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

Snowdon — (Runs 86, 86a, 123, 146, and 349)

(Runs 86, 86a, 123, 146, and 349)

Snowdon, on the north bank of the Rakaia, originally took in all the country from the Point to the page 203Acheron River, and included the Black Hills, running back to the Thirteen Mile Bush and Big Ben. It also included the country between the Thirteen Mile Bush and the Selwyn River as far back as Dalethorpe. It was made up of five pasturage licenses of thirty-seven thousand acres altogether, and carried twenty thousand sheep.

Run 86 (in the angle of the Rakaia and Acheron), of ten thousand acres, was taken up by Aylmer and Perceval, the owners of the Hororata Station, on 19th May, 1853, and a month later Wood and Chisnall took up ten thousand acres next to them, number 86a. Wood and Chisnall took up another five thousand acres (Run 123) on 22nd October of the same year.

I do not know where Aylmer and Perceval's homestead was, but they called their station Norfolk.

Wood and Chisnall's homestead was at the foot of the range, between Big Ben (then called Mt. Snowdon), and Little Snowdon (now wrongly shown on the map as Scab Kill). They called their station Mt. Snowdon.

In November, 1854, John Dudley and F. J. P. Leach, who were partners in several stations at that time, bought the runs of both Aylmer and Perceval, and of Wood and Chisnall. Wood and Chisnall thought the place too far from town to bother with.

Dudley and Leach themselves took up Run 146 on 1st January, 1855, but Run 349, at the very back of the station, was not taken up until 1860. They moved the homestead from the foot of Big Ben to the present site, and Leach, a Welshman, called the station Snowdon.

Leach was the managing partner, and must have got to work quickly, as he had 4500 sheep and 200 head of cattle there by the middle of 1855. His sheep were declared scabby in October, 1856. He was a great planter of trees.

Leach was born at St. Petrox, in Pembrokeshire, in 1832, and was educated to be a doctor but was too deaf for the profession, so came to New Zealand in 1854. He had several runs in partnership with Dudley, who died while Leach was in England enjoying the fox hunting. page 204They had no formal deed of partnership, and Mrs Dudley got their affairs in a mess, so Leach lost most of his money. He afterwards lived at Opawa and had a livery stable in Christchurch. He was a great sportsman and one of the founders of the Canterbury Jockey Club. He won the first steeplechase ever held here on a horse called War Eagle, and wrote some very interesting reminiscences in the Lyttelton Times.

Early in the 'sixties Mrs Dudley and Leach sold Snowdon to William Richard Scott, who had been a partner of the Greys at Coldstream.

Scott sold the station, which he had re-named the Oaks after Leach's trees, in 1866 (but the license was not transferred until June, 1873) to William Gerard. In those days John Grigg's cattle used to cross the Rakaia at the upper ferry, and pass through the run to Lake Lyndon where they joined the West Coast road on their way to the diggings. This disturbance to his stock annoyed Scott so much that he decided to sell. He retired, and afterwards lived in Fiji until his death.

Gerard changed the name of the station from the Oaks back to Snowdon. He had been Robinson's manager at Cheviot Hills and was one of the ablest of the old squatters. By the time of his death, in 1897, he had made freehold the greater part of Snowdon, besides owning Double Hill and Manuka Point Stations, altogether shearing over 60,000 sheep. He bought ten thousand five hundred acres of Snowdon from the Provincial Government at £2 an acre, and twelve thousand from the Midland Railway Company. Snowdon still belongs to his son, George Gerard., but is very much smaller now than it was. The Black Hills, Fighting Hill, and most of Bayfields were all originally part of it, also that part of High Peak which lies on the left bank of the Selwyn, and the station is still famous in Canterbury for the wool and stud sheep grown there.

Except for a year when he was in England, when George McMillan (afterwards of Mesopotamia), looked after all his stations, William Gerard usually managed page 205Snowdon himself, but Alfred Comyns, long his manager at Double Hill, was there for a time. William Logan, who afterwards managed Snowdon for George Gerard, was on the station for 28 years under the Gerards, father and son.