The Early Days Of Canterbury: 3. The Growth of the New Settlement

CHRISTCHURCH,  2009

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CHAPTER 3

 

 

The Growth of the New Settlement

 

 

On March 15 and 16, 1852, meetings of members of the Church of England, convened by Bishop Selwyn's commissaries, Rev. R. B. Paul and Rev. Octavius Mathias, were held in Christchurch and Lyttelton respectively, to consider the establishment of some organised government for the Church in New Zealand. Resolutions were carried affirming the desirability of obtaining power for the Church of England members of the colony to manage their own ecclesiastical affairs. The committee appointed to handle this matter consisted of the four licensed clergymen and Messrs H. J. Tancred, Conway Lucas Rose, Pritchard, and Woolcombe.

 

The Christchurch Conveyance Co., a thriving concern which had beep; established in 1851, held its first annual meeting on July 12, 1852. This company's chief function was the conveyance of goods from Lyttelton by boat over Sumner bar to Christchurch by small trading vessels. Twenty shillings per ton was the flat rate of freight, and a dividend of twenty per cent was declared at this first annual balance.

 

On August 18, 1852 the first vehicle crossed over from Lyttelton to Christchurch by way of the Bridle Path. It was an empty dray drawn by two horses. Heavy storms during a period of several weeks in July and August stopped all communication by road from Lyttelton to Christchurch,

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and as Lyttelton was the, depot for pro­visions, the dwellers on the plains were reduced to almost a state of famine.

 

The Governor, Sir George Grey, who had from Canterbury's inception manifested a desire to make it a vassal governed wholly from Auck­land, at the behest of himself and his henchman, Colonel Campbell, made Godley's task of guiding and safeguarding the interests of the founders of the new colony a most difficult one, and in this connection an interesting letter from, Gibbon Wakefield to Godley gives such a powerful description of the struggle which Canterbury's friends in London had to maintain in order to secure the freedom of constitutional self govern­ment, that a few extracts make interesting reading.

 

Wakefield, after referring to the opposition manifested by Robert Lowe and Sir William Molesworth, goes on to allude to the work done on behalf of the colonists by Gladstone, Lord Lyttelton, the Duke of Newcastle, Fox, Sewell, Adderley and himself in inducing Sir John Pakington (Secretary of State for the Colonies) to introduce the Bill in the English Parliament. He declares that every movement for the reform of colonial government which had been made since 1848 had grown out of the Canterbury Associa­tion. "In short," he continued, "Canterbury, in its London office at the Adelphi, has been for three years the principal workshop as well as school, of colonial reform. We sincerely believe that if this chance had been missed, further

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postponement of the oft declared purpose of giving New Zealand a constitution would have enabled the colonial office to retain its monstrous authority over you for many years to come. It was a question of now or perhaps never in our time. It has been clear for some time that if the management of its own affairs could not be obtained by Act of Parliament, Sir George Grey and his agents would be irresponsible masters of everything in Canterbury Settlement early next year. We had to choose between Sir John Pakington's measure, and seeing you governed in all things by Colonel Campbell as the agent of Governor George Grey."

 

The Supreme Court held its first session in Canterbury on November 6, 1852, in the temporary church and schoolroom at Lyttelton. It was presided over by Mr Justice Stephens, when two convicted prisoners were sentenced to transportation for seven years.

 

The horticultural society's first show was held in a marquee in Hagley Park on the second anniversary of the arrival of the pilgrim ships, the location being opposite Dilloway's Riccarton hotel, then known as "The Traveller's Home." Prizes were of modest value and did not in any case exceed five shillings for first order of merit. The greatest number of prizes was secured by Deans Brothers, Watts Russell, Guise Brittan, Dr. Donald and Rev. E. Puckle, and the show was declared an unqualified success. The same marquee was used a few days later for the fare­well banquet to Mr and Mrs Godley. Mr Godley

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left for England after having reluctantly declined to allow himself to be elected the first superin­tendent of the settlement.

 

Up to this period of our history, social functions were attended largely by medium of drays and carts of primitive type, the ladies of the town, heroically and uncomplainingly sharing the limitations which were of necessity a part of the early settlers' experiences.

 

Never was colonisation developed under more hopeful auspices, and we look back with pride upon the memory of those true types of nature's gentlefolk, to whom we are so largely indebted for our glorious heritage.

