The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series
Heslerton — (Run 108)
Heslerton was below the Bealey's country on the Rakaia and joined Camla on the plain about halfway across to the Selwyn. It contained nearly twenty thousand acres and was taken up in August, 1853, by Richard Hilton, a brother-in-law of the Westenras. In 1857 Hilton sold it for £1,200 without the stock to a man named Brown, and in 1858, Brown sold it to Benjamin Dowling with 1450 sheep (a mixed lot, including lambs) for £4,500. In 1855 and 1856 Thomas Kinnersley Adams had the station on terms from Hilton. Dowling resold to C. F. Knyvett very soon after he bought the station. Hilton's homestead was on the Rakaia two or three miles below the present railway bridge where one or two large blue-gums still mark the spot, but when Knyvett bought the place he was afraid of the homestead being flooded out so built a new one on the present site. He also changed the old name of it, Jellalabad, to Heslerton, after his father's page 88place in England. Knyvett was drowned, and about 1870 Edward Lee, his executor, sold Heslerton to Cecil Augustus FitzRoy (who had been a cadet at Mesopotamia) and Thomas Dyke Acland (who had been a cadet at Mt. Peel). FitzRoy and Acland's head shepherd was John Mackenzie, who lived at Halswell until sometime in the 1920's. Until his retirement some years ago he was one of the best known sheep drivers in Canterbury.
FitzRoy and Acland had not had the station more than seven years before John Johnstone Loe bought two thousand acres of freehold in the middle of the run which made it unworkable, so they sold the station to him altogether. After Loe's death Heslerton passed into the hands of the Bank of New South Wales who sold it to a syndicate by whom it was cut up and sold in 1908. At that time it consisted of eleven thousand four hundred acres of freehold. For a time from 1887 onwards the Bank leased the station to Phineas Roberts who ran a flock of Silesian merinos there. After Roberts left, James Balfour managed it for some years. The homestead block now belongs to James Spence.
Richard Hilton settled near Geraldine when he left Heslerton. The village of Hilton there is named after him. I know nothing of Brown except that I learnt from a letter written at the time that he bought and sold the place. Dowling was an Australian who afterwards had Buccleugh Station near Mt. Somers. Adams had originally intended to go into the Army but came to New Zealand in 1853 instead. He left Heslerton to start the Opawa Station near Albury which he and the Rev. J. Raven had taken up in partnership. After he left Opawa, he succeeded Sir William Congreve as stock inspector. He died in Christchurch in 1863, aged 32. Congreve, by the way, left New Zealand for Fiji soon after he lost his job and no one seems to have heard of him again, so that to this day it is uncertain whether his baronetcy is extinct or not. FitzRoy was in the House of Representatives for some years. He was also starter for the Canterbury Jockey Club. He died in Hawke's Bay not many years ago. Acland was page 89my father, but I remember nothing about him as a squatter, as he sold Heslerton before I was a year old. I think he was fonder of farming than of sheep and he had a great prejudice against deep ploughing. I remember he used to say that if God Almighty had meant the sub-soil to be on the top, He would have put it there. After he gave up farming he became a land agent in Christchurch where he died in 1892, aged 45. Dr. Knyvett was shepherd to his brother at Heslerton.