The Olliviers

It was late 1853 when the Ollivier family stepped off the ‘John Taylor’ to seize all the opportunities that were on offer in Canterbury and that they did, for generations to come.

John Ollivier, the head of the family, was a publisher by trade.  After receiving the best education in France, the British born teenager found himself in the publishing business for the next 20 years.  He married Elizabeth Morton in 1839 and 11 children followed soon after.  10 of these offspring were present when John took up land on Halswell Road – opposite the new suburb of Aidanfield – and tried his hand at farming.  When this adventure ended a few years later, the Olliviers moved to Ferry Road where John built the family a new home.

In 1855, John became a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council which led to a busy and successful career in politics.  He was even a Member of Parliament.  He was a firm supporter of William Sefton Moorhouse (and of his Lyttelton Railway Tunnel project) and helped secure his Superintendency – both times.  The two remained strong friends for the rest of their lives.
But to pay the bills, John opened an auction house on High Street and was an auctioneer for the rest of his working life.  He was also known as an accountant and humorist.  His political colleagues always spoke fondly of his cheeky speeches and looked forward to his witty outlook on the current situations in Christchurch.  On the flip side, his ties with Moorhouse did cause him to have a few enemies and he was not trusted by some.

John died in his Ferry Road home in 1893 and I’m sure was proud that his memory was already established in the shape of Olliviers Road – that stood near their property – since 1877.  There is now a John Olliver Terrace in Halswell (note the mistake in the spelling) which stands in memorial of the Ollivier’s farm that was once close by.  John and Elizabeth are buried together at Woolston Cemetery.

Arthur Morton Ollivier was just 2 years old when the family arrived at Lyttelton.  Like all the other well off Anglican lads of Canterbury, he was educated at Christ’s College – he was pupil number 179.  He grew up with a great love of sport and at the young age of 15, played his first Christchurch representative cricket match against Otago.  This match was the first ever played in Hagley Park.  He also represented Christchurch in the first ever cricket match against Auckland.  He dabbled in Rugby and was good at athletics, especially sprinting.  An injury removed him from any active participation in sport but he remained in the cricket world as a trainer and selector.

As an accountant and with Edward Cephas John Stevens and Richard Harman, Arthur helped secure the purchase of the land that would become Lancaster Park – now the AMI Stadium.  This was for their England based client Benjamin Lancaster.   Arthur married Agnes Thomson in 1876 and the pair would have 3 children.  The following year, he founded the Canterbury Chess Club and the naming of Mount Ollivier – near Mount Cook – reminds us of his passion for mountain climbing.  In 2008, after the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, Mount Ollivier was nearly renamed after Hillary as this had been his first big climb in 1939.  The Ollivier family understandably fought this suggestion and won.

Always a fit and healthy man, Arthur strangely fell ill a few months before his early death in 1897.  He only outlived his father by 4 years.  The Canterbury sport world went into mourning and on the day of his funeral, all cricket matches were cancelled out of respect.  Arthur and Agnes are buried together at Woolston Cemetery.

Cecil Claude Morton Ollivier was the son of Arthur and Agnes.  He was born in Opawa in 1877 and like his father; he went to Christ’s College and enjoyed playing Cricket.  An accountant by trade, he became well known as a great Christchurch businessman.  He was involved with Christchurch Cinemas, the Golden Bay Cement Works, Glaxo Manufacturing Company, Beath & Co, Bonds Hosiery Mills and the Woolston Tanneries.  But no doubt he was at his proudest working for the family firm of Ollivier Brothers.  He worked alongside his brother Walter who after Christ’s College and before Ollivier Brothers, worked for the Railway.  He was also the secretary of the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce.  In 1923, he fell ill with Angina and passed away peacefully in his sleep.  He is also buried at Woolston Cemetery.

Cecil was also fond of horses and was the vice president of the Metropolitan Trotting Club – the club responsible of the building of Addington Raceway.  His property was named Glenelg and is now the children’s health camp by the same name.  He fell ill in 1935 and died 8 months later.  A much liked and respected Cantab, many of his employees took the time to visit their sick boss at his home.  Cecil is also buried at Woolston Cemetery.

*photos of both graves taken by Annette Bulovic*
*photo of Mount Ollivier courtesy of*

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