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

Homebush — (Run 41)

(Run 41)

Homebush, the station above Racecourse Hill, ran from the Waimakariri to the Selwyn, the Racecourse Hill and Waireka boundaries being on the plain a mile or so in front of the downs. It took in Gorge Hill and ran back to Russell's Flat and the Pig Saddle, page 32and contained thirty-three thousand acres. It is one of the few stations in Canterbury—there are only about a dozen—which have never left the original owner's family.

It was taken up in October, 1851, by the Deans Brothers, William who had come to New Zealand in 1840, and John who landed in 1842. They settled at Riccarton in 1843, and from that day to this the Deans family have been known from one end of Canterbury to the other as sound colonists, successful farmers and good sportsmen.

In 1839 and 1842, before leaving England, the Deans had bought land orders from the New Zealand Company for four hundred acres at Nelson and the Manawatu, but owing to native troubles they could not get possession of their land, and after long negotiations, they were allowed to select their four hundred acres at Riccarton. They also rented from the Maoris all the country which lay within six miles to the south and east of their freehold. This run covered the ground that was selected in 1848 for the site of Christchurch. The Deans were willing to surrender it in exchange for another run which Godley was unwilling to allow them. It was granted to them, however, after an appeal to Sir George Grey, the Governor. It was the first run allotted by the Canterbury Association on the hills, the reason being that during the scramble for country which began in 1851, the Association reserved the plains as far as possible for their own settlers and the Deanses had to be content with the first pick on the hills.* In those days accessibility was a great consideration, and Homebush is the nearest point on the hills to Christchurch. Cattle stations were supposed to be good business, and the valuable farming land which the run contained has proved it to be a wise selection, but in its native state it cannot have looked a promising place to run merino sheep.

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When William and John Deans came to New Zealand, a third, James Young Deans, remained at Kirkstyle, the family property in Scotland. In 1851 William Deans was drowned near Wellington on his way to Australia to buy stock, and the run afterwards belonged to John Deans and the brother in Scotland. John Deans worked his part of the run from the present homestead as a cattle station, and his brother had a sheep station where Mrs Alister Deans lives now. James Deans's part was started for him in 1856 by Mrs John Deans's brothers, James and Hugh McIllwraith. They stocked it with 1000 ewes from the Levels. Later on they took the run and sheep on terms, and made enough money there to buy Culverden Station in 1863, when the trustees of the second John Deans bought their interest and united the whole of Homebush in one.

John Deans (I) died in 1854 leaving a son John Deans (II) born in 1853. The first Mrs. Deans was a remarkable woman who devoted herself during her son's minority to the care of his future properties. When he came of age he found Riccarton and Homebush ready for him, and in good order. The coal mines and pottery works at Homebush were opened up during Mrs. Deans's regency. Robinson Clough was in charge of the station and cattle at Homebush from October 1851 until the end of 1853. The Deans family still have his diary and have published it in Pioneers of Canterbury. His annoyance with the many visitors who came and ate him out of house and home is amusing to read. In 1852 there were 280 cattle of all ages on the station. The diary ends in October, 1853, when I suppose Clough left and John Cordy, afterwards of Hororata, took charge. Anyhow Cordy managed Homebush on shares from 1854 till 1859. He ran a dairy there for his own profit, but had to rear the calves for the station. In 1859 James McIllwraith took over the management.

During the 'seventies Homebush, which had carried 3000 head of cattle, was gradually changed over to sheep, and nearly twenty thousand acres of the run page 34were made freehold. In the sheep returns of 1878 John Deans is shown as carrying 12,000 sheep at Homebush, two-thirds of which were carried on freehold, and the rest of the land was bought from the Midland Railway Company in 1889.

John Deans (II) died in 1902, and for some years the station was again managed by trustees. Owing to sales of land and letting of country the flock was reduced to about 10,000 sheep.

In 1910 the place was divided amongst the family, and the station with about 3000 sheep now belongs to James Deans, third son of John Deans (II) while John Deans (III) and several other brothers have adjoining properties which were all part of the old run.

* So people used to say, but having now read the relevant documents, I think the Deanses chose Homebush because, by the time their dispute with Godley was settled, it was the nearest unoccupied country to Riccarton.