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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 4, October 1984

The Bluffs Run No. 16

The Bluffs Run No. 16

This run was next to the sea on the hills south of Vernon Lagoons and was taken up by William Budge, surveyor, in 1848, it was also No. 16 on the list of runs in 1849 and was about 5,500 acres

William Budge (1816–1870) came to New Zealand as an assistant surveyor on the Will Watch arriving in 1841 and was employed by the New Zealand Company for several years. Toward the end of 1846 he supervised the cutting of a line through ten miles of the "Big Bush" into the Wairau Valley at Tophouse. With sub-contractors Joseph Ward, Cyrus Goulter, and Nathaniel Edwards, Budge took a contract to survey the Wairau and lower Awatere Valley flat land into rural sections of 150 acres at sixpence an acre. They commenced in 1847.

Budge lived for a time on Budge's Island until the big earthquake of 1855 caused him to abandon it because of land subsidence and flooding from Vernon Lagoons.

Henry Redwood the Elder of Waimea West sent a flock of sheep through to the Wairau in 1848 under the care of his third son, Thomas, and grazed them on "The Bluffs" and on unoccupied sections in the Wakefield Downs District of the Awatere. Redwood was able to buy up many of the surveyed sections in the Ugbrooke area a few years later, mostly from the Crown and some from absentee owners. In 1857 he was able to purchase Budge's land and interest in this run along with the transfer of the licence for 370 pounds for 740 acres of freehold land. He then set to and bought the freehold of the rest of the run over the next few years.

It was not known where Tom Redwood established his headquarters as supervisor of the run; one likely place is at the junction of the road to the Castles and the through road from Redwood Pass to the Awatere River and beyond; Redwoods later had a training stable here. Another likely place is where the present Vernon homestead is — Thomas Redwood lived there in the 1860s. The enlarged area of The Bluffs, Dashwood's Run and the Ugbrooke area was named Vernon by the Redwoods. There is some controversy over the origin of the name which has has not yet been resolved.

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After the death of Henry Redwood in 1873 his trustees carried on the Vernon run. They concluded the purchase of the interest of Edwin Hare Dashwood and his wife, also the interest of Douglas Brown and Taylor (by then Sir Alexander) in the Dashwood run area.

In 1882 Redwood's trustees sold the Vernon run of 1860 acres to the Hon. William Joseph Hugh Clifford who was a son of Lord Lewis Henry Hugh Clifford, Baron Clifford of Chudleigh who lived at 'Ugbrooke Park' in the County of Devon, England. The Hon. Wm. Clifford had grand ideas of a large mansion at Ugbrooke, but as he did not consolidate his financial position he soon got into difficulties. When the house was only half finished he was borrowing from his father and friends as he had exhausted the commercial sources of money. By the end of 1887 Lord Clifford had had enough of bailing his son out of financial difficulties, so in 1888 he asked George Clifford, the eldest son of Sir Charles Clifford of 'Stoneyhurst', to take over the administration of Vernon run. The Hon. Wm. Clifford then went to live in Tasmania.

George Clifford, who succeeded to the Baronetcy of Stoneyhurst in 1893, endeavoured to get the run onto a better footing. He tried cutting it into smaller units but without much success — only two were sold, one of which came back on his hands about three years later. In 1897 the whole estate was sold to another relative, Henry Dunstan Vavasour, with the exception of 459 acres sold to George McLeod Gunn in 1891, but which Vavasour bought back in 1900. Though he paid not much more than half what Wm. Clifford had paid fifteen years earlier, it was still a struggle to finance the undertaking, but when parts of the run were sold off over the next 25 to 30 years he managed to complete the large brick house started by Wm. Clifford.

Vavasour came to New Zealand in 1871 to learn farming; after a short period at Flaxmore he then moved to the North Island for experience in cattle farming. On his return to Flaxbourne several years later he took over the day to day farm management from Herbert Westmacott under the supervision of Walter Lovelace Clifford. In 1887 Vavasour married Bertha Redwood, eldest daughter of Thomas P. Redwood of Burleigh, they had twelve children.

There is further information about Ugbrooke and the Vavasours in 'The Awatere' by A. L. Kennington (1978) and also in 'The Awatere Valley, Today and Yesterday' published by the Awatere Valley Branch of the Women's Division of Federated Farmers (1966).

(Note: Prior to 1859 Eyes and Empson had been leasing Dashwood's run and flock of sheep on terms by which they guaranteed an annual rental of 47% of natural increase together with two pounds of wool for each sheep.)