MILFORD – The Forgotten Slice Between Papanui & Merivale

I was gazing upon one of my favourite Dr. A.C. Barker photos when I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.  Around the mid 1860’s, the Doctor took a photo of some V-huts and most books that sport this historic image claim that it was taken in Papanui.  I stumbled upon it again in another book the other day but this time, someone had taken the trouble to scribble across the bottom, V HUTS, MILFORD, CHRISTCHURCH.  Wait…Milford???  Milford what???

Quickly reading the caption underneath, it stated that Milford was where St George’s Hospital had been built and of course, demolished due to quake damage.  My mind jumped immediately to the Milford Chambers, the building that sits beside the Papanui entrance to St George’s, where most of us head to get blood tests done.  The Milford Chambers…Milford, how interesting!

Pulling out my very old road map, I found a Milford Street right there, running parallel with Heaton Street.  It looked to be the very entrance to the hospital off Papanui Road.  And that it still is.  Had the site of St George’s once been a settler’s camp?  Across a few streets to the east sits the Merivale Reserve on Rugby Street which also boasts of being a settler camp, built around a natural spring.  Could these two sites have been one campsite?  Was this area referred to as Milford before the names of Papanui and Merivale came into being?

Upon remembering the Bowen family – from the ‘Charlotte Jane’ – Charles Bowen Snr. (1804 – 1871), was the first to build a house in Fendall Town, now known as Fendalton.  Being born in Milford, Mayo County, Ireland, Charles proudly named his property Milford after his hometown.  Did the Bowen’s camp at this Papanui site straight off the Charlotte Jane and bring this term to other camp goers where it caught on?

No, the Bowen’s first settled in an area of Hagley Park now named Settler’s Corner.  And as Charles Fendalton’s property sat between the Avon River and the Wairarapa Stream, it was nowhere near the Milford campsite – the Bowen’s are crossed off the suspects list.

Next, in 1888, a Milford Road appeared in the papers.  It was in a birth announcement, also stating that Milford Road sat opposite the Matson’s paddocks.  John Thomas Matson (1845 – 1895) was the owner of ‘Springfield’, a property that stretched from Innes Road to its namesake, Springfield Road in Merivale.  He had settled down there in the mid 1860’s with his new bride Marion and was mostly remembered for filling his paddocks with Ostriches!  Innes Road was known in those days as Rhodes Road (after the Rhodes family living on the Estate of Elmwood) but was renamed Innes Road after David Innes who owned Springfield before John.

The name of Milford appeared in the papers again in 1891 in an advertisement for a servant by the Satchell family.  Over the years, Milford would be a street, road and even a terrace.  At 28 Leinster Street, a house named Milford seems to be the reason why this area was named as such.  The house is no longer with us sadly.

The Milford House also housed William Deans Gebbie (1849 – 1902) and his wife Helen (1863 – 1922).  William’s parents were one of the first families to settle on the Port Cooper (Canterbury) Plains with the Deans and the Mansons at Putaringamotu (Riccarton) in 1843.  In 1845 the Gebbies and the Mansons moved to Teddington on Banks Peninsula and are remembered today in the naming of Gebbies Pass.  The Gebbies must have held their former employer in high standing as they named one of their sons after him – William Deans Gebbie.

So it seems to me that the name Milford came into being during the late 1880’s and on a 25 year old photo, someone wrote the former name for that area.  These are just my thoughts and not proven as fact.

*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*


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