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Station Life in New Zealand

Lady Barker

Book Overview: 

Station Life in New Zealand is a collection of cheerful and interesting letters written by Lady Mary Anne Barker (nee Mary Anne Stewart) that is a New Zealand "classic". These letters are described in the Preface as "the exact account of a lady's experience of the brighter and less practical side of colonisation". The letters were written between 1865 and 1868 and cover the time of her travel with her husband (Frederick Broomie) to New Zealand and life on a colonial sheep-station at their homestead "Broomielaw", located in the Province of Canterbury, South Island of New Zealand. Although these letters are written with great humour and fine story telling, her life was marred by tragedy while in Canterbury through the illness and eventual death of her baby son.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I most anxiously watched the newspapers to see if they contained any notice of the sort, but as there has been no mention of any catastrophe, I suppose she has escaped safely. Her horse must have been quieter and better broken than they generally are. F—— says that probably it was a very old "station screw." I trust so, for her sake!

Letter VII: A young colonist.—the town and its neighbourhood.

Christchurch, March 1866. I must begin my letter this mail with a piece of domestic news, and tell you of the appearance of your small nephew, now three weeks old. The youth seems inclined to adapt himself to circumstances, and to be as sturdy and independent as colonial children generally are. All my new friends and neighbours proved most kind and friendly, and were full of good offices. Once I happened to say that I did not like the food as it was cooked at the boarding-house; and the next day, and for many days after, a. . . Read More

Community Reviews

I picked this book up because it was referred to in an economic history text. Of course, when you go into reading personal letters expecting insights on settler societies - you might be a bit disappointed.

There is a lot humor in Lady Barker's writings but the overall tone seems withdrawn - a cha...more

Lady Barker provides a glimpse into 19th century colonial life in Canterbury, New Zealand. Her numerous excursions, adventures, and encounters with New Zealand's treacherous weather and wildlife are well covered which makes for an engaging read. I enjoyed how at some points Lady Barker is an extr...more

Little did I know when I picked this interesting book up at a book sale that I would embark on a trip to New Zealand that basically covered the same places lady Barker traveled, but over 100 years before. I read the book while I was traveling in New Zealand, and what a fun perspective on what her...more

I picked this up in a Virago edition from the 80s.

A light but charming little social document for the NZ-lit fan, with no shortage of literary merit (the vocabulary is apparently authentic and her descriptions of nature are really rather good).

I was only disappointed that she didn't actually en...more

Written as letters to her sister, Lady Barker's very specific point of view filters her experiences in New Zealand only 16 years after the colony was established. She mostly relates the day-to-day of her home life on a sheep farm devastated by a hard winter, travels around the countryside on hors...more

A fantastic account of one brave woman's experience of travelling to New Zealand and making a life in Canterbury between 1866 and 1868. Through her letters back to England it details her home life and her vivid accounts of excursions into the surrounding countryside.

What I found fascinating was n...more

True. Letters home. Lady Barker spent 3 years with her husband on a station in the South Island. Some lady! Went places and did things few of us would have been brave enough to try. Fascinating look at what pioneering life was like back in the 1860s. Sounds like (according to her - maybe in compa...more

Written in 1870, STATION LIFE IN NEW ZEALAND is a fascinating account of the time Lady Mary Anne Barker lived on a sheep station on the south island of New Zealand. It is just a series of letters that she wrote back to her family in England, starting with her arrival in MelbourneAustralia en rout...more

A very interesting book, I would have liked to have read a little more about the actual sheep station operations. However her very descriptive writing gave a vivid and clear insight of life in New Zealand in it's infancy.

Letters home to England by a woman journalist who, with her husband, spent three years raising sheep on a station in New Zealand and traveling to see the country. The station was not a success due to an epic blizzard that killed most of the sheep and an epic rainy season that cut the station road...more

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