The Ward Brothers

Maybe it had been the tedious bumpy ROADLESS journey over the sea of tussock – from Hawkins (a stone’s throw from Darfield) to Rolleston – that made the farmhand lower the new plough down to harvesting position before he towed it back to Bangor in which he worked. He had been sent out hours before by his boss, Hamilton Ward, to meet the train at Rolleston where a new plough would be on board to collect.

In lowering the new plough behind him, as he rode back to Bangor, he unwittingly made what is now known as Wards Road – a long straight road that leads from beside Rolleston’s train tracks to what would have been the back of the Bangor farm in the late 1860’s.

Wards Road & Bangor…this is just the tip of the iceberg when addressing the story of the Ward Brothers.

“I got up early and went on deck to find that having weathered everything in the night we were gradually approaching our side of Banks Peninsula and in fact standing direct for Port Cooper (Lyttelton). The land we passed was most beautifully situated – high and wooded, with glades of grass running up through forests here and there. We were all enchanted as fresh beauties broke on our view every moment. We passed Okain’s Bay, Pigeon Bay, Port Levy and soon entered Port Cooper (Lyttelton). We stood for about three miles through high brown hills with not a speck of life upon them to be seen…As we rounded to, we shot past a little point of land, and the town of Lyttelton burst upon our view – like a little village – but nothing more than a village, in snugness, neatness and pretty situation”.

So Edward Ward wrote in his journal about being aboard the ‘Charlotte Jane’ as she arrived in Canterbury on the 16th December 1850. With him were his two younger brothers, Henry and Hamilton. Edward had been entertaining ideas of becoming a lawyer when the thought of emigration took the spotlight. Supported wholeheartedly by his father and taking his little brothers with him to raise their chances of a better life in this new world – the Wards became a part of Canterbury history.

Before leaving London, Edward (pictured) became a member of the Society of Canterbury Colonists and through this made a firm friend of John Robert Godley – the future founder of Christchurch. I’m sure it was a great comfort for Edward that Godley was there to meet the ‘Charlotte Jane’ in Lyttelton that day and their friendship picked up from where they left it.

Also in Canterbury was another chum of Edward’s, an old school mate who was carving his own way into Canterbury history as a surveyor. His name was Charles Torlesse.

I’m sure as Edward took in the new sights and sounds of Lyttelton, the thoughts of him returning to Ireland in two years made him more determined to make a good start. He would head back home to marry his sweetheart, Mary King who was waiting for him.

Within a few weeks of arrival, the brothers had built themselves a temporary home in Lyttelton while they looked for a more permanent situation. Throughout Edward’s journal, Quail Island comes up in his scribbles. He liked what he saw and once he had visited, he knew the soil was there was good too.

The brothers decide to set up their farm on Quail Island. They built a fine cottage and set themselves up with crops and cattle. The tale from Edward’s journal concerning the crossing of their first two cows in low tide isn’t for the fainthearted. They were fully aware that other settlers thought they were crazy to set up on the remote island but they were determined to make it work.

On June 23rd 1851, just over 6 months after the arrival of the ‘Charlotte Jane’, the brothers had planned to host a picnic on their farm. Among their expected guests were John Robert Godley and his wife Charlotte. The party rowed across to Quail Island, all looking forward to their day out when they discovered a very worried Hamilton at the Wards’ Cottage.

Edward and Henry had left the previous day to collect firewood from the main land and had not returned. Hamilton had expected them back hours before. With haste, the men of the party went to search for them in their boat – soon discovering one of them drowned in a nearby bay, the firewood scattered along the beach. The other was not discovered for another 4 months.

To say that the new colony of Christchurch was devastated by the news would be a serious understatement. To add salt to the wound, news soon made it to Christchurch of the drowning of William Deans in the harbour of Wellington. He had been heading to Sydney, Australia to purchase more hoof stock for the Deans’ new run, Homebush.

