Lady Barker came to the Selwyn district in May of 1866. She was a widow who had already led a pretty interesting life for a woman of that time. She left her two children behind in England and travelled out to NZ with her new husband who was the joint owner of the 10,000-acre Steventon Station near Whitecliffs.
They lived in the cottage built by the two great nephews of Jane Austen who were the first settlers of the property in 1855. The cottage was enlarged with the addition of prefabricated rooms on each end and a larger kitchen across the back. She tried to establish a garden with limited success but the homestead is now surrounded by large English trees thanks to her efforts.
Due to a series of unfortunate events they were only here for three years. Their baby died soon after they arrived, and in 1867 there was a devastating snow storm (the biggest on record to this day) which cost them many of their livestock and thus their income for years ahead. The final blow was a bad investment which took the last of their resources and they had to sell up and return to England.
To help make ends meet, Lady Barker started writing about her life. Her most well-known book being “Station Life in NZ” which has been reprinted many times, and in several languages. This book and a second one called “Station Amusements in NZ” give lively and interesting insights into life in colonial NZ. She went on to publish 18 books as well as writing numerous articles in London papers, magazines, and journals.
Her husband joined the Colonial Service and they moved firstly to Natal South Africa, then Mauritius, and later he was appointed as Governor General of Western Australia. The town of Broome is named after him.
Her house still stands today with more rooms and outbuildings being added in the late 1800’s and the 1920’s. It is a grade two listed historic place and can be visited by appointment.