Great Innovator Farmer Arrived In Canterbury – 31st July 1852

Marmaduke Dixon was only 14 years old when he first went to sea.  Born at Caistor, Lincolnshire, England, his bad health caused his parents so much concern that they sought an occupation that would take their son to a more beneficial surrounding.  As a result, Marmaduke saw the world!

He first laid eyes on New Zealand in 1845.  When he later befriended a fellow sailor who had land in North Canterbury, he was intrigued by what he heard.  In 1852, he arrived at Lyttelton and soon settled down on the north bank of the Waimakariri River with 3000 sheep.  As his property bordered the Eyre River, Marmaduke felt pretty confident about there being a great underground water supply.  Completely on his own, he dug an 80 foot well in dangerous shingle – using a support system he designed so the walls would not collapse on him! Believed to have been dug between waterbeds, there was no water and Marmaduke was forced to trudge a 6 mile round trip to the Waimakariri to collect his water.

In 1860, after returning from England with his new bride, the couple built a fine homestead further north on their property – nearer to the Eyre River – and his second attempt at a well was met with great success.  In acknowledgement to this find, the land became known as ‘Eyrewell’.

Although not recorded as happening this way, it is most likely that while he was back in England, Marmaduke made some much needed farming purchases, introducing Canterbury to a three furrow plough, a straw elevator, an earth scoop and a slip gate – the latter to be used while drafting sheep.  His wheat was also Canterbury’s first export of this produce to Britain.

It was also at this time that Marmaduke took an interest in politics. He became a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council and as a firm [William Sefton] Moorhouse supporter – he backed projects such as the Lyttelton Railway Tunnel and the construction of a road to the West Coast.  But no place was in his heart like North Canterbury, evidenced with his involvement of the Eyre District Board and the Rangiora and Mandeville Road Boards.  He also helped to establish the area’s first school and was co-founder of the North Canterbury Agriculture and Pastoral Association.  He also worked tirelessly at securing a successful water supply scheme for those farming north of the Waimak.

Marmaduke died in 1895.  He and his other history making descendants are remembered today in the naming of Mount Dixon and the Marmaduke Dixon Glacier, both in Canterbury.

Please note: The attached photo shows three three furrow ploughs being used together for more effectiveness circa 1910.  This photo was not taken in Canterbury.

*Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library – – Reference: 1/1-009619-G*

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