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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ashburton District




                                                                Clock tower on Baring Square East                                                     Ashburton Domain                                                                                               William and Francis Turton

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Courtesy of Ashburton Museum


                                                                                Ashburton District, situated south of Christchurch, covers 6175 square kilometres in the Canterbury region on the

                                                                                East coast of the South Island of New Zealand with a population of 27,372 (2006 est).  It is the third largest centre in

                                                                                Canterbury, after Christchurch and Timaru.  The area around Ashburton is frequently referred to as Mid Canterbury,                      

                                                                                which is the name used by theDistrict’s representative  sports teams.  It covers from the Southern Alps in the west to           

                                                                                the Pacific Ocean, Rakaia River in the north, to the Rangitata River in the south, including the towns of Methven, Mt.

                                                                                Somers and Rakaia.

                                                                                The Mâori name for the town is Hakatere.  While there was pre-European settlement of the area by Mâori, they mainly                

                                                                                used the coastal area to journey along the Canterbury Bight between Taumoto by Lake Ellesmere in the north and

                                                                                Arowhenua south of the Rangitata River in the south or they travelled along the foothills.

                                                                                Ashburton was named by surveyor, Captain Joseph Thomas of the New Zealand Canterbury Association, after the 3rd

                                                                                                                        Baron of Ashburton, later Lord Ashburton.  It was originally a treeless plain, covered in tussock, except for a few cabbage

                                                                                trees and matagouri and swept periodically by gales from the north-west.  The wide snow fed braided rivers meant fords

                                                                                constantly changed and crossing could be difficult.

                                                                                The first building was an accommodation house built on a ferry reserve on the northern bank of the Ashburton River in

                                                                                1858 by William Turton, where he lived with his wife, Francis and their two young children. 

                                                                                William Turton also ran a ferry service and was the Postmaster.

                                                                                The town, surveyed by Robert Parks in 1863-64 served local farms.  The town is laid out around two central squares either

                                                                                Side of the railway line and main highway, Baring Square East and Baring Square West.

                                                                                One of the more prominent rural runholders was John Grigg.   Originally from Cornwall, John Grigg purchased  land of over

                                                                                30,000 acres between 1863 and 1873 to make up the run called Longbeach  south of Ashburton River.   A smaller Longbeach

                                                                                Estate is still held by Grigg descendants.

                                                                                By 1864 the coaches of Cobb & Co. were using the route through Ashburton in a two-day service between Christchurch and

                                                                                Timaru and maintained it until the completion of the railway in 1874 when the rail/road bridge was built over the Ashburton


                                                                                Early European settlement was based on sheep farming, with the district originally divided into large runs.  Cropping began in

                                                                                1866 and very quickly developed into a large industry.  Grain stores and stock and station agencies lined the main road and

                                                                                railway which runs through the centre of the town. Dairying  is now a large industry in the town.

                                                                                Methven, in earlier days called the ‘Highland Village’ because of the number of Scottish Farmers and Workingmen, was named

                                                                                After the farm of Robert Patton who came from Methven, Perthshire, Scotland.  It is now is the centre for the Mt. Hutt ski area.        

                                                                                           John Grigg in Baring Square East