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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]

The Awatere

The Awatere.

The Awatere is the name given to a large and fertile valley watered by the Awatere river, which rises towards the western boundary of Marlborough and falls into Cook Strait. The township, which bears the name of Awatere, is sixteen miles by the coach road from Blenheim, and there is a good cart road all up the river—which it crosses and recrosses several times—as far as Molesworth station, which is seventy miles from Blenheim. The Molesworth and Kaikoura page 432
Jordan Bridge, Awatere River.

Jordan Bridge, Awatere River.

coaches pass through Awatere, and there is a post and telegraph office at the township. Sheepfarming and grain growing are the staple industries of the district, which includes the Starborough settlement.

Altimarlock Station (Mr. A. Farmar, proprietor). This property consists of about 2,700 acres of freehold, and is twenty-six miles distant from Blenheim. The run is well watered and sub-divided, the land being laid down in cocksfoot, cowgrass, and clover. From fifteen to twenty miles of fencing have been erected, the half of which is rabbit proof. For many years the rabbit pest had to be fought, but was at last got under. The flock consists of strong combing Merinos, of the Murray type, of South Australia.

Mr. Kenneth Phin Mowat , formerly proprietor of “Altimarlock,” was born on the estate in 1856. His education, begun at Nelson College, was afterwards completed at the Nelson Theological College. Since leaving school, he has been engaged in sheepfarming, and has travelled considerably, both in and out of the colonies. He is a member of the Awatere Road Board, and for many years took great interest in show matters.
Mr. Alexander Mowat , sometime of “Altimarlock,” was born in Caithness-shire, Scotland, in August, 1813, and followed the sea for many years. In 1843, he came to New Zealand in the ship “Ralph Bernell,” and two years later he settled in the Awatere district, where he had bought “Altimarlock,” which then comprised 1400 acres. In 1852, in conjunction with the late Captain Cross, he took up “Middlehurst.” Mr. Mowat died on the 27th of March, 1875, from an attack of bronchitis. He left a family of five sons and four daughters; namely, Kenneth Phin Mowat, till lately of “Altimarlock”; Thomas Renwick Mowat, of the Bank of New Zealand, Marton; Alexander Mowat, Blenheim; John Tinline Mowat, Australasian agent for Law's Sheep Dip; Harry Mowat, of Wellington; Mrs H. J. Stace, Robin Hood Bay; the late Mrs Nicholson (married to Mr. John page 433 Nicholson, son of the Rev. T. D. Nicholson, the first Presbyterian minister
The late Mr. A. Mowat.

The late Mr. A. Mowat.

of Nelson); Mrs William Sinclair, Wellington; and Mrs A. C. McRae, Aotea.
Mrs A. Mowat.

Mrs A. Mowat.

Aotea Station . This station is thirty miles from Blenheim, forty miles from Molesworth, and about fifteen miles from Awatere Junction. The name of the estate was selected by the Venerable Archdeacon Grace, and means in English, “Sunny Spot.” It was originally known as “The Reserve,” as the land had been set aside by the Government as a camping ground, or resting place for sheep. The property was taken up in February, 1883, by Mr. A. C. McRae, who purchased 1800 acres, and leased 2500 acres from the Crown. Since then, the proprietor has taken over Ring Creek run from the Assets Realisation Board, the area being from 10,000 to 11,000 acres, and he now holds, in all, about 15,000 acres. Mount Horrible divides the holding from the Leefield estate. “Aotea” is considered a second-class grazing run, some of the land being rough, hilly country, and the expenses of musteringare heavy. The country is somewhat cold for lambing. The rabbits have been practically extirpated, though they infested the run when it was taken over by Mr. McRae, and as many as 6000 skins were marketed in twelve months. There is very little agricultural land on the property, but a few acres are cultivated for horse feed and cocksfoot grass.

Mr. Alexander Clarence McRae , Proprietor of “Aotea,” was born at Waipapa, Clarence river, in 1861, and brought up to station life at Clarence. In 1881 he went to the Clarence runs for two years, and then removed to Awatere. He took up the present property in 1883. Mrs McRae is a daughter of Mr. Mowat, an early colonist and pastoral settler, who has been dead for some years.

