William Robinson (runholder)

William Robinson (4 May 1814 – 9 September 1889), also known as Ready Money Robinson, was a New Zealand runholder and member of the New Zealand Legislative Council.

William Robinson

William Robinson (NZ), year not identified
Portrait of William Robinson
Member of the New Zealand Legislative Council
In office
4 May 1869 – 9 September 1889
Personal details
Born4 May 1814
Warrington, Lancashire, England
Died9 September 1889 (aged 75)
Christchurch, New Zealand
Resting placeRiccarton Cemetery, Christchurch
Political partyIndependent
Spouse(s)Eliza Jane Robinson (nee Wood)
RelationsFrancis Bell (son-in-law)

Early life

Cheviot Hills homestead, ca 1870
The original Cheviot Hills homestead in ca 1870

Robinson was born in 1814 in Bold Hall near Warrington, Lancashire, England.[1][2] His parents, Thomas Robinson and Elizabeth Lyons, were tenant farmers.[1]

Life in Australia

He emigrated to South Australia in September 1839 on the Lady Lilford, and promptly took up grazing pursuits, being a pioneer settler at Inman Valley.[3] His next venture, in 1841, was droving 6,000 sheep and 500 cattle overland from New South Wales to South Australia. While droving, he and his party were attacked by Aborigines. That triggered the Rufus River massacre: he participated in killing at least 30 Aborigines, and was speared in his left arm.[4][5][6][7][8]

In 1844, on the Hill River in the Clare Valley he established the prosperous Hill River Station, comprising over 100 square miles (260 km2).[1] He there became a close associate of fellow pastoralist John Jackson Oakden who, like Robinson, was later to move to New Zealand.

He married Eliza Jane Wood on 4 July 1846 at Adelaide. They had five daughters; their son died as an infant.[1] His third daughter, Caroline, was to marry Francis Bell, a later Prime Minister, in 1878.[9]

Later life

He came to New Zealand in 1856 as a wealthy man and was known as Ready Money Robinson for his ability to make large purchases in cash.[2] He resided in Nelson,[10] and bought Cheviot Hills estate.[2] William James Gardner, in his book A Pastoral Kingdom Divided, said that this "was probably the largest and most spectacular transaction of the kind ever undertaken in New Zealand".[11] The land, which extended from the Hurunui River in the south, the Waiau River in the north, the Lowry Peaks range to the west and the Pacific Ocean coastline to the east,[11] amounted to 84,243 acres (34,092 ha).[2] Only the Glenmark station of George Henry Moore was more valuable.[1]

Robinson represented the Amuri electorate on the second Nelson Provincial Council from 5 October 1857 until 2 April 1859.[12]

Between 1859 and 1866, the Robinsons lived in England. He pursued his hobby of horse racing during that time.[1] In Panama on his journey back to New Zealand, he met and employed Simon Cedeno and employed him as his butler. It was fashionable in Europe at the time to have a coloured staff member.[13]

Back in New Zealand, Robinson lived part of the time in Christchurch, and part of the time on his Cheviot Hills estate. He became a dominant figure in horse racing circles. He had a slipway built in a locality that became known as Port Robinson, from which he shipped wool.[1][14] He had a homestead built on his station in 1888,[1] which burned down in 1936.[15]

Robinson was appointed to the Legislative Council on 4 May 1869 and served until his death.[16]

Cedeno murder

On 9 January 1871, Cedeno killed a housemaid at the Robinson household in Christchurch, and tried to kill another female employee, because they had been teasing him about his fiancée. At the trial, where he was represented by Thomas Joynt, Cedeno claimed that he would have killed Robinson as well, as he was subject to racial abuse; Robinson had left for Cheviot Hills on the morning of the murder. Cedeno was executed at Lyttelton Gaol in April of that year; the second of seven people executed at that jail.[13][17] There are varying accounts where the Robinson household was at the time, with most putting the scene of the murder on Park Terrace. In her book Ready Money, Robinson's great-granddaughter states that for the summer of 1870/71, they had rented the house of Frederick Weld on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Montreal Street. It was in the following year that Robinson bought his house at 52 Park Terrace (these days the site of The George Hotel), as they did not wish to stay in the house again where the murder happened.[18]

Death and legacy

Robinson died at his town house in Park Terrace on 9 September 1889. His wife had died before him; he was survived by five daughters.[2] He was buried at Riccarton Cemetery next to his wife.[19]

After his death, his son-in-law Francis Bell sold the estate land to the government in order to prevent family disputes. This paved the way for land reform in New Zealand, and was the first of the large South Island stations to be subdivided.[20][21] Cheviot Hills was subdivided into 54 farms and the township of Cheviot.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Gardner, William James. "Robinson, William - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Death of the Hon. W. Robinson". The Press. XLVI (7411). 10 September 1889. p. 5. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Honorable William Robinson, Canterbury, N.S.W.", Burra Record, 28 October 1884, p. 3 - via Trove.
  4. ^ "Fatal Affray With The Natives In South Australia: Report of Mr. Moorhouse to His Excellency the Governor", Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser, 14 October 1841, p. 2 - via Trove.
  5. ^ Foster R., Nettelbeck A. (2011), Out of the Silence, p. 32-39 (Wakefield Press).
  6. ^ Burke H., Roberts A., Morrison M., Sullivan V., The River Murray and Mallee Aboriginal Corporation (2016), "The space of conflict: Aboriginal/European interactions and frontier violence on the western Central Murray, South Australia, 1830–41", Aboriginal History, 40: 145-179.
  7. ^ "Inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of a number of natives on the Murray". South Australian Register. 25 September 1841. p. 3-4 – via Trove.
  8. ^ "Papers Relative To The Affairs Of South Australia—Aborigines", Accounts and Papers 1843, Volume 3 (London: William Clowes and Sons), p. 267-310.
  9. ^ "Marriage". Evening Post. XVI (112). 25 April 1878. p. 2. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  10. ^ "Untitled". Nelson Evening Mail. XXIII (193). 9 September 1889. p. 2. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Cheviot Hills has a special place in New Zealand history". Cheviot Hills. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  12. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 214.
  13. ^ a b Solomons, Helen. "Domestic Maids and the Curse of the Bloody Handprint". Lost Christchurch. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Port Robinson". Port Robinson. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Subdividing Cheviot Hills - roadside stories". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 30 August 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  16. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 163. OCLC 154283103.
  17. ^ Gee, David (1975). The Devil's Own Brigade: A History of the Lyttelton Gaol, 1860–1920. Wellington: Millwood Press Limited. pp. 48, 54–55.
  18. ^ Wigley, Margaret (October 2006). 'Ready Money': The life of William Robinson of Hill River, South Australia, and Cheviot Hills, North Canterbury. Canterbury University Press.
  19. ^ "Funeral of the late Hon William Robinson". Star (6648). 12 September 1889. p. 4. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  20. ^ Gardner, William James. "Bell, Francis Henry Dillon - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  21. ^ Nightingale, Tony (1 March 2009). "Government and agriculture - Land reform and farmer education, 1890s". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 29 September 2012.


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