In the four years of my study about Canterbury’s history, I have never come across so many historic ties such as that of which Christchurch has with Wellington – through our people at least! So much so, that our last two trips to Wellington had us Bulovics running from pillar to post – tracking down where some of our pioneering Cantabs walked, lived, worked and died with just a few clues to go on…
I suspect that just as with some Cantabs, many Wellingtonians focus more on just having a day off work than taking a moment to acknowledge what Wellington Day (22nd January) really means. At least Wellington has kept the same date to celebrate the arrival of the ‘Aurora’, the New Zealand Company’s first ship at Port Nicholson (Wellington) in 1840, whereas Canterbury celebrates the arrival of the ‘Charlotte Jane’, the Canterbury Association’s first ship, a month earlier (Show Day) which drives me nuts!!!
Anyway, back to the ‘Aurora’. We have wonderful ties to this ship as some of the passengers on board were the Gebbie and Prebble families as well as William Deans. I hope these names ring some bells. These families, along with the Hays, Sinclairs and Greenwoods, who arrived on other New Zealand Company ships, camped close to each other at Petone Beach as the land they had purchased in London hadn’t even been surveyed yet. And this is where poor Mrs. Gebbie gave birth to her 3rd child, with just a tent over her head and sand under her feet.
It soon became obvious that Wellington was not going to be New Zealand’s farming capital due to the landscape and weather, so these families began to talk about exploring other parts of the country. During 1841/42 William Deans made two trips to the Port Cooper (Canterbury) Plains and liked what he saw.
Once the Hays and the Sinclairs had made their own schooner (the ‘Richmond’) these families, which now extended to include the Mansons – who arrived in New Zealand along with John Deans via Nelson – made the permanent journey to Canterbury in 1843; the Deans, Gebbies and Mansons settled at Putaringamotu (Riccarton), the Hays at Pigeon Bay, the Sinclairs at Holmes Bay and the Greenwoods at Purau. The Prebbles followed a bit later with the family working for the Greenwoods and the Deans before farming their own land – which today is Prebbleton.
In 1845, the Gebbies and Mansons, with fourteen cows each, made a move to land of their own at today’s Teddington, Banks Peninsula. This history is acknowledged with the naming of Gebbies Pass and Mansons Point – the families very much a part of the land today. I still smile about the time Chris & I were history hunting in Teddington and approached a patron at the old Wheatsheaf Tavern. We asked him if there were any Mansons still around the place. He just called out loud to his fellow drinkers if there were any Mansons present and half of the pub raised their hands, his included.
After experiencing Canterbury’s first robbery in 1846, the Greenwoods sold Purau to William and George Rhodes. Captain William Barnard Rhodes had first seen Te Whakaraupo (Lyttelton harbour) in 1836, after arriving in his whaling ship, the ‘Australian’. He liked what he saw so much that he named the area Port Cooper after his employers, Daniel Cooper and Koutourarata to Port Levey (Levy), after Solomon Levey. As these two men were ex-convicts, the Canterbury Association quickly renamed Port Cooper to Port Victoria and Port Levey to Port Albert to discourage ex-convicts from the colonies of Australia jumping the creek in 1849. In 1838, Rhodes returned with cattle and was the first to put hoof stock on Canterbury soil.
Leaving his new interests under other management, the Captain set up one of Wellington’s first merchant businesses, actually building Wellington’s first pier, situated at the end of Cuba Street, where it meets the sea. Between Wakefield Ave and Manners Streets, Rhodes set up his store and house, owning most of that street. He became known as the ‘Millionaire of Wellington’ owning most of the suburb of Wadestown which was then known as ‘The Grange’. It was subdivided and sold off during the 1920’s.
Upon the death of George Rhodes in 1864, Purau was sold on to the Gardiner family. I am very happy to report that Purau is still in the ownership of the Gardiner family, their history also acknowledged in the naming of Gardiners Road in Harewood, Christchurch where this family also farmed.
