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Lyttelton, N.Z. from the Bridle Path

Photo taken Jan. 2008 by Lyn C.
Lyttelton from the saddle on the Bridle Path, January 2008 with the weed broom in the foreground going to seed.
This plant is prohibited from propagation, sale and distribution! Soon the broom will be a mass of yellow flowers.

The maritime township of Lyttelton with stone graving dock (a dry dock where the hulls of ships are repaired and maintained was opened in 1883), patent slips, and Timeball Station extends around the foreshore and up the Port Hills which divide it from Christchurch was founded in 1849 on the north shore of Port Cooper, the old name, for the picturesque harbour Lyttelton Harbour. The harbour is a drowned extinct volcano crater with an average width of two miles. The entrance is a nautical mile wide is on the north-west side of banks Peninsula, running in a direction of south-west by west, for seven miles. The first European vessel to enter the port was the Pegasus about 1809. In 1839, Captain Wiseman, of the Sydney firm Cooper and Levy, named the port, Port Cooper, and it became a regular visiting place for traders and whalers. For years the place was known as Cavendish Bay, Port Victoria or Erskine Bay. The port has been enhanced by reclamation and breakwaters and the road tunnel which opened in 1962. The first steamer to enter the port  was H.M.S. Acheron, in 1848. The first iron ship built in New Zealand was built here in 1864. The streets are generally steep. London Street, Norwich Quay and Oxford Street are the main business streets. Today it is still the main port for Canterbury, New Zealand and had adapted  to container shipping with the railway coming on to the wharf. The rail tunnel was opened in 1867 and is 10 chains more than a mile and a-half long and this was the first railway line opened in New Zealand. Lyttelton to Wellington by sea is a distance of 175 miles. Captain Graeves was the first harbour master. Captain J. Sproule was harbour master in 1863. Captain T. Wycherley was lessee of the Government Jetty in 1863.  Historical tug map

The Bridal Path. Photo taken in January 2008 by Lyn C.
The Port Hills: Looking towards Lyttelton Harbour, in the summer of January, 2008. The Bridal Path is a steep trail on both sides with bench seats and the conical memorial shelter in the saddle. In the foreground there is tussock, dandelions and fescue grass. The grey area will be the native thorny shrub matagourie. The horses had to be led by the bridle to the summit - hence the name Bridle Path. 

