Topic: Henry Blackett

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While C O Torlesse has the distinction of establishing the Rangiora settlement, Henry Blackett was probably the most significant individual in consolidating the future of the town.

Blackett was unashamedly parochial in fighting for the development of North Canterbury and Rangiora in particular. His substantial influence was vital in having the proposed northern rail route diverted to reach Rangiora in 1872, thus ensuring its place as the market centre of surrounding North Canterbury.

Blackett's drive, initiative, and popularity resulted in his being elected unopposed as the first mayor when Rangiora became a borough in 1878. He was mayor again in 1887-1888 and he served another seven years as a borough councillor. He had a firm policy of strong fiscal control in planning for local body works.

A dominant figure in local politices, Blackett had breadth of vision. Before the formation of the borough, he was a member and chairman of the Mandeville and Rangiora Road Board. As a member of a drainage board set up by local road boards, he promoted the draining of the great swamp to the south of Rangiora for farming land. He was involved with a wide range of other community groups and activities over the years.

Blackett was born in Durham, England, in 1820, a son of a worsted and carpet manufacturer. He was educated at the Durham Grammar School and worked in various capacities in the woollen industry, including having his own business. He married Isabelle Benton in 1850 before emigrating with their four children to New Zealand in 1858 for health reasons. Blackett settled in Rangiora that same year.

A very astute businessman, he established the biggest store in Rangiora, handling groceries, hardware, woollen goods and wines and spirits. The shop had a spacious cellar, notably for the wines and spirits, and his store was a focal point where many policies were formulated and successes celebrated.

Because of necessity Isabella Blackett bore many of the cares of running their business. She died on 19 August 1906 and Blackett died almost a year later on 11 July. They were survived by five daughters and four sons.


Extract from "Rangiora - an early pictorial history", Rangiora Photographic Society, c1993.

 Henry Blackett

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Henry Blackett

First Names:Henry
Last Name:Blackett