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

Clent Hills — (Runs 174, 262, 298, and 377)

Clent Hills
(Runs 174, 262, 298, and 377)

The four runs which made up Clent Hills contained over fifty thousand acres altogether. The country lay on the north bank of the Ashburton, and ran from the Stour Creek to Lake Heron. It took in the Old Man Range.

In January, 1857, Tripp and Acland, who had Mt. Somers at that time 'discussed the propriety of securing the country above ours for our man Smith' (to whom they afterwards leased Orari Gorge), but they do not seem to have applied for it, and F. G. P. Leach took up Run 174 for himself and his partner, John Dudley, in the following April. Run 262 was taken up in May, 1858, Run 298 in May, 1859, and Run 377 in May, 1860.

Leach stocked the country with cattle. His stockman in charge was a man known as 'Gentleman Smith.' This 'Gentleman Smith 'was a noted practical joker. One night Dean Jacobs caught him ringing the St. Michael's bell and started to conduct him to the Police Station, but as they passed his house Smith asked him if he did not live there. The Dean said 'Yes,' so Smith pushed him in and fastened the door, and ran back to the Royal Hotel to tell his friends what fun he had had. Smith's friends advised him to get back to Clent Hills at once or he would get into trouble. He went, but the Dean obtained the arrest of one page 311Packard who looked rather like Smith, and wore the same kind of Napoleon boots and cord breeches. Packard had no trouble in proving an alibi, and got the Dean into trouble for frivolous and unjustifiable arrest. Leach sold the runs to Thomas Rowley very soon after he got them—I think at least as early as 1859. Rowley was the first man I have heard of who put up wire fences in the back country. He began subdividing his flats with them in 1863.

It was about 1863 also that the runholders in the Ashburton Gorge arranged to bring the mails up from Ashburton once a week in turn, instead of sending them on from station to station by chance travellers. Booth's Five Years in New Zealand recounts an accident that happened to an old Irish station hand of Rowleys while he was carrying them. He was riding an old horse called Dan, a noted buckjumper in his day, and had the mail bags and odd parcels tied all round his saddle. His dog routed out a wild cat and chased it. The flat was quite bare, with no trees or scrub nearer than the riverbed, half a mile away, and the cat, finding the dog was catching her, doubled and ran up Dan's leg and held on to his rump by her claws, which started him bucking. First the man went off, then the mails and parcels, then the saddle, and lastly the cat. When he was free Dan bolted for his life, the cat after him, and the dog after the cat, and the man was left to watch them disappear.

'Pat had over ten miles to travel and carry the bags and parcels as best he could, and return next day for the saddle. The story of how the cat robbed Her Majesty's mail was long laughed over on the Ashburton, and Paddy was unmercifully chaffed for his part in the performance.'

As a matter of fact it was not rare for wild cats to run up horses' legs when dogs chased them on the open plains. John James Thomson saw the same thing happen to Benjamin Dowling when he was riding with him at Heslerton, and my father told me that it once happened to him also at Heslerton.

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Rowley sold Clent Hills about 1865 to Robert Tooth, who also owned Alford Station in the Ashburton Forks, but the Tooths and Rowleys were mixed up together in business in those days, and Tooth may have been his partner before that. Tooth died and his nephew, Frederick Tooth, took over his stations. In 1879 Frederick Tooth sold Clent Hills for £10,000 to A. E. Peache, of Mt. Somers. It had cost his uncle £27,000. It carried over 16,000 sheep.

In April, 1885, Peache sold the station for £11,750 to Thomas Harrison, who took his brother James into partnership shortly afterwards.

In those days the homestead was on Rural Section 34,529 on the flat near Lake Heron, and there Thomas Harrison lived, but James Harrison built himself a new homestead at the Stour Creek. The sheep were still worked from the old homestead. In 1898 James Harrison bought his brother's share in the station.

Thomas Harrison had bought Hackthorne, on the Hinds, before selling out of Clent Hills. In 1905 he sold Hackthorne and in 1906 bought the Linton Downs Station near Kaikoura. He sold Linton Downs to the Government for closer settlement about 1912. He then retired.

In 1908 James Harrison sold Clent Hills to A. R. C. Kilian, of Lake Heron. Harrison retired and lived in Christchurch, where he died in March, 1917. He bought a small place near Amberley which his son, John Harrison, managed. Kilian kept the station until just before the 1914-18 war, when he sold it to the present owner, Lieutenant-Colonel R. B. Neill, who renamed it Barrosa. Neill moved the working buildings down to the Stour and the old homestead has been abandoned except as an outstation.

After the 1914-18 war the Government resumed the Old Man Range country (about half the run) and settled a returned soldier on it, and I think this is now known as Clent Hills.

I have already written accounts of all the early owners except Peache, who is more closely identified page 313with Mt. Somers. Thomas D. Bellett was a cadet and afterwards managed Clent Hills until Rowley sold it. Bellett was the son of an English parson who was rector of Bridgenorth where he was born in April, 1839. He left England in 1857. He went to Clent Hills when he arrived, though I believe he bought land elsewhere. When he became manager he had a share in the station. When Rowley sold Clent Hills Bellett went to Hamilton Station which Rowley owned in partnership with Captain Hamilton, and Bellett had a share in that also. He also managed Mt. Fourpeaks for some years. From 1884 until 1889 he managed the Kyeburn Station in Central Otago for Scobie Mackenzie, and then went back to Hamilton and stayed there till it was cut up. About 1901 he joined the Land Transfer Office and was posted to Wellington. He was superannuated about 1910 and died at Karori in November, 1925.

Laurence Kennaway brings him into Crusts, but of course mixes up his name and appearance. I believe he was noticeably short.