'The Press', Christchurch, 31/12/1996, p.21
by Mark Pickering

"The Bridle Path is a steep track, built in a hurry over the Xmas period of 1850-51. It was completed in the second week of January 1851. In 1851, the Bridle Path was an object of fear, scorn and loathing. After 5 months at sea, pioneer European settlers were itching to get on to the promised land, but the Port Hills seemed of Himalayan proportions. Their luggage was piling up on the Lyttelton foreshore, without even a horse and cart to get to Christchurch. The prospect of hauling their baggage over the hill was dismaying, and to the frustrated settlers, Lyttelton seemed a prison. Captain Joseph Thomas was the principal surveyor and overseer of works for the Canterbury Association. He was given the job of preparing the settlement for the new immigrants. This meant surveying the new towns of Lyttelton and Christchurch, building storehouses and temporary accommodation blocks for the settlers, and cutting a dray road through to the plains from the port. For the road, he had logically chosen the line of Evans pass, a low pass of only 193 metres, but the road construction in 1849 proved hard and frustratingly slow. The road had to be cut out of volcanic rock walls and edged around steep bluffs.
    After a year, Captain Thomas had spent most of the Association's money, and the 'Sumner Road' was still not finished. With the settlers due to arrive in December, there was an urgent need for some sort of access pathway, and a fund was put towards the 'Bridle-road' which would be made passable for horses at least. It was a tight finish. Charles Torlesse started to survey the road on November 3, 1850 and the Charlotte Jane, the first of the immigrant ships, arrived on December 16.
Every early account of the path makes it sound like an endurance test of a settler's soul. "After dinner, I and another commenced the ascent of the hill between port and Christchurch,' says one account. "We had not gone far before we put our knapsacks on the back of the pack-horse that goes over the hill every day. It is indeed an awful pull up that hill; yet we were so anxious to see what was on the other side of it that we scarcely noticed the fatigue ....
So we continued to climb, panting and broiling in the afternoon sun, and much admiring the lovely view beneath. At last we near the top .... I must confess that the view, though undoubtedly fine, rather disappointed me.
    Today it is hard to imagine what all the fuss was about. Most people could walk the path in three hours, but for the early settlers it was almost a two day journey to Christchurch. Three months on board a ship hardly prepared a person for a strenuous life in the colonies. Some people walked around the ship for exercise from time to time, but that was not encouraged, and probably thought rather odd. Among middle class Victorian women there was a culture of 'delicateness' and 'frailness', a sensibility exasperated by tight corsets and broad crinolines.
    From the start, the Bridle Path name was optimistic, as most settlers quickly realised. Once over the pass settlers had to follow around the margins of the swampy Heathcote Estuary to the Ferry (Ferrymead), where 'the traveller finds a cluster of newly erected temporary huts, and a ferry boat kept by Mr Hughes, who will put him across the river for 6d'. The road from Ferrymead to Christchurch was properly started in February 1851, with a road gang of '60 Englishman and 40 Maoris'. The route was mostly toe toe, thick grass, and cabbage trees, leading to the bare site of Christchurch - where you pitched your tent.
    Any walker today can see why the Bridle Path was unsatisfactory from the beginning. It is just too steep. In November 1856, the 'Lyttelton Times' asked for suggestions to solve the vexed 'roading problem', and Letters to the Editor ran hot. One example : 'You wish for my opinion on the easiest mode of transit from the port to the plains?' said one writer. 'Try early rising ....' Although there was a daily pack-horse over the path in 1851, most people shifted their heavier luggage by boat over the estuary bar and up the Avon or Heathcote rivers. There is no evidence that any settler was game enough to take a piano over the Bridle Path. The path was gradually improved and turned laboriously into a 'road'. The first 'spring cart loaded with luggage was drawn over it by bullocks on March 17, 1857'.
    An entrepreneur set up a refreshment stall selling ginger beer on the pass in November 1851. Evans Pass was not finally pushed through until 1857. Although the main horse and cart traffic went that way, people still regularly used the Bridle Path as the quickest way to the plains.
    Today a pretty conical memorial shelter stands on the saddle, dedicated to the 'Pioneer Women of Canterbury and their families'. Seats and picnic tables are provided." Designed by Heathcote Helmore.

On the Bridal Path. Photo taken Jan. 2008 by Lyn C.
"....and gazed with awe but with courage upon the hills and plains of Canterbury." Erected in 1993.

What vessel was he on??
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle
, 6 December 1851
A newly landed immigrant named David Bishop, in returning to the port from Christchurch became so fatigued that he fell behind his companions, and was never heard of for a month after, when his body was accidentally found. He was not on the Cornwall.

Timaru Herald, 17 December 1898, Page 3
The Natives Association unveiled a monument and drinking fountain on the Port Hills, in memory of Mrs Godley, wife of the founder of the settlement here.

Other photos of the Bridal Path, waymaking
The pictorial reliefs were done by Frederick G. Gurnesy (1868-1953)

They passed this way. John Brown married Mary Thompson in 1796 Bishopwearmouth, their son is William Armstrong Brown b. 1803, baptised at the North Bridge Presbyterian Church Sunderland. William married Isabella Stothard in 1825 in Monkwearmouth and they had two sons - John Thompson Brown b 1830 and Matthew Stothard Brown b 1836.

Centennial Pilgrimage, Bridle Path 1951, Miss Brown, Keith Brown, "Indiana" 1858

Brown 	John Thompson 		27 Sunderland Shipwright 
	Margaret Ann 		25 
	John 		 	 3 
	William Infant 
Brown  	Matthew Stothard 	22 b. Sept. 23 1835 in Sunderland, Sawyer & shipwright d. Feb. 1905 in CHCH, brother to John
	Ann 			21 
	William Infant 

Centennial Pilgrimage, Bridle Path 1951, Miss Brown, Keith Brown, "Indiana" 1858

Press, 9 March 1912, Page 3
The late Mr J. T. Brown, whose death was recorded early this week, was a very old resident of Canterbury, and was in this province in the stirring pioneering days. He arrived in New Zealand in the ship Indiana in 1858, bringing with him his wife and two sons. One son was Mr John Brown, one of the principals of the old firm of J. T. Brown and Sons, and the other was Mr W. Brown, who is a farmer at the Cave, South Canterbury. The late Mr J. T. Brown, was associated with his brother, Mr Matthew Brown, as builders at Port Levy, their principal work consisting in the building of coastal schooners. Subsequently. Mr Brown settled in Lyttelton for a few years, and then came to Christchurch, where be founded the firm, of J. T. Brown and Sons, timber merchants, in 1863, the premises then being in Tuam street. Three years ago Mr Brown removed to Palmerston North, where he lived with his daughter. Mrs J. C. Lane, but during the past six months he returned to Christchurch, and lived with his son, Mr John Brown. He was a man of remarkable virility and strength, and he lived to the ripe old age of 82. His wife predeceased him by sixteen years, but he leaves nine members of his family five sons and four daughters. The late Mr Brown was for 44 years connected with the Addington Methodist Church, and he maintained a keen interest in that church until the time of his decease.

