Memories of Elizabeth Hawdon nee Barker

Elizabeth Barker was the eldest daughter of Dr. A.C. Baker and his wife Emma. The Barkers arrived in Canterbury aboard the ‘Charlotte Jane’ on the 16th December 1850. Emma was pregnant with Elizabeth during the voyage. The couple already had three boys.

Elizabeth was born on the morning of the 15th March 1851 under a make-shift tent made from the main top sail of the ‘Charlotte Jane’ and surrounded by the family’s travelling crates in Cathedral Square. The weather was so bad that day that only an umbrella kept the newborn dry. A torrent of mud oozed underfoot throughout the tent.

The attached photo is of Dr. A.C. Barker and the Godley Statue in Cathedral Square.  The house you can see in the background to the right is his house and surgery and where Elizabeth was born when just a camp made up the site,

Unfortunately undated, I do believe the following was recorded after 1903 as she refers to Victoria Street Bridge which was renamed in 1903. A must read!


“Worcester Street held in front of our house a forest of fennel, over mint heads, and across the little foot bridge [over the Avon] it was all deep sandhills – Market Square and Place [Victoria Square] had a lovely morass for boat sailing. Right in the middle as you went to the tiny post office where I remember once a month everyone collected waiting with a lump-in-the-throat tension, that even a child vaguely felt in the air for the “English mail” to be delivered – that English mail was, all through, such an excitement, from the moment when the flag was hoisted on Mt Pleasant flag staff to let us know that a ship was at the Heads, till we heard the horn tootled gaily by the mailman as he drove along Sumner Road [High Street] and finally through the town to the Post Office. And then when all was distributed what engrossed family groups strolled homeward, peering over hoped-for letters – or excitedly discussing Home news and politics. On the east side of Market Place stood Mr. Gould’s General Store, [now Pyne Gould Corporation] with a great barrier in the middle of the floor filled with fascinating coils of rope-like tobacco – fascinating because we thought it was good to having (having I suppose watched sailors and Maoris chewing lumps) till an experimentalizing small brother nearly put an end to himself with a few “commandeered’ inches.

The real market gathering of bullock drays was always in the corner of the Cathedral Square where the Post Office now stands. It was handy to the Land Office (so important in those days…) and to most of the shops and the White Hart [Hotel – on Lichfield Street].

…towards the hills was the only road leading to Lyttelton, through Sumner, [Evans Pass] and over the Zig Zag, [Sumner Road] and to the right was a rough track to Cashmere, where Sir Cracroft Wilson [named his farm after his favourite place in India, Kashmir but gave it a more English spelling] lived before his return to India and all the horror of the mutiny…

There was another beach nearer to Christchurch than even Riccarton and early destroyed – that is Papanui [Bush] – I can see it now, the boggy road leading to it, and the beach already surrounded by heaps of firewood. We called Victoria Bridge the Papanui Bridge in those days, and the town end of the road had its terrors for me, an artist named Mr. Worseley having decorated his house which stood at an angle facing the town with a front door composed of an unsaleable painting of his…it was very horrid, more than lifesize presentiment of a blue and white man without any clothes. Further up the Papanui Road, as it was the only drain for that rich part of the country, it became too boggy for pedestrians. We were told that a man on horseback stopped to pick up a hat he found in the mud and was surprised to find a head inside it, seeking further he pulled out the whole man, and then the rescued faintly cried to the Good Samaritan, “Be a good fellow and get help to get out the horse and dray too.”

It was a pleasant walk always to what is now the suburb Fendalton. I remember one hot day in 1855 crossing the tussock-grown waste where Victoria Water [Now known as Victoria Lake in Hagley Park] is now, sometimes running to gather the sweet little queen-berries from the tiny native heath, sometimes trying to keep in the shadow of my companion, the daughter of the late Mr. C. Bowen, Snr, [fellow passenger on the Charlotte Jane] and her describing to me what it looked like when their V tents were in the [Hagley] park [area now known as Pilgrims Corner] and how tired they got of eating quail, and now curiously the long flowering stems of tussock grass, before the plains had been much burned, forming themselves into huge loose balls that were so light that when the wind arose they bounded over the plains like living things.

I can remember nothing of Riccarton except a family walk to call on Mrs. Deans, and a rich cake and wine being handed around to a room full of people according to the fashion of those days. But that must have been very early in date for I rode part of the way home on my father’s shoulder.

“The Bricks” [corner of Oxford Terrace and Barbadoes Street] where the Pilgrims had landed their boxes was a pretty green patch on the river’s [Avon] bank nearly opposite the old [Barbadoes Street] cemetery and I recollect Judge Gresson and his family in a tiny flower-covered cottage there. He had bad luck with his boxes, they were wrecked on the Sumner bar and he lost plate and nearly everything of value though some sadly spoiled dresses were brought to them by Sumner residents – also later some of the more solid silver teapots and the like which they founded lodges among the rocks at low-tide.

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