I’m sure like every other young man at Oxford University, Thomas Jackson (1812 -1886) had big dreams and he was very smart. He graduated with a B.A. in 1834 and an M.A. in 1837.
At the young age of 32, Thomas – who was now an Anglican Clergyman – was the principal of the St John’s Training College – an institution that taught teachers how to teach in schools that were church based. Somewhere along the way, be became a member of the Canterbury Association and began to make speeches on the Association’s behalf, promoting immigration to the proposed new settlement. He proved to be a powerful speaker and would draw a crowd to him easily.
At the time when talk of Thomas being appointed Bishop Designate began, the main idea for Christchurch had been planned on the site of Lyttelton. When it came to the New Zealand Company – who the Canterbury Association bought the land from for Christchurch – it was paramount for a new city to be built near a port. Of course, the area of Lyttelton proved too small but when Thomas was appointed to his new role in June 1850, his title was Bishop Designate of Lyttelton – a unique and never repeated job title.
There was to be a technical difficulty in the way of the Association concerning this.
Dr. George Selwyn had been appointed the Bishop of New Zealand by Letters Patent. A Letters Patent is a title/job appointed by either the monarchy or government. If the Canterbury Association wanted their choice of man for Bishop, Selwyn would have to himself resign from the Diocese of Canterbury.
Thomas was delighted with the thought of being Bishop of both Canterbury and Otago, asking that this be promised to him once Selwyn resigned. The Canterbury Association agreed to this. Thomas was to first travel to Canterbury to address Selwyn in person, document in hand. Once this was signed, he was to return to England so things could be done traditionally.
Thomas, his wife and two sons arrived in Lyttelton in February 1851, on the ‘Castle Eden’, the Association’s 5th ship. Those that were present for the Jackson’s arrival reported that he began to complain about the settlement instantly. Apparently he had a very ‘humbug’ attitude to everything he did and said. Before his family even had the chance to settle, he had set off into his new diocese and was further distressed at how much work still needed to be done. He had to get Selwyn’s signature and head back to England as soon as possible. There was much planning to be done.
He and his family were in Canterbury a total of 6 weeks before they were back on a ship to England and no one was sorry he was gone. A nasty surprise awaited Thomas back in London as the Association had been getting complaints about him from the get go.
James Edward Fitzgerald – Canterbury’s first Superintendent – was reported to have said, ‘He is the most unfit man in the world to be a Bishop.”
Thomas was told that he would not be returning to Canterbury, resulting understandably with him falling out with the Association for good.
He moved on eventually, becoming the rector of St Mary’s at Stoke Newington, London. He was also known as a powerful preacher and died in 1886.
To save face, the people heard from the Association that Thomas Jackson would not be returning to them because of the health of his wife. No tears were wept and history goes on to tell us that Canterbury’s first Bishop was appointed by Bishop Selwyn himself. Bishop Henry James Chitty Harper took his post at St Michaels and All Angels on Christmas Day in 1856.
Thomas owned two sections of land in Christchurch. His city section sat on the corner of Lincoln and Riccarton Roads. This is quite a puzzling thought as these two roads don’t meet today. His rural section was also on Lincoln Road, close to the Halswell River.
In between these two properties is Jackson’s Creek, commencing east of Wrights Road, then disappearing underground, recommencing at Lincoln Road, Ruskin Street, Brougham Street (near Wilsons Road) and at Ensor and Opawa Roads. It then flows out into the Heathcote River and then out to sea.
As you can see Jacksons Creek at Cardigan Bay Reserve on Lincoln Road is very much dried up. In spite of this and the fact that no one liked him, the man has a creek named after him. There is also Jacksons Road in Lyttelton.
Thomas did visit the Deans during his short 6 week life in Canterbury. This was entered into his journal:
“We reached Riccarton Bush, as it is called, a belt of forest trees vocal with songbirds, the relics of the magnificent woods which once covered a great part of the plains. The sound of the axe is loud in its shaded recesses, and every now and then the crash of some king of the forest falling with a roar, like that of distant thunder…”
This was of course, the Canterbury Association sawyers chopping down their half of Riccarton Bush as agreed with the Deans. By July 1851, the Association half of the bush was cleared.
He called the Deans Brothers “two enterprising Scotch gentlemen” who gave him “a hearty welcome and a luncheon of beef, bannocks [Well known flat, uneven bread in Scotland and Northern England] and cheese…”
*photo of Jackson’s Creek taken by Annette Bulovic*