The St James Conservation Area was one of the largest operating cattle/sheep stations in the country, dating back to 1862. Learn more about the history of the area, and how St James Station came to be conservation land.

Māori access routes across the top of the South Island ran through the station, and there are a number of early European pastoral farming historic sites including old homesteads, huts, and rabbit fences. 

St James Station, like many of the early larger Canterbury runs, was an amalgamation of several smaller runs. The property had its beginnings when the ‘Edwards Block’ was taken up by G. Edwards in 1862.

A cob homestead was built in the Edwards River valley, but it may not have been built by Edwards. There has been a suggestion there is some evidence of this occupation in the form of cob mounds, but the exact location is not known.

In 1863 Edwards transferred the run to G. Willmer who also ran St Mary’s and Rockhouse in the Waiau along with the Edwards block. 

Other runs to be taken up in the area and then added to make up the current
St James are as follows:

Run RunholderDate amalgamated
Rockhouse G. Willmer  1863 - 1863
St Mary’s G. Willmer  1863 - 1863
Lake Guyon W.T.L. Travers  1860 - 1879
Ada W.T.L. Travers c1864 - 1879
Henry W.T.L. Travers c1864 - 1879
Stanley Vale J.Young  1865 - 1892

St James Station run buildings

Located in the Clarence valley there are three historic buildings – the woolshed, cookhouse and the stable. All these buildings may have been built around 1880, which would tie in with McArthur’s development of St James and with it being managed jointly with St Helens. Because of the construction of the woolshed and stables and the integrity of the cookhouse, these buildings have considerable historic value.

The St James homestead itself was burnt down in 1947.

Lake Guyon homestead site

At the Lake Guyon homestead site there is clear evidence of early occupation. Still visible today are the remains of the cob homestead, poplar trees, and garden and orchard area with its rock walls, sheep-dip and yards.

This site is an important archaeological site as it has had very little modification over the years.

Ada homestead and out-buildings

The complex at the Ada consisting of the homestead, men’s quarters and implement shed is a good representation of early colonial-run buildings with the main interest being in the mud and stud construction of the homestead itself.

The Ada homestead in the Waiau Valley was built some time between 1879 and 1896 by J McArthur, possibly with portions of it being relocated from Lake Guyon and Stanley Vale. 

Nearby, surrounded by silver birch trees, is the grave of musterer Peter Sinclair.

Stanley Vale

The Stanley Vale homestead, built by Young around 1866, is in good condition having been restored in 1988. This mud and stud, timber-clad two-roomed hut and its setting along with a belt of poplar trees, like Lake Guyon is significant in the establishment of pastoral farming in the area.

Edwards River homestead site

The outline of the 1860s cob homestead and some cob fence remains are all thats left at this site. Because the Lake Guyon site appears to be more intact, it is regarded as more significant than the Edwards.

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