John Deans (pioneer)

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John Deans
John Deans (pioneer).jpg
Portrait of John Deans
Born(1820-05-04)4 May 1820
Kirksyle, Riccarton, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died23 June 1854(1854-06-23) (aged 34)
Riccarton, Christchurch, New Zealand
Known forCanterbury pioneer settler
Spouse(s)Jane Deans (m. 1852)
ChildrenJohn Deans II

John Deans (4 May 1820 – 23 June 1854) was, together with his brother William, a pioneer farmer in Canterbury, New Zealand. He was born in Kirkstyle, Riccarton, Scotland. Their Riccarton farm in New Zealand was the first permanent settlement by immigrants on the Canterbury Plains. Deans returned to Scotland in 1852 to marry Jane McIlraith. They returned to Riccarton, where he died from tuberculosis on 23 June 1854, not before he had asked Jane to keep the adjacent Riccarton Bush in perpetuity. The Deans had one son, also called John.[1] The Deans brother named the Christchurch river Avon after the stream on their grandfather's farm.[2]

Deans Cottage, which was built in circa 1843 and where Jane and John Deans first lived, is today the oldest building in Canterbury. It is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category I structure, with registration number 3679, and features as a museum.[2][3]

Riccarton Bush was donated by the Deans family to the people of Christchurch in 1914.[2] At that time, it was formally protected through a campaign led by MP Harry Ell and botanist Dr Leonard Cockayne.[4] Today, the bush is administered by a trust. The bush contains mostly kahikatea of between 400 and 600 years of age; it is the only lowland forest left in Christchurch, and is probably New Zealand's oldest protected natural area. A predator-proof fence was installed in 2000, and the bush remains a popular urban visitor attraction.[2]

The Christchurch suburb of Riccarton takes its name from the Riccarton farm.[5]


  1. ^ Miller, Graham M. "John Deans". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
  2. ^ a b c d "Riccarton Bush (Pūtaringamotu), Riccarton House, and Deans Cottage". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Deans Cottage". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  4. ^ Knight, Catherine (21 June 2010). "The place of an echo: Pūtaringamotu (Deans Bush)". Envirohistory NZ. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  5. ^ Harper, Margaret. "Christchurch Place Names: N-Z" (PDF). Christchurch City Libraries. p. 37. Retrieved 30 April 2013.