Settlement on the plains
West Melton was established as a farming district in 1863 14 miles (20 km) west of Christchurch. Although there was no natural water-supply, stock were provided for by an extensive water-race system built in the 1880’s. Now wells supply water for domestic use and irrigation. The average rainfall is twenty-seven inches, although there are large seasonal variations. Hot, dry summers impressed the early settlers as they were so different from what they had been used to in England. The first setters and their families certainly found themselves in an environment that would have taxed their intellectual powers. We owe much to these men and women who left their homes and families in the old world. They adjusted to the demands of the area, and evidence of their success is seen in the society they created.
Farm settlement dates from the first purchase of land in 1863 by G.A.E. Ross who lived at Stonycroft, where Hornby is now. He bought 1000 acres in July, but never lived on the property. The first real settler was Henry Trickett, a carpenter from Riccarton, who bought 100 acres in August. He built the first house made of sod and in 1864 Henry Trickett moved in and named the district West Melton after his home town in Yorkshire, England. Other early settlers included John Hill, A.C.Truscott, Louis Coutts, Charles Newton, E. Vaughn, A. Sanderson and P Price. Few of these settlers were blessed with much capital and so their holdings were small. A few who had capital and experience bought larger holdings.
Wood was available from Harewood forest at Oxford but was expensive and was ferried across the river at Courtenay. Many built their homes out of soil with clay floors. The roof was thatch or shingles. Shingles allowed water to be collected but many had to travel to the river for water. Henry Trickett had a deep well which he made available to the district.
Two early tracks in the area were Halkett Road named after Captain Peter Halkett and the track between Ross’ farm and the inn owned by Weedon on the Great South Road – now Weedons Ross Road.