The Early Days Of Canterbury: 7. Old Identities







Old Identities



Through the courtesy of an old friend, I have been afforded the great pleasure of per­using a collection of odds and ends apropos of the early days of our Christchurch Settlement, with clever sketches of many of the well known characters of that period, and I am sure that my reference to some of the "old-timers" will stir memories long since forgotten, and prove interesting to many other readers of these pages.


An artist of the fifties was Worsley, who resided in a cob house at the intersection of what is today Victoria and Kilmore Streets, adjoining Taylor's brewery. Worsley was before his time in Canterbury, there being no demand for pictorial art, although he was an excellent portrait painter, one of his best productions being an oil painting of Sir George Grey which was considered a perfect likeness.


Dr. Moore, looking "good old English," with side whiskers and of rotund proportions, and wearing the Gladstonian collar and cravat, with tweed fore-and-aft gamekeeper's cap and smoking his favourite cigar, will be remembered by any contemporaries still in the flesh. And Dr. Fisher, also, another popular medico, who built the little residence on Oxford Terrace near the Royal hotel (in later years the residence of Dr. Ben Moorhouse) was always to be seen making his visits to his patients mounted on horseback.



An early practitioner, also, was Dr. Marshall, who, in the sixties was in practice in Cashel Street, on the site afterwards occupied by the Press Company. A good story is told of Dr. Marshall being anxious to secure a Maori skull and paying a fellow-colonist from Tai Tapu five pounds to assist him in his quest. This man conveyed to the natives a, hint of what was going to be done, and when the doctor arrived at the burying ground to carry out his nefarious design, he was surrounded by a party of wahines on this tapu spot and was subjected to a very warm time. Needless to add, Dr. Marshall was a poorer and wiser man as the result of this escapade.


Another early medico was Dr. Earle, a surgeon on one of the emigrant ships, who lived in a house on the hillside beyond Murray Aynsley's Hill at Hillsborough - a solitary Bluegum tree being a landmark here for many years.


Dr. Augustus Florance, who practised his profession in Caledonian Road, was to some extent unrecognised officially by his fellow medicos on account of some supposed flaw in his qualifications.


Dr. Llewellyn Powell was in partnership with Dr. Coward in the sixties, specialising in diseases of the eye, and I have reason gratefully to remem­ber this doctor, for to him I am indebted for still being in possession of both my legs. Having been run over by a heavy wagon in 1871, my leg was lacerated at the knee to such an extent that our family physician, Dr. J. D. Frankish, insisted upon immediate amputation as the only hope of


saving my life. My father being away in the North Island and quick communication with him being impossible, my mother flatly refused to allow Dr. Frankish to take the leg off, and the result was a consultation with Dr. Powell, who recommended a festina lente policy which resulted in my limb being saved and this life handicap avoided.


William Bray, who was one of our early surveyors, will be remembered as the builder of the picturesque old cob homestead with thatched roof at Avonhead, Upper Riccarton, which has been the subject of many an artist's sketch. Mr Henry Gray lived afterwards at Avonhead and the property passed into the possession of William Boag, of Burnside, finally becoming the home of Hon. George Witty. M.L.C.


"Cob houses" recalls the fact that this type was only available to men of means, and the expert builders of this type of residence were Charles Bourn, of Riccarton (afterwards a well known farmer at Southbridge), Fred King, and Bargrove.


Several good examples of this type of residence stood for many years in Montreal Street south - then a fashionable residential neighbourhood. Bargrove will be remembered as one of our best provincial cricketers of the early days.


Possibly some old residents may remember Noah Edgar the tailor, whose shop adjoined that of Dorsett the painter in Cashel Street. Another name almost forgotten was Waterston the pork butcher (Richard Frederick Waterlow b.1823), who occupied the corner in later years


known as Thompkins' Railway Chop House on the north-west corner of Cashel and Colombo Streets.


The building in High Street, for a long time designated "The Hall," occupies the site of the original Wesleyan Church which was built there in 1859.


