New Zealand’s First Telegraph Line – 1st July 1862

On the 1st July 1862, English news fresh from the recently arrived ships at Lyttelton, was transmitted to Christchurch and namely ‘The Press’ by New Zealand’s first telegraph line.

From the very first issue of ‘The Press’ on the 25th May 1861, the paper had an ongoing battle with not only the 10 year old ‘Lyttelton Times’ to get the news out to the public first but also with the newspapers from down south.   As ships tended to dock at Dunedin first, the southern papers were the first to get the goss. Usually three days later, these southern papers would be on Christchurch’s newspaper stands so time was of the essence. Before the telegraph, runners would carry the news from the ships over the Bridle Path and battle the marshy landscape to ‘The Press’ office first in Montreal Street and then Cashel Street.

Equipment for this new technology had arrived in Canterbury in 1859 along with engineer Edmund Green and his family. Green had been employed and promised free passage to Christchurch by James Edward Fitzgerald, to set up the telegraph system. After finishing his term as Canterbury’s first Superintendent in 1857, Fitzgerald had returned to England as an Immigration Agent. Upon his return to Canterbury, he founded ‘The Press’ in opposition to the ‘Lyttelton Times’ and in its support of Canterbury Superintendent William Sefton Moorhouse with his railway tunnel in 1861. That telegraph equipment imported over 4 years ago was going to be really handy!

Communication between ‘The Press’ and its reporters improved another 3 years later when a telegraph line was set up between Christchurch and Bluff. News from down south arrived on the desks of our reporters the very same day.

This achievement is acknowledged today by the Scarborough and New Brighton Clock Towers; gifted to Christchurch by Edmund Green’s son, Richard Edward Green in 1934. Both clocks are in Edmund’s memory and the setting up of New Zealand’s first telegraph system.

The attached image shows a telegraph room in 1859, England.

*image courtesy of Distant Writing –

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