The Early Days Of Canterbury: 4. Christchurch Grows Apace

CHRISTCHURCH,  2009

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CHAPTER 4.

 

Christchurch Grows Apace

 

 

In connection with our tunnel, we learn that although the British engineer, Mr J. R. Stephen­son, had reported in favour of this project as against communication by road via Sumner, fierce opposition was manifested by Fitzgerald and other leaders of the day, Mr John Hall (after­wards Sir John) striving to kill the empowering Bill by proposing its second reading that day six months. Mr William Thomson, through the agency of his newspaper, "The Standard," was unequivocal in his denunciation of the tunnel scheme. Moorhouse, however, was indefatigable in the presentation of the Bill, and today the project stands as a monument to the confidence of our fathers in the future of their beloved settlement, the twelve thousand colonists shouldering a liability of about a quarter of a million pounds to complete what they rightly viewed as a sine qua non if we were to take our place among the colony's great provinces of later generations.

 

The first stud horse parade in Christchurch was held on October 1, 1859, and doubtless there are still some settlers with us who remember the thoroughbreds Sleight of Hand, Manchester, The Peer, and Skeleton. No less than nine draught stallions took part in this early parade. 


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The volunteer movement owed its inception in Canterbury to the Taranaki Maori disturbances which were causing the white settlers in that district much anxiety. Many women and children were hurriedly sent to other parts of the country as the war was assuming alarming proportions. On April 23, 1859, a meeting was held in Lyttelton, and 130 men, signified their desire to join a volunteer company. This number was increased by sixty from Christchurch and a number from Kaiapoi. These enrolled men offered service to the Government without any payment except for ration and transport, Major H. A. Scott being the first commandant.

 

The companies in Lyttelton, Christchurch and Kaiapoi being now duly constituted, officers were elected, those on the Lyttelton staff being Captains Crosbie Ward and F. J. Moss, Lieuten­ants H. P. Murray Aynsley and W. Bowler Jr., Ensigns J. M. Heywood and T. M. Hassal, while the Christchurch officers were Captains Atkinson and White, Lieutenants F. Guinness and George Turner, Ensigns C. J. Percival and H. Y. Miller.

 

On May 23, 1861, a disastrous fire broke out in Mr George Wilmer's brewery, on the present site of the Bank of Australasia in Cashel Street. This brewery was owned by R. Packer and Son. Owing to inadequate fire prevention plant, the brewery was quickly a seething mass of flames, and the fire spread westward, wiping out Cashel House, Mills' tailor's shop, Kerr's grocery store, and a store occupied by W. D. Barnard adjoining the A1 hotel. The damage was estimated at £10,000. The St. Cecilia Musical Society had its


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rooms in one of the buildings destroyed, and it suffered severely by the loss of all the Society's music, amongst which were some most valuable originals of manuscript music by Bach, and some violin concertos by Corelli, which had been brought out by Mr A. C. Lean, who was in later years a colonel in our volunteer army. Immedi­ately following this fire, a hurricane storm developed, which continued with little abatement for ten days, flooding the lower parts of the town of Lyttelton to such an extent that three thousand pounds worth of damage resulted there-­from.

 

The early colonists of our province were sports of the good old British type, and their recreations were augmented by the formation on June 16, 1859, of a hunting club, no fewer than 310 subscribers joining at its first business meet­ing, which was presided over by Edward Jerningham Wakefield. It was decided to establish a pack of hounds, and a committee was appointed to carry out the details.

 

When St. Michael's Church bell was installed in September, 1861, it was arranged that as the town possessed no town clock, it should be tolled each day at certain hours for the information of the populace as the official time of day.

 

The clock tower, which has passed through many vicissitudes since 1862, was made to order in England from a design prepared by the pro­vincial architects, Mountfort and Luck. This beautiful example of wrought ironwork had cost the Council one thousand pounds, but it was

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deemed to be quite unsuitable in association with the lovely stone tower of the Provincial Buildings on the Armagh Street frontage. After lying among the rubbish in the old council yard, where Scott's monument now is, it was erected by means of public subscriptions, in Manchester Street, and more recently was transferred to Victoria Street.