The Golden Fleece Hotel in the fifties was kept by Ellis, who afterwards took up a run at Oxford, his successor in the hotel being a German known locally as Baron von Gartner.


Some of my readers may remember Martin Birmingham the carpenter, from Tasmania, who had a fine orchard at the corner of Tuam and Montreal Streets in the fifties.


Among distinguished visitors in, those early days were Sir Charles Dilke (who thought the golden West Coast of much more importance than Canterbury Plains), Anthony Trollope the novel­ist (who was described by the local reporter as “a loud-voiced imperious character, of decided opinions,") George Augustus Sala, Lord Robert Cecil, and Rudyard Kipling, who, when I met him in, 1909 in London, recalled with great satisfaction a holiday he had spent at Oxford West, among our New Zealand flora and fauna, in the early nineties.


Our first evening newspaper published in Christchurch was called the "Evening Mail," and was run by two young enthusiasts, Bartlett and Langbridge, their office being a shanty near Inwood's mill in Hereford Street. Their venture proved unprofitable and J. H. Tribe assumed


control and published the paper in a building at the back of the section on which the Empire hotel now stands in High Street. Some clever articles, contributed by Edward Jerningham Wakefield, David Scott, the West Christchurch schoolmaster, and others, appeared in its pages. Through insufficient support the paper went the way of many of its successors after a couple of years, and Tribe went over to the West Coast, where he entered Parliament as member for that constituency.


The old Carlton mill (long since demolished) on the Carlton Mill Road, was started in 1854 by Woodford and Stevens, and that on the Mill Island in Hereford Street by Daniel Inwood in 1858. The provincial authorities welcomed the erection of these mills, as the grinding of wheat for local requirements was a somewhat difficult problem.


In 1857, the first circus to visit our capital town was opened by Foley in a tent in High Street on the land now occupied by the Empire hotel, and the old fire gong in the Market Place was erected by Billy Barnes in 1858, being sus­pended at a height of forty feet from the ground.


In the early sixties a citizen signing himself "Fair Play," wrote a lengthy letter to the news­paper, in which lie viewed "with anxiety and alarm the Council's enormous overdraft at the bank, now exceeding £800!”


Our first cabbies were W. H. Read and W. Dunn, both of whom drove London growlers (as four wheelers were dubbed), while Tom Goodyer



followed with the first hansom - a cab which Jonah Wheeler, of Wheeler and Nurse had im­ported but had never used.


It is interesting to learn, that in the sixties Sir George Grey, an early governor, presented Canterbury Province with some silver grey rabbits, assuring the people that in the future these would prove a valuable asset!


Our legal friends may be interested to read that Judge Stephen, of Wellington, who came down to Christchurch in the very early days to preside over the sittings of the Supreme Court, once fined a Wellington solicitor £20 for giving his client bad advice! Judge Wakefield also pre­sided in Christchurch in 1857, Judge Gresson being then permanently appointed to Canterbury.


Among early solicitors may be mentioned Mr Wormald, in Lyttelton, whose articled clerk was John Dean Bamford. Wormald had the cream of the work in his profession in conveyancing and mortgages, R. H. Rhodes being one of his clients.


C. E. Dampier also practised as a solicitor, his office being at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Durham Street.


Another early practitioner was C. Pritchard, who lived in Gloucester Street near the Jewish synagogue. Pritchard is recalled as a very tall man who always rode a big white horse.


T. S. Duncan, after living in the Bays for some time, opened an office in Lichfield Street, near the present site of His Lordship's Larder hotel, T. I. Joynt and Bertrand being his articled clerks.



H. B. Gresson (afterwards Judge) lived in Manchester Street, opposite the present City Council offices, his successor in residence being John Begley, who planted the tall Gums and Willow trees which for long years were a landscape feature of this block.


Another solicitor was C. W. Wyatt, whose office was in Colombo Street, where George Fletcher the tailor afterwards engaged in his business for a number of years.


These men, were followed by Harry Bell Johnstone (1831-1894), who first occupied an office on the site of our present post office in Cathedral Square, and later erected the ancient wooden structure adjoining the brick offices of Harper and Co. (extant Shand’s Emporium), in Hereford Street, being joined in 1861 by Henry Wynn Williams - a recent arrival from Home.