Mr. George McRae , sometime of Blairich, Scotland, settled in the Awatere in 1850. He was born in Inverness-shire, Scotland, in 1800. In response to a call made by Lord Selkirk, for volunteers for a Free Company, he and 200 young men set sail in 1816 for Hudson's Bay, North America. Mr. McRae remained there for six years, during which he was married. In 1822 he returned to the North of Scotland, and took charge of a sheep farm for Major Gilchrist. He had about 9000 sheep under his control, and was in the position for six or seven years, when he left to manage “Blairich,” where he remained till the first Duke of Sutherland gave him the adjoining farm. On the death of his father, in 1841, Mr. McRae set sail for New Zealand, and landed at Nelson, in 1842, by the ship “Mary Ann,” on which he brought with him his family of three sons and five daughters. Mr. McRae was for eight years in Nelson, and farmed two sections at Waimea South, and had the whole of 88 Valley for cattle rearing. In 1848, he acquired Lake Roto-iti station, which he sold to Mr. Charles Christie, two years afterwards. In 1850, he removed to the Awatere, and took up “Blairich,” and “Braes of Sutherland.” Mr. McRae died on the 3rd of September, 1864, in consequence of an accident he met whilst dipping sheep. He took great interest in all public affairs, and was one of the founders of the Nelson Institute. His widow died in 1879. Mr. and Mrs McRae had four sons and five daughters. The eldest son, Mr. William McRae, of “Waipapa,” Kaikoura, died in 1870; the second, Mr. Phillip McRae, of “Blairich,” Awatere, in 1888; and the third, Mr. Nehemiah McRae, was drowned while attempting to cross the Awatere river in 1872. The youngest son, Mr. R. E. McRae, of Manaia, was born in Nelson. The eldest daughter, Mrs Vallance, of Wairarapa, died in September, 1875, and the second, Mrs Harkness, of Richmond, Nelson, died in January, 1881. The third daughter, Miss Margaret McRae, is living in Richmond, Nelson. Mrs Mowat, of “Altimarlock,” Awatere, was the fourth daughter, and Mrs Trolove, of Nelson, the fifth and youngest.

Blairich Station , Awatere, was named after a place at which the late Mr. George McRae had resided in Sutherlandshire, Scotland. It was taken up in 1849 by Mr. McRae, who settled on the property a year later. He also had the Braes of Sutherland station (now known as the Jordan), which carried six thousand sheep, and which he afterwards transferred to Messrs Nehemiah and Phillip Roderick McRae. Upon the death of their father, these settlers rented “Blairich” from his widow until 1879, when it was purchased by them. They also bought “Weld's Hill” from Mr. John Tinline, about the year 1867, and “Camden” from the late Mr Henry Godfrey, in the fifties. Mr. Nehemiah McRae was drowned on the 11th of May, 1872, while crossing the Awatere, and thereupon the properties were all taken over by his brother, Mr. Phillip McRae, who died in July, 1888, leaving two sons and two daughters. Mr. Charles Goulter and Mr. Bernard Ward now (1905) own the property in partnership.

Mr. Bernard Redwood Ward , Manager and Part Owner of “Blairich,” was born at Nelson, and received his education at St. Mary's school. He was for some page 434 years on his father's station at the Clarence, was afterwards engaged for ten years in breeding stud sheep on
Mr. B. R. Ward.

Mr. B. R. Ward.

the Brookby estate, and managed “Waipapa” for some years before he settled at “Blairich.” Mr. Ward is a keen sportsman, and is especially interested in racing and shooting.

Dumgree Run , Awatere. This run was taken up by the late Dr. Renwick in October, 1848, and was named after an estate in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, close to which the Renwick family had resided. The original area was 21,000 acres, and about 7000 acres consist of good agricultural land, of light loamy soil, suitable for grain growing. The land is considered equal to Starborough, and is well-watered and sheltered by low hills. Two hundred acres are cultivated annually for root crops, and a similar area for grain. The land is broken up in lots and cropped, and afterwards sown down in grass. Previous to 1893 rabbits were numerous, but by poisoning and the introduction of stoats and weasels the estate is now practically free from the pest. The whole run is fenced, there being forty miles of wire fencing and eight miles of netting. The station carries 13,500 sheep, half of the flock being pure Merinos and the remainder Merino crossed with English Leicesters. The clip is steadily increasing. About fifty head of cattle are also depastured on the property. The woolsheds, sheepyards, stables and the agricultural machinery for station use are quite modern. A large concrete dam, to conserve the water, has been built, which develops sufficient horse power to drive a water wheel for cutting chaff, grinding oats, etc.; the water is likewise laid on to the homestead residence, which stands on rising ground, and is surrounded by a large plantation of ash, fir, and bluegum trees. There is a railway station on the estate, and the main south road runs for about twenty-five miles through “Dumgree,” which is owned by Mrs Renwick, of Nelson. Mr. John Watson, of Spring Creek, managed “Dumgree” for twenty years.

