Passage of time bypasses city lane

WILL HARVIE AND PHILIP CREED
Last updated 05:00 30/08/2014

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A laneway in central Christchurch is still "owned" by a man who died in 1865.

The 151 sqm lane and surrounding land at Kilmore and Colombo streets was bought by Joseph Longden, who arrived in Lyttelton before the First Four Ships.

He acquired the land in March 1856, but although it was subdivided and sold in 1858, he did not sell the laneway. His name still appears on land title 149 years after his death.

His will was probated in England, where he died aged 37, and later in New Zealand.

It doesn't mention the little lane now addressed 125 Kilmore St, just west of the former Caledonian Hall, which will be sold.

Before the quakes, the thin strip gave rear access to shops, restaurants and a dairy on Colombo St. On the other side of the lane was an office block. All have been demolished.

Christchurch City Council valued the lane at $16,000 in November 2013. It was unable to comment on rates outstanding since 1865.

In June, the Public Trust announced it would "manage" the land, meaning it will be sold for current market value.

Following the quakes, neighbouring landowner Luney alerted the trust to the existence of the lane.

The trust has made no effort to trace Longden's descendants, who may be entitled to proceeds of the sale.

"Consideration will be given to carrying out investigations in England and New Zealand after sale," Public Trust retail general manager Matt Sale said.

Longden arrived at Lyttelton aboard the Barbara Gordon in 1850.

He went into business with cousin Henry Le Cren on Norwich Quay, Lyttelton. They are variously described as running a store, accommodation agency and auction house.

Early in the 1850s, while at a ball in Lyttelton, Longden quarrelled over a lady with J.T. Peacock, who "pulled Longden's nose" and was fined £2 for the affray.

Peacock later paid for the Peacock Fountain, now in the Botanic Gardens.

Longden played a cricket match in Hagley Park in March 1853, according to the Lyttelton Times newspaper. He was caught and bowled for one and took two catches. He also played in the first interclub match in Christchurch, which was Avonside v Albion, played in Latimer Sq in 1859, according toa collection of biographical material on Canterbury pioneers.

The G.R. Macdonald papers also state Longden was elected to the Christchurch Club in 1860, four years after it was founded at Latimer Sq as a "gentlemen's retreat in town".

By that time, Longden was buying and selling sheep runs.

By 1857-8, he co-owned part of the 8000-hectare Sherwood Downs station, and held parts of Ashwick and Rocky Point stations.

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He owned Hakataramea Downs station and in the early 1860s bought Mt Torlesse station, where he apparently lived in a "good house".

Throughout, Longden was buying and selling land in Christchurch..

He married Susannah Andrews Haggard in Holy Trinity Church, Lyttelton. They had four children

After Longden's death, his family returned to New Zealand and settled in Wellington. His widow died there in December 1897, aged 81.

The Public Trust will retain the proceeds for seven years and then send it to the Consolidated Fund.

■ Are you descended from Joseph Longden? Contact: will.harvie@press.co.nz

- The Press

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