RUSSLEY – William Chisnall 1827 – 1876

William Chisnall and his wife Sarah (some records say Steadman) arrived in Lyttelton a few months before the First Four Ships.  As William was a carpenter, he had been employed by the Canterbury Association to help ready the Port for the new settlers.

Aboard the ‘Randolph’ was William Derisley (W.D) Wood, Chisnall’s brother-in-law.  Together in 1852 – after both had lost their jobs with the ending of the Canterbury Association (W.D. had been John Robert Godley’s secretary) – they opened the ‘Sandhill Run’, a very successful dairy farm.  This run stretched from the Styx River right through to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.  This partnership did not last long however.

While W.D.’s life in Christchurch is perfectly recorded – he was the founder of Woods Bros Flour Mill in Addington – there are huge gaps in William’s.

William does not appear in history again until his tragic death in September 1876.  He drowned in the Waimakariri River in only a foot of water.  At the time, he had been living in Fendall Town (Fendalton) and left behind a large, devastated family.  He had just rented ‘Templar’s Island’ and was making the river crossing when he met his death.  It was concluded that either he had fallen from his horse and knocked unconscious or his epilepsy had caused a fit.  Whatever happened, sadly his wife Sarah followed him just 2 months later – her cause of death unknown. They are buried at St Peter’s Anglican Church Cemetery at Church Corner, Upper Riccarton.

It was 1879 when the term of Russley was used for the land west of Burnside Farm.  This land – Russley Farm – had been owned by the Chisnall’s up to its sale shortly before William’s death.  It seemed the family moved into Christchurch while William sought a new farming project.  He chose Templar’s Island and sadly the rest is history.

The family is remembered today in the naming of Russley and Steadman Roads.  I am thinking that Steadman may have been Sarah’s middle name.   I can name quite a few ladies of that era whose middle name is quite manly or it’s their mother’s maiden name/father’s middle name…for example Sophia Circuit Latter and Charlotte Griffith Godley.

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