PHILLIPSTOWN & ST MARTINS – Henry Phillips (1805 – 1877)

Henry Phillips was known to be a man of great capital amongst the other passengers of the Sir George Seymour, one of our first four ships. He certainly proved them right with the amount of land he purchased once he landed in Canterbury. With him were his wife and 6 children.

Firstly, Henry had brought 100 acres from the Canterbury Association for £300.
The land was nothing more than a great swamp, stretching out to the Port Hills.

4 days later he sold it to a Mr. John Phillips back in England (who never came to New Zealand once) and from what I understand is no relation. This area is now known as the suburb of Phillipstown.

Henry also purchased land in Heathcote, Riccarton, Papanui and two town sections in Cathedral Square that became the locations of the now condemned/demolished BNZ bank and the old Warners Hotel. These were also sold to John Phillips.

Henry kept a 140 hectare section for himself and set up his family. He named his farm St Martins.
He wasn’t overly fond of hoof stock farming, instead pouring his heart and soul into the soil, owning a very fine orchard and is believed to have also been the man who brought the Rhododendron to Canterbury.

In 1852, Henry became the proud owner of ‘Rockwood’ in the Hororata where he would live for the rest of his life. This didn’t stop him from buying more land though or collecting rent from his Christchurch leases.

In 1862, Henry purchased a 10,000 acre run named ‘The Point’ that sat just above the Rakaia River.

One of Henry’s sons, Thomas – who had been a cadet at the Waimate Station – took over the land that boasted only of a simple Sheppard’s hut and sheep yards.
Rats chased Thomas from the hut his very first night so he erected a tent, very close to where the Homestead was later built.

Not sure what Thomas got up to over the next 5 years. He had failed to make better shelter for himself and his staff when the winter of 1867 hit the area with a huge historic snow storm. Thomas, from his tent, writes a journal:

“August 1st – Rain, sleet, hail, snow etc. No fire all day, go to bed at intervals. No tobacco, no water, limited supply of wood…”

In 1863, Henry began to subdivide his farm in St Martins, selling the sections of land titled as the ‘Village of St Martins’. The name first appears officially in 1878, a year after Henry’s death.

Henry died at Rockwood in 1877 and was buried there.

Happily, both Rockwood and The Point has remained in the family for all these years!

*image courtesy of the http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/*
*photo of grave courtesy of Hunting Kiwis – http://genealogyjourno.wordpress.com/http://genealogyjourno.wordpress.com/rural-cemeteries-of-canterbury-new-zealand/rockwood-station-graves-phillips/

2 Responses

  1. Angela Campbell says:

    This article is very interesting to me as I am a direct descendant of Henry Phililips. However the history is incorrect at the end because The Point has always been held by direct descendants of the original owner. Thomas Phillips who lived there had four daughters, one of whom married a Richards and it is her grandsons who today farm both
    the Point and Rockwood.

    • Hi Angela, thank you so much for your comments, it is very annoying when a source I used for my article proves to be incorrect. I am aware of Rockwood being owned by Ben and Cheryl Richards as I have been keen to view the small cemetery on site but had no idea they were family. Great news and such a rare thing these days.

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