It seems fitting that in the year of 1873, Edmund Spencer not only purchased his own piece of land – at Chaney Corner in the Styx (Redwood) – but he would also celebrate the birth of his son William; this father a true inspiration to his son and these two men together would influence the settlement around them beyond measure.
Edmund arrived in Lyttelton in 1861. For two years he seems to float about, even journeying back to England before returning with a wife and 3 children in tow in 1866. For 17 years he was manager of the Bottle Lake Estate (now the suburb of Burwood) while also farming his own property at Chaney Corner. Eventually a father of 4 sons and 5 daughters, he opened up a room in his home so the neighbourhood children could attend school. This was the humble beginnings of today’s Belfast Primary School but back then it was known as Spencerville School. Eventually Edmund would gift a slice of land so a separate school house could be built. If Edmund had any spare time, it was taken up by being a member of the Waimairi County Council. By his retirement, his Spencerville farm had increased to 2000 acres which he left to his sons and he moved on to Papanui. He died at home in 1911.
It was now William’s turn to make a difference. The name of William Pritchard Spencer began to appear in the papers from around 1910 onwards. His father’s influence was obvious – he was the chairman of the Waimairi County Council for 37 years. He took active roles in the South Waimakariri River Board, the Education Board of the Districts of Canterbury and also the North Canterbury Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, the man was busy!
In 1933, he had the idea for Spencer Park, a project that would place many of Christchurch’s unemployed into work – due to the Great Depression. 20 acres was gifted and a Domain Board was formed. The rest is history.
*image courtesy of http://wozamark.blogspot.co.nz*