Press, 6 February 1905, Page 8
Mr Matthew Stothard BROWN. The many friends of Mr Matthew Brown, who for some years has been foreman of the Harbour Boards dock and patent slip at Lyttelton, will regret to hear of his sudden death, which took place on Saturday afternoon. Mr Brown was in his usual state of health up till about half-past ten on Saturday morning. While getting the slip ready for a steamer to go on, he complained of a faintness. Dr. J. A. Newell was at once sent for, and at first it was thought his patient was suffering from sunstroke. Mr Brown was at once removed to his home, where he died at 1.10 p.m. the actual cause of death being heart failure. The deceased gentleman, who was much respected throughout the district, was born on September 23rd, 1835, at Sunderland, England. He arrived in the colony by the ship Indiana towards the end of 1858. For many, years he was settled at Port Levy, Banks' Peninsula, where, associated with his brother, Mr John T. Brown he built several trading vessels, included, among which was the ketch Emerald, so well known to old residents of the Port. Later on Mr Brown became manager for Messrs Hawkins, and Martindale, and while acting in this position he superintended the construction of, the Gladstone pier and the western breakwater and the majority of the wharves in the Port. On the opening, of the graving dock at Lyttelton Mr Brown was appointed dock foreman and has held that position over, since. He had been an active member and, officer of the Wesleyan Church from the time of his first settling in Lyttelton. Mr Brown leaves a widow, five daughters, and three sons - Mr. William Brown, a partner of the firm of Hollis and Brown, timber, merchants of Lyttelton; Mr M. S. Brown, of Messrs Wynn-Williams and Browne and Mr. J. Brown, who, in the office of Mr T. W. Stringer, of Christchurch. The funeral leaves Coleridge Terrace at 3.30 this afternoon, for the Wesleyan cemetery.  

Timaru Herald Tuesday 15 October 1889 pg2  Perils of the Sea
The barque Otago, formerly ship rigged, and as such a frequent visitor to New Zealand, was towed into Lyttelton on Saturday night in a very bad plight. She had left Sydney for London with a load of produce on August 13th, and all went well till the 24th, when she was in 50 south and 160 west, running before a W.S.W. gale, through a very high sea. Suddenly she broached to, half a dozen sails were blown away, and sea after sea came on board, smashing things up in a very vigorous fashion. The deck cabin was stove in and all the ship's papers, officers' certificates, official log, manifest, charts, and navigating instruments were swept away. The carpenter set to work to repair damage while the seas were still coming aboard, and one wave dashed him against a fixture so that he died a few hours later. An A.B. was missing soon after - washed overboard unseen. Boats and bulwarks were smashed up and drifted away. The worst mishap of all was the lost of the rudder, which curiously enough was not discovered for to days during which men had taken their "trick at the wheel" and obeyed orders as to steering to no effect whatever. The Otago with her crew of eighteen and two passengers, out of the track of traders, rudder gone, deck in a mess, carpenter killed, instruments washed away and chronometers choked, was in a bad fix. The first thing to be done was to rig a jury rudder. To further improve matters 1000 sacks of copra were thrown overboard. A rag chart was found, the compass and with these and by means of dead reckoning a course was shaped for New Zealand. Thirty-nine days after the accident land was sighted, the Sisters, which lie west of the Chathams. This gave a new departure for Banks Peninsula, with was sighted ten days later and the tug had them inside Port Cooper by midnight. The vessel will have to go into dock for repairs.

Timaru Herald February 22nd February 1898
The oldest resident of Lyttelton, Mr John Grubb, shipwright, died on Saturday, aged 81. He arrived in the colony at Wellington in '47, and was sent down to Lyttelton to build a jetty and otherwise prepare for the arrival of the "first four ships." He then built several coasting schooners, and later on the first slip in Lyttelton.

