Christchurch Cemeteries: Filling You In On Our Buried Past – John Charles (J.C.) Watts-Russell
Date and Place of Birth: 1825 at Ilam Hall, Staffordshire, England
Date and Place of Death: 2nd April 1875, Cathedral Square, Christchurch (after short severe illness)
A Canterbury Association Settler: Arrived on the ‘Sir George Seymour’ – 17th December 1850 – rumoured to have been the wealthiest of all the Canterbury Association Settlers.
Roles in Early Canterbury:
*Jesse Watts-Russell purchased for his newlywed son 500 acres from the Canterbury Association. 400 acres of this was in Christchurch, adjacent to the Deans’ property of Riccarton. Watts-Russell named this land ‘Ilam’, after where he was born. The suburb of ‘Ilam’ is named after this history.
*Member of the Canterbury Provincial Council
*Member of the New Zealand Legislative Council 1854 – 55 & 1858 – 1868
Watts-Russell’s Influence Today:
*WILD RABBITS! In 1851, Watts-Russell and his farm manager, Alfred Richard Creyke (remembered in the naming of Creyke Road in Ilam and at Darfield) released the first rabbits into Canterbury at an area now known as Dalethorpe, situated near the township of Sheffield.
*The Watts-Russell Memorial Window is situated in the south side of the Christchurch Cathedral’s nave, a gift from J.C.’s widow, Elizabeth. She also gifted a Memorial Window for J.C. at St Peter’s Anglican Church at Church Corner, Upper Riccarton.
*Ilam, Ilam Road, Russell Flats (Annat, Canterbury)
In early May 1861, the Watts-Russell’s had James Edward Fitzgerald around for dinner at Ilam. Fitzgerald served Canterbury as its first Superintendent (1853 – 1857) and at that time, he was publically attacking the then current Superintendent – William Sefton Moorhouse – over his expenditure for the Lyttelton Railway Tunnel. As the ‘Lyttelton Times’, firm Moorhouse supporters, were refusing to publish any of Fitzgerald’s letters of protest, the answer seemed simple. A new newspaper was needed – ‘The Press’. The Watts-Russell’s gave Fitzgerald £500 that very night to go and start his newspaper. First issue came on 25th May 1861.
Buried: St Peter’s Anglican Church, Church Corner, Upper Riccarton, Christchurch
*Photo taken by Annette Bulovic*