Canterbury Anniversary 16th December 1850

For the grand opening of the Takahe to have been scheduled on this of all days, 16th December, is a very happy coincidence. The Sign of the Takahe is one of the most loved buildings on the Port Hills and, as such, could not have been re-opened on a more auspicious day, the greatest day in the history of these Port Hills, the day on which the Province of Canterbury officially began, 167 years ago.

The new settlement was named Canterbury after the archbishopric of Canterbury in Kent and the principal town was named Christchurch after the unique twin foundation of cathedral and college, which King Henry VIII established in 1546 in Oxford, England, and called Christ Church. The new settlement of Canterbury, NZ, was to be developed around a cathedral and a college, both placed at the heart of the principal town. We got the primary and secondary divisions of ‘the college’ right from the very beginning of the settlement and, very solidly, after they moved to Rolleston Avenue, as Christ’s College, in 1856. We got our tertiary education, that is our university college, one block further down Rolleston Avenue, 21 years into the history of the settlement. Christchurch Cathedral was consecrated ten years later. Moreover, in the middle of that first generation, we also got the famous rail tunnel through these Port Hills, a towering engineering feat. The rail tunnel was the first in the world to be dug through the side of a volcanic and I have read somewhere that, for a moment in history, it was the longest operating rail tunnel anywhere. Such a feat, and only 17 years after the first colonists arrived, on 16th December 1850.

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For those mathematicians among you, 167 years should have a significance. It represents one-sixth of a millennium and so as the Takahe here reopens is doors, we also celebrate Canterbury’s completion of its first sixth of a millennium. Time has flown by, because listening to the events of 16th December 1850 still seems as if our grandparents were involved.

The heroic and legendary FIRST FOUR SHIPS delivered the first 800 colonists and emigrants from England to Canterbury and, on 16th December 1850, the first two of these ships arrived at Port Lyttelton and, with their arrival, began the Canterbury Settlement, officially. The actual Founder of Canterbury was an Irishman, John Robert Godley. Godley and his wonderful wife, Charlotte, had arrived in New Zealand eight months previously to prepare themselves for the responsibility of overseeing the governing of this new and challenging colony, for its first two years. They were of course already in Port Lyttelton on 16th December 1850, when the day dawned.

anniversary of four ships in lyttelton

Shortly after, Charlotte wrote about the great occasion to her mother, in North Wales. She wrote that she didn’t know how to write large enough letters of the alphabet to describe this event. In Charlotte’s words: ‘In the morning a ship was announced early, in sight, and then at anchor! But there is a rocky point which hides from our view the place where ships usually anchor. Some people thought it might be an English ship….and then the matter was settled by my husband when he encountered on the road down to the jetty, Mr James Edward FitzGerald, who had been first to step ashore. FitzGerald was so altered by a sailor’s dress, by an immense straw hat, by very hollow cheeks and a ferocious moustache, that at first my husband scarcely recognised him and, when he did, he was so overcome as hardly to know whether to laugh or cry, and I believe ended by doing both. You can imagine the questions etc and the excitement of the whole morning.

4 ships

Mr FitzGerald dined with us, and we talked as fast as we could, and that was not fast enough, and we kept our eyes steadily fixed on his face, in the delight of seeing a face and hearing a voice, that we had heard in England, a year and five days since we left it! And with all of our arrivals, FitzGerald’s face is still the only one I have ever seen before.’

