William Free was just 10 years old when he arrived in Lyttelton on the “Cressy”. 10 or so days earlier, William Guise Brittan had arrived on the “Randolph” and took his post at the Land Office. These two settlers would make history again 10 years later in 1860.
Very likely, John Free, William’s father dealt with William Guise Brittan when he purchased land for the family. The land was beside the sea; with the plans of this stretch of beach becoming a second port, it soon adopted the name of ‘The Punt’.
One of neighbours of the Free family was Enoch Barker who would become the first Government Gardener. He would be responsible for the planting of the very first tree (The Albert Edward Oak in 1863) in the Botanical Gardens amongst many others as well as the avenues of trees around Hagley Park.
In 1860, William Free, who was now 20 years old was working in a Saw-Pit on the family’s land when he recognised William Guise Brittan – the Waste Land Commissioner – walking towards them during a visit to the area. Working beside William was Stephen Brooker, who was known to have come from Brighton, England. William scrambled from the pit, grabbing a piece of wood as he went. In chalk, he wrote on it ‘New Brighton’ and stuck it in the sand as a joke. William Guise Brittan saw the sign as he passed and that was that!
William is buried at St Paul’s Anglican Church Cemetery in Papanui, in the very land he gifted to the Anglican church from his land which included Papanui Bush.
*photo of William Guise Brittan’s grave taken by Annette Bulovic*