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

Peel Forest — (Run 13 N.Z.R., subsequently Runs 388 and 411)

Peel Forest
(Run 13 N.Z.R., subsequently Runs 388 and 411)

This station originally covered all the country between the Rangitata and Orari rivers, and ran from the cross road just below the Upper Orari Bridge, up to Peel Forest itself, and took in the low spurs running from Little Mt. Peel towards the Orari. At one time the tenants claimed the country as far as Mt. Peel Creek, but this was never stocked until it became part of Mt. Peel.

Peel Forest was allotted to Francis Jollie on 1st November, 1853, and is described in the license, which was issued by Colonel Campbell, as Run 12, comprising twenty-five thousand acres. When the runs outside the Block were placed under the Provincial Government's administration, W. G. Brittan, the Commissioner of Lands, issued a new license for twenty-seven thousand three hundred acres, the new license being numbered 13, N.Z.R. On 30th May, 1861, this license was exchanged for Runs 388 and 411 under the Canterbury Regulations, Run 388 being surrendered and given to Tripp and Acland of Mt. Peel a few years later.

By 1854 Jollie was carrying 1382 sheep, and his manager was Bayley Pike. Jollie built the homestead where it still stands on the edge of the Forest, but his manager appears to have lived at first on the Orari flat below Silverton—Mrs J. M. H. Tripp's present house. In 1856 Gibson, the then manager, lived there, but in the 'sixties the run was worked from the Creek Station, where Jollie's next manager—his step-son Edward Cooper—lived. The Creek Station, with a few acres page 138about it, was leased to T. P. Bartrum from 1879 onwards, and he established a wool scour there. It was on the eastern boundary of the run, below where the Geraldine road crosses Cooper's Creek.

Jollie, a brother of Edward Jollie, the Chief Surveyor, had settled at Nelson in the forties. When the Canterbury Association began operations, a run as near the Block as possible was the ambition of many of the ' pre-Adamite ' settlers.

Jollie is said to have built his homestead as far as possible from his working station because the bleating of sheep annoyed his wife, and if any came near her house she used to send the cowboy to drive them away with a stockwhip.

Jollie died in 1870 and his wife about the same time, after which the station devolved upon Edward Cooper. Cooper lived on at the Creek Station, but built a new working station on the land afterwards sold to R. Marshall, where lived E. R. Guinness, who became Cooper's manager in July, 1877, and remained until July, 1879, after the station had been sold. Cooper let the homestead to Sir Thomas Tancred, and afterwards to Arthur Hawdon—both retired squatters.

In September, 1878, Cooper sold the station, which then comprised about seven thousand acres of freehold, twelve thousand acres of leasehold, and about 13,000 sheep, and retired to Melbourne. The purchasers were Smith, Dennistoun and Co., and the partners in this firm were George Grey Russell (partner in Ritchie and Russell, of Dunedin, and owner of Otipua Station, near Timaru), H. J. le Cren (Timaru), W. Cunningham-Smith, and George James Dennistoun (who had been a midshipman in the Navy). Russell and le Cren were originally the senior partners. Cunningham-Smith and Dennistoun had recently owned Haldon Station, in the Mackenzie Country, in partnership with Wallace. Dennistoun was the managing partner and the only one of them who lived on the station. His overseers were William Turton, and from 1883 to 1913 Thomas Frazer, who now farms part of the old freehold. Frazer was succeeded by Jack Turton, who had been head page 139shepherd at Mt. Peel, and came to Peel Forest in 1899.

Dennistoun went to England in 1914, leaving Turton in charge, and he is still there.* He takes a very great pride in the station and his long connection with it.

When the old leases expired in 1889, the Government knocked down the pastoral runs to the highest bidders. Postlethwaite of Raukapuka out-bid Smith, Dennistoun and Co., for their run country, which, however, did not make his fortune. This hill country was some years ago subdivided into three grazing runs.

Jollie, Cooper, and Smith, Dennistoun and Co., at various times had made freehold some eight thousand five hundred acres of that part of the run which lay on the plains, and the partners went on with this.

In January, 1894, Cunningham-Smith left the firm, and a year or so later, le Cren having died, Russell and Dennistoun bought his interest also.

In September, 1903, Russell, wishing to wind up his New Zealand affairs, sold his share to Dennistoun, who then became the sole owner of the station, which at that time consisted roughly of eight thousand acres of freehold and carried 8500 sheep. During the following eighteen months much land was sold and the area reduced to five thousand four hundred acres. By a second sale in 1913, which included the woolshed block (now Marshall's farm), the property was brought down to its present size, i.e. about two thousand three hundred acres with 2300 sheep, and a new woolshed was built near the old homestead at the edge of the Forest.

The several owners of Peel Forest have all been men of taste, and great tree planters, and the glorious view, native bush and trim gardens make it one of the most beautiful homesteads in Canterbury.

Dennistoun died in England during the 1914-18 War (at which his elder son died of wounds in the hands of the enemy), and Peel Forest is now occupied by his page 140younger son, Commander Dennistoun, who manages the station for his father's executors.

* Turton retired in 1931 and now lives in Geraldine. He was succeeded by Ynyr Robinson who stayed till 1938. Eighteen months later Paul Acland Thomson, the present manager, took over.