The 50 acres that Captain Harvey took up on the Port Hills in 1852 was considered one of Christchurch’s most beautiful spots. Heavy lush woodlands swept up the nearby valley and like most men of the new settlement, the Captain looked over his new source of timber with dollar signs in his eyes.
He named his property Hoon Hay, after the farm where he grew up in Derbyshire, England. The name is basically broken down to the following; ‘Hoon’ means hill and ‘Hay’ means hedge. Over the next 4 years, the Captain milled some of the timber from his land and I’m sure enjoyed being referred to as the ‘Gentleman of Hoon Hay Bush’. During this time, he also dabbled in sheep farming, also taking up 1000 acres in Halswell (near Landsdowne) and managed to wage war against huge land owner and neighbour William Guise Brittan concerning rent payments and stray sheep.
It was all over for the Captain when his house was destroyed by fire in 1856. He sold up completely and took his life and family back to England for good. Hoon Hay was purchased next by Henry John Cridland – an early Christchurch surveyor – who within 10 years increased the property to over 600 hectares. Henry ran sheep there and felt the sting of the courts when it was discovered his sheep had scab.
In 1868, a huge fire ripped through Hoon Hay Valley and destroyed what was left of the woodlands. Reports of the day say that the bush had been home to many native trees such as Totara – some with a 3 metre girth. Near the top of the valley, a small clearing amongst the trees had been known affectionately as ‘the chimney’ as it was the only area where the sun broke through the dense foliage. This particular disastrous fire burnt over the Port Hills for 2 weeks.
The first road to the property was known as the ‘Gorse Track’, weaving its way from Sir John Cracroft Wilson’s farm named Cashmere. The lonely track soon became popular with young lovers and those who enjoyed rabbit hunting. This track is now known as Worsley Road.
I can’t let this article finish without an honourable mention of the first owner of Hoon Hay Valley who had ownership in 1851. His name was Smith Howard and he and his 5 children had arrived in Canterbury as passengers of the ‘Charlotte Jane’ – the first of our First Four Ships. He had also brought with him, his housekeeper Ann Haffenden who – by all accounts – died while travelling the Bridle Path. She was buried in a packing crate! Funny enough, Smith’s future laid in Rangiora where he became a sawyer, choosing to mill the trees there than his own in Hoon Hay Valley.
*image courtesy of http://wozamark.blogspot.co.nz*