Canterbury’s First Robbery – 27th June 1846

On the evening of the 27th June 1846, as carpenter Samuel Manson (builder of the Deans Cottage 1843) was walking home from the Greenwoods’ farm of Purau to Gebbies Pass, three men appeared out of the darkness of Banks Peninsula and knocked on the door of the Greenwoods’ farmhouse.

They were known to those inside as they had worked there a couple of days before. Unfortunately, these so called drifters were the Blue Cap Gang (George Langlands, Joseph Price and Joseph Davis) and had only been scoping the place and learning about other lone farms in the area for possible robberies.

Edward Greenwood (his two older brothers were away on the North Island) must have must regretted being so open to these men as he watched them strip the farmhouse of all the valuables. These robbers now knew about the Hays over in Pigeon Bay, the Sinclairs in Holmes Bay, the Mansons and Gebbies of Gebbies Pass and the Deans brothers farming on the plains.

Purau farmhands, William Birdling (remembered in the naming of Birdlings Flat) and William Prebble (remembered in the naming of Prebbleton) were forced to carry the loot down to the water to steal Edward’s rowboat. As the robbers disappeared into the future Lyttelton Harbour, thoughts of the safety of the other farmers was paramount.

William Deans later writes:

“Messers Greenwood (who live in Port Cooper [Lyttelton]) employed three men who were passing their house to saw some timber for them, and at supper time a few day afterwards they presented a gun and pistols at them and servants, and after plundering the house of everything they could carry with them, stole his boat and escaped. The same men intended to rob us also, but we got the news [by some whalers] of Messrs Greenwoods being robbed, and [sought] assistance before they got here, and were prepared for them, although they were traced to the neighbourhood of our place they dared not attempt to rob us.”

The gang were eventually arrested in Otago and taken to Wellington for trial. They received 15 years each and transported to Australia.

This event proved too much for the Greenwoods and the following year sold the farm to George Rhodes for £1700.

* Image courtesy of http://essentialscafe.com*

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