In 1849, the Canterbury Association’s Chief Surveyor Captain Joseph Thomas and his team stood on a beach of one bay of Lyttelton Harbour (Rapaki I believe) and dared to dream – they were there to build the foundation of a future settlement.
With only £2000 to play with, Captain Thomas had to choose his projects carefully. He chose to build a jetty, immigration barracks, an Association store (in Sumner) and finally, a route from the port to the plains which was urgent. His road gang – made up mostly from Maori and ex-convicts – began to construct the Sumner Road, carving a track into the side of the harbour wall. Progress was slow and expensive.
When John Robert Godley arrived in Lyttelton in April 1850, he halted all projects, fired the survey team and blamed Thomas for the debt that the settlement had slipped into. Tensions were high! In September/October 1850, Godley sent Thomas a further £2400 to build an Association store in Lyttelton and to make the Sumner Road passable for pack horses if possible. If not, a new track was to be made over the Port Hills to the plains.
The Bridle Path was born. The name speaks for itself.
By early 1851, the track was finished and widened. Not surprisingly, others saw great business opportunities around the path – a Ginger Beer stand was erected at the summit, and a daily cart and horse service opened.
The Bridle Path continues to be quite a presence. Today it is legally listed as a road (the first wheeled transport was a spring cart in 1857)and scattered along its length are memorials to the First Four Ships, Jane Deans, Emily Rose Jacobs and the most well known, the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Hut at the Summit.
For a more in depth look at the Bridle Path, please checks out the following link: http://www.peelingbackhistory.co.nz/the-bridle-path/
* Image courtesy of http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz*