The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series
Steventon — (Run 38)
This station, which lies on the south bank of the Selwyn, originally ran from Steventon Creek back to Highpeak. It contained nine thousand seven hundred acres, and was taken up on 7th September, 1852, by Arthur Charles and Richard C. Knight. Richard Knight was the managing partner and bought out his brother before very long. A. C. Knight afterwards owned Tekau and Island Bay on Banks Peninsula.
The Knights were nephews of Jane Austen and named the station after her father's vicarage in Hampshire.
The homestead was originally on the bank of the Selwyn about two miles above Whitecliffs. A few trees and bushes are all that is left of it.
In March, 1855, Knight let the run and sheep for one year to William Thomas Norris. For a short time page 224in the 'fifties Norris had the Acheron Bank Station, under which I have described him.
During Norris's tenancy, Knight built a new homestead on the present site, but left the woolshed and working homestead where it had been, on the Selwyn.
On 8th February, 1866, Knight sold Steventon with eighty acres of freehold to Henry Phillip Hill and Frederick Napier Broome, both of whom had been his cadets. At that time Hill's father, Colonel Hill, of Prees Hall in Shropshire, was Resident of the Ionian Islands, and Broome's father, the Rev. F. Broome, was chaplain to one of the regiments of the Garrison. Broome told Colonel Hill how well his son expected to do in New Zealand, and Hill decided to send his own son out, so that they could go into partnership. Young Broome was to find the experience and Hill the capital. When they bought Steventon their manager was Benjamin Booth, the son of the inn-keeper and largest tenant on the Prees Hall estate.
After selling Steventon, R. C. Knight lived at Cour-tenay until his death.
After Broome's marriage to Lady Barker, Hill and Booth lived at the working homestead, and Broome and his wife rebuilt and lived at the new homestead, which they called Broomielaw while they lived there, and of which such a lively account is given in Lady Barker's books.
Broome was a remarkable man. He was a poet, and after he left New Zealand became a Times leaderwriter and then Governor of Western Australia from 1882 to 1890, and of Trinidad from 1891 till his death in 1896, aged 51. He was a keen sportsman and an excellent boxer, wrestler, and runner. He was not, however, a very practical sheep-farmer, dividing most of his time on the station between writing poetry, and pig-hunting. When pig-hunting he several times got so enthusiastic that he fired his ram-rod out of his rifle.
Hill and Broome had a bad time in the 1867 winter, page 225 losing 4000 sheep, including most of their hoggets, out of about 7000, and at the end of 1868, Broome sold out to his partner and left New Zealand in January, 1869.
Lady Barker's books on New Zealand have often been criticised as exaggerated, but they are extremely bright and interesting, and give the best picture we have of the station life of that period. She was a woman of great charm, which is reflected in her books. When I go to Steventon and see the 'Oriel Window,' the 'Gentleman's bathing pool,' and the verandah where they danced in gorgeous carpet slippers, and the swamps and creeks where they went eeling, J half ex-pect to see all those pleasant people of eighty years ago disporting themselves again. As a matter of fact, sev-eral of them were still alive in 1930, and there seems no harm in disclosing their identity.
Alice S. was Miss Scott, now Mrs H. P. Hill; Mrs M. — was Mrs Monro, of the lower Lincoln Road; her husband was head-shepherd at Malvern Hills for the Harpers. Mr. U. was of Course T. E. Upton, of Ashburton, who was a cadet with Hill and Broome at Steventon for several years, while Mr K., the young man from England who turned himself out so smartly up country, and lost all his capital in a very bad cattle station, was J. C. Monck.
In the early 'sixties Hill and Broome rented High-peak Station from Sir Cracroft Wilson, but after a year they sold their lease to their manager, Benjamin Booth.
After Broome went away, Hill moved the working homestead to the present site and lived in Broome's house which, with many additions and alterations, is still standing as sound as ever, as are some of the wire fences put up by Hill and Broome in the early 'sixties.
Hill kept Steventon until 1873, when he sold it, with eight hundred acres of freehold, to the Cordy brothers, sons of John Cordy, of Hororata. Hill afterwards farmed Sedgemere, at Leeston, for some years. In 1878 he imported the first Alderney cattle to Canter-bury from the Channel Islands. He died in Christ-church in 1923.
When the Midland Railway Company sold their page 226land in 1889, the Steventon run was included in the Company's area and Cordy Brothers bought about five thousand acres of it. The rest of their leasehold was taken by the Government soon afterwards and let as two grazing runs.
Frederick W. Cordy, the last brother, died in 1911, and in March, 1912, the station was let with a purchasing clause to the present owner, George Starky. It seems to me one of the most delightful properties in Canterbury.
It now carries about 3500 sheep.