Flaxbourne (Waiharakaka) Awatere, was long one of the most importand sheep stations on the East Coast. Originally, it embraced an area of 66,000 acres of freehold property, and 12,500 acres of leasehold. Flaxbourne is situated about twenty-four miles distant from Blenheim, from which the homestead is thirty-six miles distant, and the southern boundary fifty-four miles. It adjoins the Starborough and Blind River runs on the north, and is bounded on the south by Kekerangu, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, and by Richmond Brook on the west. Flaxbourne was taken up as far back as 1847 by the late Sir Charles Clifford, who was the first Speaker of the House of Representatives, and is also said to have established the first sheep station in New Zealand, which was in the Wairarapa district. At first Flaxbourne was the only sheep station in Marlborough, and included a large territory from the neighbourhood of White Bluffs and Vernon on the north, to the northern boundry of Kekerangu on the south. It contained probably not far short of 200,000 acres, and included Vernon, Starborough, Blind River, and a portion of Richmond Brook. In the end only Flaxbourne was retained by Sir Charles Clifford, who subsequently was joined in partnership by Sir Frederick Weld, sometime Premier of New Zealand, and later still Governor of West Australia, Tasmania, and the Straits Settlements. At the death of Sir Frederick, in July, 1898, the Clifford family purchased the whole of the interests in the freehold property, though the estate continued to be managed under the old style of Clifford and Weld. The land at Flaxbourne is of limestone formation, with a blue papa strata. About one-third of the area of the estate is good agricultural land; over 5000 acres were brought under cultivation by the Clifford family, and the area annually cropped averaged from 400 to 900 acres. The grain, turnip, and other kindred crops, however, were grown only for the use of the station. The carrying capacity of Flaxbourne was estimated at one sheep and a half per acre, and about 50,000 sheep were shorn yearly, exclusive of lambs. The Flaxbourne flocks latterly consisted chiefly of crossbreds from Merinos and Leicesters, but originally they were bred from stock imported from the Murray, in Australia, and drawn from the best stud flocks in Canterbury. Fencing to the extent of about 160 miles was erected on Flaxbourne, and about 100 miles of it had been netted, so as to be proof against rabbits, which at one time were very numerous, but had latterly been practically exterminated. This was done at a cost of £20,000, and the work was carried on from 1893 to 1897 by a large body of men, often as many as one hundred rabbiters being employed on the estate. The wool clip of Flaxbourne averaged about eight pounds per sheep, and over 1400 bales were despatched from the station in the year 1898–9. During the season of 1897–8 about 5600 sheep and lambs were frozen, and in 1899 that number was increased by 2000; in all, 15,000 sheep were sent away from Flaxbourn as frozen carcases or otherwise, during the season of 1898–9. Cocksfoot and clover grasses flourish in most of the paddocks, which are splendidly watered with perpetual streams. The homestead has so many buildings that it has the appearance of a small township. In the shearing-shed there were twenty-six Wolseley shearing machines, which were driven by a Hornsby portable oil engine of fifty-one horse power. Flaxbourne, as a pastoral property, gave steady employment to about thirty men, and that number was doubled during the busy season. From its first establishment, the station had been managed successively by the following gentlemen: J. Lang, four or five years; H. Harris, two years; George Lovegrove, two years; H. Westmacott, about fifteen years; H. D. Vavasour, twelve years; E. A. Weld, until the property was taken over and cut up for closer settlement by Government, in the year 1905. An area of 11,000 to 12,000 acres is still owned by the Clifford family, and of this Mr. E. A. Weld is still (1905) manager.

Mr. Walter L. Clifford was born in Wellington, in 1854, and is a son of the late Sir Charles Clifford. He was educated at Beaumont College, Berkshire, near Windsor, England. Mr. Clifford studied civil engineering, and when he came to New Zealand in 1889, he was on the staff of the Midland Railway Company at Christchurch and Nelson, being officer in charge of the works. He returned to England, and came out again, in 1896, to take charge of Flaxbourne. Mr. Clifford is chairman of the Awatere Road Board. He represents Marlborough on the Racing Conference, and takes an interest in all public affairs connected with his district.

Mr. E. A. Weld , the Manager of the unsold portion of old Flaxbourne, has a proprietary interest in the estate. He originally took charge in 1896, and had been previously engaged on the run for several years in a minor capacity. He was subsequently placed in charge of the rabbiters, and page 435 from that time onward the rabbits rapidly decreased, and now they are almost extinct.

