The Early Days Of Canterbury: 16. Olla Podrida

CHRISTCHURCH,  2009

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CHAPTER 16

 

Olla Podrida

 

(An assorted mixture or miscellany)

 

 

Probably there are few people who are conversant with the history of the portrait in oils of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, which hangs on the wall at the entrance to our museum. It was pre­sented to Mr Wakefield by the shareholders in the New Zealand Company as a token of esteem, and in recognition of the services rendered by him to the company and the colony. The figure was painted by J. Edgell Collins, R.A., at a fee of three hundred guineas, and the dogs were the work of Richard Ansdell, R.A., an animal painter whose reputation was second only to that of Landseer. On the death of Mr E. G. Wakefield the picture passed to Mr E. Jerningham Wakefield, who hand­ed it over to Messrs Charles Torlesse and Samuel Bealey as trustees for the public, on condition that it should remain in their possession until a stone building belonging to the general Govern­ment should be erected in Christchurch. Though the picture was a gift to the colony, it was stipulated that it should remain in Christchurch as a memorial of the connection between Edward Gibbon Wakefield with the Settlement of Canter­bury, and it was ultimately placed in the museum.

 

The medical practitioners of Christchurch and district had no professional organisation until November 30, 1865, when a meeting was held at Dr. Coward's house, close to the Royal hotel,

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Oxford Terrace (the building still stands there) at which it was resolved to form a Medical and Chirurgical Society, Dr. Llewellyn Powell being elected secretary pro tem.

 

The West Coast coach which arrived in Christchurch on February 8, 1866, carried the first lady passenger to cross the Southern Alps. This was Mrs J. M. Cookson, who accompanied her husband across Arthur's Pass down to the Teremakau, a somewhat stupendous journey for a woman in those rough early days.

 

Guy Fawkes Day, 1866 marked one of the most disastrous fires Christchurch had hitherto experienced. It started in the premises of Mr J. H. Roach, Colombo Street, near The Golden Fleece hotel. The flames spread in all directions and great damage resulted to Cookham House and Gould's store on the site occupied in later years by Radcliffe and Gilchrist, and F. A. Cook. Across the street the shops of Leake, Mummery and Cook and Ross caught fire, and the heat was so fierce that H. E. Alport's auction rooms on the corner now occupied by Armstrong's was ablaze. The damage was assessed at £35,000 - a serious blow to the industrial area of the infant town.

 

It is of interest to learn that roller skating in Christchurch dates back to 1867, when on New Year's Day, Mr Kohler opened, a rink in Coker's Hall, Worcester Street. The floor was coated with a preparation of Fuller's earth, etc., and the skates were imported from Sydney.

 

At the Horticultural Society's show held in the Town Hall on March 2, 1867, Mr Andrew

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Duncan exhibited a plant of Lilium auratum­the first one grown in Canterbury. The exhibits of Messrs Nairn and Stewart, and Hislop were all highly praised, and the West Coast ferns and greenhouse plants exhibited by Mr Gould attract­ed much attention.

 

As the Great South railway line had only been completed as far as Selwyn at this early period, the Provincial Government, in order to facilitate the transport of grain between the out­lying districts and the railhead, imported a Thomson road steamer and commissioned John Anderson, to build wagons for it. The first trial took place on April 27, when the Mayor and Messrs Marshman (manager of railways), Thornton (provincial engineer), Beverley (loco­motive superintendent) and others were passengers in the trucks. Their experience was unenviable, as cinders flew out of the engine funnel and burned their clothes. The engine reached Prebbleton (four and a half miles) in fifty minutes, and on the return journey sprang a leak in her boiler, which brought the party to a standstill three miles from home and they were compelled to walk the rest of the way. The steam engine proved a complete failure for the purpose for which it had been imported.