 

It is interesting to read the census of the traffic which passed over the Market Square Bridge on Whately Road on one day in 1862. It comprised ten bullock drays drawn by fifty-eight bullocks, fifty-one horse drays drawn by sixty horses, thirty-six carts drawn by fifty-one horses, one hundred and ninety-nine saddle horses, twenty head of cattle, two hundred and four sheep, one donkey and cart, and one thousand foot passengers - the province being then only twelve years old.

 

The Bank of New Zealand opened its first office in Christchurch in January, 1862, opposite the present site of Ballantyne's drapery shop. (Cashel Street)

 

In the same month news reached the colony of the death of Godley from his old trouble, consumption of the throat, and in October the Provincial Council decided to commemorate his services by erecting the pedestal and statue in Cathedral Square.

 

Few people probably know whence Cashel Street derived its name. It was so called in memory of Godley's uncle, the Rt. Rev. Robert Day, Bishop of Cashel, our town of Christchurch being named in memory of the college which

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Godley attended at Oxford and which he left in 1853 to study law before being called to the English Bar.

 

The first election for Christchurch municipal councillors took place on February 28, 1862, no fewer than twenty-two candidates being nomin­ated. Those successful were John Anderson, John Hall, Grosvenor Miles, William Wilson, W. D. Barnard, Edward Reece, John Barrett, H. E. Alport and George Gould. Mr John Hall was elected the Council's first chairman.

 

The Christchurch Gas Company was founded on May 5, 1863, 588 £10 shares having been applied for. The original capital was £10,000 with power to increase to £20,000, and the first directors were John Hall, George Gould, Grosvenor Miles, H. E. Alport, C. W. Turner, R. D. Harman, John Ollivier, Harston, Luck, and J. M. Heywood.

 

Between January, 1861 and April, 1862, nine immigrant ships had arrived at Lyttelton.

 

The Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association was formed, its first president being Robert Wilkin, Joseph Palmer being treasurer, and William Thomson secretary. It was resolved to purchase ten acres of land in Christchurch or suburbs for show purposes. Subscriptions and donations totalling £220 were promised, and the valuable block now known as Sydenham Park, owes its existence to the men of 1863 who used it for their shows until it became too small for their requirements, the local authorities ultimately pur­chasing it and so securing it as a public reserve for all time. The area originally purchased was

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nearly fourteen acres and the price paid by the A. and P. Association was £120 per acre.

 

Cricketers will be interested to learn that the good old English game was firmly established in Christchurch by the pioneer settlers, and that the pavilion which after seventy years still serves its useful purpose on the United Cricket ground in Hagley Park, was opened on New Year's Day, 1863, when a match to celebrate the occasion was played between the Canterbury represen­tative eleven and eighteen Canterbury players.

 

Taylor's gardens, with its popular maze on Lincoln Road, afterwards known as Kohler's gardens, was opened in January, 1863.

 

The Canterbury Musical Society gave the first promenade concert in Christchurch on January 21, 1863, when it was assisted by Madam Carandini and her talented daughters. This function, took place in Barnard's newly erected horse repository (now known as Tattersall's). Barnard illuminated the building with five hundred kerosene lamps, and no fewer than six­teen hundred people were present. The honours of the evening fell to Madam Carandini and Walter Sherwin.

 

Three days later the repository was used for its first horse sale, the racehorses Golden Cloud and Market Gardener realising £280 and £70 respectively.

 

The Municipal Council on January 9, 1863, decided to sink three artesian wells as an experi­ment, one opposite Mrs O'Hara's boarding house in Ferry Road (the present site of the King

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George hotel) one opposite Ruddenklau's City hotel, and the third near the old Britannia hotel at the corner of Whately Road and Kilmore Street.

 

On February 16, 1863, the Council passed a resolution by which the boundaries of the reserve encompassing the original plan of our town were to be town belts two chains wide, and it was decided to form a footpath along each side, twenty feet wide, with a double belt of trees ten feet wide intersecting the roadway. The scribe of the day, in reporting this decision, remarked, "It will create for our successors a healthful avenue of grand proportions, which when they look upon it years hence, must inspire them with grateful recollections of the first municipal council of Christchurch."

