As much as Christchurch wanted its own identity and separation from the old country, some traditions followed the settlers that weren’t ready to die just yet.
One of those traditions were balls; the first being held in the Lyttelton Immigration Barracks by the Godleys early 1851. This ball was considered a grand success – that was until the wind picked up and blew a great layer of dirt over everything, including party-goers. It was around 3.30am when that party was forced to break up. Because of bad lighting in those days, parties like this started around 9 at night and finished at mornings light, so no one was risking the journey home in complete darkness.
It was at one of these balls that two of our first founding fathers managed to get under each other’s skin and its finale took place in the law courts. There are very few details – including the lack of date – about this event but it is still very interesting despite that.
John Thomas Peacock (pictured) – who had arrived in Canterbury with his father as a youth in 1844 – was destined to become a great man of Christchurch’s government and business. But in the early 1850’s he was just another face at a ball – location unknown – and managed to get a young lady (or his date) to dance with him for the Quadrille. It seems in spite of the pair missing the necessary partnership of two other dancers as this particular dance requested, they continued on as best they could.
This seemed to have gotten under the skin of Joseph Longden – who had arrived in Canterbury with his cousin Henry LeCren in 1851 – who shot the pair a filthy look! Maybe Joseph took his dancing very seriously or didn’t appreciate any monkey business in any situation, who knows? Whatever it was, things didn’t improve when Peacock passed by Longden after the dance and reached over and yanked his nose!
The next thing Peacock knew, he was being dragged before the courts and was fined £2. He was reported as saying that it was ‘money well spent’. You can almost see him smile.
It is amazing that after all these years, there are reminders of these two men in our city today. The Peacock Fountain in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens is a grand reminder of J.T Peacock who gifted it to the city in his later life and the Pegasus Arms was erected by Joseph Longden –along with his cousin – as one of Christchurch’s first merchant stores. A later merger grew into what we know today as Pyne Gould Corporation and its spinoff company of P.G.G. Wrighton!
*image of J.T. Peacock courtesy of http://earlycanterbury.blogspot.co.nz*