CHARTERIS BAY – THE HONOURABLE FRANCIS WEMYSS CHARTERIS DOUGLAS

Amongst the men who attended the first meeting of the Canterbury Association – on 27th March 1848 – there was man who held the title of Lord Elcho, the 9th Earl of Wemyss and March.  But to his fellow Christ Church College classmates, he was just simply the Honorable Francis Charteris (1818 – 1914).  Being a firm supporter of reform, he was well into his career as a British Member of Parliament when he was elected into the Management Committee of the Canterbury Association; he voted in favor of the names of Christchurch and Canterbury for this new Anglican settlement they had planned for New Zealand.

Sometime during 1849/1850, as the Canterbury Association’s surveyors made their way back and forth across Canterbury, Chief Surveyor Captain Joseph Thomas named Charteris Bay after Francis.  The land there was surveyed and put on sale/in a ballot to those Association settlers who wished to purchase their dream before leaving England.  The first two land owners there were [Rev. George] Kingdon and [Alfred] Rowe (these are calculated guesses due to only have been given last names) but neither settled on the land there.

Dr. Thomas Moore ( ? – 1860) was the first to ‘break ground’ at Charteris Bay and arrived at Lyttelton on the Canterbury Association’s 17th ship – the Sir James Pollack.  He had cattle onboard and soon established himself a farm. 
He also served as a doctor in Lyttelton and this would ultimately be his sole occupation once he decided to sell his 520 acres.  An auction was held at ‘The Mitre’ with only two people turning up: Reverends Reginald Robert Bradley and James Preston.  They decided to go into business together and in June 1858, this dream came to fruition – but it wouldn’t be for long.

Rev. James Preston (1834 – 1898) had first arrived in Canterbury in 1854, after a year in Australia.  He began to learn about farming in the Hurunui District before deciding to try his hand at gold mining in Nelson – but not before spending time in Rangiora.  His interest in Charteris Bay appears to have lasted less than year, as, in 1859, he returned to England where he met his wife aboard his ship.  When they returned to New Zealand the following year, Preston sold out of his farming interests and became a deacon at St Michaels and All Angels (Oxford Terrace) – Christchurch’s first church.

In 1872, his restless feet would serve him well as he was ordained the Reverend of Geraldine.  His parish stretched as far as Temuka, Mt. Peel and Fairlie.  On horseback, he rode across his parish – not only preaching in churches but also in people’s houses and barns while calling in on isolated properties where people could not attend church. While he rode around South Canterbury, he kept a diary which featured more drawings and paintings than words.  These priceless pages are in the care of the Canterbury Museum today. 
He died doing what he loved: fishing at the mouth of the Rangitata. 
Commenting to his companions that he felt ill, he soon dropped dead as they walked back to their night hut.

As for Rev. Reginald Robert Bradley ( ? – 1892), he poured his life and soul into his land at Charteris Bay.  With the blessing of Bishop George Augustus Selwyn, Bradley left his position as the Vicar of Papanui in order to move his family to Banks Peninsula.  He continued to preach despite his farming duties and led services in Purau, Governor’s Bay as well as at the school house at Charteris.  Pretty soon farming became his primary passion and he became 100% devoted to his land. His orchards and gardens were well known around the region. 

He increased his farm to 2000 acres after taking over land leases belonging to Samuel Manson – remembered as the builder of the historic Deans Cottage (the oldest dwelling on the Canterbury Plains) and the Orton Bradley Workingman Whare (the oldest stone building in Canterbury and pictured here) erected during the 1840’s. 

The Reverend’s eldest son, Orton Bradley, was the only one of his siblings that wasn’t deaf. 
He took little interest in farming, instead taking more of an interest in science and technology.   
When he was a teenager, a flax mill (1860) and a quarry (1869) opened on the family’s land and it was here that he would be found rather than around the family’s cattle and sheep.

When Orton inherited the family farm after his father died, he leased out the land to other farmers and allowed his disabled siblings to remain in their family home with him.  He was fond of tree planting, horse breeding and playing his role in local politics. He even brewed his own moonshine!

Upon his death in 1943, he wanted his land gifted to the people of New Zealand, for their benefit and enjoyment. 
Now, at 1606 acres and home to some of New Zealand’s largest trees, Orton Bradley Park in Chartaris Bay has become what Orton dreamed it would be – and as a wonderful bonus, his father’s dream also lives on, as it remains a working farm too.

*Photo taken by Annette Bulovic* 

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