The Rhodes influence on Christchurch is still very much with us. They are behind the naming of the suburbs of Elmwood, Mairehau and Scarborough along with a few of our street names. Their fine homesteads still grace the properties of Purau, ‘Otahuna’ in Tai Tapu and ‘Te Koraha’ at Rangi Ruru Girls High School.
George Gould was in Wellington at the time of the arrival of Canterbury’s 1st Four Ships. But he still managed to be the first to erect a building in Christchurch. As it was already built, he just used the Avon to transport it to Market Place – Victoria Square. This was our first general store and this business is known as Pyne Gould Corporation today. Eliza’s Manor on Bealey Ave also has ties to this family.
Two of our Superintendents – James Edward Fitzgerald and William Sefton Moorhouse – also called Wellington home and both died in that city.
Along with his grave at Bolten Street Cemetery, the St Gerard’s Church and Monastery on Mt. Victoria, overlooking Oriental Bay, acts as a reminder of Fitzgerald and his later life in Wellington. After the death of him and his wife Fanny, the land was sold to the church and today, we have one of the biggest iconic buildings in Wellington to show for it. For me though, he will always be the first settler to have stepped ashore from the ‘Charlotte Jane’ (pushing Dr. A.C. Barker aside to do so), our first Superintendent, and the man who thought up ‘The Press’ while dining with the Watts-Russell’s at the farm named Ilam.
Moorhouse served Canterbury twice as Superintendent. Famous for his ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, his wife Jane once said that from one week to the next, she never knew what money was coming in for the household bills – and those in Canterbury politics felt the same way. Jane and he hadn’t been married long when she found herself in the goldfields of Victoria (not long after a 3 month voyage from England to Christchurch) as he and his brothers chased ‘…a bit of the colour…’. Moorhouse was in fact, the first and only passenger onboard the first Cobb & Co that headed to the goldfield on the West Coast.
His greatest legacy to us is the Lyttelton Railway Tunnel, the first of its kind in the world and he owned ‘Spreydon’ the farm. In 1875, he became Wellington’s 3rd Mayor and was returned to Christchurch for his burial when he died in 1881. He is buried at St Peter’s Anglican Church in Upper Riccarton in the most unremarkable grave I could think of.
In an interesting twist of things, Moorhouse’s sister Sarah Anne was the second wife of Captain William Barnard Rhodes. To really add to the mix, Rhodes’ Maori daughter, Sarah Anne’s step-daughter went on to marry Edward Moorhouse, her step Uncle. From then on, most of this family was christened with both pioneering names featuring.
At 90 The Terrace, Wellington, sits the Wakefield House. On the night of 16th May 1862, the father of New Zealand, woke his manservant and whispered to him, ‘William, this is death’. Where this multistory building sits – that houses a few businesses – was once the location of the house where Edward Gibbon Wakefield lived and died. The owner of the New Zealand Company, he turned the colonization of New Zealand into a family business. He would found a new city, Nelson, New Plymouth, Wellington and Canterbury and place a brother there to over look his interests. He had been recovering from a stroke when he met John Robert Godley in 1847 and together, they founded the Anglican based Canterbury Association. By the time Wakefield stepped off a ship at Lyttelton in 1853, he and Godley no longer spoke and he was nothing more to the Cantabs than walking proof of the lies of the Canterbury Association, so his welcome to Christchurch was more than just frosty. He lasted a month before moving on to Wellington. Referred to as ‘…the giant spider…’ he made a life for himself in the politics of Wellington although he was really never that welcome. That didn’t change the fact, as it was always reported, that he couldn’t enter a room without changing the atmosphere, drawing respect from everyone whether people wanted to give it or not.
But Wellington does acknowledge him with this plaque beside the Wakefield House. It’s more than we have ever done – one of the most forgotten men who poured his life and soul into Canterbury’s success.
* photo taken by Chris Bulovic*