A slice of North Canterbury history on the market for sale
The property once owned by a pioneering Rangiora mayor is on the market for sale. North Canterbury history enthusiast and real estate agent Debi Joynson spent a day at the Rangiora Museum, following the trail of history behind this fascinating family home.
By Debi Joynson
George Cones was born in Suffolk, England and came to North Canterbury on the ship ‘Bungalore’ in 1851, at age nine. His family were not wealthy, but they were pioneering and ambitious. George left school early to take up farming when his father died. He went on to become one of Rangiora’s earliest mayors and longest standing district councillors.
The history books paint Mr Cones as a popular and widely respected man, known for his service to Rangiora and the wider North Canterbury region. He was particularly celebrated for his success in campaigning for the original Ashley River Bridge to be built. This opened to traffic in October 1879 and connected the rural Ashley and Loburn areas with Rangiora and Christchurch City.
It and proved to be a key in developing the economy in the region, allowing farmers to more easily get their stock and produce to the weekly auctions, held every Tuesday at the site where the Rangiora Farmers car park now is.
In 1874, at age 32, Mr Cones bought the block of land at 132 Cones Rd for his family. It was then known as rural section 1293, and the road was not yet named after him.
He paid 274 pounds, around $231,000 in today’s terms, and lived there with his wife, Ellen Burt, and their four children.
Unable to afford a house built of timber, Mr Cones built a sod house from thick blocks of clay. Bullocks were driven around a pen to knead and pulp the clay mixed with manure, tussock or straw. This was then moulded into clay blocks to build the house which was then lined with a clay mixture, making it warm in winter and cool in summer.
There are several coincidences in life at the property in the 1800s, and today. Firstly, Mr Cones was a keen runner and chairman of the local athletics club. The current owners of the property have a teenager who was also an avid athlete, and cut a running track into the paddocks for him to practise on.
Furthermore, the current owners enjoy amateur equestrian events with the horses at the property, as did Mr Cones – in fact, one of his won the North Canterbury Cup in 1876. The local newspaper described ‘Jimmy’ as “a wonderful little horse, whose everyday occupation was to carry the butcher's basket but was certainly no disgrace to the business he assists in fostering”.
Although he started from modest means, Mr Cones was a natural businessman, and soon opened butchery on the corner of High St and Albert St in Rangiora - the site where the BNZ bank stands today.
He was also mayor of Rangiora in the 1890s, as well as an elected councillor for 20 consecutive years, until he died in 1898. On the day of his funeral, flags flew at half-mast in the town and businesses were closed for the day.
Newspaper archives show his funeral cortege was large, with representatives of all the organisations Mr Cones belonged to. The pall bearers included the mayor of the time, borough councillors and the town clerk. He was buried at the Rangiora Church of England Cemetery, where he lays today with his wife, who died 20 years later aged 79.
It is not known if Mr Cones’s sod house was demolished, or if nature was left to take its course. Records show the current house at 132 Cones Rd was built in the 1970s, by the then-owner. He originally built a single story residence, and extended it, when the children came along.
This owner established the orchard with his wife, and within two years the fruit trees producing enough to make an income. They sold peas, barley, apples and peaches at the gate for more than 20 years and were well known in Ashley as ‘the place to buy produce’.
The current family who own this property, the Bakers, modernised the house - adding new carpets, tiling, fixtures and fittings. With their children now grown-up, they are downsizing, and the time has come for the next family to move in and continue the history of this property.
Debi Joynson would like to thank the Rangiora Museum volunteers who helped her research this article.
The house then
Rural section 1293
Built in 1874
£274 pounds (around $231,000 in todays terms)
A sod house built from thick blocks of clay mixed with manure. Natural insulation made the house warm in winter and cool in summer.
The house today
132 Cones Road, Ashley
To be sold at auction on February 28
Garage spaces: 2
Three acres of land with four fenced paddocks suitable for horses, stock or pets. The sunny house has approximately 212sqm of floor space over two levels. There is open plan living, kitchen, dining that opens up to outdoor entertainment areas, as well as separate formal dining. An opportunity to escape city life, with the convenience of Rangiora township just minutes away and Christchurch city a 30 minute commute. View it online at www.bayleys.co.nz/514578.