Early Marshland

Situated in north-east Christchurch, and six kilometres from the city centre, Marshland received its name from its geographical feature - peaty marsh and swampland.

In the 1850s the first settlers came to the district and talked of the quagmire with "treacherous and quaking surfaces." It had been reported that horses had to have their feet padded to prevent them being stuck and eventually swallowed up in the bog.

The struggle to turn this swampland into productive farmland with the necessary roads was a major undertaking. An early Provincial Council project was to build a drain that emptied into Horseshoe Lake, and this began the major drainage work, which was welcome work for the 1860s unemployed.

Ever wondered why the north end of Hills Road is so windy? Its because the travellers needed to follow the hard soil which offered the only safe route through the area. The straightness of Marshland Road was due to it having been built along the old canal reserve which ran from Sumner, all the way out to Styx, via Linwood and Marshland.

In the 1880s the basis of Marshland Road had been formed but improving it proved to be expensive and continuous due to the sand and metal fill being swallowed up in the bog. The Styx Bridge was built in 1883, and by the early 1900s, the roads of Marshland were stable and good enough to become popular travelling routes from the city.

Messrs Rhodes and Reece were the two large landowners in the district and most of the land was leased from them. For many years the swamp was called Rhodes Swamp. The school was originally called Rhodes Swamp School then New Brighton Side School, and finally Marshland School. In the late 1880s the land was sold and it passed into the hands of the small holders. Many of the land purchasers were German and Polish, the Polish having settled in Marshland in 1872, after arriving on the Friedelburg as Government immigrants.

Market gardens, dairy farms, and orchards were established and proved to be very profitable. Marshland Road became the highway to the markets and stables of Christchurch. Carrots were needed in great supply for the Addington and Riccarton stables, and also for general horse consumption, but the demise of the horse drawn vehicle and the rise of electric trams and motorcars saw the growing of carrots reduce and the introduction of other crops. The mainstays were of course cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes.

Sandhills flanked Marshland Road and cattle grazed there. The land used for this grazing was either too poor for cropping or had too many buried trees and stumps to make it viable produce growing land. The trees and stumps had begun to protrude through the soil as the land sank through draining the water away. They could not burn them out for fear of setting alight to the peat, so they grazed round them.

At the Styx end of Marshland, orchards were being planted, and it is reported that the first apple trees were planted in 1877.

By 1899 Marshland was a thriving community and could boast a post office, Anglican church, Methodist church, school, and a railway station.

In 1909 having previously been part of the Avon Road Board, Marshland became a riding of the new Waimairi County Council.


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