BELFAST – John McNeight Watt (1838 – 1892)

Puraekanui was living up to its name – even as late as the 1860’s – there was ‘plenty of bush’!

Also known as the Styx and the Seven Mile Peg (the stretch of land from Belfast to Rangiora) amongst settlers, the area remained untamed until the early 1880’s.

John McNeight Watt was born in Belfast, Ireland. He first appears in Christchurch’s history when in 1873 it is advertised in the papers that John and William John McIlroy had dissolved their partnership with McConnell and Company who were pork curers and produce merchants.

It seems John founded a farm produce business (under his surname) and The Christchurch Meat Works – the latter sited on 34 acres at Puraekanui. It didn’t take long for John to rename the works after his home town – Belfast. The year was 1883.

In its first year of business, the works prepared 250 sheep per day for meat sales. The factory had the capacity for 10,000 sheep. By 1889, the capacity was up to 520,000. The works can also boast of having the first export meat from Canterbury – 6,200 carcases going to England by sea.

The factory became the hub of settlement for Belfast – with John developing most of the surrounding land himself.

John died at the young age of 54 years in 1892. He is buried at Addington cemetery.

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