Those walking or travelling down Riccarton Road – known as Harewood Road in them days – during 1851 or thereabouts, I’m sure would have slowed their step and craned their neck in wonder at what was rising out of the Shands Estate. What was that crazy John Shand up too? Is that a tower?
Widower John Stand and his two teenage boys arrived in Christchurch in 1851 aboard the Canterbury’s Association 6th ship, the Isabella Hercus. John, a merchant and cotton broker by trade, had decided to make the move to a warmer climate for the health of his eldest son, Charles. Funny enough, John didn’t pick up his previous career but turned his hand to farming and eventually became very well known as a stone mason.
John’s second son, Thomas, recalled many years later about the family’s arrival in Christchurch. The Shands’ had brought them a cage of ducks, to help them make a start in the new settlement. Thomas was proudly put in charge of this small farm and taking into consideration the health of these birds, Thomas opened the cage so the ducks could ‘stretch their legs’ so to speak. Sadly for the thoughtful Thomas, the ducks decided to stretch their wings instead and the Shands never saw the flock again.
They settled down on their 100 acre property along Riccarton Road. A cob cottage was built and work done at clearing the swampy land. It was then that a 60 foot tower emerged over the estate where John could be seen looking over his livestock or just taking in the sights of the surrounding settlement – with the help of a telescope.
John also owned an acre of land on Hereford Street but nothing was done with it until 1860. John leased it out to William Sefton Moorhouse – one of Canterbury’s Superintendents. Part of the lease agreement was that William would make marked improvements on the land, erect a house etc.
By 1861, William had moved on and the land was leased on to Harry Bell Johnstone, a lawyer. It was he who went to work on the land but instead of building a house, he built a commercial building – now known as Shands Emporium. This wee earthquake damaged gem is Christchurch’s oldest commercial building. It was named Shands Emporium in the 1970’s.
John soon got involved in all kinds of Christchurch affairs. He became a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council, the A & P Association, the Avon Road Board and the Riccarton Road Board. He was also involved with the Canterbury Jockey Club and took great pleasure in owning and breeding racing horses.
John died in 1874 and is buried at St Peter’s Anglican Church on Church Corner, Upper Riccarton.
In 1870, Thomas – now in charge of the Riccarton property – built an impressive 32 roomed mansion called ‘The Avon Lodge’. It was one of the finest homes in Christchurch. It was sold to the Government in 1941 where they demolished it to make way for a state housing area. This grand house sat where Shands Crescent meets with Riccarton Road today.
The family is also remembered in the naming of Shands Road in Springston. ‘Rawcliffe’, a second farm was situated out that way and today’s Shands Road was known as Shands Track and remained so for many years after the farm was gone.
*photo of Shands Emporium and John Shand’s grave taken by Annette Bulovic*
*photo of The Avon Lodge courtesy of http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/*