AVONHEAD – William Bayly Bray (1812 – 1885)

William, his wife Harriet and their four children arrived in Lyttelton in June 1851. Engineer by trade, William purchased 500 acres and called it Avonwood Farm. William discovered quite a few springs on his land that made the beginning of the Avon River so as it was the head of the Avon River, it was soon renamed Avonhead Farm – now the suburb of Avonhead.

William built a fine home, known for its secret panel doors, staircases and peep holes. Archdall Place in Avonhead today is the site of the then famous homestead. Although it was a rough journey that only Bullocks could take over the tussock with farm drays, it was a highly social centred house. The house was demolished in 1944.

William also owned land in Darfield which was named Bray Down. It was 10,000 acres and sat in the confluence of the Hawkins and Selwyn Rivers. He was also the civil engineer who surveyed the land where the tunnel which gave Glentunnel its name was dug. He is still acknowledged in the township of Darfield today by the naming of Bray Street.

William Bayly Bray is mostly remembered for his prediction of the flooding of the Waimakariri River. No one took him seriously of course, until 1868 when the Waimakariri River did actually flood, sending a surge of water down the Avon that destroyed housing, fences and killed livestock. Most damage was centred in Fendall Town (Fendalton). Avonhead became an official suburb in 1959.

William and Harriet are buried at Woolston Cemetery.

*photo taken by Annette Bulovic

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