 

Colonel Brett, who had had some experience of the value of irrigation in India, was the instigator of the water race system, which has been of such value to our Canterbury Plains. In August, 1871, he carried a motion in the Provincial Council that a sum be placed on the

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estimates for making a survey as to the practicability of diverting a portion of the Waimakariri river from the lower gorge along the plains to Rolleston - a step which resulted in the existing water race system upon which so many of our farmers depend for the productivity of their broad areas of light land.

 

The debt of gratitude which the province owes to Messrs W. S. Moorhouse and John Ollivier it is impossible to estimate, when one reads of their indefatigable struggle, and the fight they put up for the stupendous work .of forming the Lyttelton tunnel, and thus triumphing over what seemed an insuperable hindrance to the progress of the infant city on the plains.

 

In December, 1851 - only one year after the landing of the first pilgrim ships' passengers under the aegis of the Canterbury Association, this problem was discussed at a meeting of land purchasers.

 

Sumner Bar was a radical barrier to com­munication by sea on safe commercial lines, and a report was presented by a select committee which had been appointed, in which they recom­mended that £30,000 be borrowed for the carry­ing, out of the formation of the road to Christ­church via Sumner, which Captain Joseph Thomas had begun before the Charlotte Jane and her sister ships had sailed from London.

 

This recommendation had received endorse­ment at public meetings held in both Christchurch and Lyttelton. Most of the first colonists had been negotiating the hill by way of the Bridle

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Path which had also been formed to connect Lyttelton with Heathcote Valley. Fitzgerald, our first superintendent, also had a strong predilec­tion in favour of the Sumner route, and took up the question with characteristic zeal, and Messrs Bray, Dobson, Harman, Cridland and Jollie were asked to report upon the best means of communi­cation between Lyttelton and the plains.

 

In April, 1854, these gentlemen recommended the formation of a railway via Sumner, with a tunnel below Evans' Pass into Gollan's Bay, or alternatively, if this scheme were considered beyond the re­sources of the settlement, to construct a cart road via Sumner, with a tunnel through the top of Evans' Pass. Certain other suggestions were also made for the improvement of Sumner Bar. The connection by rail and tunnel as we have it today was also considered, but though the cost was only estimated at £155,000, the scheme was considered by the Commission to be beyond the resources of the province.

 

A further proposition was brought forward as meriting consideration, namely, to wind up the Spurs behind the town of Lyttelton to a tunnel six hundred yards long, at the head of the gully descending into Dampier's Bay, at an elevation of some 520 feet above the sea. After due con­sideration by the public and the Government, it was decided to proceed with the connection by way of Sumner Road, and some twelve months after the receipt of these reports the work com­menced.

 

On August 24, 1859, this road was formally

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opened by Mr Fitzgerald, who traversed it in his wonderful contraption which had become familiar­ly dubbed "Fitzgerald's Circulating Medium" - a dog cart with enormously high wheels. Other means of communication had meanwhile not been overlooked, and suggested improvement to Sumner Bar, and more extensive use of the Heathcote River, raised a fear in the minds of the Lyttelton traders that Heathcote might develop into a serious competitor in sea transport. This fear, however, was dispelled by Captain Drury, of H.M.S. Pandora, in a report made by him on December 18, 1854, regarding the chances of improving Sumner Bar. Efforts, therefore, were concentrated upon the Sumner Road as a means of communication by improving the navigation of the Heathcote River.

 

The initial attempt at steam navigation of the river proved disastrous, the Alma, a small paddle steamer, after running for a short period, breaking her back on the Bar on January 6, 1856, and becoming a total wreck. The Provincial Government, however, struggled with this prob­lem of navigation, and the course of the river was staked across the estuary. Early in 1858 the steamer Planet began to run round to the Heathcote, and was followed by the Mullogh and others. The sailing boats, which at first had been confined to fifteen and twenty tons, were superseded by vessels of nearly one hundred tons, which entered the river and discharged cargo at the Heathcote wharf. The popular belief, however, was that as demand increased,

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the facilities thus provided would not serve effectively, the question. of tunnelling the hill being always kept in view as a radical solution of the difficulty.