A year later, Charlotte was describing 16th December 1851, the first anniversary of Canterbury’s founding. ‘Yesterday, was the anniversary of the arrival of the first ships and celebrated with many rejoicings at Christchurch. I did not go over (from Lyttelton, that is, where the Godleys had their headquarters), as it was not very easy to manage (in truth Charlotte was three months pregnant), but my husband went and was one of the Gentlemen Eleven in the cricket match against The Mechanicals’ Eleven. He scored 22 runs and the Gentlemens’ Eleven won. I hear the day was most successful and that everything went as well as possible, the weather, even though very hot, very pleasant. Everyone was there, europeans and maori; more people, my husband said, than he thought were actually in the Settlement. There was a tent, and booths, and horse racing and athletics and sports of all kinds, and in the evening there was a public dinner, and tonight a ball, and another very aristocratic one tomorrow. Meanwhile here in Lyttelton we had such a hot day with a good deal of dust and wind; but a lovely evening, and Arthur (the Godleys’ three year old boy) and I went up to tea with Mrs Cookson, in the tent in front of her house. We blew soap bubbles with little Arthur and ate hot girdle-cakes,and that was our anniversary. Later, we met my husband returning home on horseback from Christchurch as it got dark. The horse he rode, Lady Nugent, had won the main horse race at the celebrations. But there was also a Maori horse-race in which Jack, our Maori stable-boy, rode but alas fell.’


Today, one-sixth of a millennium later we are here on this grand occasion, for which we have Leta Quartermain to thank. Maybe someone among you will record tonight’s event in a diary or in a letter to a mother, that in turn will be read at the end of the second-sixth of our first millennium, that is in the year 2184.

Haydn Rawstron of Lansdown House, Port Hills Christchurch, historical speech on Saturday 16 Decebmer 2017 re The Significance Date 16th December to all Cantabrians. http://www.lansdownsummer.com/  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/christchurch-life/avenues/home/8582280/Lansdown-Homestead-and-Park

Tram travelling to Cashmere Hills

Tram heading over the Cashmere Hills, Christchurch 1919 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christchurch_tramway_system

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Heraldic treasures 

Did you know the Sign of the Takahe, the castle-like roadhouse at the corner of Hackthorne Road and Dyers Pass Road houses New Zealand’s largest collection of heraldry. The 140 pieces include the coats of arms of every New Zealand Governor General, along with military leaders and pioneer Canterbury families. Stained glass windows represent the Masonic fraternity along with the shield of Prince John of Eltham. The Scottish coat of arms and English coat of arms are impressive ceiling pieces above the armorial (middle) room. There are others. Maybe much of the building’s interior reflects the imagination of its creator, Harry Ell, the arguably eccentric conservationist best known for giving us the Summit road and its collection of road houses. Harry Ell’s grandson, John Jameson, founded the Summit Road Society in 1948.

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History of The Port Hills 


Remembering pioneer women

The Bridle Path from Heathcote is a popular track.  With excitement to see the recently repaired Pioneer Women’s Memorial astride the summit 350 m above Lyttelton Harbour. It was great to see it without its fences keeping all and sundry out following earthquake damage seven years previously

The structure made from volcanic rock and sporting a shingled roof, marks the summit of the Bridle Path where Canterbury settlers trudged from their ship to their new home in what was to become Christchurch.

The view to their ultimate destination was likely met with dismay. Mostly flat land it was interspersed with swamp. One settler has been reported saying the view’s one salvation was the silvery stream winding through it. Of course that was already named the Avon.

Amongst those settlers were many brave women. It was to remember them that this conical shaped memorial was built. Its foundation stone was laid in December 1839 by Lilian Priscilla Wakefield, granddaughter Edward Gibbon Wakefield who was a key figure in the settlement of Christchurch.

The memorial was unveiled on December 14 the following year.  Fittingly, close by is a stone seat, a memorial to Jane Deans who was a champion of Canterbury’s pioneer women.

Her seat of stone and timber was one of seven set along the Bridle Path in 1950 to commemorate the Canterbury Centenary.

Lyttelton, Port and TownGondola view-2

Lyttelton, the sea port for Christchurch, has an unusual spelling. That is owing to it being named after a person, Lord George Lyttelton. He was chairman of the Canterbury Association management committee involved in attracting settlers to Christchurch.

He visited Christchurch briefly in February 1868. He was taken horse riding on the Port Hills with Sir John Cracroft Wilson. When shown his namesake town shaded by the surrounding hills he thought it was a miserable place indeed. He was more complimentary about the horse riding and his companion.


