Ravenswood was named after The Reverend John Raven, one of the first settlers in the district. He arrived from England on the Minerva on the 2nd of February 1853 along with Captain James Fuller as the advance party for a group which planned to found another settlement within the Canterbury block to be called Gladstone.
The Gladstone settlement never proceeded and Raven selected a freehold coastal section adjacent to the old Kaiapohia pa on Boy’s Road line to Double Corner, five miles north of Baxter’s Ferry and four miles from Rangiora Bush. His farm was called Ravenswood. He moved a hut onto this site which he lived in with his wife and at least two small children while his house was being built. Just before he was due to move into it in December 1853 a carpenter accidentally set some shavings alight and the house was destroyed.
Although on the brink of ruin, he refused to return to England and sold all his belongings to make a fresh start. He was very successful.
Shortly after arriving in the area, Raven took up the role of officiating minister at Kaiapoi’s first church, St Bartholomew’s, until 1858. He then directed his efforts towards the provision of an Anglican Church, donating land for the new building – which was completed in 186O – and becoming the first Anglican priest in North Canterbury.
The remainder of the unclaimed land between Rangiora and the sea had been taken up as a 5,000-acre pastoral leasehold run by Hamilton Ward in 1852. Raven and Ingram Shrimpton (who had arrived from England in October 1853 on the John Taylor) took this over and grazed it freely as a Class 2 run before they began carving estates of some quality from it before most of it disappeared to freehold buyers.
Shrimpton originally lived in Lyttelton where he had founded the Lyttelton Times, the first newspaper in Canterbury, but later moved to Rangiora where he donated the land for the Anglican Church. While there he was awarded land in payment for work he had done in the Mandeville and Rangiora Swamp for the Provincial Government and he chose it at Waikuku and built a house there. The Shrimpton farm was probably named Waikuku. His sons Walter and John Ingram paid frequent visits to the swamps at the mouth of the Ashley after duck and on one of these John, who had been the first manager of the Lyttelton Times, was accidentally shot. This was in December 1856.
By 1860 Raven had freeholded 1200 acres of land and there was a similar acreage of leasehold, mostly coastal swamp and sandhills, the last of the old run. Woodend’s first mails were delivered to and collected from Raven’s house and the Ravenswood flourmill was built on the Waiora Stream nearby.
Shrimpton was cornered at Waikuku, hemmed in by Raven and other landowners who were buying up all the freehold they could get. Unable to expand through lack of finance and hard hit by the tragic loss of his three sons he gave up in 1864 and returned to the printing trade in Timaru.
Raven returned to England in the mid ‘sixties, leasing the farm to David Bowie. In 1869 Bowie died and his wife carried on alone. Raven returned in 1872 to a warm public welcome for he had been regarded not only as the founder of the settlement and its parson but also as a squire of sorts. His return however was only to dispose of his property and it was bought by the Bowie estate, farmed by Mrs Bowie and sold off piece by piece.
John Raven died in Worthing, Sussex, in 1886. However, in reference to his role in the history of the area, the land he farmed continues to be called ‘Ravenswood’ to this day.
Rangiora by D.N. Hawkins
Beyond the Waimakariri by D.N. Hawkins
Joanne Gumbrell (descendant of Ingram Shrimpton)