Before discussing James Townsend, one must know the story of a young settler, who had just made his way down the Bridle Path in 1851 and made note of who had been the first real European settler (quite a noble title for a dead man!) in what would become Ferrymead. Jutting out of from the ground and just out of reach of lapping waves was a piece of crude ship timber. Carved into it were the initials “H.L.” and the date of “1822”. A whaler? A sealer? No one really knows.
Known to the Maori’s as Ohika Paraparu, it had been a place where seafood and bird-life had been a plenty and easy to catch. By the end of 1850, it was just a place you had to cross to continue your journey to Christchurch.
James Townsend was the oldest man traveling on the ‘Cressy’ at the age of 62. With him was his wife, 7 daughters and 4 sons! The land that James purchased for his family was on the shores on the Heathcote River. Close by, John McFarlane and William Stewart ran the punt that brought settlers, their belongings and even livestock across the Heathcote so they could continue on the track to Christchurch that would later become known as Ferry Road. Those lucky enough to have money could afford to have their goods go on by ferry up the Heathcote to where the suburb of Woolston is.
James purchased a further 60 hectares from the Canterbury Association in 1852. A part of the deal was that the punt-crossing would be moved onto his new land and that he would operate this service. He agreed. As he did this, his sons worked the land and his daughters waited for suitable suitors to call in in the nearby homestead which had been named ‘Greenlands.’ When the Townsend’s sold up in 1856 and moved on to farm in Rangiora, the new owners turned the house into Ferry Mead Hotel – the name coming from the close by Ferry Mead Railway line to Christchurch. The word ‘Mead’ means Meadow.
The Townsend’s became a well known family in Rangiora, they even have a street named after them.
PERSONAL NOTE: The painting of Ferrymead was done by James Fitzgerald from the Bridle Path.