Monday, August 29, 2011


The Showplace of Timaru
Home of Lavish Hospitality
(written for "The Timaru Herald" by W. Vance and published on May 5, 1945)

The change in the name of the legal firm of Perry, Finch and Hudson brings back memories of that showplace of Timaru - Beverley, home of the Perry family.

George Rhodes died in 1864. Three years later his widow was married to Arthur Perry, who came from Tasmania. In 1873 they bought Beverley from Henry Le Cren, who built it in the early sixties. He had chartered a ship especially to bring from Tasmania the timber for this house. Constructed of Australian hard timber, baltic pine, totara and kauri, this old home, with cob-filled 18-inch thick walls and now nearing its century is still in sound condition.

Timaru Herald, Volume VI, Issue 178, 13 February 1867, Page 2

The boundaries of Beverley, ringed by pines, ran from the Great North Road up Wai-iti road to Grant's property, opposite Le Cren Street; across the gully to Hart Street; then down the brow of the hill at the back of Trafalgar Street to meet the Great North Road boundary there.

About this time George Knowles, descended from a long line of Devonshire gardeners and himself a gardener, came to Timaru. He soon became head gardener at Beverley, which position he held until 1898 when Beverley was sold after the death of Mr Perry. Mr and Mrs Knowles, known to the five Perry children as Mr and Mrs Poddles, lived in a cob cottage on the property at the back of the home of Mr Arthur Jones, Beverley Road. In this cottage the seven Knowles children were born.

With enthusiastic aid from Mr and Mrs Perry, George Knowles set out to build up one of the best gardens in New Zealand. From all parts of the world plants were imported, and before many years, the gardens and the head gardener of Beverley were known throughout the Dominion. Mr Knowles was proud of his knowledge of the history of his foreign importations; when asked the name of any of them, some unpronounceable Latin name would roll off his tongue. A feature of the gardens was a long driveway arched over by magnificent macrocarpa. In the grounds were also four glasshouses in which grew orchids, begonia, pineapples, bananas, lemons and oranges.

Perry's Pond
Down the valley, on the bed of which was built Beverley Road, ran Beverley Creek. It had its source at the top of Selwyn Street and flowed into a pond of about an acre in extent, at the foot of Beverley Road. Weeping willows, backed by stately English trees, dipped their green fronds into the still waters. On the edge of the pond were iris and clumps of marsh flowers. Bright-plumaged ducks, swimming peacefully in this sanctuary, added colour to the brilliant flowers that grew on the grassy banks. The music of the splashing and laughing children seeking out the tiny fish that teemed in the pond can still be heard in memory by those Timaruvians who recall outings to Perry's pond.

Just across the road was Perry's viaduct, an open trestle bridge at the foot of which had been dumped large rocks to stop the sea from encroaching on the Great North Road. During rough seas, people passing there were liable to be drenched with spray from waves dashing on to those rocks. Even after the property was sold and Beverley Road built through, part of the pond was still there. A diphtheria outbreak caused it to be looked upon with suspicion and it was drained by order of the Borough Council.

From early childhood the creek and the pond were an especial attraction to Nellie, the Perrys' only daughter. There she learned to become a skilful rower and she taught her two cousins, Heaton and George Rhodes, of Christchurch, when they came to stay at Beverley, how to row. As the years rolled on, George increased his visits to Beverley and increased his desire to be taught rowing by his vivacious cousin.

In a big way, Beverley gave parties, the likes of which Timaru will probably never again see. They were real parties, often starting in the afternoon with tennis, hunting or shooting. The guests would return to the Perry home for an eight-course dinner, followed by dancing, cards and games. Dawn would be breaking before the last guest went home. While their masters were feasting in the big house, the coachmen would hold their own party round a barrel of beer in the men's quarters. Sometimes there would be a breakdown in the arrangements, such as, for example, when the cook was found hilariously helpless beside the whisky cask in the wine store. Beverley also had other accidents. One day a whirlwind caught up the washing on the line and whisked it out to sea. Remnants of it were later picked up at Dashing Rocks.

