The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series
Eyrewell — (Runs 83 and 93, and later 84)
(Runs 83 and 93, and later 84)
Eyrewell has never changed hands except by inheritance. It lies next above Wai-iti on the Waimakariri and at one time took in the whole country between the Waimakariri and the Eyre for about nine miles. Marmaduke Dixon took up Run 83 of six thousand acres on 17th May, 1853, and Run 93 in the following July.
There was very little water on these runs before the water races were made, and Eyrewell is named after a well eighty feet deep which Dixon dug single-handed when he first settled there. I have heard that when Dixon was digging this well, he had to climb down and fill the bucket, climb the ladder again and pull up the bucket with a hand winch, empty it, and so down again. Apparently he called the station the Hermitage for the first year or two; at least that is the name given to it in a Sheep Return of 1854 when he had 3000 sheep there.page 53
Most of Eyrewell was light manuka country, so that very little freehold was bought on the run by farmers. In 1889, when the Midland Railway Company were given land as a progress payment for the railway they were building, the Eyrewell leasehold and a great deal of other government country near it, was included in their area. The Company sold the land for what it would fetch, giving the sitting tenants the first offer of it. Dixon bought his own run for 15/-an acre, and also the leasehold parts of Burnt Hill and Dagnam— runs above him on the river, whose owners did not care to make them freehold. In 1904 and 1907 his son, also called Marmaduke Dixon, bought most of the Worlingham Station and also added the Waimakariri country of that to Eyrewell. After these increases Eyrewell carried about 15,000 sheep.
The Dixons are the only people, except Moore of Glenmark, who have tried the experiment of sowing tussock seed, which they did on bare, burnt, manuka country to give shelter to finer grasses. They were great pioneers in the improvement of manuka country in various ways and spent a lot of money in cutting the scrub, crushing it down with rollers, and ploughing it in with swamp ploughs.
Marmaduke Dixon (II) died in 1918 and the station is now worked by trustees. Sales of land have brought it down in size, but it still carries about 5000 sheep.
Run 83 became Run 429, Class II, on 1st May, 1879. Run 84 was taken up by Robert Chapman on 18th May, 1853, and stocked with 250 ewes. He apparently sold it to Hillyard, and as I said in my note on Wai-iti, Hillyard transferred it to Dixon about 1866.
The first Marmaduke Dixon firmly believed that sun spots influence the weather. I have read lately that scientists have now come to the same conclusion. Dixon was a member of the Provincial Council and an enlightened worker on local bodies, and was the originator of the long straight roads in his district. Before settling in Canterbury he had been at sea. He came to New Zealand in 1849, and was so pleased with the country that he decided to come and live here, page 54although he was just due to command a ship. He finally arrived in Canterbury in 1851. He died in 1897, aged 67.