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

Malvern Hills — (Run 24)

Malvern Hills
(Run 24)

Between the Selwyn and Rakaia lay some of the earliest runs selected by the Canterbury Pilgrims. On the foothills south of the Selwyn, opposite Homebush, Sir Thomas Tancred and his brother, Henry John Tancred, took up ten thousand acres in Henry Tancred's name in January, 1852. The eastern boundary ran along the present road from the Coalgate Bridge to the Hororata Church. This run was known as the Malvern Hills Station. Nearly half of it was poor scrubby country and it included the Wairiri swamp of a thousand acres. It was rather a poor run altogether.

Henry Tancred, who lived at the station and managed it, had been an officer in the Austrian Army before he came to NewZealand. He was a keen politician and during his first year as head of the Provincial Executive Government (1853-4) John Hayhurst, who had been his shepherd and afterwards rented the Ashburton Station from Sir Thomas Tancred, managed Malvern Hills. During Henry Tancred's second term as head of the executive (1855-7) his next shepherd, a man named Laing, was manager. G. A. E. Ross of Waireka was Tancred's cadet when he first started the station, and J. B. Acland of Mt. Peel was a cadet in 1855. Acland was long remembered there for his fond-page 76ness for digging into mounds which he thought might be Maori graves. He told me he remembered Tancred giving him two pieces of advice. The first was about choosing a site for a station homestead on a new run. The three most important points, Tancred said, were first, handiness to water, second, handiness to firewood, and thirdly to be sure to make your garden where the cabbage trees were thick, because cabbage trees only grow thick on good land. Tancred's other piece of advice was that no gentleman should ever do hard work with one of his men, because either the man went slow so as not to shame his employer, or the employer knocked himself up trying to get full work out of the man.

About 1858 Henry Tancred sold his share of the station to Bishop Harper, who like many parsons in those days of small stipends, had to invest in station property to live, though when there was more money for stipends I believe he put a stop to parsons farming.

Sir Thomas and the Bishop appointed Charles Harper, the Bishop's son, manager, and he was soon afterwards succeeded by his brother, George (after wards Sir George) Harper, who a year or two later, took the run and the sheep on lease in partnership with another brother, the Archdeacon. Their rent to the owners was £700 a year. At that time the Archdeacon was vicar of a parish known as the Southern Stations which included all the stations between the Waimakariri and the Rakaia, and he made Malvern Hills his headquarters. He told me an amusing story of his returning to the station one afternoon to find neither man nor dog at home nor any mutton. He had to run down a sheep and kill it before he could have anything but dry bread to eat for supper. I daresay killing the sheep gave him more trouble than running it down, as he had been head of the school at Eton and was a good athlete. J. S. Monck was a cadet with George Harper for a year or two in the early 'sixties. He afterwards had a run at Lake Coleridge.

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In 1865 the first wire fence on the hills in this part of Canterbury was put up as a boundary between Malvern Hills and Rockwood.

Harper Brothers' lease ended in April, 1866, and the owners sold the station to John Hamilton Ward, for the Canterbury Investment Co., the owners of Bangor. George Harper and his head shepherd Robert Munro drove the balance of the wethers over Browning's Pass to the West Coast where they sold them to the butchers. Munro then took charge of Ward's sheep on both Bangor and Malvern Hills, living at Malvern Hills until 1871. In August, 1866, Harper went home to prepare for his long and honurable career at the law.

I shall give fuller accounts of Sir Thomas Tancred and Charles Harper when I write of Raukapuka and Lake Coleridge. Henry Tancred was in the Legislative Council and was a minister in the Governments of Sir Edward Stafford and Domett. He was also Chancellor of the New Zealand University until his death in 1884. The Bishop's life has been written by the Rev. H. Purchas, and the Archdeacon's Letters have been published.

Robert Munro gave up sheep and became a grocer in Christchurch, and lived until 1926. He had a splendid memory and was invaluable to me when I collected notes on the Selwyn Runs.

Ward sold Malvern Hills early in the 'seventies to Charles Barker, a man who earned himself an unkind nickname by his habit of buying freehold on his friends' runs. From Barker, Malvern Hills passed into the hands of Charles Clark who after working the station for about a year, subdivided it and sold the homestead with twelve hundred acres to Walter Black, and the front part to J. H. R. Aitken, who built the homestead on the Hororata-Coalgate Road, and named it Glendore. Tancred and Harper's homestead was on the property which belonged to Mrs. Dunlop, but further up the gully than the present house. It is a pretty place surrounded by birch trees and bush and for its associations Mrs Dunlop always hoped to make it a page 78reserve in memory of Bishop Harper.