Hon. Sir John Hall (1824 – 1907)

“For my part I am so happy in my dear dear home I should never care to stroll out and never enjoy my evenings half so much when a third person comes to interrupt our cosy tete a tete.   Although my dear husband is not much given to talk on these occasions and is generally busy with either a book or a newspaper, still it is a great enjoyment to have him all to myself to look up from my work or my writing and see his dear face across the table, especially when it lights with a bright loving smile if he catches a look of his wife’s eyes resting on him”.

Rose A. Hall  – March 30th 1862 – The Terrace, Hororata

It is no surprise that Rose, just a year into her marriage, treasured these quiet times with John.  Forever proud of John’s achievements, Rose was destined to suffer in silence and at times alone – it’s wasn’t easy to be married to a Christchurch Mayor and the country’s 12th Premier.

I’m sure from the age of 10, John may have gotten the idea that his life was going to be more than just ordinary.  He was far from home, being educated in the finest schools in Europe.  In 1840 John was back in London and found work with a merchant and eventually the London Post Office.  Due to his bad health, the advertisements and promises of a warmer climate from the Canterbury Association caught his interest.  Keen to learn more about sheep farming too, John seized the day and set sail to Lyttelton in 1852.

Facing land problems straight off the ship, John looked around outside Canterbury but decided Canterbury was where his future lay.  He purchased land south of the Rakaia River and had a special canoe built to transport his stock and goods across the temperamental river.  From reports, the first crossing was so harrowing that John disregarded his southern land plot and just settled on the north bank instead, simply buying the land off the current owner who happened to be Mark Stoddart, remembered today in the naming of Diamond Harbour.  John named the run ‘The Terrace’.

In 1853, John became a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council, taking the role of Provincial Secretary at one time or another for 3 of our Superintendents: Fitzgerald, Bealey and Rolleston.   His proudest moment during that era was being the driving force behind the opening of a direct land communication line with the west coast.    John’s next huge role was as Commissioner of the Police, firstly in Lyttelton and then Christchurch.

In 1860, John returned to England where he re-met and fell in love with Rose Ann Dryden – the sister-in-law of his brother George – who was also settled in Canterbury.  Wasting no time, the pair married early 1861 and by 1863, Rose was blinking with bemusement across the vastness of the Canterbury Plains.  Family visits and letters kept the sisters in touch as they spent most of their married lives in different parts of Canterbury and New Zealand.

John’s career really ramped up once he was back home.  He sailed through the ranks of Canterbury’s politics, taking the titles of Colonial Secretary, Post-General and was a member of the Christchurch Town District Council, House of Representatives and the Legislative Council.   Maybe no one should be surprised that in 1879, he became Premier of New Zealand, moving his growing family to Wellington.  He inherited a grand mess though and is remembered as a great administrator who straightened out many of the troubles of the day – even through the darkest times such as the sacking of Parihaka.

In 1882 his health forced him into retirement.  Always one to keep an eye on the day’s current events, John took a great interest in the women’s suffrage and played his part in getting women the right to vote, along side of course, Kate Sheppard.  A well-liked, modest, willing, efficient, ‘got along with everyone’ sort of fella, the Hon. Sir John Hall finally settled down on the northern tip of ‘The Terrace’, keeping the same name for his smaller Hororata property.  I am very happy to report that this property remains in the family even today.

Rose died in 1900 and John never fully recovered from her death.  He set aside £10,000 for the building of the Hororata’s Anglican Church of St John’s – which was badly damaged during the 4th September 2010 earthquake – in her memory.  Both of them are buried together in its Cemetery.  John passed away in 1907.

*text courtesy of ‘Letters to Grace – Writing home from colonial New Zealand’*
*image of the Hon. Sir John Hall courtesy of http://keteselwyn.peoplesnetworknz.info*
*photo of The Terrace taken by Annette Bulovic*

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