Of all the grand days of Beverley, the grandest of them all was when Nellie Perry became Mrs George Rhodes. To this alliance of two of Canterbury's leading families came the fashion and quality of Canterbury. Rich wines, choice food and lavish entertainment were there in plenty for the hundreds of guests. At that party champagne was as common as beer. This was the last of the big Perry banquets. When Nellie Perry left the family home, she took with her something that was never replaced, for round this vivacious young woman the gaiety and sparkle of Beverley revolved. From then on this house of many parties took on a more subdued tone. If Beverley could not forget her, Nellie Perry never forgot Beverley -- the creek -- and the pond. Every home she subsequently lived in must have a creek and a pond; and the last of her luxurious Christchurch homes was named by her "Beverley". And she never forgot the people of Beverley. In Mr Knowles' last illness Mrs Rhodes came from Christchurch for the especial purpose of seeing him and stayed in Timaru till he died a fortnight later. But to "Mr Poddles", she was not Mrs George Rhodes, leader of the social life of Christchurch, but Nellie Perry, that harum- scarum girl who used to steal those hot-house bananas he had tended for months; break down his choice shrubs and forever to keep him busy fishing her out of the creek or pond. His illness was forgotten when he was recalling carefree days when Beverley was young.

Jack's Paddock
Right in the centre of Beverley Road, near the property of Mr Tait, was an old well and pump from which water was obtained before the municipal supply was laid on to the house. An old cart on which were fitted two tanks, was drawn by a horse up the hill to the house. For years afterwards this derelict cart lay in "Jack's paddock". The great delight of the Knowles children was to drag this cart to the top of Beverley Road, clamber aboard, and let it go. One day as the cart was hurtling downhill Percy Knowles tumbled off and split open his head, The deep scar from this accident can still be plainly seen.

In the sunny paddock beyond Beverley Hill grazed Jack, the black horse with the white face that brought to Timaru Mrs Perry, the first white woman to cross the Canterbury Plains. Then the 19-year-old bride of George Rhodes, she came to The Levels, first sheep station in South Canterbury, the boundaries of which stretched from the Opihi to the Pareora and from the sea to the snowy ranges. When Jack died at a great age he was buried in his paddock at the corner of Wai-iti Road and Beverley Hill, where Mr Allan Marshall's house now stands. Mrs Perry had the hooves of the horse made into ink stands. Jack's paddock was popular with picnic parties, and the CTC used to camp there.

The Beverley paddocks were the practice grounds for huntsmen. On many a morning local huntsmen like Tommy Thomson, Melville Gray, Kernahan and Adams put their horses over the hurdles and water jumps there.

The Stables
To the north of the house where Mr J. S. Turnbull's home now is, were the stables, a model of what good stables should be. All types of carriages were there and everything was kept spic and span. A frequent sight in Stafford Street was the Perry carriage drawn by two magnificent black horses. While the carriage was waiting for Mrs Perry one afternoon, the horses bolted down the drive and were not caught until they reached the top of Melville Hill.

On Mr A. Morrie Taylor's property in Wai-iti Road were the four tennis courts where tennis parties were held every Wednesday afternoon. This was one of the events of the town and Miss Hassell has told me she remembered her mother working all hours of the night so as to have Wednesday afternoon at Beverley. This was the only diversion she had from the care of her six children.

Gone are almost all the trees and shrubs that once graced Beverley's 12 acres of garden and orchard. The Wellingtonia gigantica tree, grown by Mrs Perry from a seed given her by her first husband, George Rhodes, has escaped destruction. This is probably now the tallest tree in Timaru. Entrance to this 30-roomed home was from the Great North Road, the original Beverley gates, now the gates to Mr D. C. Turnbull's house, are still there.

After the death of Mrs Perry, her husband, himself ill, sought increasing solace in the quiet of his garden. Every morning he would wander down the rose walk to have at talk with Mr Knowles. He loved to show people round the garden and he would go out on to the road to invite people to come and have a look round.

