The mystery of Merivale and Merevale

MERIVALE MYSTERY: This photograph was taken between 1876 and 1881 - years before the suburb's name Merevale was changed to Merivale.

There is no definitive answer as to how Merevale became Merivale – but history buff Tim Baker thinks he might have the answer.

A year or two ago, Mr Baker was gifted a photo album book full of images from the suburb, three of which are pictures of a homestead labelled ‘Merivale’.

The pictures were taken by United Kingdom photographer Nelson King Cherrill between 1876 and 1881.

But the funny thing was that Merivale was still known as Merevale up until the 1890s.

“Recently I thought I would research to see if [the house] still remains and if Merivale got its name from this property, as so many of our suburb names have done so in Christchurch and elsewhere,” he said.

“I have Google-searched and asked about it but have hit a brick wall. City library staff have researched and are baffled too.”

He said he didn’t think the homestead would still be standing, but he hoped someone might be able to shed light on it.

“I don’t think it’s still there, otherwise we’d know about it
. . . my theory is that it burnt down in a fire.”

Historical research showed there were a few theories as to how Merivale got its name, but none had been proven.

One theory was that a woman named Charlotte Jackson bought 100 acres (40ha) in the area and named it ‘Merevale’ after her brother-in-law, Thomas Jackson, who was the vicar of Merevale, a town in England.

But Mr Baker thought perhaps the name had come as the result of a typo.

“Maybe the photographer made a mistake with the ‘i’ and that’s just how it stayed.”


History Buff Tim Baker thinks he might have the answer to how Merivale got its name.