Francis Slater's office was in Lichfield Street, near His Lordship's hotel, Dr. Foster also practising for some years in this same block.


W. T. L. Travers, who was originally located at the south-east corner of Cashel Street and Durham Street, was associated with Wyatt, and the partnership was added to by the inclusion of Philip Hanmer and Lewis, and Leonard Harper, merging into the firm of Hanmer, Harper and Co.


Christopher George Hodgson, who married a daughter of John Shand, of Avon Lodge, Riccarton, practised as a solicitor in the fifties and was caricatured as "a rather handsome, ruddy, well-built Englishman, more of a sport than a lawyer - a racing enthusiast." Tom Hichens was his clerk, and among his sporting chums were Tom


White, of Oxford, Holland, Jim Moorhouse, Tom Adams, John D. Brittan and other well known early colonists.


Teddy Preston, who was managing clerk to Wynn Williams, was described locally as "a Londoner, short and stout, with a habit of blinking his eyes and twiddling his thumbs, always neatly dressed in black and wearing a billy-cock hat." Preston took much delight, in company with Oswald and Williams, in baiting the Municipal Council of his day, the vehicle of annoyance being colloquially referred to as "The Dirt and Darkness Club." Preston finally fell out with Williams, and went to Honolulu where he after­wards became a Judge of the Supreme Court.


James Edward Graham was, in the sixties, the official acting under the Bankruptcy Act, Jock McGregor being his henchman. "Filing your shovel," as becoming a bankrupt was familiarly dubbed, was much in evidence in those hard times, and it is said that Jock McGregor used to stand at the corner of High and Cashel Streets with schedules ready for completion by those who contemplated bankruptcy.


Henry Sewell the solicitor and well known politician, was described as "a podgy, comfortable looking man, with a big iron grey covered head - a shrewd intellectual man."


Orbell Willoughby Oakes, whose office was near the old Town Hall in High Street, was referred to as "a pompous London cockney who went to Hokitika during the gold rush and made


money, returning later to England and entering into business as a financial agent in London."


The number of drinking bars in the early sixties was out of all proportion to the require­ments of the population, but when we read that a well known politician introduced a Bill in the Provincial Council, which compelled the Bench of Justices to grant a license to anyone who could get twelve householders to recommend his application, we can visualise the inevitable result. No sooner was the Act passed than licenses were applied for and granted in all directions, and the local police force had a pretty strenuous time keeping some semblance of order, the old-fashioned policeman's rattle being a familiar sound in the early morning hours as roysterers celebrated "the end of a perfect day"!


Frederick Aloysius Weld was one of Canter­bury's most respected settlers of the fifties, being one of the founders of the Christchurch Club when its location was on the present site of the Gladstone hotel in Durham Street north, Collins being its first steward.


In partnership with Charles Clifford, he owned Flaxbourne and Stoneyhurst stations, being himself an expert breeder of sheep. Weld was one of the first men to journey overland from Nelson to Christchurch. He came from an old Dorsetshire family, his father residing at Lul­worth Castle in that Shire, and was a very eloquent speaker, universally liked among his fellow colonists. Both Weld and Clifford became


Baronets, and Mr Gladstone appointed Weld to the governorships of Western Australia, Tas­mania and the Straits Settlements.


The first post office in Christchurch was opened in 1859 (1851?), in a building near the corner of Colombo Street and Oxford Terrace, Alexander Beck being the postmaster and Charles Welling­ton Bishop sub-postmaster. The Market Building in the Market Square was built a year later, and was for some time the city's, general post office.


I wonder if any of my readers remember Philip Ashton, an old East India cavalryman who kept the livery stables behind the original White Hart hotel, his successor being Joe Page. Alexander Matthews had a grocer's shop close to Phil Ashton's stables.