Lord Lyttelton was also responsible for the naming of Hagley Park, it being named after his palatial family home, Hagley Hall, near Birmingham, England.

Hagley Hall England



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The South Island Branch of the 19th Infantry and Armoured Regiment Association was formed in July 1946.

The concept of one of the members of the Association for a living memorial became possible when in 1949 the Christchurch City Council made this area in Victoria Park available to the Association.  A large rock of Hanmer pink marble, inlaid with a plaque of Italian black granite, was erected as a memorial to the men of the unit who gave their lives for the freedom of their country and who now lie in foreign soil.

Surrounding the stone are four plots of nineteen trees each native to the countries in which the unit served; Atlantic Cedars from the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, Spanish Pines from the Mediterranean, Olives portraying Greece, Crete and Italy, and Black Pines from Central and Southern Europe.  The Commanding Officer is portrayed by a Golden Cypress and the Company or Squadron Commanders by four fruiting Chestnuts.

The dedication service on 7th June, 1953 was conducted by 19th Padre, John S Somerville M.C. After the ceremony the Mayor of Christchurch, R M MacFarlane planted a wild Olive tree from Crete, and Association Member, F F A. Harvey planted a Lebanese Cedar to depict the sentinels of a tank laager.

In the intervening years, the wild scrub covered and rock strewn hillside was tamed to form these grassy slopes. Four plots of natives shrubs and trees representing those who served and returned home, followed. In these areas some of the Association members have their won tree.

In 1978 the roadside forecourt was constructed, with stone seat and descriptive plaque.  Later, extra seating was provided.

In 1995 the most challenging task, the Plane Table to perpetuate in words the history of the Nineteenth and the meaning of the Memorial Park layout, was completed.

No. 1 Dog … 2nd NZEF … 19th Battalion & Armoured Regiment


Major, a white bull terrier, and an Australian by birth was given as a pup to Errol Williams, a New Zealand cadet at the Royal Military College. Duntroon, and emigrated to New Zealand with his master in 1938. After war was declared in 1939 Captain Williams was appointed to the Special Force, which was then being formed, and eventually became adjutant of 19th (Infantry) Battalion.

Major was a dog of no rank at this stage, but when he too joined the Special Force he was registered as No.1 New Zealand Dog. He paraded through Wellington with his unit before it left for the Middle East and listened patiently to the good wishes of Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage at a gathering in the grounds of Parliament.

Captain Williams and Major arrived in Egypt with their unit in February 1940 and trained at Maadi Camp. They were then sent into the Western Desert for the long, hot and dusty business of digging the Baggush Box. Major, still a young dog, eagerly took part in this work.

Major did not serve in the Greek and Crete campaign because he was at Middle East Officer Cadet Training Unit (CCTU) in Cairo with Captain Williams until the end of June 1941. His time at CCTU was busy. He made an acquaintance with many local dogs and did not escape unscathed. In June 1941 he appears in a photograph with his left ear flopping down. It continued to do so for the rest of his life.

Promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, the terrier joined Wellington West Coast Company of 19th Battalion, which Williams then commanded. In August 1941 Major went with the battalion on exercises to the Canal Zone, relieving the monotony via a liaison with a naval Pekingese from a British ship. Major followed his company into Libya in November 1941, but after several days of fighting he was sent back behind the lines. During the advance on Ed Duda, Captain Williams was killed in action. Major took the death of Captain Williams hard and refused to be comforted.

In December Major passed into the care of Captain Bill Aitken and returned to Maadi. He was promoted to Lieutenant, then to Captain before leaving for three months in Syria. When the Germans advanced into Egypt in June 1942 the New Zealand Division was called back and entered the line at El Alamein. In July, after about 10 days fighting, Major was wounded in the thigh by shrapnel. His wound was dressed at the RAP truck, where he was given a field medical card and then evacuated to an Advanced Dressing Station. From there he was invalided back to Maadi Camp.

In the meantime, Captain Aitken, ‘ the keeper of the dog’ was taken prisoner, so when Major returned to his unit, he was attached to Major Tony Everist. In September 1942 the bull terrier was promoted to the rank of Major, and in the same month he finished second in the 33 1/3 yards dog paddle at the battalion’s swimming sports.

