A chance comment over morning coffee during the recent school holidays brought our negligence to light. The biscuity treat accompaniment (in truth found lurking in the secret biscuit tin where it had been hidden an indeterminate while ago in an effort to stop it being inhaled in one sitting) was deemed “so stale it was probably brought out on one of the first four ships.”
“What’s the first four ships?” asked Farm Girl.
Feeling slightly embarrassed by our slackness, we decided the time was ripe to impart some local days-of-old knowledge to the youngest Homesteader. So it is that recent Union Homestead days off have taken a slight historical bent, starting off with exploring the a slightly more salubrious homestead: that of the Dean’s family, Christchurch’s undisputed founding fathers.
The two Deans brothers, John and William, were the first Europeans to set up home on the Canterbury Plains in 1843, pre-dating the “official settlement” of the area by seven years. Not that either of them got to live in this flash house;
by the time it was ready for occupation they had both departed this mortal coil leaving John’s widow, Jane, to run the show. This she did in a no-nonsense display of doughty Scottish girl-power, until her death 1911. In 1914 the Deans family gave the almost 17 acres of bush surrounding the house to “The People of Canterbury” on the condition it be preserved in its natural state and in 1947 the Christchurch City Council reached into the kitty and bought the house as well.
A pleasant time was spent exploring the grounds and peering in windows until the smell of caffeine proved too alluring and we retired to a nearby cafe to fortify ourselves for another week on our very own, more modest patch of Christchurch soil.