 

Accordingly, in November, 1858, Messrs Cass, Bray, Harman, Whitcombe, Wylde, Dobson and Ollivier were appointed to study the position and report. Two propositions were put forward by Mr Bray, who advocated the tunnel to connect with a railway at Heathcote Valley. This was ultimately adopted. The other proposition, sponsored by Mr Dobson, embodied the scheme of connection with Sumner via Gollan's Bay. Mr Dobson stressed this scheme on account of the greater depth of water in Gollan's Bay as com­pared with Lyttelton. The matter was referred to a Commission appointed in London, consisting of Mr Selfe-Selfe and Mr Fitzgerald, with a request to these gentlemen to confer with Mr Robert Stephenson. Mr Stephenson referred the question to his eminent brother, Mr George Stephenson, who on August 19, 1859, announced his decision in favour of the tunnel railway by way of Heathcote Valley.

 

Mr Fitzgerald, before this scheme was decided upon, urged the Provincial Government to consider a scheme for the construction of a railway track with sharp curves, along the Sumner Road. This proposal, however, was negated by the local Commissioners as well as Mr George Stephenson, and the Commissioners in England shortly afterwards concluded a con­tract with Messrs Smith and Knight, of London,

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for construction of the tunnel and railway line, exclusive of stations en route, for £235,000, to be completed within five years, and subject to termination by either party within four months from the arrival of the contractors at Lyttelton. This arrangement protected the Government against being unable to finance the project, and the contractor against finding the conditions too risky to proceed with the work. It was also agreed that the Government find up to £3,000 for trial shafts, etc., and to relieve the contractors from their liability to the workmen sent out from London by them. The trial bores were begun in January, 1860, with the result that McCandlish and Barns, the agents for the contractors, refused to ratify the contract, and in November of the same year returned to England.

 

This setback did not quite dishearten our people, and the Council decided to consult Mr Edward Dobson with reference to the best course to pursue, and he proposed that both ends of the projected tunnel be opened up with colonial labour, and that tenders be advertised for the work.

 

At this stage Mr Moorhouse announced that he had some hope of being able to induce an Australian firm of contractors to tender for the job, and the Council thereupon authorised him to proceed to Melbourne and open negotiations. The result of this visit was that the Australian firm of Holmes and Richardson signed a pro­visional contract for the whole of the work, exclusive of railway stations, for £240,500 - to be completed by June 1, 1866.

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The tunnel was made and thrown open to the public for inspection on June 10, 1867, the interior being illuminated by 6,500 candles. On that auspicious day two thousand people passed through the "hole in the hill," and the first mail to be carried through left Christchurch at 11.5 a.m., and reached Lyttelton at. noon, just in time to be placed on board the Tararua.

 

At a dinner held in Christchurch in 1871, to commemorate the centenary of Sir Walter Scott, at which Mr John Anderson presided, a most interesting address was delivered by Lieutenant Dugald McFarlane - a Waterloo veteran - upon his personal reminiscences of the Scottish novelist. Lieutenant McFarlane stated that he had dined frequently with Sir Walter at his home in Edinburgh and had explained in close detail to him the various points and localities of interest in the Battle of Waterloo, during the time Sir Walter was writing his "History of Napoleon."

 

The formation of a Hunt Club was decided upon at a meeting held at Tattersall's on October 16, 1871, a committee being set up to draft rules and canvass for members. That the chase was popular is evidenced by the fact that in September of the following year the club held its first steeplechase meeting over country on the farms of Messrs Stace and Brittan, the present site of the populous suburb of Linwood. There was a large gathering of enthusiasts, £40 being taken for admission at the gates.

 

The first special show of roses held in Canter­bury took place on December 1, 1871, at White's hotel,

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Cathedral Square (now known as Warner's) under the auspices of the Christchurch Horticul­tural Society. The president, Mr Wynn, Williams, gave a silver cup, open to all competitors, for the best six blooms. Thirteen competitors entered and Mr John, Greenaway secured first prize and Mr J. Abbott second.