 

The year 1853 saw considerable development and advance in the Canterbury Settlement, which had been created a province by the passing of the Constitution Act in the Imperial Parliament. New Zealand thereupon assumed a status co-equal with the other British possessions in regard to self government. Our development naturally led to an influx of population from across the Tasman, unfortunately of the criminal type, for Sydney and Hobart Town had been transportation settlements whither Britain's malefactors were shipped.

 

The whalers operating between Australia and Akaroa Peninsula provided easy means of escape for numbers of these convicts, and the result was that they lived, a comparatively free life with our natives. Their old vices, however, in many cases, reasserted themselves, and stealing was not uncommon. The population being small, detection, of course, was comparatively easy, and

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ere long these interlopers developed in many cases into respectable inhabitants, and were of little trouble in after years.

 

The gold fever, then rampant in Australia, had its counterpart in our country, and Canter­bury longed for a goldfield within its territory. Great excitement was caused when in January, 1853, a country itinerant hawker named Levy, having returned to town declared that he knew a spot where there were indications of a rich goldfield. This fanned the smouldering fire into a full blaze, and the following month a meeting of townsfolk was held, at which a premium was offered for the discovery of gold within the province. A reward was promised to Levy if he would divulge the location of the precious metal, and their enthusiasm may be gauged by their subscribing over £100 in the room. A committee in due course set out with Levy to find the locality, but, after leading them on a wild goose chase into the mountains, Levy clandestinely dis­appeared, leaving the searchers to find their way back to civilisation. Thereafter Levy thought it discreet to move to fresh pastures.

 

A Masonic Lodge was constituted in Lyttelton on May 26, 1853, under the charter from the Grand Lodge of England, and was designated "Lodge of Unanimity 879," Brother A. J. Alport being the first Worshipful Master. Oddfellowship had already established itself in Lyttelton, its sponsor being P. G. Brother Abrahams, and in June, 1853, the Loyal City of Christchurch Lodge was constituted by P. G. Brother Rowland Davis.


The first vessel built of local timber in

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Canterbury was the Caledonia, of 20 tons, with space for carrying thirty bales of wool. She was built and owned by Grubb and Marshall, of Lyttelton, whose slip was close to the present railway station. The pioneer of ocean steam navigation to enter Lyttelton Harbour was the Ann, 154 tons, 50 horse power, which, in charge of Captain Gibbs, arrived from Sydney via Nelson on September 22, 1853. This event was memorialised by a public dinner, tendered to the captain of this wonderful vessel.

 

St. Augustine Masonic Lodge was opened on October 19, 1853, being 885 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of England. The consecration cere­mony was carried out in the magistrate's room of the land office, Oxford Terrace, Brother John Seager Gundry being the first installed Worship­ful Master.

 

On October 6, 1853, a cattle show was held in the Market Place, under the auspices of the horticultural society, when prize money was sub­scribed amounting to £100, the chief prize winners being Watts Russell, John Deans and William Norman.

 

The earliest record of acclimatisation matters was on January 3, 1854, at the farm of Guise Brittan, "Englefield" (in later years the home of Hon. E. C. J. Stevens, opposite Ward's brewery) when some Partridge eggs were hatched under a hen.

 

On March 3, 1853, G. H. Moore purchased for cash, on account of P. Kermode, of Victoria, 40,000 acres of land at seven shillings per acre, named by him “Glenmark.”

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Coming to 1855, the first race meeting under the aegis of the Canterbury Jockey Club took place, when Mr Turner, the owner of Cruiskeen, winner of the Ladies' Bracelet of £40, magnani­mously donated the stake towards the fund then being raised for the erection of the grandstand at the Riccarton Reserve.

 

On January 5, 1857, Bishop Selwyn sailed from Lyttelton for Port Chalmers, after being farewelled and presented with a numerously signed address of appreciation of his labours as Bishop of the diocese pending the appointment of a Bishop for Christchurch. February 1 of this same year saw the Scottish Church of St. Andrew completed and opened, the officiating ministers being Rev. Charles Fraser and Rev. John Aldred, the offertories for the opening day being £74/8/6. Holy Trinity Church, Avonside, built contemporaneously with St. Andrew's, was consecrated by Bishop Harper on February 24.

 

Apple blight made its first appearance in our province in April, 1857, being in evidence in Mr D'Oyley's orchard at Akaroa. It was thought to have come from America in one of the whaling vessels, which often put into Akaroa for refitting and provisions.

