Image: The Green Dragon Inn, courtesy Hobbiton Movie Set Tours