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

Racecourse Hill — (Runs 49, 65, and later 50)

Racecourse Hill
(Runs 49, 65, and later 50)

Above Ledard came Racecourse Hill, twenty thousand acres of which were taken up in September, 1852, in the name of the Hon. Joseph Denman, by either J. C. Watts Russell or R. A. Creyke. Creyke took up fifteen thousand acres adjoining in his own name in January, 1853. The two runs were worked as one station by Watts Russell and Creyke from the beginning, and I do not think Denman ever came to New Zealand. He soon sold his interest to his partners. The country ran back to the Hawkins River. Creyke was the managing partner and his first homestead was on the Waimakariri, and in those days it was called Bleak House. The road leading to where it was is still called the Bleak House Road.

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By 1855 Russell and Creyke had 2524 sheep on their country and these had increased to 6300 by 1858. For a time the station was known as Wantwood, probably because of the treelessness of the country. About 1859 Creyke moved the homestead to the present site, and ever since the station has been called Racecourse Hill. Vigors was his overseer at Bleak House, and a man named Jeffrey his head shepherd. I shall give some further account of Russell and Creyke when I come to Dalethorpe.

In 1860 or 1861, soon after he had added Ledard to the station, Creyke sold it to Edwin Fereday. Fereday also owned Oakleigh station on the Rakaia, and he broke down under the strain of riding to and fro over the dreary plains between the two stations. Racecourse Hill was sold some time before 1863 to Francis Edward Stewart, a bank manager, who had come down to Christchurch to open the first branch of the Bank of New Zealand there. (It stood in Cashel Street, opposite Ballantynes'.) He did not live on the station; a man named Jackson managed it for him; I think he was Adam Jackson who afterwards had Benmore Station in partnership with Elliot.

Rhodes and Wilkin, the mortgagees, took Racecourse Hill over from Stewart in September, 1865. Stewart was the son of Captain Thomas Stewart, R.N., of Clifton in England, one of the heads of the Stewart clan and formerly of Newdosk and Birkenhead. F. E. Stewart arrived in Canterbury in August 1857. He was a member of the Provincial Council, becoming Provincial Secretary in 1866 and Deputy-Superintendent in 1867. He left Canterbury for Victoria in 1869 and for a time managed Goldsborough Mort there. He died in Victoria in 1904 aged 71.

J. H. Davison managed Racecourse Hill for Rhodes and Wilkin. He also managed another of their stations, Carleton, across the Waimakariri. He afterwards managed St. Leonard's Station in the Amuri for them, and when that was sub-divided bought the homestead block, or modern St. Leonard's Station, where he died in March, 1927.

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Rhodes and Wilkin sold Racecourse Hill in 1868 to Edward Constable Maxwell (known as 'Buster'), Wilfred Constable Maxwell, and Benjamin Booth. Booth sold his share to the Maxwell Brothers in 1871.

The Maxwells kept a racehorse together. Whenever either of them passed its box the horse would neigh to him and he would give it a feed, so it was always too fat to win races.

After Wilfred Maxwell's death, H. J. Mathias from the Desert joined Edward Maxwell in the station, and they began buying up the freehold of the run in earnest. They bought eleven thousand acres. The rest of the country was bought up by outsiders.

Edward Maxwell died in England early in 1885, and H. A. Knight, bought his share in conjunction with H. J. Mathias. Mathias died in September, 1885, and Knight bought his share also. The station then consisted of seven thousand three hundred acres of freehold. It is now reduced to eleven hundred and fifty acres. Knight died after this note was first written, but the property still belongs to his daughter, Mrs Woodhouse. It was out of Racecourse Hill and Waireka that Hamilton and Crosbie Ward bought the well known Bangor Estate.

The Maxwells came from Dumfriesshire where their father had an estate. They were somewhat easy-going men, but Racecourse Hill was a very good station and pulled them through, so that latterly both lived chiefly in England.

In recent years Balymena and Limerick have shown that Racecourse Hill can turn out better racehorses than the one the Maxwells used to stuff.