The Early Days Of Canterbury: 15. Red Letter Days

CHRISTCHURCH,  2009

158

 

 

CHAPTER 15

 

 

Red Letter Days

 

 

The Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry dates its inception back to October 12, 1864, when a meet­ing was held in Mr John Ollivier's office, at which Captain Reader was nominated Major Command­ing, Messrs Cracroft-Wilson and E. J. Wakefield Captains, Messrs C. C. Aikman, W. S. Moorhouse and M. W. Anderson Lieutenants, and Messrs L. P. Traherne, J. C. Aikman and J. H. Tancred Cornets.

 

On November 2, 1864, Messrs Thomas Bruce and John Coe inaugurated a service of transport between Christchurch and Lyttelton via Sumner. This was a waggonette drawn by four horses, and it is recorded that on its first trip the four horses negotiated the zig-zag at Evans' Pass without being disconnected - a feat hitherto unattempted in the annals of Canterbury coachmanship.

 

The dust nuisance was grappled with by the City Council on November 7, 1864, when they decided to purchase two watering carts, and a contract was also concluded with Mr Oswald for lighting the town of Christchurch with kerosene, at the rate of 9½d. per lamp per night. Gas, for illuminating purposes was turned on by the Christchurch Gas Company for the first time on December 26, 1864. At the Horticultural Society's show, held at Kohler's gardens, Lincoln Road, on December 28, 1864,

159 

the first Hoya, or wax flowers, were shown by Mr George Gould, and the first Gloxinias grown in the province were exhibited by Mr Brooke.

 

The Roman Catholic people of Lyttelton, having been presented with a site for a new church by Mr Frederick Weld, laid the foundation stone of the substantial edifice which has served the port for the past sixty-five years. Mr E. D. Byrne officiated at this ceremony on February 2, 1865. The Catholic Diocese had, in this early stage of its existence, no bishop of its own, and was under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Most Rev. P. J. Viand, Bishop of Wellington, and Fathers Chataigner and Chewier, who were among the pioneers of Canterbury Catholicism, were at this period in charge of the Diocese.

 

The Oratorio, "Messiah," was rendered by the Musical Society in the Town Hall, High Street, on December 28, 1864, the Rev. John Wilson sing­ing the tenor solos, Mrs Johnson the soprano, Miss Hamilton the contralto, and Mr Charles Merton the bass. Mr Bell and Mr Rutland also assisted with the solos.

 

Our first steam fire engine, made by Shand and Mason, reached Christchurch January 23, 1865, and a successful trial was carried out a week later at Lane's flour mill, Hereford Street bridge, in the presence of a large crowd of citizens. The new engine had not long to wait to demonstrate its worth, as a large fire occurred on February 8 on the premises of Mr R. W. Walters, the undertaker and cabinetmaker in Whately Road, spreading to the Phoenix

160

brewery in Kilmore Street immediately behind Walters' workshop. Mr Isaac Luck, chairman of the Council, named the engine "The Extinguisher."

 

Bishop Selwyn laid the foundation stone of St. Mark's Anglican Church at Opawa on May 6, 1865.

 

The first message over the inter-provincial telegraph line was received from the Bluff, May 22, 1865, advising the arrival at that port of the English mail, the line being opened for public business on May 23.

 

The question of obtaining a road of easy grade to the West Coast was taken up early in this same year, and Messrs Browning, Harman, Griffiths and Johnston formed an exploratory expedition to endeavour to discover a pass through the Alps to the Coast. After undergoing some exciting experiences, Messrs Harman and Johnston retraced their steps to Christchurch, but Browning and Griffiths stuck to their quest, and on May 8, discovered a pass which they called Browning's Pass, and reached Hokitika on May 17. This led to the Council taking immediate steps to establish an overland mail between Christchurch and Hokitika and extend the electric telegraph communication. to the Coast.

 

In June the Council manifested great enthusiasm in regard to the potential value of the West Coast goldfields, and on Mr Rolleston's motion it was decided to lay out townships for sale at £48 per acre at Hokitika, Waimea and Bruce Bay. Twenty thousand pounds was voted

161

for the formation of the West Coast road, and ten thousand pounds for the expenses of administra­tion of affairs, and a further five thousand for telegraphic communication.

