Even in William’s early life, he dreamt of being elsewhere. Born in Yorkshire, the 9th child of the family, he grew up to say he wanted ‘a freer life.’William became a tutor, saving up his wages for his voyage to Canterbury, arriving in Lyttelton in 1858. He turned down a job working in a office and became a shepherd for a farm at Lake Coleridge and found the life suited him.
In 1861, William brought a farm of his own in the Rakaia which he named ‘Mount Algidus.’ He would wash every morning in the nearby snow-fuelled river, had a book of Tennyson under his pillow, was best pals with world famous author Samuel Butler and always spoke Latin and Greek to his hoof-stock so he wouldn’t get rusty.
In 1865 he married the daughter of Dr. Joseph Brittan and Christchurch socialite Elizabeth Mary Brittan and the pair had 5 sons and 4 daughters. She was always known as Mary. His break into politics came when Samuel Bealey – who was Superintendent at the time – asked him to join his political party. Always passionate about education, he became well known for his essays which resulted in many changes in the native schools in which he studied.
William became the 4th and last Canterbury Superintendent in 1868. He also went on to be the Minister of Justice, Native Affairs and Land, Immigration and Education…all the while keeping up his farm as well. William died at his retirement farm in Kapunatiki in 1903.
To my knowledge, William never owned land in Rolleston, it was just named in his memory. To my knowledge, William ever owned land in Rolleston, it was just named in his memory. He did play a major role though in bringing the railway to the area. In fact, he was so invested in the project that he actually quit his position in the Canterbury Provincial Council over how it was being handled. He did not return to the Provincial Council until he took up as Superintendent.
The town became a railway terminus in 1866. It was also known as a Radiata Pine Plantation, cleared for the dairy boom of the early 20th century. In 1990, Rolleston only had a few paved streets and a population of 1000 people. By 2001, there were 1974, 2006 there were 3822 and by the year 2016, Rolleston is expected to be the home to 10,000 people.William and Mary Rolleston are buried in the Holy Trinity of Avonside Church Cemetery, Christchurch.
*image of Rolleston Family courtesy of * http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=23838 *
*photo of William Rolleston’s grave taken by Annette Bulovic*