Bentley and Sarah Jane Coton

Bentley and Sarah Jane Coton of Yorkshire left London on the ship Mystery in December 1858 and arrived at Lyttleton on 20 March 1859. The ship had a full complement of passengers numbering 300 and after encountering bad weather in the channel had a favourable sailing to New Zealand. Listed among Government immigrants are B. Coton Labourer, aged twenty-four, and wife.

There were fifteen deaths of children on the voyage, mainly from smallpox. There were five births; four of which survived, and the ship was reported to be well ventilated with her passengers in a good state of health.

In 1862 Bentley was employed by Edward Curry at Torlesse Station. A formal Crown Grant was made for the fifty acres in Hororata he applied for in May 1864. His occupation and residence is recorded as Labourer from Waireka Run, a property nearby. Bentley mortgaged his fifty acres to a man named Bellet for two hundred pounds at ten percent. In 1882 the racecourse was rented by Bentley for ten pounds five shillings.

He was an expert at building clay cottages, and it is thought he built cob fences on the Downs. Clay from his own farm was used to build the walls of his cottage. He used V.D.L. shingles for roofing.

The cottage he built for Sarah and himself was relatively large with five rooms, one bedroom upstairs, a downstairs bedroom, a living room with an open fireplace used for cooking, and at the back were two rooms used as a dairy and general storeroom. Water was drawn with a bucket and rope from a well not far from the back door of the cottage.

The farm was divided into four paddocks. On these Bentley ran Shorthorn cattle, milked three to four cows, and had a white bull named Billy of which he was very fond. He grew potatoes for household use and one acre for sale. Pigs and hens were also kept for the same purpose. He owned a double-bladed chaff cutter and borrowed a drill and wooden roller from the local contractor John Hartnell.

Bentley kept two Clydesdale draughts, one called Chess who went in the dray and the other was Duke, the leader. He was a good man with a stock whip and once when his cattle broke into John Cordy’s land, he chased them home while giving them “Bell Tinkers” with his whip.

Bentley Coton was described as a hardworking man who opened his home for Anglican Church Services to which the locals came. The cottage was called “The Old Cathedral” because of this. Reverend Pember rode his horse from Burnham to conduct these services. Others who attended these Church services were Samuel Bealey of Haldon, John Hall of Rakaia Terrace Station, and John Cordy of the Hororata Run. We know that Mrs Cordy and Mrs Hall presented the Cotons with a clock in appreciation of the use of their cottage prior to the building of the first Anglican Church.

Bentley died 6 September 1913 aged 78 years and Sarah Jane was cared for by her family in Christchurch until her death in 1919.

Excerpt taken from “The Cotons’ Cottage Hororata and the Good old Days”.

Written by Gordon P. Dennis