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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Heathstock And Horsley Down — (Runs 193, 405, 463, 464 and 465)

Heathstock And Horsley Down
(Runs 193, 405, 463, 464 and 465)

Except Glenmark—and possibly Waikakahi—Heath-stock and Horsley Down, which were for many years worked as one, made the finest station in Canterbury. The country ran from the Hurunui to the south branch of the Waipara, and from near Waikari back to the Seaward Creek. The runs contained a hundred and twenty thousand acres, of which a hundred thousand acres were finally made freehold. For so large a place there was very little poor country on it. It carried 75,000 sheep, and the woolshed was one of the biggest in the province.

As I have been unable to find the documents relating to the early leases, I do not know in what year the various runs were taken up, but George Edward Mason, described as of Horsley Down, applied for more country on November 1st, 1854.

Waitt, in his letter to Captain Thomas, speaks of Mallock being in the forks of the Waipara (Heathstock), and of Sidey and Mason on the Hurunui in 1855, and these were the original occupants. John Willoughby Mallock took up Heathstock, probably in 1851 or 1852. The Walkers—Sherbrook and Lancelot —whom I described when I wrote about Mt. Fourpeaks, joined him about 1855, and his brother, George Arden Mallock, also joined the firm. They bought Charles Sidey's Waitohi Station about 1860, with over 6000 sheep.

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Sidey was a merchant in Lyttelton in the 'fifties, and made a business of importing sheep from Australia. He lived at Cam Cottage, near Kaiapoi, in the 'sixties, and was still living, I think in England, at the time of the Canterbury Jubilee (1900). George Mason managed his run. Mason's own run was further up the Hurunui, where Mason's Flat is named after him. This was a run of thirty-four thousand acres. He built his first hut on the present Horsley Down homestead site, but sold this country to James Lance after holding it a few years. He then took up thirty thousand acres called the Black Hill, and later took up the Mt. Mason country, and last of all the Virginia country, but he only held any of these runs about ten years when Malock and Walker, or Mallock and Lance, bought him out.

Mason was born in Gloucestershire in 1810. He had been a farmer at Home, and came to Canterbury in 1851. He had some sheep with him and intended settling in Otago, but his ship went no farther than Lyttelton, so he stayed there. He was a great explorer of the back country in the early days, and discovered Lake Sumner and several other lakes. (Most of my account of him is taken from the Cyclopedia of New Zealand. ) When he had the Virginia country his sheep were very scabby, but for a long time he managed to avoid a summons by keeping out of sight. The stock inspector served it on him in the end by stalking him at a hut from which he saw smoke rising at daylight one morning.

James Dupre Lance, who was in the East India Company's Army, came down to New Zealand on sick leave in 1856, and stayed at Heathstock. Lie was recalled to India when the Mutiny broke out, and fought in it with distinction. When the Mutiny was over he left the Army and came to Canterbury. He bought Fourpeaks, near Geraldine, but soon afterwards sold Fourpeaks to the Walkers, and bought Horsley Downs from them and Mason about 1861. He took his brother, Henry Lance, into partnership, but Henry Lance never lived at the station.

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Henry Lance was a great racing man in the early days and was honorary secretary and handicapper to the Canterbury Jockey Club for many years, before Penfold's time. He died in 1886.

The two Mallocks and two Lances worked Heathstock and Horsley Down in partnership, the firm being called Mallock and Lance.

Mallock and Lance bought up Mason's various runs during the 'sixties. A return of 1867 states that at that time they had 60,000 sheep there.

The first manager was Thomas McDonald, who was appointed by Mallock in 1854. He stayed till 1872, when he went to Waikuku and started the wool works there. When he left, Mallock moved from Heathstock to Horsley Down (from which both the stations were worked as one), and took over the management himself. He died there in 1879. In 1881 E. D. Giles was appointed manager. George Mallock went Home about 1880 and died there in 1885. Before he came to New Zealand he had been a captain in the Indian Army.

Peter Grant, afterwards a well-known sheep dealer, was the first head shepherd; James McMorran was the next. Henry Elderton is another early shepherd whom I must mention. Tom Dennison, who shore for me at Glentanner, nearly fifty years afterwards, was employed at Heathstock when Lance was recalled for the Indian Mutiny, and told me about Lancelot Walker's jealousy and disgust at having left the army. 'There was no war when I was in the service,' etc., etc.

Lance lived at Heathstock until the house was burnt down in 1889, when he built the present house at Horsley Down, half of it with bricks carted from Heathstock. In revising my book for this edition I have read it right through and find it leaves an impression that station life in the old days was a dreary mixture of tussocks and sheep, overwhelming snowstorms and dangerous rivers; a life of tea, mutton and damper now and then relieved by whisky and square gin, but it wasn't as bad as that. There were many stations where people lived pleasanter, more civilized lives than most of us are likely to do in the future; stations where page 279there was good cooking, good conversation, sound wine and pleasant company, and pretty drawing rooms where ladies played and sang. Anyone who doesn't realise this should read W. P. Reeves's verses about the old house at Heathstock and the earlier letters in Station Life in New Zealand, where Lady Barker describes staying there in 1866. Lance drove her about in a smart brake with four horses, and even found a pool in which to cool the champagne at a picnic. Heathstock was one of the most hospitable homesteads in New Zealand, and was run like an English country house. Many famous horses were kept there, notably Traducer and Blood Royal. In later years they had Anteros at Horsley Down.

Lance, the only surviving partner in the 'nineties, just missed making a large fortune, but owing to bad times, and the enormous liabilities he had contracted in buying so much land, he became embarrassed, and could not hold on quite long enough. Most of the land, including Heathstock homestead, was cut up and sold in 1896 and 1897. The Heathstock homestead now belongs to A. Reece, who has now divided part of the property among his sons. The old stable where Traducer was kept is still standing. The Government bought the Horsley Down homestead block of four thousand acres for settlement; Mrs Lance, however, retained the house and a hundred acres, which belonged to the family until a few years ago. Lance died in Christchurch in 1897, having lived just long enough to see the end of his hopes and fortune.