Jun 9, 2009

Epitaph: George Rhodes 1815-1864

24 year-old Henry Kirk arrived at Lyttleton in December 1863. Establishing himself a brick maker, one of his earliest commissions was to construct a large vault in the town's Anglican cemetery for the Rhodes family of Purau on the south-eastern side of the harbour. The vast monument that rose above it on the steep hill side continues to be amongst the port's most imposing tombs, but for all its grandiosity, only the mortal remains of a single member of that famed Canterbury dynasty lie within.

24 year-old George Rhodes had first come to what would eventually be Canterbury in November 1839, establishing a cattle station at Akaroa before returning to Sydney. Four years later George returned to take charge of land adjacent to his brother William's Banks Peninsula whaling station. The rest of the Rhodes Brothers's story is well documented history, but the only known image of George and his wife Elizabeth is this photograph (below), taken in front of their 1851 farm cottage near Timaru.

George and Elizabeth built an extant stone house (below) at Purau in 1854 and it was here that George died from Typhoid Fever on the 18th of June 1864.

Described by the Canterbury Association's local Agent as that cattle dealer and market gardener, he would be the founder of an immensely wealthly dynasty that would dominate the social life of the province for most of the following century.

But there's seasons in the affairs of families and the Rhodes flogged the Ranch and moved on to the big smoke, leaving poor George to lie alone beneath his neglected monument. Thus it is that in the current era the best known of his descendants is a certain Teddy Tahu Rhodes (below), that imposing 1.96 metre Opera singer and infrequent visitor to the land of his pioneering forebears.


Jayne said...

Poor George but at least he has a decent marker!

Canterbury Heritage said...

There's still a whole heap of local descendants, but the serious money made it back to England in the third generation, marrying into the minor aristocracy.

I don't know Teddy Rhodes, but we do have mutual friends. However, there was a time when one spent weekends at a very grand house in the English country side and it was there that I got to know one of George Rhodes' more illustrious great grandsons.