 

On July 1 the worst thunderstorm ever ex­perienced by the settlers up to that time passed over Christchurch, Mr A. McFarlane being killed by lightning at Avonside.

 

The first overland mail from the West Coast arrived in Christchurch at noon on July 15, 1865, and the "Lyttelton Times" issued an extra containing the news brought by this means. The difficulties connected with this trip may be gauged from the fact that on the journey the coach had to cross the rivers twenty-seven times, the trip taking five days to complete.

 

That the Hokitika Bar had thus early in the history of the West Coast proved a difficult problem for navigation may be gathered from the fact that during the year ending July 31, 1865, ten vessels ranging from 47 tons to 374 tons had been wrecked and totally lost in endeavouring to negotiate it.

 

St. John's Anglican Church, in Latimer Square, was opened on December 27, 1865, the Provincial Council contributing no less than £2,000 towards the cost of its erection, the Rev. J. O'Bryan Hoare being inducted its first incumbent.

 

The first fatal accident on the Sumner­ to Lyttelton road occurred on September 12, 1865, when Mr J. M. Dimond was killed on the zig-zag owing to the breaking of the king bolt of Cobb and Co.'s coach.

162 

In this year of our history there was a strong demand by the Middle Island for separation from the North Island, and the Middle Island Associa­tion was formed to protect our interests by separation from our North Island neighbours, or whatever other means future circumstances might render available. Robert Wilkin was chairman of this body, and William Day treasurer, and F. J. Garrick secretary. Feeling at the time ran high upon this subject and men like Moorhouse, Crosbie Ward, William Reeves, E. W. Humphreys, H. Matson, Walter Kennaway, T. M. Hassal, C. F. Todhunter, Joshua Strange Williams, T. R. Fisher, George Buckley and others, were among its prominent supporters.

 

Even as early as 1866 Christchurch had its period of severe economic depression, and there was much distress. The Benevolent Aid Society was formed, and in its report of March 12, covering a period of nine months, £597/10/- had been subscribed, and £500 spent on the relief of 328 cases, representing 1440 persons.

 

The telegraphic communication with the West Coast was opened on February 6, 1866, for public business, the cost of construction having been £7,500.

 

The Bank of New Zealand moved from Cashel Street into its present premises on September 24, 1866.

 

The great south railway line, as far as Rolleston was officially opened October 13, the first trial trip of 14¼ miles occupying thirty-one minutes,

163

and fares were fixed at 6/6 first class single, 10/- return; 5/- second class single, 7/- return.

 

On August 25, 1864, the Provincial Council agreed, upon the motion of Mr John Hall, to purchase two quarter acre sections for sites for new post and telegraph office and customs office. Our chief post office occupies these sites today, the sections being numbered 729, which was pur­chased from Mr E. J. Wakefield for £2,000, and 731, from Mr T. M. Hassal for £2,760, Mr Hassal agreeing to take £760 cash and the balance in waste lands.

 

Sydenham was so named by Mr Prince, who came to the colony in the ship British Empire, and resided in Colombo Street south. Mr Prince shipped from London for acclimatisation purposes 39 Linnets, 29 Thrushes, 63 Skylarks, 7 Starlings, 23 Goldfinches, 6 Pheasants, 2 Partridges and 30 Blackbirds, but was only successful in landing 31 birds altogether.

 

Mr Johnson of the Botanic Gardens, and in later life well known as the proprietor of the fish gardens at Radley which still bear his name, also shipped by the British Empire 800 Salmon, 200 Carp, 200 Perch and some Tench, Gudgeon, Minnows and Goldfish. The tanks in which these fish were enclosed during the journey were nearly all slate lined, and, by means of perforated par­titions the water was kept moving from tank to tank by the ship's motion and so aerated. Snails, water lilies and various weeds were provided for food. The tanks were enclosed in a frame and

164 

case with double matting, which was kept con­stantly wet in the tropics. Unfortunately the wood of the tanks warped and some of the slates moved, so that the chance of success became rather remote. The fish did not do well, and although Mr Johnson hoped to land some of them in the colony, this hope was entirely destroyed by some white lead getting into the tanks and poisoning all the fish, excepting a few Goldfish.

