Was very surprised to come across this memorial plaque on a seat in Victoria Square. I had seen the graves of Stephen and Rebecca Brooker in Addington Cemetery and knew their story. It goes like this:
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’.
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!
Stephen Brooker had no idea he was about to become a part of history in the saw-pit that day.
What I didn’t know was that Stephen Brooker and his sons went on to be cab drivers, starting in 1877. Stephen set up his cab-stand in front of the Godley statue in Cathedral Square.
Stephen and Rebecca were married in Auckland on the 13th December 1844. They moved to Australia but were in Canterbury in 1851. It seemed Stephen could turn his hand to anything, from road works to property adviser before going into business with his boys.
*photo was taken by Chris Bulovic*