On 30th October 1911, Cashmere joined the Greater Christchurch and came under the care of the C.C.C.
To look at Sir John Cracroft-Wilson (pictured), you would never guess that he was born in India! It was only his health that caused him to look for a cooler climate and Canterbury looked good!
In 1853 with his health failing, the Cracroft-Wilson clan sail for Christchurch – stopping at Sydney to purchase sheep and cattle. He purchased 108 hectares at the foot of the Port Hills and called it Cashmere. Kashmir in India was his favourite place.
In 1855, John returned to India and his work there got him knighted and gave him great experience for his future back in Christchurch. He returned in 1859 and launched into his political career. He was a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council, the Acclimatisation Society and commander of the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry. He died in his Cashmere home on 2nd December 1881. Sadly, this heritage home had to be demolished due to earthquake damage.
Thankfully, damaged but braced for restoration, is the Old Stone House – the living quarters of the Indian staff (who nicknamed Cracroft-Wilson ‘Nabob’) that came to New Zealand with their employer. Many of the Indian named streets around Cashmere acknowledges this history today.
In World War II, the military commandeered the Cashmere property. What is largely unknown is how in 1942, secret chambers were built under one of the Cashmere Homesteads. The fear of Japanese invasion was so fierce that these secret underground bunkers were to be used by the war officials if Christchurch was ever occupied by the nation’s enemies. They were never finished and were boarded up in 1944. A week before the army moved out, the homestead was strangely destroyed by fire. The Cracroft Chambers/Caverns are not open to the public and are now used by the University of Canterbury.