It is embarrassing to admit, but I may well be the only person in Christchurch who never realised that the suburb of Cashmere was named after the Indian region.
The only justification I can come up with for this is that nowadays Cashmere in India is usually spelt Kashmir, and that I pronounce it with the stress on the second syllable rather than the first. So the connection between the two is really not *that* obvious. Plus I live on the other side of town… Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
So I was surprised to discover, while reading the Sydenham Cemetery Tour Guide written by Richard Greenway, our resident genealogy and cemetery guru, that, not only was Cashmere named after the Indian state, but that it was home to one of the first community of Indians in New Zealand.
Most came in 1859 as servants for John Cracroft Wilson, who, prior to transferring to New Zealand, had been a magistrate in India. In 1870 Wilson had what was later known as the Old Stone house built for the Indian workers to live in.
Wilson was an interesting character: “he was a benevolent squire to the people who lived on or near his estate” and “allowed his labourers land and stock, provided houses for those who retired in his service and granted freedom to men whose time [of indenture] was up”; however he also took to court any workers who absconded, so that he might get them back to Cashmere.
The Indian workers became part of the wider community, with some, notably Ramchun Soman and his sister Rose, marrying European New Zealanders.
Their memory is preserved in the many Indian street names in the area:
- Shalamar Drive,
- Bengal Drive,
- Darjeeling Place,
- Delhi Place,
- Indira Lane,
- Lucknow Place,
- Nabob Lane,
- Nehru Place,
- Sasaram Lane.
Were you aware of Cashmere’s Indian connection? If, like me, you are fascinated by this discovery, you might enjoy the following links:
- The Sydenham Cemetery Tour Guide (look for the entry on “Soman”, starting on p.8);
- Indians of Cashmere – an article in The Press of of July 18, 2009;
- Christchurch Street and Place Names;
- Indian Communities in Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand;
- Resources in BiblioCommons on Indians in Aotearoa.