Tales of Our South Canterbury Townships
Each township in South Canterbury, New Zealand has its own unique story to tell. This fascinating Central South Island region in steeped in history with a raft of interesting facts dating back to the early 1800s.
Here's just a taste....
Orginally named Te Maru ("place of shelter), Timaru was originally a haven for weary Maori travellers canoeing along the otherwise shelterless coastline. Briefly settled as a whaling station about 1838 by the Sydney-based Weller Brothers, Timaru's first resident was whaler Samuel Williams. A large part in the area's pastoral and commercial development was achieved played by George and Robert Rhodes, brothers born in Yorkshire, England. The Rhodes brothers set up the Timaru area's first sheep run and freeholded 50 hectares of land on which Timaru's commercial heart is now based. Timaru was sparsely populated until 1859 when the English ship, Strathallan, arrived with 120 immigrants. The townships of Rhodestown and Government town (the latter proposed by the Government, situated south of North Street) jealously competed until the both were jointly incorporated as a borough in 1868. Development of Timaru's artificial harbour began in 1877, but ships continued to be wrecked in the area into the next decade. As moles were extended from the landing service, sand began to fill the rocky beach to the north, making Caroline Bay a popular summer resort and safe swmming beach. In 1876, the first steam train puffed into Timaru's railway station.
The attractive rural service town of Geraldine was originally established 1856. Logging and milling of the surrounding native forest was the main reason for its establishment, as timber was in demand for the development of Timaru. Bullock wagons carted timber to building sites from the pit mills. The Geraldine Vintage Transport Museum can be found on Talbot Street, one kilometre south of the town's Post Office. Well worth a visit, the Museum contains a wealth of information and displays of vintage cars and machinery. There are over 30 vintage and veteran cars dating as far back as 1905, about 90 tractors from 1912 onwards, including the oldest working tractor in New Zealand, and a variety of old farm equipment. Also on display is New Zealand's only surviving 1929 Spartan bi-plane. The small and charming Geraldine Historical Society Museum also has exhibits of local history including a great collection of early images and a manual telephone exchange. Geraldine’s Lime Kiln is one of the area’s oldest industrial relics. Described as "Norman" in style and built of marble and limestone, the kiln burned lime for use in buildings and agriculture.
Temuka’s main street has many examples of Edwardian architecture. For many years Temuka's main industry was the manufacture of ceramic wares from local clays - Temuka Pottery is renowned for its design and quality. Prior to European settlement, the Temuka area was long occupied by Maori. The name Temuka is a derivation of Te Uma Kaha, which means 'the stong oven' and is associated with the many Maori earth ovens found in the district. When the northern Maori raided the South Island in the 1820s, the palisaded Te Waiateruati pa, sited to the east of the present day Temuka, stood firm and provided the base for their repulsion. Tuhawaiki, the paramount chief of the large Ngai Tahu tribe, led this counter attack. Temuka remains an important area for Maori to this day. The Arowhenua Marae lies to the south of Temuka between the Temuka and Opihi Rivers.
One of Temuka’s best known entrepreneurs was Richard Pearse (1877 - 1953), reputed to have been airborne nine months before the Wright Brothers. A pioneer aviator and inventor, Pearse built the plane and constructed the motor for an experiment. The Pearse memorial, with a replica of his aircraft (located at Waitohi between Temuka and Pleasant Point), marks the take-off point of that flight, witnessed by two local children. Relics of early aviation machinery Pearse designed and manufactured are displayed in the Pleasant Point Railway Museum are displayed in the Pleasant Point Railway Museum, as well as the Auckland Museum of Transport and Technology - view a replica of the aircraft at South Canterbury Museum.
Waimate’s White Horse Monument is located above the town at Centrewood Park on the Hunter Hills and commemorates the work done by Clydesdale horses in the agricultural development of Waimate. The White Horse was made from 1,220 concrete slabs with the head being over 2 1/2 tonne. The monument was the inspiration of Mr Norman Hayman and modelled on the White Horse of England. An enjoyable 2.5 hour return walking track to the monument offers spectacular views - for the more adventurous, try the nearby grade 4 mountainbike trail instead. Don't forget to stop and sample a glass of fine wine from the cellar of Point Bush Estate Winery at the end of your walk.
Famous South Cantabrians who have made their mark on history include:
- Richard Pearse - pioneer aviator and inventor reputed to have flown his own plane some 9 months before the Wright brothers.
- Jack Lovelock - winner of the 1500 metres at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
- Bob Fitzsimmons - New Zealand’s only boxing world heavyweight title champion.
- Waimate’s Margaret Cruikshank - the first New Zealand trained and registered woman General Practitioner. During the 1918 flu epidemic when her driver fell ill, she travelled to her patients by bicycle, before herself succumbing to the disease.
- Phar Lap - the legendary race-horse of the Great Depression, born at Seadown, just outside Timaru NZ.
- One of the country’s most illustrious writers, Owen Marshall, moved to Timaru aged 12 and has spent much of his life here. Marshall's writing exhibits a true affinity with the people and landscapes of this region.
- Romantic hero James MacKenzie is famous for rustling sheep from the historic Levels run near Timaru. His discovery and use of a natural sub-alpine pass (previously unknown to Europeans) to move sheep into the high country, his capture, escape, recapture, trial, further escapes and pardon made him such a legendary figure that the both the Mackenzie Pass and iconic Mackenzie district were named after him
- Scotswoman Jeanie Collier came to New Zealand with three orphaned nephews in her care. In 1855 she leased a run between South Canterbury's Otaio and Hook rivers, becoming Canterbury’s first woman runholder. When she died just six years later, she left her nephews well provided for.
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