Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

14 November 2009

Hôtel des Pècheurs, Banks Peninsula

I wrote and illustrated ‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’. It was published in 1995 and was a snapshot of some New Zealand pubs as they were at the end of the 20th century. I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.

As with the streets of Akaroa, the names of both the Hôtel des Pècheurs and its settlement are evidence of how close this area came to being a French colony. Duvauchelle was named after two brothers who, in 1843, had acquired sections at the head of Akaroa Harbour from the colonially minded Nanto-Bordelaise company: they never took up residence.

In 1851 the first inn at Duvauchelle was opened by Francois Le Lievre, a member of one of the original French families brought to Banks Peninsula in 1840. He also ran a ferry service to save travellers who’d tramped across the hills from Lyttelton Harbour the last hard plod to Akaroa.

Ben Shadbolt, an ex-convict from Van Diemen’s Land, bought Anderson’s Accommodation House at the head of the bay in 1861 and named it, appropriately if unoriginally ‘The Travellers Rest’. Ironically a condition of the licence was that Shadbolt was sworn in as local constable; thus the poacher turned gamekeeper! He and his wife, Elizabeth, were at the heart of the community and, with his larger-than-life ebullience, he was famed as a racehorse owner, trainer and breeder, farmer, forest owner, local politician and proprietor of a coach service.

The Travellers Rest burned down in 1876 whereupon Shadbolt erected ‘The Somerset’, a palatial affair named after Elizabeth’s birthplace in England. For six more years The Somerset served the travelling and resident communities with grog, sustenance, accommodation, travel and a post office; but a wowser arsonist maniac, who laid fires in a number of Banks Peninsula hotels, burned it down in 1882: that, coincidentally, was the year of Ben’s death.

The redoubtable Elizabeth rebuilt the pub, which has lasted over a century with few changes apart from odd additions, several changes of name - ‘The Crown’, ‘Duvauchelle Hotel’, ‘The Bricks’ and now ‘Hôtel des Pècheurs’ - exotic and complete with accents Françaises. The biggest change is that the road now passes what was the back of the pub and so, like the Hukerenui Tavern, it’s back to front.

Ah, yes - and they’ve painted it white since I did my illustration. Oh well, as the French say, ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…’


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By Don Donovan