The present site of the Bank of Australasia was originally the residence of J. E. Fitzgerald and later on, the boarding establishment kept by Thomas Cook, who carried on a beer shop until he lost his license. Alfred Pigeon the wine merchant was located close to Cook's, his cellar being an open house to many of his friends.


Morten's block, now the United Service hotel, was originally the selection of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who passed it on to his son, Teddy, and it was eventually secured by R. M. Morten, who with characteristic business acumen, held on to it for the benefit of succeeding generations. The Shades hotel was built and named by its first licensee, Joseph Bennett, whose assistant was Joe Hobbs. Bennett was connected with the firm of Burnett and Bennett who started as auctioneers


in High Street and later removed to premises where Tonks, Norton & Co. are today. Mark Sprott joined the firm, but retired later to start for himself in business on the West Coast.


In the middle fifties Hilborne the chemist had a shop where W. R. Cooke's tea rooms are now located, and close by was "Putty" Rees, the painter. Griffin's smith's forge was on the corner of Manchester and High Streets. The present site of the Excelsior Hotel in Manchester Street was occupied by George Mouritz the carpenter, and the original hotel built on this block was named "The Harp of Erin."


The block of land through which the railway runs was originally owned by the Wakefields, and was sold by E. J. Wakefield to Moorhouse, Howden and Aynsley for £30 per acre.


In 1861, what is now Sydenham was sold at auction by Wilson and Aikman at the White Hart sale rooms, on account of W. S. Moorhouse, it being then known as "Railway Town". The name Sydenham appears to have been given to it by Charles Prince, who had a teaching academy in Colombo Road which he called "Sydenham Academy." Prince's crockery and china shop, adjoining David Lewis's butcher's shop in Colombo Street, was also called by him "The Sydenham."


Some of my readers may remember Bain­bridge, the clerk to the Provincial Council, in a large check pattern suit and with clean shaven face - somewhat of a rarity in those days of swarthy beards. And in this connection we may



mention General Whish, the sergeant-at-arms with full evening dress and with very dark curly hair.


It is startling to learn that in 1853 the Canterbury Association Gaoled immigrants for non-payment of passage money advanced, and in the same year Robert Cecil (afterwards Marquis of Salisbury) was present at a meeting in Christ­church, held by Colonel Campbell - a candidate for the office of superintendent - at which Campbell advocated applying to the Home Government for convicts to be sent out to Canterbury. Fitzgerald advocated the importation of Chinese. An agree­ment was actually made in this same year by W. B. Rhodes and William Bowler, of Christ­church, and John Johnston, and N. Levin, of Wellington, to import Chinese from Shanghai - the first shipment to be 250, half of which were to be reserved for Canterbury, while Joseph Brittan, and others endeavoured to import immigrants from Port Philip, owing to trade being so dull in Victoria.


The first Bees in Canterbury were imported from Nelson in 1852, J. T. Cookson, of Cookson, Bowler and Co., and Captain Fisher being the consignees.


The first vessel, the Caledonia, was built by Grubb and Marshall at Lyttelton in 1853, and the first steamer, built by the same firm, was launched in Pigeon Bay in 1855.


Hawley and Ruddenklau, in the fifties, had a pastry cook's shop in Colombo Street where Steel the butcher is now located, and opposite was



James Fuller the boot maker, a well known bands­man in his day. Langdon had an auction room next to Fuller's, which was in later years the Butchery shop of Hart and Lodge.


A well known tailor in the fifties was Robert Watson, whose first shop was in the vicinity of the premises now the site of Ballantyne and Co.'s shop. He afterwards moved to High Street, somewhere near where Ashby, Bergh and Co. are today. Watson is remembered by those who knew him as always faultlessly dressed in frock coat and with shaven chin and upper lip. He made a name for his workmanship, and out of his first savings bought the land which was covered by Strange and Co.'s drapery establish­ment, for £40, and although William Wilson evinced more than a keen desire to become the owner of this land, Watson resolutely refused to sell. He tried to get a license for an hotel on the corner now occupied by J. R. McKenzie, but did not succeed. It would be difficult to guess the value today of this freehold - probably not less than a couple of hundred thousand pounds!