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From the 1940s to the 60s, Annette Mary Eleanor Jane ‘Ma’ Clifford was Christchurch’s most prominent landlady and in the 1950s she was receiving rent from up to 550 tenants. In 2002, Deborah Nation collected the memories of students, artists, and a variety of other tenants who paid rent to the eccentric property owner.

Ma Clifford June Annette Mary Eleanor Jane Ma Clifford courtesy Canterbury Museum C Photograph by H H Clifford

Annette Mary Eleanor Jane ‘Ma’ Clifford (courtesy Canterbury Museum [C46 1]. Photograph by H. H. Clifford)

A small woman dressed mainly in black, the legendary ‘Ma’ Clifford cycled around the central city to inspect her properties. Many of these were close to the university and were popular with students. She collected rents at a ticket-box window in her residence at 52 Worcester Street where she would often light a match rather than turn on the hallway light. The memorable ‘Ma’ can be seen as both an exploitative property owner and a provider of cheap accommodation. She had a motherly attitude towards her elderly tenants and would remind student tenants of the need to write home and to remember their mothers’ birthdays. She died in Christchurch in 1968 at the age of 97.
(First broadcast in 1992)