On the 11th January 1851, the first issue of The Lyttelton Times hit the shelves.
As the Canterbury Association made their plans for New Zealand’s newest Church of England (Anglican) settlement, they spoke of a grand Cathedral and college being at its heart with a good number of public domains for recreation and oh yes, a newspaper was a must!
As the ‘Charlotte Jane’ – the Canterbury Association’s first ship – sailed her way to Canterbury, in her cargo hold was a printing press and in steerage the father and son printing team, Walter and John Shrimpton; the latter being only 17 years old.
What could be considered the very humble beginnings of ‘The Lyttelton Times’ began aboard the ‘Charlotte Jane’ in the shape of ‘The Cockroach’ newspaper – an inside joke as the ship was ripe with them (Cockroaches).
At the helm was James Edward Fitzgerald (the future first editor of ‘The Lyttelton Times’ and founder of ‘The Press’) who encouraged other passengers to contribute items of interest – not only to help themselves with the boredom of months at sea but provide something for other voyagers to read. It proved very popular those first weeks at sea.
Canterbury’s first newspaper found its home on Norwich Quay in a simple shed. Fitzgerald offered his service as the paper’s first editor, which he did for free. One of the first reporters that featured was Canterbury’s Founder, John Robert Godley. When Fitzgerald was elected Canterbury’s first Superintendent in 1853, he cut his ties with paper.
In 1854, the newspaper moved to Oxford Street. Two years later, it changed hands when it was sold to Charles Christopher Bowen (Charlotte Jane settler) and Crosbie Ward (whose younger brothers were Charlotte Jane settlers) for £5000! In 1861, another historic name entered into the paper’s history as a shareholder – Thomas Maude – who’s eldest daughter Sybil would grow up to be the much loved Nurse Maude.
To help expand its market, the paper moved into a building on Gloucester Street, Christchurch and became a daily publication in 1863. The rear of the business opened up onto Cathedral Square. By this time, in Cashel Street, its competitor ‘The Press’ was also struggling for its place with consumers.
Founded by The Lyttelton Times’ past editor – James Edward Fitzgerald – he made no apologies for the publication of a new newspaper. Completely dismayed over the spending being made by then current Superintendent William Sefton Moorhouse with his railway tunnel, Fitzgerald found ‘The Lyttelton Times’ were in support of the project and refused to print his opposing view of things. The answer was simple – he would express his opinions in a newspaper of his own!
Sadly, on 29th June 1935 – now New Zealand’s oldest working newspaper – the last issue of ‘The Lyttelton Times’ went on sale. After decades of competition, ‘The Press’ had won control of the larger reader’s market. The Lyttelton Times Company was renamed the New Zealand Newspaper Limited and continued to print ‘The Star’ in the evenings. The successor of this newspaper is today’s free ‘Star’ printed on a Wednesdays and Fridays.