Edward Brenchley Bishop must have been relieved as he watched the timber for his new house arrive via the Heathcote River; it hadn’t been an easy adventure so far. He and his family had made the trek over the Bridle Path, leading a single packhorse along with them that carried a simple tent and supplies. This was all they had in the world.
They had arrived on the ‘Charlotte Jane’ but now stood on their land, 100 acres that sat close to Crawford’s Bridge on the Heathcote – known to us today as the Wilsons Street Bridge – which the family named Somerfield after their birthplace of Somerfield House in Maidstone, Kent, England. Edward had been set up to be successful from the get go, educated both in England and in France. Known to pour his heart and soul into everything he set his mind to, he became a well known face around Christchurch. He was involved in the humble beginnings of the A & P Show as well as the Canterbury Rifle Volunteers.
Somerfield Farm had been a farming venture with his younger brother Frederick where Charles had chosen the career of merchant and ran his shop in Market Square, now known as Victoria Square. The Bishops sold Somerfield Farm to Richard Packer in 1864. He built a fine home there that bared the same name. The same year of this purchase from the Bishops, he increased the farm land by purchasing another 42 acres alongside the Heathcote right down to Colombo Street from Charles Simeon, remembered today in the naming of Simeon Street. Simeon and Charles Bishop were in the Canterbury Provincial Council together. In 1866, Richard leased 5 acres of Somerfield to brother-in-law Roger Deacon and his business partner William Vincent who built the City Malthouse, situated at 71 Colombo Street. At the time it was regarded the finest Malthouse in New Zealand. Today it is known as The Malthouse – Canterbury’s Children’s Theatre and also houses a very fine costume hire shop – it is New Zealand’s oldest Malthouse.
In Fendalton Park sits another reminder of the Bishop family. 163 year old Oaks, from Quercus Robus Acorns that were in the care of the family as they sailed on the ‘Charlotte Jane’. There is a plaque as you enter the park from Fendalton Road acknowledging this and the trees are growing on, fine and strong today.
Edward died in 1887 at his residence in Cranmer Square.
*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*