28 April 1883 ILN pg124 Lyttelton - Graving Dock

The Star 15 December 1900 page 6
Glimpses of the Past by R.H.P., Ealing.
Nearly fifty years ago I walked from the vessel to the top of the Bridle Path (on a hot day), to get a bird' view of our future home, and took a seat on that large clump of rocks, about a quarter of a mile off to the left. I sat and wondered. The dreary, miles of endless tussock, the distant hills, and the little, winding stream, with its muddy mouth, not large enough to be useful - out of that we had to make our homes and live......

Landing the passengers at Port Lyttelton by William Fox and Mary Townsend (Timeframes)

Port Lyttelton, 1851 by Fox
Arrival of the Pilgrims 1851, by Fox. Note Sumner Road winding around the hill.

Port Lyttelton, N.Z. 1863
From the Illustrated London News 1863

An oilette by A.H. Fullwood.


Otago Witness, Saturday, May 26, 1883, pg22
Lighting Lyttelton Harbor by Electricity. The Official Trail.
A visit was made to the engine house, in which the motive power, a 16hp (nominal) engine, was in full running. An adjournment was made to the ship Oronsay, at the time lying in the graving dock. The scene on the quarter-deck of the fine ship was one that will not soon be forgotten. It was avertable 'bower of bliss," no pains having been spared to beautify the ship with flags, evergreens and flowers. Awning hung from the break of the poop to the mainmast, and over the bulwarks on either side, and suspended from amongst the evergreens overhead were two large electric arc lamps of great brilliancy and beauty. But there was a full moon...


Harbour and Dock, Lyttelton 1905


A Muir and Moodie Postcard from 1910.

Probably 1905


Lyttelton 1960


1965 colour posted

Different views

Lyttelton, N.Z. F.G.R. 5593 c. 1916 sepia postcard

Probably 1908

'A History Of Port Lyttelton' by W.H. Scotter. Published by The Lyttelton Harbour Board, 1968, 1st Ed, 356 pg, illustrated  B/W photos. Hard Cover with dj.
This book tells the full story of the development of a port in Lyttelton harbour and of the shipping which entered its waters. It begins with an account of traders and whalers lying at Purau and Little Port Cooper, and ends with a study of vehicular and container vessels loading at berths.

'Lyttelton: Port and Town' by Geoffrey W. Rice. Published November 2004. 285 x 210 mm, 164 pages with b&w photographs andfour pages of colour photographs. Card covers. From the 'Pilgrim port' of the 1850s, with its single jetty to receive thousands of Canterbury Association settlers. Lyttelton grew on wool and wheat exports to become a bustling seaport, complete with graving dock and Timeball Station. The 1867 railway tunnel that linked the port to Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains was the first in the world cut through the rim of an extinct volcano. Lyttelton was the setting-off port for British Antarctic exploration in the early 1900s, including Sir Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated 1910-12 expedition, and in the 1950s it served the same purpose for icebreakers and supply ships for the US Deep-Freeze project at McMurdo Sound. Troopships for the Boer War and both World Wars set off from Lyttelton, and thousands of New Zealanders can still recall the overnight inter-island ferry service between Lyttelton and Wellington. As patterns of trade and goods-handling have changed, the port's appearance has altered considerably in recent years, but the town remains a colourful medley of seafarers, fishermen, railway workers and watersiders. Though many of its residents now work in Christchurch, thanks to the 1962 road tunnel, Lyttelton has attracted many newcomers, including such celebrities as Jim Hopkins and Joe Bennett. Using many previously unpublished images from the collections of the Canterbury and Lyttelton museums, this book weaves the diverse themes of port and town into a narrative, noting key events and explaining patterns of change across 150 years.

Inhabitants of Lyttelton 1866  Notes Extracted from Stevens and Bartholomew's New Zealand Directory for 1866-67

Cemetery  - In the middle of your deep blue sea, anchor me.

The Port Hills, placed there by nature for our use and accommodation.

The Star  7 January 1905
Fremantle, January 7
Arrived - Oroya, from London; passengers for New Zealand - Mrs Brohan, Messrs Wylie and Covett.

