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Settlers and Pioneers


Before the Canterbury pioneering era came Marlborough. Frederick A. Weld and Charles Clifford (later both carried Sir before their names) were two of the first runholders in the Wellington country and later in Marlborough. Weld was Premier in the early sixties, under Governor Sir Thomas Gore Brown, and enunciated the principle of military self-reliance, instead of continuing to ask the parent land for help in the wars. Later he held several governorships. He went first with Charles Clifford page 105and Vavasour to South Wairarapa, where they occupied the Wharekaka Station, on the shores of Palliser Bay. In 1845 Weld and Clifford had 900 ewes and agreed to winter sheep for a newcomer at is. 6d. per head. Writing in that year, Weld said he was completely confident as to the results of his undertaking, the only fear being a Maori war. The hardships of the road and boat work round the cliffs of Pencarrow from Wellington to Palliser, along the southern coast of the North Island (now the Riddi-fords' sheep-country), were too severe for Weld, so he made a tour of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, and the country south of the present site of Blenheim. He presently decided to settle at Flaxbourne, where 'I shall, with my yacht, be much nearer the town [Wellington] than I am now. I shall have no rivers to ford, sometimes breast-high, no rocks to climb at high tide on the beach, or to sleep out in the rain all night. Nor shall I have any more anchoring off lee shores in open boats, or swamping in the surf, of which I have had enough to last me for years.'*

The country at Flaxbourne (where the township of Seddon is now situated) he likened, in his letters to England, to the Dorsetshire Downs. 'I have not a neighbour, Native or European, for 40 miles, so I am monarch of all I survey. It is a fine, healthy page 106country, with neither swamps nor forest. We have five horses, some cows, and a bull. The sheep, which are far the best ever imported into the colony, are as follows: 2000 Clifford's and mine, and 500 on a third-of-increase and half-of-wool arrangement. I shall make Flaxbourne my headquarters, as this will be the most important station. I intend having a garden and vinery in a deep glen behind the house.'

Three years later the partners had 11,000 sheep and were selling rams at £20 apiece. When they first brought the sheep they drove them over in two lots— Weld's one day, and Clifford's a day later. Crossing the Bluff River they had to throw all the sheep into the water—'a day and a half's hard work.'

The partners built a boat for their own use, thirty-six feet over all, rigged like a cutter, with a little mizzen. Weld wrote that one day he sailed halfway across Cook Strait, 'but a shift of wind contrary to tide, with a very heavy sea, drove us into port again. In going out we beat the Eagle , a large brigantine, that ought to have been able to take us on her deck and beat us, and in returning we licked a little schooner that had the impudence to come out of one of the bays and challenge us.'

Large sheep stations, with their beautiful homesteads, are still the dominant feature of the South Marlborough landscape. But great areas of excellent agricultural land have been subdivided into dairy farms and cropping lands, and stock-fattening farms, page break


page 107and the process of cutting up into moderate-sized farms will no doubt be intensified, in common with like districts in other parts, as the demand for land increases with time. The great sheep-kings of the early days were a class powerful in their generation, but refrigeration came, and dairying, and they were bound most of them to pass away.