Muller Station (known also as Fairfield run) lies on the south side of the Awatere river, at an altitude of 2,000 feet above sea level. It comprises 18,000 acres of freehold, and 29,200 acres of leasehold—of which a portion is sublet on terms to Mr. S. M. Neville—and is the property of Mr. J. W. Shirtliff. The late Dr. Muller held the original license for the run, which was subsequently put up and bought by Mr. Thomas Cawthron, who held the property till it was acquired by the present owner in October, 1896. It is sixty-eight miles distant from Blenheim, and seven miles from Molesworth homestead. The run consists of hilly country, very much broken; it is essentially a sheep run, and carries 6,000 Merino sheep, besides cattle and horses. An average clip is obtained, and also a good percentage of lambs. A small area of land is cropped for station use. The estate is well provided with plantations, homestead paddocks, owner's house, woolshed, outbuildings, sheep-drafting yards, concrete dip, etc.

Mr. John William Shirtliff is a native of Nelson, where he received his education. He has acquired considerable experience of sheep in the Nelson, Marlborough, and Wellington provinces.

Mr. J. W. Shirtliff's Homestead.

Mr. J. W. Shirtliff's Homestead.

The Starborough Station was a property of 33,600 acres. In 1898 it was bought by the Government, and after being surveyed and subdivided into suitable blocks it was disposed of in February, 1899, under the “Land for Settlements Act of 1891.” Originally the run consisted of three properties, which were taken up for sheepfarming in 1849. One of the properties was Wakefield Downs, formerly owned by the late Mr. Samuel Stephen, who came to New Zealand as surveyor to the New Zealand Company; another was “Marathon,” the property of the late Captain Fearon, of Nelson and Marlborough, and known originally as “Newcomes,” from Major Newcome, the first occupier. About 1866 these properties came into the hands of Mr. Tetley, who took into partnership several young Englishmen of capital. Mr. Richard Beaumont, one of the cadets, then quite a young man, and Mr. Richard Wharton, afterwards owner of Highfield station, Amuri, took over the properties from the various mortgagees, and formed them into the run which became known as “Starborough,” of which Mr. Beaumont became the sole owner about 1872. He also rented from Mr. C. Y. Fell the Blind River estate of 5600 acres, and held it with the rest till it was cut up by the Government in 1895. “Starborough” is about twenty miles from Blenheim, by the Taylor Pass, and a little less by the Redwood Pass. What it was as a stock-run may be inferred from the fact that when it was bought by the Government, 40,000 sheep were sold off the property, all of them in the primest condition; namely, 10,000 Merinos, and 30,000 crossbreds, from Lincoln and Merino studs noted as prize sheep throughout New Zealand. The sheep brought very high prices, and were for the greater part taken to Canterbury. For purposes of settlement the Government had “Starborough” cut up into sections of various sizes. There were forty-five sections, ranging from fifty acres to 300 acres of agricultural land, and four small grazing runs varying in area from 2300 acres to 3500 acres, all pastoral country. On the downs, where the land is partly agricultural and partly pastoral, there were blocks varying from 450 acres to 2900 acres. The grazing runs were offered for lease for twenty-one years at an upset rental of 1s 9d per acre, and the agricultural land, at 6s 9d per acre under a lease in perpetuity; namely for 999 years. Some of the agricultural land which had been cropped had yielded, without any aid from artificial manures, forty bushels of oats per acre. The whole of the valuation was carried out by Mr. F. M. Foster, formerly manager of the Starborough estate, and Messrs Carkeek, Simpson and Wilson surveyed the land for the Government—an undertaking which occupied about six months. The property is all open country, well covered with good tussock intermixed with the finer native grasses. About 7000 acres had been ploughed and sown down in English grasses, and the whole was subdivided into about sixty paddocks. There were about 120 miles of wire-netting erected to cope with the rabbit nuisance, which at one time prevailed to an alarming extent; but under the management of Mr. F. M. Foster, who took charge of “Starborough” on the death of Mr. Richard Beaumont, the rabbits had been completely annihilated, and between February, 1893, and February, 1899, the wool clip increased from 700 bales to 1100 bales a year. The last clip showed an average of ten pounds ten ounces per fleece, and that weight was vouched for by Mr. F. M. Foster, at the sale, which was conducted by Mr. Boyle, of Messrs Pyne and Co., Christchurch, and Mr. E. G. Staveley, of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company. “Starborough,” as a property, was four miles in width and twenty miles in length, and its close settlement has done much to promote the progress of the province of Marlborough. The new settlers in a very short time fenced nearly the whole of their sections and expended considerable sums of money in effecting other improvements of a lasting nature.