 

It is interesting to learn that in the wool season of 1857, no fewer than 5,000 bales were shipped from the middle island, valued at £115,000.

 

Mr D. Inwood was in this year, 1857, granted power by Act of the Provincial Council, to erect a flour mill upon the island at Hereford Street bridge. Mr Packer at the same time applied for

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leave to introduce a Bill authorising the reserva­tion and disposal of a site for a mill in Hagley Park, just above the present bridge' leading from the band rotunda into the Botanic Gardens, but this was negated by eight votes to two

 

Our first theatre was opened on July 23, 1857 by Mr and Mrs Foley, who had up to this time been engaged upon what was colloquially dubbed "saw-dust opera" (otherwise circus performances) and their opening burlesque was "The Loan of a Lover," and the farce, "Betsy Baker." Readers will be surprised to learn that reserved seats cost six shillings and gallery seats four shillings. The company comprised only three artists.

 

The road connecting Lyttelton with Governor's Bay was completed on August 18, and that to Sumner on August 24, 1857, the events being celebrated in both Lyttelton and Christ­church in good old British fashion.

 

J. E. Fitzgerald - a bitter opponent of the project of a tunnel from port to the plains, resigned the Superintendency during this year, and W. S. Moorhouse, who had fathered the scheme from its inception, was nominated to succeed him in the office, his opponent being Joseph Brittan, the then editor of the "Canter­bury Standard" newspaper. Fortunately for Canterbury, the public recognised the ultimate value of the tunnel scheme and chose Moorhouse, the voting being 727 to 352. Curiously enough, Christchurch paired its voting, Moorhouse and Brittan each polling 206 votes, Moorhouse's majority coming from Lyttelton.

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Apropos of journalistic matters, the news­papers often found great difficulty in selecting matter upon which to dilate editorially, and on November 25, 1857, the "Lyttelton Times" leader column contained the following paragraph:

 

"The elections have passed and have left behind them only a feeling of quietness and dullness in regard to all local matters. We are bound to reflect the quietness of the period through which we are passing, and the approaching summer gives us a desire to adopt its indolence. With no mysteries that need our explanation, no suffering cause re­quiring our support, and nothing particularly and pressingly objectionable that demands our attention, we are without a subject to write upon, or the skill to, construct an essay from nothing. Hence we leave our editorial space vacant today."

 

The first show, held at Rangitata, was exclusively of sheep, and it is a matter of historic interest to learn who the prize-takers were. The judges were Messrs Robert Wilkin and George Matson, the prize-winners being Mr D. Innes for fine-woolled rams, any age, bred in the colony; and also for rams under two years old. Mr A. Cox took the prize for fine-woolled ewes, any age, bred in the colony; and Mr E. H. Fereday that for ewes under two years old. Mr B. Dowling won first prizes for both rams and ewes imported, any age, and Mr E. Chapman the prize for best ram of any age, imported or otherwise. As a memorial of this gathering of sheep owners in Canterbury, in friendly rivalry, and to mark their appreciation of the bounteous hospitality dispensed by Mr Moorhouse, the visitors presented one hundred ewes to Mr Moorhouse's infant son.

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At the conclusion of the show those present decided to form an association to be called The Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association, and the annual membership fee was fixed at one guinea. The first patron elected was Mr W. S. Moorhouse, Mr B. Dowling being the first honorary secretary. It was decided to hold the show in the following year at Mr Turton's accommodation house at Ashburton.

 

The towns of Lyttelton and Christchurch were granted municipal status in 1859 by Pro­vincial Council enactment, being, gazetted on June 5, 1861.

 

About this time disastrous fires raged in the native and church forests at Kaiapoi, some £20,000 worth of valuable timber being destroyed, while large areas on Banks Peninsula were wiped out, the hot dry weather being responsible for the loss of these irreplaceable potential sources of wealth - a calamity to a district in which timber was essentially indispensable.

 

Mr John Ollivier, in 1859, introduced a Bill in the Provincial Council, proposing to take five acres of Hagley Park for the site of a public hospital. This raised a spirited protest locally, and after a fierce battle in the Council, the measure was carried by a margin of one vote, and the worst spot which could probably have been found, enveloped in river fog for so many nights during winter, was selected for the treatment of bronchial and other troubles incidental to the functions of a public hospital.