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History & Environment

Current location in the site

Bishop Selwyn

Selwyn District is named after the Selwyn River, which, in turn, is named after Bishop Selwyn, one of the first Europeans to walk through the area in the mid 1840s.

The district's current boundaries date from 1989 when three adjacent counties, Malvern, Ellesmere and the rural half of Paparua, were fused into a single district.  A generation earlier, in 1963, Ellesmere had absorbed a neighbouring fourth county, Springs. These counties had once been part of a larger Selwyn County.

The first people to settle here were the Maori discoverers who came from subtropical Pacific Islands about 700 years ago. The dominant tribe in Selwyn and most of the South Island is Ngai Tahu, whose ancestors invaded from the North Island about 300 years ago.

Historic cottage photo
They conquered and inter-married with the pre-existing tribes: the Ngati Mamoe, who had arrived from the north about 100 years earlier, and the Waitaha who had preceded them. Little is known of the tribes that preceded Waitaha, as none survived the successive invasion waves, but their archaeological sites exist near the coast and some of their names survive in fragments of oral tradition.

Books on Selwyn History

The Council has published two popular histories of the district, one focusing on the former Ellesmere County and the other focusing on the former Malvern County. Both are for sale at Council offices:

Book cover: Ellesmere the jewel in the Canterbury crownBook cover: in the shadow of the alps
Ellesmere - The Jewel in the Canterbury Crown by George SingletonIn the Shadow of the Alps by Ray Dobbie and Brian Perrin

Please contact us if you cannot find the information you are looking for on our website.

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