SHIRLEY – Susannah Buxton (1807 – 1867)

When our First Four Ships arrived in Lyttelton late 1850, the area that was to become known as Shirley attracted the settlers immediately. It was land rich with streams and sand dunes. In fact, one of the first big farms established there was named Sand Dune Station.

By 1863, after most of the marsh had been drained, the area experienced a boom of smaller dairy/grazing farms and market gardens opening. The emigrants that seemed to flock to this area were mostly Germans and Scots.

One of the biggest land owners were the Rhodes family who leased their land out. They chose to live in their nearby home of Elmwood, now the site of Heaton Normal Int. School (named after Sir Heaton Rhodes) on Heaton Road. At that time, the Rhodes Estate stretched across the suburbs of Marshlands (Rhodes Swamp), Mairehau (named after Rose Mariehau Rhodes), Shirley and Elmwood.

It is unclear where John and Susannah Buxton – saddlers – actually lived but their son Joseph (pictured) owned land that sat on what is now known as Quinn Street. On Susannah’s death bed, she asked her son to gift his land to the community so a church could be built. Her wish was granted.

On the 10th April 1868, the Shirley Methodist Church opened its doors. The community had decided to honour Susannah by naming the church after her in using her maiden name of Shirley. Slowly the name spread and influenced the rest of the community.

Around that time as Susannah was making her goodbyes and unknowingly changing our city’s history, the area had been known as North Richmond and the big wigs were toying with the idea of renaming it Windsor.
A few years later, after a lull in land sales, many thought the name of Windsor was to blame – it sounded too old fashioned.
Evidence of this era remains in the name of Windsor School, Windsor House and Windsor Golf Course just to name a few.

For those who are thinking the name Buxton got the rough end of the stick with this deal can be rest assured that the name did not disappear completely. The corner of New Brighton Road and Kingford Street became known as Buxton’s Corner. Also known as the Marram Grass Reserve, no one could have known that it was destined to become a rubbish dump and a bit of an eye sore.

During the 1920’s the Christchurch City Council had had enough and over 5100 loads of rubbish were removed from Buxton’s Corner. By the 1930’s, the revamp was complete and it was renamed Burwood Park and the name Buxton vanished into history.

Shirley really took off in the 1950’s and the 1960’s when house building began in earnest

*image courtesy of *

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