Charlotte Godley (wife of Christchurch’s founder John Robert Godley) didn’t miss a thing. During her short time in New Zealand, she observed and met some of the very early colourful characters of Canterbury. None escaped the fury of her pen when she wrote letters home to her mother in England.
Mr. Mark Pringle Stoddard was no exception:
“The morning before was most uncomfortable; they [John Robert Godley and J.C. Watts-Russell] were at the station of a Mr. Stoddard…and although he has been here about a year, he still lives in a horrible den…into which you creep through a hole; there being neither a door or window. I believe it is rather the Australian plan to live in this discomfort, unless there is a lady concerned; but it seems rather extraordinary because Mr. Stoddard appears to have money. He is, more-over, when he appears in the world, quite a gentleman, fond of drawing, poetry, reading and so on; so clever and pleasant, that he made them spend a very agreeable evening, in spite of the locality…” ~ 27th April 1852 ~
Mark Pringle Stoddard arrived in Lyttelton from Australia in 1851. A gentleman farmer, he soon purchased himself 55 acres in the bay that lay opposite to the Port of Lyttelton. He named his farm Diamond Harbour, explaining to others of how the sun glittered on the nearby waters like diamonds. As Charlotte has already explained, it seemed Mark didn’t mind living simple, choosing to climb into an underground hole than build a cottage.
If the Godley’s had stuck around for a few more years, they would have indeed seen Mark throwing this suspected fortune around as he brought up land left, right and centre. In fact, Mark seemed to own properties before they became successful farming stations well known in Canterbury’s history.
For example, he owned what would become ‘The Terrace’ in the Rakaia, selling it to Sir John Hall who is very well known to New Zealand historians today. Some of this farm still remains in the Hall family. Mark also owned ‘Glenmark’ in the Amuri, selling it to George ‘Scabby’ Moore whose character and antics are still talked about today! Mark even owned Quail Island in the late 1850’s!
Diamond Harbour remained the Stoddard’s main abode, especially when he married Anna Schjott in 1862. Mark built a fine wee cottage – which is still with us but damaged due to quakes – and the pair would go on to have 4 sons and 2 daughters. By the time Mark brought his new bride across the diamond waters of Lyttelton Harbour, the Diamond Harbour Farm had grown to 460 acres. When the fine homestead – which we knew as Godley House before it was demolished (2012) – went up for sale, the family made the move from their cottage to the fine house. It remained in the family until 1911, the year that Anna died. It was then sold to the Lyttelton Council.
Mark died in 1885, in his retirement home that sat on the corner of Holmwood and Fendalton Roads. He is buried at St Peter’s Anglican Church, Church Corner in Upper Riccarton.
*photo of Stoddard Cottage taken by Annette Bulovic*