John Barton Arundel Acland was born in Devon, England. After the best of education, John followed his father’s footsteps and became a lawyer. Through a fellow colleague, Charles George Tripp, John met some of the big names of The Canterbury Association including Christchurch’s founder John Robert Godley.
Liking what they were hearing about Canterbury, the pair decide to emigrate and take up sheep farming. They arrived in Lyttelton in 1855 and sought the best advice in town about their future profession. John ended up at Malvern Hills Station under Henry Tancred (opposite Homebush) where Charles learnt off William Guise Brittan at his Lansdowne station in Halswell – as farming cadets.
In 1856, the pair started looking for land to purchase and raised a few eyebrows as they looked further and further into Canterbury’s high country. Sniggered at as a couple of lost, hopeless lawyers, they purchased neighbouring sections; John named his Mount Peel Station. The pair would be the first to graze sheep in the mountains of South Canterbury. The other farmers weren’t laughing so loud now.
When Henry Tancred sold out of his Malvern Hills Station, it was brought by Bishop Harper – the first Bishop of Canterbury. It was there that John fell in love with one of the Bishop’s daughters, Emily, and the pair were married at St Michael’s and All Angels in Christchurch on the 17th January 1860. Married by Bishop Harper himself, they shared their special day with Emily’s sister, Sarah, in a double wedding.
The pair would go on to have 11 children. Their youngest was Hugh – I will bring him up a little later on. John’s old colleague and neighbour – Charles Tripp – also married one of Bishop Harper’s daughters, Ellen. Just as it happened before, there was a double wedding as they shared their day with another Harper sister!
Mount Peel Station reached the size of 100 000 acres and was very successful. When John died in 1904, the station was passed down the family and there it remains even today. Also still in the care of the Acland’s is the Church of the Innocents – the land gifted by John and Emily – who had two of their own infants buried there. The church was damaged during the September 2010 earthquake but restorations are in full swing – with the Acland’s at the helm.
Hugh Acland – the youngest – went on to be a famous surgeon and cancer researcher. His practice was in the building now known as Ironside House – situated on the corner of Montreal and Salisbury Streets. Also damaged in the 2010/2011 earthquakes, the house is being prepared for a full restoration.
At 85 Papanui Road is the Acland House which serves as the boarding hostel for Christchurch Girls’ High School and has done so since 1921. Built in 1893 by John Rutland, it was named Cragie-Lea. When John Rutland died, the house was bought by Robert Struthers and then sold on to William Strange. After William’s death in 1921, the house was sold to The Canterbury University College. At the time, the University was under administrative control of both Christchurch Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools. The chairman just happened to be D.H Acland, a descendant of John Barton Arundel Acland. The house was renamed and remains as an acknowledgement of this founding family!
John Rutland is remembered in the naming of Rutland Street in St Albans. Originally called Church Road, it was renamed on the 7th March 1904 as Rutland had designed the Wesleyan Baptist Church in the area.
*photo of Acland House taken by Chris Bulovic*
*vintage image of Acland House courtesy of Lee Moake*