Friday, December 3, 2010


sold thanks Christchurch

Robert Heaton Rhodes was born in New Zealand on 27 February 1861 at Purau, a farming locality on the shore of Lyttelton Harbour.
Heaton Rhodes moved to Christchurch with his parents in 1866, where his father built a large house, Elmwood, on Papanui Road. He attended Mrs Alabaster's school in Cranmer Square.. He was then sent to England About 1880 Rhodes entered Brasenose College in the University of Oxford. Completing his MA in 1887, he was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple, London, but in 1888 returned to New Zealand, where he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court in Christchurch.
His father's death in 1884 made him an exceptionally wealthy young man, enabling him to give up the law and adopt a new career as a farmer and country gentleman.
From about 1893 Rhodes bought farmland near Taitapu, nine miles south of Christchurch; the farm eventually comprised some 5,000 acres. Rhodes commissioned Frederick Strouts, architect of his new house at Elmwood (the previous one burned down in 1882), to design a grand country house. The result, completed in 1895, was a three-storeyed 40-room timber and slate house, Otahuna.
Otahuna soon became a popular venue for the garden parties of Canterbury's social élite, and for polo matches, in which Rhodes was a keen and expert participant. But his main preoccupation for the next decade was the design and planting of a large garden.
Heaton Rhodes took a close personal interest in this remarkable garden, and from his intimate knowledge of its shrubs and flowers he became an expert horticulturist, much in demand as a judge at flower shows in Canterbury. He was elected president of the Canterbury Horticultural Society in 1903, and held this post for the next 53 years. Otahuna soon became famous for its fields of daffodils, and on open days between 1928 and 1954 thousands of people visited. Surplus bulbs were donated to the Christchurch Hospital and the Government Domain (later the Botanic Gardens), forming the nucleus of the daffodil beds which now line the Avon River.
Rhodes was highly respected as a model farmer, and was elected president of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association for 1896. In 1898 he established the first herd of Norfolk red poll cattle in New Zealand, and championed the merits of this breed so well that he became the first president of the New Zealand Red Poll Cattle Breeders' Association in 1921. Otahuna was also noted for its fine flocks of English Leicester and Corriedale sheep,

In 1920 Rhodes was appointed minister of defence. He was instrumental in helping to establish what became the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Rhodes was also appointed commissioner of state forests in 1922. In these years the foundations were laid for New Zealand's future exotic timber industry.
Rhodes obviously enjoyed the role of benevolent country squire. Each year on prize-giving day he sent buckets of cherries to Tai Tapu School, and on Christmas Day he visited all of his employees on the Otahuna estate, with a leg of lamb for the wives, cash for the men and sweets for the children. Otahuna was the venue for one of Canterbury's first demonstrations of aerial top-dressing
Few New Zealanders have achieved such prominence or popularity, received such high honours, or been more sincerely admired and respected in their own lifetime than Heaton Rhodes. Blessed with intelligence, talent, good looks and wealth, he made the most of his advantages. He excelled at many things, and is remembered in Canterbury as the province's outstanding public figure of this century. Bishop Warren's tribute referred to 'a quality of gentleness and quiet charm,' coupled with friendliness and helpfulness which endeared him to many. Daffodils still bloom at Otahuna, and the house itself remains his most tangible monument.

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