 

The Town Hall in High Street, built of stone and brick, was opened on September 16, 1866, with a concert given by the Musical Society. The soloists for this occasion were Mrs J. E. Fitzgerald, Mr Charles Merton and Mr Joseph Carder. Messrs Kohler brothers contributed a cornet duet, Mr Wood a flute solo, and Mr Charles Bonnington played the violin part in an instru­mental quartette. Three hundred citizens were present. The Town Hall appeared quite a substantial structure with walls 26 feet high and 27 inches thick. After being in use for some time it was severely strained by an earthquake while leased to Robert Haller, a well known conjuror of the period. It was pronounced unsafe for public gatherings and was sold by auction on March 15, 1871 to Mr L. E. Nathan for £3,900. Mr Nathan leased the property to Mr G. L. Beath for a drapery store, and while in his occupation the premises were destroyed by fire, Mr Beath being a heavy loser, as, having landed just a few days previously a shipment of drapery valued at £3,000, he had not increased his fire risk beyond the policy of £1,000 then current.

165 

 

Sir George Grey, in October, 1864, presented the Acclimatisation Society with five white Swans to be placed on the Avon in the Domain.

 

The foundation stone of the Anglican Cathedral was laid with much rejoicing on Decem­ber 16, 1864. The day was very wet, heavy rain falling continuously. Proceedings commenced with a service at St. Michael's Church, Bishop Harper, Archdeacon Jacobs and Rev. B. W. Dudley officiating. The Volunteers of the city companies paraded early in Latimer Square and proceeded to the railway station to meet the Lyttelton companies under Captain Murray Aynsley, and the Heatheote Rifles under Captain Holmes. The whole force then proceeded to the Carlton hotel corner of Papanui Road, where they met the Kaiapoi companies, who had been brought in by Cobb and Co.'s coaches. Four hundred of all ranks paraded, and on arrival at the site of the ceremony were drawn up in hollow square sur­rounding the stone.

 

A dais was provided for the Bishop and clergy, and the Bishop read the order appointed for the occasion and offered up special prayers. The Hallelujah Chorus was sung by the special choir, and the ceremonial trowel was pre­sented to the Bishop. The Archdeacon placed in a cavity in the stone, a bottle containing coins, papers, and a parchment inscription which read thus : "In the name 'of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, amen. To the honour and glory of Al­mighty God, and in the name and for the advancement of Christ's Holy and Apostolic Church, on December 16, 1864, this chief corner

166

stone of the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Christchurch was laid by the Right Rev. Henry J. C. Harper, D.D., first Bishop of Christchurch, assisted by the following persons appointed by the Synod of the Diocese as a Cathedral Com­mission, namely, Ven. H. Jacobs, M.A., Arch­deacon of Christchurch, Rev. J. Wilson, M.A., His Honor Mr Justice Gresson, Hon. H. J. Tancred, M.L.C., Messrs A. C. Barker, C. R. Blakiston, Cyrus Davie, R. J. S. Harman, J. G. Hawkes, M.P.C., George Holmes, Grosvenor Miles, and J. A. E. Ross, M.P.C. This Cathedral Church is to be erected from designs and drawings of George Scott, R.A., London architect, and R. Speechley, M.R.I.B.A., resident architect of Christchurch. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men."

 

The ceremonial concluded, the Volunteers were entertained by the City Corps at luncheon in the Foresters' Hall, Oxford Terrace. Those officially partaking in the function proceeded to Coker's new room (after­wards for many years the schoolroom of Mr T. M. Gee, one of the most successful teachers of his time) and partook of lunch. The superintend­ent proposed the toast of the day: "Success to the Cathedral," and Mr John Ollivier proposed the toast : "The Bishop and Clergy," to which His Lordship Bishop Harper responded.