LINCOLN & SPRINGSTON – James Edward Fitzgerald (1818 – 1896)

“He grows more wonderful than ever, in dress and appearance. His hair is all brushed and shaved away from him face…he used to wear the most frightful long brown holland blouse, left very open, with a belt and turn-down collars…”

And this was how Charlotte Godley (the wife of John Robert Godley – founder of Christchurch) wrote about James Edward Fitzgerald to her mother back in London. I must admit, I agree with Charlotte – James does keep getting better and better…he’s a fascinating pioneer and gentleman!

His interest in New Zealand was sparked by the famines that shook Ireland (his parents were both Irish) in the 1800’s. He thought emigration to the new colonies was one of the answers and in 1849, he became the secretary of the Canterbury Association. In 1850, he got married and an arguement with his new father-in-law pushed the pair to leave town. The Fitzgerald’s were passengers on the Charlotte Jane and in fact, Fitzgerald was the first to step ashore from the first four ships on the 16th December, 1850. Some reports state that he literally pushed Dr. A.C. Barker aside so he would be the first ashore!

Along with C.P Fox, James purchased land that was very close to Lake Coleridge. The two men named their run ‘The Springs’ on account of all the fresh water springs and water holes on the property. In 1862, the area that was to become Lincoln was subdivided and went on sale. James called the area Lincoln, after the Earl of Lincoln – Henry Pelham Clinton (1811 – 1864) – who was a member of the Canterbury Association.

The name of Lincoln has been appearing on maps since 1848 and was the area where the  fed into Lake Coleridge. James marked the first roads; naming the outside streets the North, South, East and West Belts. The main road from the south is James Street, main road east is Edward Street followed by Fitz Place and then to the west is Gerald Street – James-Edward -Fitz-Gerald for those not up with the show ;p The cross roads were named after his sons – Robert, Maurice, William and Lyttelton. He also had two other sons named Gerald and Edward so totals six sons – out of 13 children – that are acknowledged in the naming of Lincoln streets.

By 1873, Lincoln could boast that they had their own post office, butcher, baker, confectioner, store-keeper who also ran the hotel, carpenter and blacksmith.
In 1875, the Railway arrived but the service, which went to Hornby closed in 1967.

James and C.P Fox also owned the area that would become Weedons. It is purely my speculation that Weedons was also a part of ‘The Springs’ – at some stage.

James’ history in Canterbury included the following: He was the sub-inspector of the police and founded The Lyttelton Times and The Press. He was Canterbury’s first Superintendent which is why he has Fitzgerald Ave named after him. He moved to Wellington in 1867 and became known for his paintings, his public speaking and his poetry. Photo taken by Dr. A.C. Barker.

2 Responses

  1. Jenifer Roberts says:

    I am an English biographer and also a direct descendant of James Edward FitzGerald. I have written a biography of him (concentrating on his personal and family life – and including a lot of information on the Springs station) which will be published in New Zealand in May 2014.

    • Oh wow, hi Jenifer, thank you so much for writing to me. James is one of my most favourite Canterbury characters, he’s so interesting and ‘grows more wonderful’ as Charlotte Godley put it, and that fact that he appeared and was a part of many historic Christchurch firsts makes him a joy to study!

      I will certainly look out for your book, I really do enjoy learning about the personal lives of Christchurch’s settlers. Can I ask what child of James is your line?

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