Bealey Road begins here and ends in Hororata. As the West Coast Road was once known as Bealey’s Track, this would have been the route taken by the Bealey’s to their ‘Haldon’ Estate from Christchurch during the late 19th century.
The Bealey brothers – Samuel and John – made their sea voyage to Lyttelton in 1851, sharing their ship, the ‘Cornwall’ with the Moorhouse brothers – William, Benjamin and Thomas – totally unaware how together, they would make Canterbury history.
Samuel was born in Lancashire, England in 1821. He was a late bloomer as it wasn’t until he was 30 years old that he finally got himself a degree.
Along with his brother John, he purchased 1000 acres from The Canterbury Association and they set sail, arriving in Lyttelton in December 1851.
The Bealey brothers spent the next few years buying up land, left right and centre, the largest being the Haldon Station – 45,000 acres – between the Selwyn and Rakaia Rivers. They became known as being very level-headed, smart, wise, and steady business men – even in their choices of the managers who ran their farms.
The brothers weren’t the kind to roll up their sleeves and get dirty, they would just hire the very best to ‘break ground’ so to speak.
In 1852, Samuel married Rose Ann Paul.
The following year he was elected to be a part of the very first Canterbury Provincial Council. For some unrecorded reason, Samuel left the ranks of the council but returned to his seat in 1862. I’m sure he was in attendance though when his brother John tied the knot with Helen Thompson at St Michael and All Angels on the 6th June 1856. They would go on to have 6 children.
In 1863, due to financial woes, WilliamSefton Moorhouse (Samuel’s ship buddy) resigned from his position as Superintendent. To protect the Superintendent position from rival James Edward Fitzgerald, William searched his ranks for a temporary replacement. Robert Wilkin seemed perfect to fill the role but he declined. William’s eye turned to Samuel Bealey – he was steady, safe and just the right man to keep the machine oiled and rolling on as he was instructed.
To the horror of William Sefton Moorhouse and his crew, Samuel did experience a power surge and for the first few months, he made sudden, quick changes to how things went.
And then, to the relief of everyone involved, Samuel soon fell back into his steady, safe ways.
In truth, Samuel was very uncomfortable in his new role. He spoke to William Moorhouse more than once about wanting to resign which William supported 100%. But when William spoke to The Lyttelton Times about what Samuel had said in the strictest confidence, Samuel withdrew his resignation.
This resulted in his party – firm Moorhouse supporters – all resigning. He had to work fast to put together a new team.
His new team included some of the big pioneer names such as Henry Tancred; As for his personal secretary, Samuel wanted the best.
So he travelled out to William Rolleston’s property of ‘Mt Algidus’ and personally offered him the job – with a pleading expression on his face I’m sure. The poem reading, Latin speaking teacher turned farmer accepted; he had wanted to break into politics anyway.
Samuel’s new team eventually outshone him and he faded away into the background. He became the invisible Superintendent and was the butt of jokes amongst his colleagues.
James Fitzgerald referred to him as “…a shopkeeper in mind and manner…” so maybe it is not surprising that Samuel packed up his life and family and moved back to England for good around 1866/67.
After all the effort made by Samuel, William Moorhouse would get his seat back and began his second term as Superintendent.
A second blow was to hit Samuel during this time. His brother John would die after a short illness on the 18th June 1867.
His sister-in-law, Helen packed up her life with her children and moved back to England, interestingly around the same time as Samuel also returned to his home country.
Maybe, the families made this choice and moved together, the time frame fits but this has been not confirmed in my studies.
John is buried at Barbadoes Street Cemetery.
The Bealey’s left New Zealand as a very rich family – due to their land ownership.
Samuel died on the 8th May 1909. Still the owner of the Haldon Station back in Canterbury, his youngest son returned to New Zealand to take over and the place was sold in 1911.
Unfortunately, Samuel Bealey is the only Superintendent that does not have a statue erected in his honour in Christchurch City.
Bealey Ave in Christchurch, Bealey Road, the Bealey River, Bealey Spur, Mount Bealey, Bealey Glacier, Bealey Gorge and the township of Bealey, all in Canterbury are named in his memory.
Not bad for a absentee land owner.
NOTE: What a great view of Mt Torlesse! Mt Torlesse is the highest peak to the right of the West Coast Road.
*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*