So, what happened once you got over The Bridle Path?
In 1851, Thomas Hugh started the first ferry service across the Heathcote River. A small punt would be pulled by a few ropes across the water, carrying people, their worldy belongings and even at times, a coach and the horses too.
Once across, a customs duty had to be paid before you could continue your journey to Christchurch. This ferry service closed down in 1864 when a swing bridge was built.
Jane Deans writes, “At the Heathcote River, a little above where the bridge is now, we had to cross in a punt. That is something like a flat-bottomed boat with sides, in which horses and carriages could be conveyed across rivers. They were drawn with ropes from side to side. The Ferry Road was not much more than wide enough for one carriage at a time, with deep ditches on both sides…”
Once you had crossed the Heathcote River, you would walk to Christchurch down Ferry Road. Any belongings or goods that you were unable to carry would continue its journey down the Heathcote to Christchurch Quay (which can be found on Ferry Road at the beginning of Woolston).
From there your goods were transferred to drays and wagons. The cost of this service was around the same cost as the ship passage from London to Canterbury!!! This service was closed when the Railway arrived.
Jane writes “In those days it was no easy matter getting luggage from port. It had nearly all to come round to Sumner in boats, and up the Heathcote to the Christchurch Quay, from thence in drays to its destination. Many people lost heavily, nearly their all, in crossing the bar…”
By 1856, the Heathcote River began to see more cargo boats that were powered either by sail or steam. The wharf they used became known as Steam Wharf. It wasn’t long after 1856 when the railway started up and the river became disused but even the mighty railway gave way to roads eventually.
*Photos taken by Annette Bulovic*
*text from Letters to my Grandchildren by Janes Deans*