Evening Post, 12 February 1912, Page 8
ENTERED OUTWARDS. February 12 Maori, s.s. (3 p.m.), 3399 tons, Aldwell, for Lyttelton.
Passengers Saloon:   Misses Kirkealdie, Henrys, De Lisle, Austin, Mackay, Grainger, Park, Drevers (2), Green, Lees, Fama, Anderson, White, Longworth, Williams, Sleightholme, Cachman, Buston, Robinson, Mead, Skinner, Wennie (2), Thompson, Coates, Drake, Dick, Barr, Moon, Morelin, White, Clark, Phyn and 2 children, Christenson, Mesdames Millar, Rowlett, Pridham, Festerman, Solace, Denniston, Leonard, Jardine, Hewson, Owen, Macfarlane and three children, Higgins, Campbell, Reade, Jackson, Dr. Millar, Colonel Hayhurst, Messrs. Marchant, Hargraves, Adams, Turner, McLean, Tavender, McLean (2), McClelland (2), Jenkinson, Sayer, Macdonald, Cameron, Orton, Stevens, Kaye, Shirtcliffe, McIntosh, Pridham, Solme, Janisch, Grey, Hewson, Rose, Granger, Carnell, Muirich, Reid, Fama, Nicholson, Sare, Jones, Carter, Robinson, Wilson, Christie, Thompson, Cuddle, Brien, Carmichael, Watt, McManaway, Jackson.

 Evening Post,  15 March 1912, Page 8
 EXTERBD OUTWARDS. March, 10 Maori, s.s. (8 p m.), 3399 tons, Aldwell, for Lyttelton.
Passengers : Saloon� Misses Findlay, Roberts, Sayer, Fask, Hill, Hickson, Cooper, Patterson, Hadley, Baundern, Sommerville, McPhail, Walker, Pirrie, Newton, Eady (2), Baker, Brown, Morrison, Mesdames Findlay, Woodhouse, Pace, Haslamn, Petter, Burrell, Griffiths, Hemming, Dyers, Kerr, Hill, Munro, Walker, Campbell, Coyle, Brown, Johnston, Chamberlain, Perryman, Morrison, Fitchett, Bell, McLean, Palmer, Russell, Messrs. Christie, Jamieson, Woodhouse, Pace, Haslam, Pettett, Burrell, Childs, Pettigrew, Griffiths, Smith, Snowball, Brooke, Hardy, Hayes, Pascoe, Craigie, Bell, Maddison, Jacobson, Andrews, Coombs, Shawley, Hemming, Coffey, Turner, Tyler, Campbell, White, Lyons, Fox, Hendy, Christie, Brown, Berlyn, Begg, Kay, Johnston, Reid, Morean, Hayhurst, Dunn, Harper, Buchanan, Craddock, Warren, Chamberlain, Perryman, Wafltzzen, Parker, and James.

Nov. 2009
Destroyed during the 22 Feb. 2011 earthquake. photo taken Nov. 2009.

A permanent flag signalman was stationed at the Timeball from 1879-1880 onwards. The flag signals were used to advise the town of ships sailing into the harbour, to instruct ships where to berth and to direct the ship traffic. In 1891 a new kauri flagpole replaced the original one, and it is the 1891 one which remains in front of the Timeball today. The last flag signal to be recorded was received from the Miro on 27 November 1941. After this date radio communication between ships and the wharf became the norm. On 31 December 1934 the last signal was dropped, and the service discontinued. Keeper Jack Burns remained as the flag signalman until this position also ceased in 1941. The timeball mechanism is fifteen metres high. The timeball consists of a hollow sphere made from a wooden frame covered with thin sheets of painted zinc. It measures one and a half metres in width and weighs over 100 kilograms. An Oregon pine mast is threaded through a hole in the ball's centre. The ball is hoisted by handwheel to the top of the mast and rests there on a catch. When the catch is pulled away the ball is released and drops down the mast. At a predetermined time the timeball was released. Ships in the harbour took their readings at the instant the timeball left the top of the mast.

North Otago Times, 18 January 1881, Page 2
The Lyttelton Times is the largest daily paper in the colony. Its size tells so heavily on it that it is always solemn, and its solemnity approaches the funereal. What effect a joke in the Lyttelton Times would hive on its readers it would be difficult to tell ; the history of the paper contains no record of mirthfulness on its part, and an ebullition of fun might have disastrous effects. It therefore adheres to the solemn, and in its yesterday's issue modestly and mournfully speaks of itself as " the only paper of consequence not at the beck and call of the Government " Farther on in the name article it describes itself as " the only newspaper of consequence that dared to have independent sources of information." Considering that there are at least other two papers in the colony that support " out-and out " the policy of the Opposition, it is surely unkind as well as injudicious in the Lyttelton Times to proclaim their worthlessness, while crying up its own unparalleled virtue.