 

The first wheeled vehicle driven from Christ­church to Akaroa via Little River was taken over the new road from Little River to Akaroa in five hours, by Mr Blake, of the Telegraph Department, in 1871.

 

On February 3, 1872, the Acclimatisation Society liberated some two hundred English birds, including Blackbirds, Thrushes, Goldfinches and Hedge Sparrows, in the Botanic Gardens, and Mr Bills was sent Home to obtain a supply of insectivorous birds the following month.

 

The Akaroa road was officially opened from Little River to the head of Akaroa Bay in February, 1872, Mr W. H. Burton driving a special coach, accompanied by the superintendent and Mr R. H. Rhodes.

 

The old Oddfellows' Hall which stood on Lichfield Street, was opened on April 1, 1872, and after serving as our principal concert hall for many years, was ultimately sold for removal, and today does duty as a bulk store in Sydenham for one of our merchant firms. The first concert held in this hall took place on April 2, 1872, the Musical Society rendering "Acis and Galatea," the soloists being Miss Ada Sinclair Taylor, Miss Rowley, Rev. E. A. Lingard, and Mr Price.

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A Haydn Symphony was contributed by Messrs Landergan (piano), Poore (flute), and Spensley (cello).

 

The Canterbury Club was formed and directors appointed on August 17, 1872, a site being purchased at the corner of Worcester Street and Cambridge Terrace, comprising a quarter of an acre, for £650. This site had previously been occupied by Bishop Harper and also by Dr. Turnbull.

 

The first golf club in Christchurch was start­ed as early as September, 1872, through the efforts of Mr A. Jameson (the solicitor) who sent to Scotland for a supply of clubs, etc., and games were played by this club in Hagley Park.

 

The first attempt to introduce street trams in Christchurch failed utterly. It was proposed to run to Papanui railway station to connect with the north line, and a public meeting was held on October 22, 1872, at which it was decided that a tramway running through the streets of Christ­church would be objectionable for the following reasons, namely:


(1) that a tramway was not required; 
(2) the streets were not wide enough to allow sufficient space for them;
(3) the estab­lishment of tramways would retard the railway station being brought into some convenient place in the town.

 

Though Mr John Ollivier championed the cause, of the trams as an advance in civilisation with all his proverbial eloquence, the meeting would not tolerate the proposition.

 

The solid and phenomenal development of the

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Canterbury Province may be realised when we read that whereas in 1854 the value of wool ex­ported was £6,000, in 1871 its export value was no less than £666,000. The export of grain from Canterbury in 1871 was valued at £130,000, out of a total value for the whole colony of £170,000.

 

The pioneer manufacturers of tweeds from local wool were Messrs Webley and Co., of Nelson, who exhibited a range of their products at the first International Exhibition, held in the grounds of the old drill shed in Montreal Street in December, 1872. At this exhibition Messrs J. A. Burns and Co., of Mosgiel had a display of tweeds and blankets.

 

The Christchurch Domains Board was con­stituted on January 27, 1873, the first appointed members being Messrs Brittan, the secretary to the Public Works Department for the time being, George Gould, Robert Wilkin, J. R. Hill, C. C. Bowen, Edward Jollie and T. H. Potts.

 

At a special session of the Anglican Synod held on February 18, 1873, the question of selling the present site of the Cathedral was fully and finally dealt with.

 

A number of influential churchmen favoured its sale to the Provincial Council for public offices, for the sum of £10,000 which they had been offered, and the erection of a less costly edifice on the church property in the vicinity of Cranmer Square. Mr de Bourbel also made a private offer on behalf of a client, of £10,000 for the site. The committee appointed by Synod to report upon an alternative site stated that a section of three

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and a half acres on Durham Street, between Gloucester and Armagh Streets, opposite the Provincial Council block, could be obtained by paying the market price per quarter acre allot­ment - some £5,000 in all. They also suggested that economy could be effected by letting the frontages for building sites conditionally on the fronts of the houses erected thereon facing the Cathedral. If this were done, the committee suggested that the Cathedral would stand upon the northern frontage of the land and the tower would be on Armagh Street.