Save for the half-dozen rooms occupied by himself and a housekeeper, the rest of the house, filled with massive mahogany and walnut furniture, rich carpets and elegant silver was shut up. Still the keen fisherman, but without the energy to go to the rivers, he would on moonlight nights hire a launch and go fishing just outside the harbour. There in quietness he would dream of the golden days of Beverley - when 100 guests sat down to dinner; when half a mile of carriages stood at the gates; when the house was filled with life and laughter. Across the silvered waters he would look up at his many-gabled home. But Beverley was in darkness.30 Aug 2011

Death of Elizabeth Perry

Timaru Herald, Volume L, Issue 4889, 11 July 1890, Page 2

At 1:30 yesterday morning there passed away one of the very few persons now left who have been personally connected, on the spot, with the progress of Timaru and South Canterbury from the foundation of settlement in the district, at that hour Mrs Arthur Perry dying of a heart complaint.

Mrs Perry had been ailing for some time and under the care of Dr Hogg, her decease was nevertheless sudden and unexpected, as on Wednesday she was apparently in ordinary health.

Mrs Perry came to Timaru in 1854 at the wife of Mr George Rhodes (of whom she was a distant relative before marriage) and as a pioneer settler learned what "roughing it" means. For a time Mr and Mrs Rhodes lived in a small wooden house on the beach near where the N. M. and A. Company's stone store now stands.

A couple of years or so later they moved to the Levels homestead, where the little two-roomed hut they occupied for some months till a house was completed is still preserved.

The deceased lady, we believe, was the second white woman in this district, Mrs Hornbrook, now residing on Seadown, being the first. Mr Rhodes, we may mention, came down with his first sheep in March, 1852.

The issue of their marriage are the well-known young men R.H., A.E.G., G.A., and E.T. Rhodes, and a daughter, Mrs Godby, now in England we believe. Mr George Rhodes died in 1862 or '63, and in 1866 his widow married Mr Arthur Perry, solicitor, the issue of his marriage being also four sons and a daughter.

Even in 1866 Timaru was but a small place, and it is well remembered that the town did not boast a carriage of any kind, and the wedding party walked to the church. As Mrs Rhodes the deceased is kindly remembered by many of the old residents of Timaru for the hospitable "treats" afforded them as school children at the Levels homestead, and of later years when the growth of the population enforced a restriction of effort, as Mrs Perry she has taken an active part in the social work of the Church of England, while her domestic hospitality has been so liberal that the deceased lady will be mourned by a large circle of friends. The funeral takes place on Saturday afternoon.

The funeral of Mrs Perry
Timaru Herald, Volume LI, Issue 4891, 14 July 1890, Page 2
The funeral of the late Mrs Arthur Perry took place on Saturday afternoon. The cortege was a very lengthy one, for in addition to many old and young residents in South Canterbury, numerous friends of the deceased lady from Christchurch, Dunedin, and other places were present. The service at the grave was conducted by the Rev. McKenzie Gibson, and was very impressive. Mr Gibson also referred to Mrs Perry's death in the course of a sermon he preached at St. Mary's Church yesterday.

The Late Mrs Perry.
Star , Issue 6904, 14 July 1890, Page 3
The funeral of the late Mrs Arthur Perry took place at Timaru on Saturday, passing through the town at 3 p.m. All the business places and shops along the route were closed as a mark of respect and esteem for the deceased lady. The cortege was the largest that has ever been seen in South Canterbury, all classes of the community being well represented.

Elizabeth Wood, daughter of John Wood, of Hodstock, co. Nottingham, England married firstly George Rhodes at Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand, 31 May 1854 by the Rev. B. W. Dudley, the son of William Rhodes and Theodosia Maria Heaton. (1) (he died 18 June 1864 at Purau, Canterbury, New Zealand), and had issue:

1. George William Wood Rhodes born 18 August 1855 - died 9 August 1859, headstone Timaru Cemetery

2. Robert Heaton Rhodes born 27 May 1857, married 16 April 1890 at Pihautea, Jessy Bidwill (born 7 November 1866, died 22 May 1937) daughter of Charles Robert Bidwill and Catherine Orbell, died 18 August 1918, and had issue:
· Airini Elizabeth Rhodes born 8 November 1896 Dunedin, bapt at St Mary's Church, Esk Valley.