Starborough Homestead , Awatere. This property of 637 acres is owned by Mr. F. M. Foster, who purchased it from the late Mr. Richard Beaumont's trustees just before the Government acquired Starborough estate for closer settlement. The spacious fourteen-roomed house, stables, and outbuildings were included in the purchase, but not the men's quarters and woolsheds, which belong to the Government. The section is well sub-divided, laid down in English grasses, and depastures 1500 Lincoln-Merino sheep and fifty head of cattle and horses, all Starborough stock, purchased by the present owner. The whole of the land has been ploughed. There is a plantation of thirty-five acres, principally blue gums, which were planted many years ago, with the object of supplying timber and firewood for the estate. There is an abundance of good fresh water on the property, some of the creeks being fed by natural springs.

Mr. Frank Maitland Foster , Proprietor of Starborough Homestead, was born in Canterbury, where he was brought up to station life. He was for a time associated in North Canterbury with the Australian and page 436 New Zealand Mortgage Company, and resided in Canterbury until he was appointed manager of “Starborough” in 1893. He held that position until the estate was bought by the Government, and during his managership, he spent many thousands of pounds in improvements and in successfully exterminating the rabbits. Mr. Foster is a member of the Awatere Road Board.

Upton Downs and Weld's Hill Stations are situated in the Awatere district, and are owned by the Assets Realisation Board, Wellington. Upton Downs comprises 49,750 acres, 26,800 being freehold; and Weld's Hill, 38,700 acres, of which 22,000 acres are freehold. Mr. J. F. Foster manages both properties.

Upton Downs was acquired in 1849 by Dr. Bedborough, who held it for eight years, when it was disposed of to Mr. Hugh Stafford, who surrendered it to the Bank of New Zealand, in terms of mortgage. The place was put up to auction by the Bank in 1879. Upton Downs is all open country, and carries about 20,000 Merino sheep. There are sixty-six miles of fencing, of which thirty-six miles are wire-netted. There are 800 acres of good flat land, and 400 acres are cropped annually, the average yield for oats being thirty-five bushels per acre. The men's quarters are comfortable, and the stabling accommodation ample. The twelve-roomed dwelling house is in charge of a caretaker.

Weld's Hill , named after the late Sir Frederick Weld, was taken up in 1849, or 1850, by Mr. John Tinline, who sold it to McRae Brothers thirten years later. In 1887, it was surrendered to the Bank of New Zealand. Weld's Hill carries about 17,000 Merino sheep, and forty head of mixed cattle. The property, all open country, adjoins Kekerangu and Gladstone stations. About one hundred acres are cropped for station use. The rabbits were plentiful on the two estates, but by means of poisoned grain, etc., the pest has been eradicated.

Gunn, George M., Sheepfarmer, Ugbrooke, Lower Awatere. Mr. Gunn owns 452 acres, part of the Ugbrooke estate, which formerly belonged to the Hon. William Clifford. The sheep kept by Mr. Gunn are all English Leicesters crossed, and they are fattened off with turnips for the market. Mr. Gunn has been most successful in his grazing operations. He also owns 434 acres at Starborough, all fenced, and carrying stock. Mr. Gunn was born in Caithness-shire, Scotland,
Mr. G. M. Gunn.

Mr. G. M. Gunn.

in 1849, and brought up to farming. He came to Canterbury in 1862, by the ship “Chrysolite.” For a time he had a farm of one hundred acres in the Lincoln district, and has had considerable experience in mixed farming during his residence in New Zealand. Mr. Gunn acquired his present homestead in 1891.

Jordan Accommodation House . The reserve of 296 acres attached to this accommodation house is Crown land, and is designated a small grazing run. The holding is thirty-eight miles from Blenheim, and the same distance from Molesworth. It was formerly a shearing reserve for all the Upper Awatere runholders, being part of a block of 17,000 acres set aside for the purpose. The section held by Mr. Cummings, the proprietor of the accommodation house, carries 300 sheep in winter. From thirty to forty acres can be ploughed, and the soil is of fair quality. Until a bridge was erected over the Jordan, in 1896, a chair (cradle) was used to carry passengers across the stream. The accommodation house, licensed in 1885, contains eleven rooms, and is the only one in the district.

Mr. John William Cummings , Proprietor of the Jordan Accommodation House, took charge in the year 1895. He is a native of Nelson, and has spent over twenty years on Marlborough stations, including Upcot, Avondale, Upton Downs, Langridge, and Muller. He managed Upcot for nine years before settling on his present holding.