 

Adjourning to February 19, the consideration of the subject was then resumed, and Arch­deacon Wilson moved, "That the Synod agrees to accept the offer of the Provincial Government for the purchase of the present site of the proposed Cathedral for £10,000 cash." In moving the pro­posal, Archdeacon Wilson, said he believed that if the offer by the Provincial Council were rejected, none of those present would live to see the Cathedral erected upon its present site, and there would be no prospect of it being erected during the present generation.

 

Rev. W. W. Willock second the motion, and a lengthy debate ensued, most of the mem­bers of Synod taking part. Voting upon the motion resulted as follows:- Ayes (clergy) Arch­deacon Wilson., Canon Cotterill and Rev. Willock. Noes (clergy) Dean Jacobs, Canon Dudley, Revs. Bowen, Raven, Cooper, Lingard, Opie, Mutu, Paige, East, Cholmondeley and Knowles. Ayes (laity) Messrs Cowlishaw, Kennaway, Hawkes,

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L. Harper, Lane, Malet, A. F. N. Blakiston, Maude, Harman, Hanxner, C. R. Blakiston, Gordon, Tipping and Cobb. Noes (laity) Dr. Donald, Messrs Graham, Ainger, March and Rhodes.

 

The Church should be grateful to its ordained ministers, who, in the face of formidable opposition from some of its prominent laity, were courageous enough to vote for the conservation of the original selection, and the ultimate pride of place which for all time marks the monument of the spiritual instinct which formed such a vital link in the religious life of our colonisers.

 

The Christchurch milk vendors of the early seventies, judging from analyses made of samples of the milk, must have relied more upon the quality of our artesian, supply than their herds for their stock in trade. It is on record that of two samples analysed one contained 88.1 per cent of water, and the other 85.2 per cent - surely a striking testimony to the milk fat contained in pure artesian, water!

 

Christchurch has always been a popular city for bicycles, because of its uniformly, level roads. Indeed, Mark Twain, after his visit to the colony, summed up Christchurch as a place where half the people rode bicycles and the other half were busy dodging them. On March 2, 1873, our news­papers reported that Mr Henry Oakey - an early enthusiast, had ridden his bicycle from Christ­church to Sumner in one hour - an acknowledged feat in those days of primitive solid tyred high wheel bicycles and blasphemous roads.

 

Our first mid-winter show was held on May 23, 1873

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on the Sydenham show grounds (now Sydenham Park) under the auspices of the Agricultural and Pastoral Association.. A terrific gale in the afternoon levelled all the tents, etc. There was a fair display of cattle and sheep, though pigs were poorly represented. The grains, roots and seeds were a feature of the show. The munificent sum of £17 was taken for admission.

 

The Rakaia bridge, built by Mr White, and costing £39,350, was opened on May 29, 1873, its construction having taken four years.

 

On June 4, 1873, it was proposed to establish a new cattle and sheep market, and ten acres of the Ticknor estate on the north line and West Belt were purchased at £200 per acre, the Sale-yards Company being formed on July 2 with a nominal capital of 1200 shares of £5 each.

 

The first meeting of Canterbury College Board of Governors was held on July 9, 1873, Mr Joshua Strange Williams being elected chairman. The Board was composed of Bishop Harper, Revs. W. W. Willock, W. J. Habens and James Buller, Dr. Turnbull and Messrs H. J. Tancred, T. W. Maude, W. Montgomery, C. C. Bowen, A. C. Knight, W. Kennaway, W. P. Cowlishaw, J. Studholme and H. R. Webb.