3. Arthur Edgar Gravenor Rhodes born 20 March 1859 married 10 February 1892 at
St Augustine's Church, Waimate by Bishop Harper to Rose Moorhouse, daughter of James William Moorhouse and Anne Emily Channon (a sister of Mrs Michael Studholme), died 26 December 1922 aged 63, buried Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, and had issue:
· Arthur Tahu Gravenor Rhodes (refer 1893/11613)
· Rose Mairehau Rhodes (refer 1894/500) died 4 May 1991 aged 97 years, buried Bromley Cemetery

4. Ada Arrowenua Rhodes of 55 Manchester Street, Manchester Square, London, born 21 January 1860 at Purau, Canterbury married 10 August 1881 at Timaru by Archdeacon Harper assisted by Rev. George Foster, Michael John Godby (born 29 September 1850, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, died 14 December 1923, Marylebone, London, England
son of the Rev C. H. Godby, D.C.L. died 2 July 1888 at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England), she died 25 May 1942 and had issue:
· Michael Harry Godby
· Edith Ada Aorangi Godby born 9 June 1884, Timaru (refer 1884/15669)
· Ethel Hinemoa Godby born 20 October 1887, Timaru (refer 1887/12184), married William Gordon Shorrock, Holy Trinity Church, Eastbourne (marriages Dec 1908, Eastbourne 2b 144 )
· Joan Rhodes Godby
· Robert George R. Godby

5. George Hampton Rhodes of Claremont, South Canterbury born 13 February 1862 at Levels, South Canterbury, New Zealand, educated at Christ's College, Christchurch and Jesus College, Cambridge. Married 22 September 1887 at Christ Church Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand by the Most Rev. Primate, assisted by the Rev., Canon Stanford and the Rev. L.C. Brady, to Alice Henrietta (Effie) Thierens, (born 7 November 1862, died 5 January 1938 at "Palmside" Culverden aged 75 years) youngest daughter of John Cornelius Thierens, of Demarara, Guyana and later Otaio and Caroline Avice Spurway and the grand-daughter of the late Rev. John Spurway, M.A., Rector of Pitt Portion, Tiverton, Devonshire and her uncle was Thomas Teschemaker, she later lived at "Elmwood" and then "Oakford," Christchurch). Died 9 May 1914 at his residence St Albans, Christchurch, and had issue:
. John Heaton Rhodes solicitor of Christchurch, born 20 September 1888 London, England, died 3 August 1960, "Oakford", Christchurch.
. Lieutenant Eric George Rhodes R.N., 15 April 1890 Christchurch (refer 1890/7586), died 15 August 1945 Ottawa, Canada aged 55, buried Timaru Cemetery.
. Hilda Avice Rhodes, born 7 September 1892 Claremont, South Canterbury refer 1892/14200), died 31 May 1922, London.

6. Ernest Timaru Rhodes born 26 September 1863, Purau. Educated at Christ's College and Jesus College, Cambridge, married 16 January 1886 at All Saint's Church, Dunedin by the Rev. F. Fitchell, Mildred Julia Hackworth, second daughter of James Hackworth, Dunedin, New Zealand. (She married secondly on 20 January 1896 at St Mary's Church, Timaru by the Ven. Archdeacon Harper, Charles Ernest Thomas son of Henry Sullivan Thomas of Tiverton, Devonshire, England.) He died 11 January 1894 at his residence Hadlow, South Canterbury, New Zealand and had issue:
. Timaru Robert Rhodes born 30 August 1887 at Hadlow (refer 1888/3875)
. Ethel Mildred Rhodes born 15 September 1889 at Oamaru (refer 1889/14272)
. Arthur Ernest Timaru Rhodes born 8 April 1892 at Hadlow (refer 1892/7946)
. Moana Helen Timaru Rhodes (refer 1894/10883)

Captain A.E.T. Rhodes and Miss Holdsworth
The engagement is announced of Captain A.E.T. Rhodes, New Zealand Mounted Rifles, second son of the late E.T. Rhodes and Mrs C.E. Thomas, of Timaru, NZ, and Dorothea Nell, younger daughter of Mr and Mrs Charles Holdsworth, Dunedin, NZ.

