“…it seems to have been a perilous proceeding; the horses had to be led with great care, and even then could not keep their feet. My husband’s [John Robert Godley] fell, and very nearly upon him.” – 8th April 1850
Charlotte Godley, the wife of Canterbury’s founder, John Robert Godley, never forgot her numerous treks over the Bridle Path during her two years of living between Lyttelton and Christchurch. In what must have been seen as a God send, at the steepest point on the Heathcote side of the Bridle Path, a spring bubbled away offering itself to every weary traveller who passed by.
Even though the Godley’s had left New Zealand in December 1852, Charlotte sent instructions back to Christchurch in 1856 (give or take a few months either side) detailing her wish to have a memorial and fountain erected to honour the hardships of Christchurch’s settlers – and of her own personal gratitude to that certain spot of the Bridle Path where she rested and had a drink.
The making of the ‘Wayside Cross’ was entrusted to stone mason William George Chaney (arrived on the ‘Randolph’ and worked on projects such as the Christchurch Cathedral and who is also remembered today in the naming of Chaney’s Corner, Belfast) with general labourer James Collins (arrived on the ‘Bangalore’, the Canterbury Association’s 11th ship, also the father of Christchurch famed architect J.J.Collins) using his Bullock team to transport the cross to its place on the path.
Sadly, in 1864, the Canterbury Provincial Council was forced to act when the memorial had its first-of-many attacks of vandalism. It was restored and re-erected. In 1898, to a crowd of roughly 200 people, the Wayside Cross was replaced by the Christchurch Branch of the New Zealand Native’s Association. Many that attended that ceremony were either settlers or their descendants. The numerous speeches acknowledged the work done by the Godley’s, Bishop George Selwyn, James Edward Fitzgerald (Canterbury’s Provincial Superintendent in 1856) and the Deans brothers of Riccarton. Unveiled by ‘Charlotte Jane’ passenger Charles Christopher Bowen, the new inscription read: “Wayside Cross erected by Mrs. Godley in 185-, restored by the N.Z.N.A, Christchurch Branch, Anniversary Day 1898” (They year was not certain and was noted as “185-“).
This cross was to be later discovered lying on the Bridle Path, knocked off its base by vandals on 3rd July 1907. By 1911, the cross had disappeared altogether and newspapers were rife with letters of complaint that the site had not be restored or respected.
Today, the Wayside Cross is now just a simple pillar and waits for its latest restoration – an upcoming project to be undertaken by the C.C.C.
*Letter entry courtesy of Letters from early New Zealand by Charlotte Godley*