 

Dr. Haast, on June 22, 1863, reported to the council on the artesian well supply, his opinion being that long before volcanic rock was reached, a good supply of water could be obtained, but he suggested and recommended that a good aqueduct would be a better way of supplying the town than by means of artesian wells.

 

The Church of England cemetery in Bar­badoes Street, with its beautiful mortuary chapel, was consecrated by Bishop Harper on June 23, 1863, the area of the cemetery comprising two acres.

 

July the 9th of this same year was a red letter day for Christchurch, the occasion being in honour of the marriage of the Prince of Wales. The town was en fete, and a procession from Papanui Road

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north belt, through the streets to Ferry Road east belt, was one of the features of the event. The streets were inches deep in mud, owing to the torrential rain, of the previous day. All trades were represented emblematically, and the Foresters and Oddfellows added a picturesque touch to the display, the school children wading through mud along the whole of the route march. Commemorative trees were planted by Misses Begley, Fitzgerald, Alport, Ollivier and Luck, and this ceremony was followed by a children's treat in Barnard's Repository, where toys and refresh­ments were provided. Rev. J. W. Stack, of Kaiapoi, arranged for a cavalcade of Maori warriors from the Tuahiwi Pa to be included in the festivities, and they camped in Hagley Park. These Maoris were specially entertained at the old music hall is Gloucester Street, Bishop Harper presiding, and Rev. Stack and Messrs Ollivier, John Hall, Torlesse and Wilson acted as stewards. An address by the chief to Queen Victoria con­cluded in characteristic vein thus: "May God preserve you, O mother of the white and dark skinned races. May He keep you in joy and peace, and may your days equal those of the immortal Rehua, and may you see the happiness of your children's children and of the nations Jehovah has committed to your care."

 

The first railway in New Zealand, namely that from Christchurch to the Ferry Mead, close to the present Heathcote bridge, was opened on December 1, 1863, the occasion being marked by a public holiday. The train comprised the

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engine and two first-class and two second-class carriages of the old-fashioned English broad gauge type. The papers record that the train left Christchurch at 2 p.m. and arrived at Ferry Mead station at 2.13 p.m., and after the official opening run, trucks were attached and some three thousand five hundred passengers enjoyed a free ride to the Heathcote Valley and back to town.

 

On September 3, 1863, Mr Mark Stoddart was instrumental in procuring a grant of £500 from the Provincial Council for the introduction of Salmon and other fish into our waters, an applica­tion for the right to introduce Alpacas being refused.

 

In order to keep Canterbury residents in touch with Lyttelton shipping news, the "Lyttelton Times" Company, on September 23, 1863, erected a flag-staff above the old office in Gloucester Street, for the purpose of repeating signals detailed to them by telegraph from the port.

 

On October 28, 1863, a meeting was held in Mr Andrew Hamilton's studio, Hereford Street, at which Hon. H. J. Tancred presided, and it was resolved to found a School of Art and Design, and a committee consisting of Messrs Butler, Stevens, Ollivier and Hamilton, was elected to formulate a plan for the organisation of such a school.

 

The pretty little Anglican Church at Halswell which cost £850, was opened on November 4, 1863 by Bishop Harper, assisted by Revs. Croasdaile Bowen, Walter Harper, W. W. Willock, Francis Knowles, H. Torlesse and F. Fearon.

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The first Board of Education under the Pro­vincial Council was gazetted on November 7, 1863, the members appointed being Hon. H. J. Tancred (chairman), Rev. John Lillie, Messrs William Rolleston and S. L. Saunders.

 

The Canterbury Music Hall was converted into an up-to-date theatre and was opened on Boxing Night, 1863, by Mr J. L. Hall, the company including Miss Aitken, Miss Annie Merton, Mr W. Shiels, Mr W. H. Newton and Mr John Manley. The plays staged were "The Hunchback" and "The Good for Nothing," and the prices charged for admission were three guineas for private boxes, five shillings for dress circle, four shillings for stalls and half crown for the pit.

