Yelven Oliver Sutton


Yelven's great grandparents' parents, George and Hannah Sutton arrived in Nelson aboard the Bolton (1842). In 1853 George bought sections 68 and 90 and part of 66 in Richmond (see map of Reservoir Creek) from John Nixon, Magistrate. They lived in a little two-story building (Nixon's) with their family of six, while building the "Selbourne" homestead (1850's).  “Selbourne” is named after the home near the village of East Meon, East Hampshire. Selbourne was located on Hill Street almost opposite Sutton Street. It was taken down in 1978 to make way for subdivision. George's eldest son, John, ran the family farm from the homestead block after father George moved to upper Queen Street in 1896.

Yel Sutton on former Griffin Tennis Court hill right is old riffle range resized

Yel Sutton on former Griffin tennis court, old rifle range is on the right

George Sutton initially planted hops on the property that he had brought over from England.  The hop mill was located behind present day 167 Hill Street. At Easby Park opposite the Griffin pigsty, the Sutton family had the largest herd of pedigree Jersey milking cows in the District. 

Yelven’s father, Oliver Charles, was next to take over the running of the farm. Yelven (1918-2008) lived at Selbourne until 1954. In the late 1930's Oliver's other children, John and Rita grew two acres of tobacco at Easby Park. Yelvin and Phyllis [Griffin] were neighbours and he can remember the Saturday tennis parties at the Griffin's court near the boundary, not far from Sutton's disused hop mill. Just above the tennis court, on Sutton land, is the site of the rifle range. This range was used by the Richmond Corps volunteers from the mid 1800's and was no longer in use when Yelven was a boy. The volunteers were organised in 1845 in response to the Wairau Massacre and an incident at Happy Valley, Wakapuaka. The range was 500 yards and the volunteers would shoot from the bottom of the present day Selbourne Street to targets just below "the butt" (Cropp Place). Jean Sutton's research indicates that the Nelson City Cadets combined with the Richmond Corps and held camps on the Sutton's paddock in August 1875 and Easter 1879. In 1881 many of these participants were the first outside troops to arrive at the North Island uprising at Parihaka. As a boy, Yelven and his mates used to dig out lead from the site to melt down and use for sinkers for sea fishing.

Duck hunting Templemore Ponds

Duck hunting at Templemore ponds

Below the targets, tennis court, Griffin's pigpen and cow shed the Suttons also had dug a large swimming hole in Reservoir Creek.  This was located at the playground area of Easby Park.1 As a boy Yelven can recall catching eels, kokopu (“native trout”), bullies (“cockabullies”) and koura (“yabbies” or freshwater crayfish) near the swimming hole, but the creek often went dry for approximately six weeks every year,2 as a result of the demand on water in the reservoir from a Richmond population of 700.  Reservoir Creek is underground in pipes at this location. (Yelven thinks this occurred 1970). Yelven tells us that his father found two adzes on the bank above Selbourne and these went to the Nelson Provincial Museum some 55 years ago. Yelven remembers large populations of native pigeons (kereru) on the farm in his younger years.

Oliver’s sister, Mary, married William Higgs who had the neighbouring Barrington Farm, approximately 500 metres uphill of the Selbourne homestead (this was to be the Griffin Dellside farm in 1918).

Yelven’s uncle, Herbert Sutton, ran the farm on sections 66 and 68 below Hill Street.  Reservoir Creek flows through this area, now called Welsh Place and Alexandra Park.  This was primarily a sheep farm that was sold to Putty Hurst who in turn sold the property to the Nelson Hospital Board in 1957.  This area includes the present day location of the Alexandra Home for the elderly.3  Herbert Sutton’s home still stands today at 151 Hill Street.

Yelven’s brother’s John and Victor4 (Sutton Bros.) farmed part of section 79 below Salisbury Road where Reservoir Creek flows into the Waimea Estuary. This land (41 acres) was purchased from the Allport family in 1931.5  The Sutton farm was called “Mayroyd” and in addition to a few pigs there was a large milking herd of pedigree Jersey cows.  In 1960 John observed Reservoir Creek “turning black” and with one swipe of large milk can filled it with whitebait.6 At the time of writing this story, John Sutton’s home still stood on Tasman District Council land across the road from Raeward Fresh (Salisbury Road roundabout).  The Aquatic Centre now occupies part of the Mayroyd farm site

The research for this story was originally done for Tasman District Council, October 2006.

Updated May 2020

Sources used in this story


  1. This area of the creek was put into pipes in 1970
  2. Yelven reports that his father mentioned the creek did not dry up so much until the Reservoir was commissioned in 1893.  There was also an increasing demand for water as the Richmond population expanded.
  3. The original Alexandra Home was in existence in 1874 within the Taranaki Buildings
  4. Victor Sutton resided where Garin College is located today.
  5. Allports purchased this land from Thomas Holdaway in the early 1890’s
  6. Yelven Sutton

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