She married secondly 12 February 1867 at St Mary’s Church, Timaru by the Rev. George Foster, Arthur Perry (born 11 February 1840, died 21 April 1898, buried Timaru Cemetery), Elizabeth Perry died 10 July 1890 at "Beverley", Timaru, buried Timaru Cemetery, and had issue:

7. Arthur Cecil Perry born 29 July 1868, died about 1942 (refer 1942/27029) aged 75 years.
Birth - July 29 (1868), at Timaru, the wife of Arthur Perry, Esq., of a son.
Timaru Herald, Volume IX, Issue 333, 5 August 1868, Page 2

8. Ellen Laura Amy Perry born 26 December 1869, Timaru, married 26 November 1890 at St. Mary's Church, Timaru, by Bishop Harper, assisted by Ven. Archdeacon Harper, George Edward Rhodes, OBE, (born 1866 Christchurch the second son of Robert Heaton Rhodes and Sophia Rhodes nee Latter, of "Elmwood", Christchurch and brother of Sir Heaton Rhodes, educated at Christ's College, Christchurch and Oxford University, died 8 March 1936 at his residence, "Beverley" Clyde Road, Christchurch, buried Riccarton Churchyard. She died about 1931 aged 61 years (refer 1931/10372), and had issue:
· Shona Heaton Rhodes born at Meadowbank 7 April 1902 (refer 1902/6637), married Benjamin Hinds Howell (he died 29 August 1984 aged 87 years) died 18 August 1999 aged 97, buried Timaru Cemetery.

9. Frank Churchill Perry born 15 February 1871, Timaru, married 25 October 1899 Maud Airini Tiakitai Donnelly the daughter of Airini Karauria and George Prior Donnelly, died 24 December 1906 aged 35 years, (refer 1906/6563). She died about 1944 aged 65 years (refer 1944/24855) and had issue, one son and two daughters:
· Derek Churchill Prior Perry
· Nellie Airini Elizabeth Perry
· Morri Francis Churchill Perry

10. Walter Dymock Perry born 21 March 1872, married 12 January 1898 at St Mary's Church, Irwell, by the Rev H. E. Ensor or at "Meadowbank" Christchurch the residence of Mrs George Rhodes, sister of the bridegroom to Augusta Marie Castellain the eldest daughter of Alfred Castellain of 59 Pulteney Street, Bath, England. Died 25 March 1922, Woking, England aged 50, and had issue:
· Rose Marie Perry (refer 1899/14116)
· Robert Sidney Wood Perry (refer 1916/31024)

Dr. Walter Dymock Perry, late Captain R.A.M.C. (T.C.), died at Woking on March 25th, aged 50. He took the M.R.C.S. and L.R.C.P. London in 1895, after which he went to New Zealand, where he was in practice at Timaru, but immediately before the war was practicing at Earl's Court. He took a temporary commission as lieutenant in the R.A.M.C. on January 21st, 1915 and was promoted to captain after a year's service.
British Medical Journal 8 April, 1922 page 584

11. Percy Lyttelton Perry born 11 December 1874 at Beverley, Timaru, died 11 August 1934 aged 59 years (Headstone Timaru Cemetery) (refer 1934/8350)

(1) Elizabeth Ogilvie in "Purau" - Caxton Press, 1970 says "In 1854 George Rhodes married Elizabeth Wood, daughter of family friends in England. She had journeyed to New Zealand as governess with a family - and was en route to to Melbourne where two of her brothers lived." A sister named Mary Jane Wood stayed at "Purau" in 1863.

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