 

In October, 1864 grand opera was played for the first time in Christchurch by the Lyster Opera Coy., the performance being staged at the Princess Theatre, Gloucester Street, afterwards changed by George Beatty into the Theatre Royal. "Lucia di Lammermoor" and "The Daughter of the Regiment" were played, and the admission charges were extremely reasonable, 7/6 for pit, 10/6 for stalls, and 12/6 for dress circle.

 

In October of 1864, Sir George Grey pre­sented the Acclimatisation Society with five white swans for liberation on the Avon in the Botanical Gardens.

 

The weeping willows which for long years have been such a pleasing feature of our river banks, were introduced from Wellington by Mr William Wilson in October, 1864. Mr Wilson presented

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the first plants to Archdeacon Mathias, who placed them in his garden at Riccarton.

 

The French colonists at Akaroa introduced the Walnut trees into Canterbury, some seven thousand being cultivated by them at Takamatua and sold at £12/10/- per hundred trees.

 

Apples were introduced into Canterbury by Mr John, Deans, who brought the variety known as the Leather Coat or common Russet from Nelson as early as 1845. Mr Deans also brought the first pear and plum trees into Canterbury. The Elm, the Oak, the Ash and the Beech trees were introduced by Rev. Jackson and presented by him to Mr Deans. William Guise Brittan introduced the Keen Seedling strawberry into Canterbury from Auckland.

 

The Pinus Pinaster (Maritime Pine, native to the western Mediterranean region) was brought from Eng­land by Rev. George Cotterill, who gave the first seed to Mr Cyrus Davie, the chief surveyor. Mr Davie planted them on the present site of Cookham House (extant) in Colombo Street, where the trees grew and flourished for some years.

 

Dr. Earle, who lived at "The Grange," Hills­borough, was the first settler to cultivate the now ubiquitous Bluegum or Eucalyptus. Importing some vegetable seeds from Hobart Town, he found an unfamiliar plant among his vegetables. The doctor paid careful attention, to this stranger, thinking it was an English Honeysuckle, but an Australian visitor to "The Grange" recognised it as the common Australian Bluegum, and to this plant many of our Canterbury plantations owe their existence.

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Norway and Italian Poplars were brought to Canterbury by Mr Phillips, of Rockwood, in 1851, the Red Currant and the Passion Flower arriving about the same time - the latter from Auckland. Mr Guise Brittan introduced the common Laurel and also the Portugal Laurel, cultivating them at his residence on the land now occupied by the Clarendon hotel.

 

The Dianthus originally came from Auckland, Mr Slater, the solicitor, having the first plants in his garden in Lichfield Street. The Arbutus was brought here by Mr Brittan, and Mr Phillips was responsible for the first appearance of the Rhododendron, the earliest specimens of which were planted in the garden of Rev. H. Jacobs on Oxford Terrace and on the charming little island in the river opposite St. Michael's Church.

 

Our first lawn of English grass was sown by Mr Vigors, and the common double Daisy, the Cowslip and the Primrose were all introduced by Mr William Wilson. The Lily of the Valley was introduced into Canterbury by Rev. W. Aylmer, of Akaroa, and Archdeacon Mathias planted the first Gorse hedge, while we are indebted to Mr Wilson for the yellow Broom for fences, which has thrived so well as to be classed among the noxious weeds today.

 

William Wilson was one of Christchurch's best known figures of the early days, and although he was known as "Cabbage" Wilson, I don't think many people, even of the pioneer section, know how he came to be familiarly known by this appellation. Wilson was a keen horticulturist

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and spent most of his early years in, his two well known nurseries. The Maoris, being expert in handling Flax and other indigenous fibres, Mr Wilson got them to make him a wide rimmed sun hat from the leaves of the native Cabbage tree, which is one of our best known garden trees in Christchurch. Arrayed in this head gear, he met Sir Cracroft Wilson in the White Hart hotel, and Sir Cracroft, riot having met him previously, addressed him by exclaiming, "Who the devil are you?" Before Mr Wilson could introduce himself, Mr George Hart, then a youth in his father's bar at the White Hart, interjected, "Call him 'Cabbage' Wilson," thus differentiating between the two Mr Wilsons. And, as so often happens, this sobriquet stuck to "Cabbage" Wilson throughout his lifelong residence in the town of which he had been its first Mayor.