Hamilton, who was only 15 years old at the time went to live with the Godley’s in Lyttelton as news of his brothers’ death made its way back to Ireland. The answer came in the arrival of Crosbie Ward – another brother – in May 1852. Crosbie quickly settled his dead brothers’ affairs and then brought himself some land north of Rangiora in 1856. He sold the Ward’s land on Quail Island to Mark Stoddart who is remembered these days as the man who named Diamond Harbour. With Hamilton, they made a great start of things…again!

Crosbie soon lost interest in farming, becoming a silent partner of the farm and Hamilton’s future purchaser of Racecourse Hill. Crosbie was elected as a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council. He also became a Member of Parliament and was the Minister of the Crown.

In spite of his full plate, Crosbie purchased ‘The Lyttelton Times’ with his good friend Charles Bowen. It cost them £5000. The pair did most of the writing themselves and Crosbie particularly took a liking to journalism. He got so much in the habit of expressing his own views in his articles that once Charles Bowen destroyed the draft copies before they went to print in complete fear of the consequences.

In 1857, the brothers married two Townsend sisters, Crosbie marrying Margaret and Hamilton married Marcia. The Townsends had been fellow settlers who arrived aboard the ‘Cressy’. They had settled in Ferrymead for a few years – James Townsend running the punt crossing over the Heathcote – before taking land in Rangiora.

Here is what Edward wrote about his future sisters-in-law on the 4th February 1851:

“The ladies were very well dressed, considering they were 16 000 miles off their milliners – the bells were Mrs. [Watts]Russell and Mrs. Godley – no pretty young ladies unmarried; the Miss Townsends (four) were the chief attractions, but they were not more than nice looking; they danced well, especially the two little ones”.

So, Crosbie and Hamilton did not share their brother’s views on the Townsends and neither did Charles Torlesse, Edward’s old school mate – as he also married one of the Townsends too.

During the 1860’s, Crosbie had a full-on working life. He was now the postmaster general and the Secretary of Crown Lands. This was the reason behind his return to England in 1863 where he negotiated contracts for a faster mail delivery to New Zealand through Panama, spoke to the British Government about the value of keeping imperial troops in New Zealand and to top it off, addressed Lord Lyttelton on his concerns over native troubles with the settlers.

Back on the home front, Crosbie had helped set up the Lyttelton Branch of the Canterbury Rifle Volunteers, the Lyttelton Chamber of Commerce and was a member of The Canterbury Club.

Crosbie wasn’t the only one having fun. It was said of Hamilton when he was 17 years old that he was “much too fond for his age of making a good bargain.” Hamilton had been making big decisions of his own. He had purchased more land in the Malvern County – the Malvern Hills Run and Bangor Farm, both properties opposite Homebush. Hamilton had also brought into a brewery. It was founded by Archer C. Croft who opened the business in 1854.

The Brewery (pictured before earthquakes) moved to its current site of the corner of Kilmore and Fitzgerald Streets in 1860. When Archer sold out to Hamilton in 1862, the business became known as Ward’s Brewery and the name remained.

Hamilton sold the business in 1881 – by then it was the biggest brewery in New Zealand – to Henry Lee. The Ward’s Brewery would keep going for just over 100 years, closing down in 1955. Ward’s Beer is now known as Canterbury Draught.

The fine building – which all but the kiln was demolished due to earthquake damage (it’s been in the news during 2012) – knew many tenants but the most well known was the Christchurch Youth Club Crichton Cobbers.

In 1866, ‘The Lyttelton Times’ – with Crosbie at the helm – faced off with James Edward Fitzgerald and ‘The Press’ over the upcoming elections for Superintendent. The two had never really liked each other so a full blown war of words added to the dramas of the elections.

The following year Crosbie accepted a position back in London as an agent for the Canterbury Provincial Council. It was there that a quick illness took him to his grave that November.

I have been unable to find information on Hamilton’s life after 1881. By then he had sold Bangor, Racecourse Hill, Malvern Hills Run and the Brewery…even his final resting place seems to be a secret. I will keep digging.

*Wards Brewery photo courtesy of Kete Christchurch*
*image of Edward Ward, Quail Island and Journal Entry plus text courtesy of The Journal of Edward Ward*
* Photos of Wards Road Sign and Beer Bottle taken by Annette Bulovic*


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