MT PLEASANT & HILLMORTEN – Richard May Morten (1823 – 1909)

Tauhinu Korokio was the site of an Ngati Mamoe Pa. It was a superior location due to its 360 degree views, its amble wood supply and many water springs. The name came from two native shrubs that grew on what we now call Mt Pleasant.

When the Ngai Tahu battled and won over the Nagti Mamoe, they planted the hillside below the Pa in Korau or Poheta (Turnips) which were dried and stored underground. The land of Mt Pleasant was once sacred land as sacred objects were kept there and Makutu (black magic) was practiced. To the Ngai Tahu of today, Mt Pleasant is still Tapu.

Richard May Morten was born in Buckinghamshire, England in 1823. Taking work in ship trading, he found himself in Victoria, Australia in 1859. The following year, he moved on to Lyttleton.

He settled in Rakaia before making major purchases of land. He brought 6000 acres at Mt Pleasant and 4000 acres at Tai Tapu, to name the two largest. He also purchased the south west corner of Cathedral Square where eventually the Morten Building was erected, the stone coming from Richard’s own quarry at Ruapaki.

His main time was spent sheep farming on the sweep of Mt Pleasant. He became involved in the A & P Show and was a life member of the Canterbury Jockey Club.

He married Helen Veron Downes in 1871 and they would have 2 sons.

In 1877, he gifted land to the Anglican Church and the All Saints New Brighton was designed by Benjamin Mountfort. Known later as the All Saints Burwood, it was demolished during the 1990’s.

He donated £1000 towards the completion of the Christchurch Cathedral. This was enough to purchase Column 8 which was the home of a plaque that read “This Column was erected by Richard May Morten 1904”

He died in 1909 and is buried at St Peter’s Anglican Church, Church Corner, Upper Riccarton.

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