While training as an armoured unit in February 1943, 19th Battalion – as it became – was inspected by Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg, commander of the New Zealand Division. Major were his special jacket with unit colours and emblem. The general noted; ‘Ah, the old dog. You’ve been on every parade yet’

The regiment sailed for Italy at the end of 1943, the old dog now accompanied by his new keeper, Lieutenant Steve Whitton. Major served until his death on 17th December 1944, probably from pneumonia. He was buried with full military honours at Rimini.

Regimental Sergeant Major Dave Rench wrote that ‘When we laid Major to rest at Rimini, I think perhaps some of the later members of the unit found it hard to appreciate the deep sentiment shown by the old hands for the old Dog. However, it was not only as a unit mascot that Major was so affectionately remembered, but as a link with his first fine soldier master, Captain E.W.S Williams, killed in action 28th November 1941 – a man to whom the 19th owed much, and who we buried on the rocky slopes of Ed Duda in November 1941 – and indeed to many other good men who had followed him as Keeper of the Dog who now shares with two of them a place on the 19th s Roll of Honour.

No trace of Major’s grave remains, but his exploits live on in the official history of 19th Battalion and Armoured Regiment and in the book, The Four-Legged Major by Graham Spencer. We Remember Major on ANZAC DAY 


History of Christchurch

First fatal accident involving Christchurch tramcar

The first recorded fatal collision with a tramcar was in Christchurch on February 22, 1908.  A car swerving to avoid a stray horse crashed into an electric tramcar.  The car’s passenger, 43-year-old Sidney Raymond, was thrown from the vehicle and died from head injuries a week later.  Speed was considered to be a factor with the car estimated to have been travelling at 48km /hr.

Naming Christchurch

Christchurch was so named on March 27, 1848 on the suggestion of John Robert Godley, considered the founder of Canterbury. He chose the name owing to Christ Church being the college he had attended in Oxford, England. The college had educated 13 future British Prime Ministers, two Kings of the Netherlands and some notable writers, among them Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) and W.H. Auden, (This is the Night Train crossing the border.)

Women get the right to vote

A Christchurch woman, Kate Shepard, led the suffragettes attributed for gaining New Zealand women the right to vote in September 1893. New Zealand became the first country allowing all women to vote. She and her group are depicted on a memorial on the riverbank close to the Worcester Boulevard Bridge. The memorial shows the rolled up petition to parliament. It was so large a wheelbarrow was needed to carry it. Prime Minister, Richard Seddon, is credited with the vote for women albeit he, personally, opposed the Electoral Reform Bill. It subsequently passed with a slim majority when two liberal backbenchers voted with the opposition to embarrass their own government and particularly the Prime Minister.


More than 70 per cent of women exercised their right to vote in November, 1893.

Christchurch’s first celebratory visitor was American writer and humourist, Samuel Clemens, in 1895. Better remembered as Mark Twain, he commented on the large turnout of women voters. American women, those days, were not given the vote owing to a belief women had no interest in politics.

In his book Mark Twain in Australia and New Zealand, he applauds New Zealand women for proving that belief to be incorrect.

“Man has ruled the human race from the beginning – but he should remember that up to the middle of the present century it has been a dull world, and ignorant and stupid…..’’


The Port Hills Special Connection

Blessed are the dreamers, the poets, the actors, the writers, the academics, the music makers, the artists, the conservationists, the realtors, the politicians, the entrepreneurs, the movers and the shakers, the caretakers of the Cashmere/Port Hills, Banks Peninsula, Christchurch and Canterbury.  Coming Together as One Community with Passion and Compassion. Enriching Communities Good Health & Wellbeing 2017 – 2020.



A Grand Community Christmas Celebration to connect and reconnect communities was sacredly Magical @ The Sign of Takahe.

Historic Saturday 16 December 2017 ~ The Cashmere/Port Hills Community & Business Association was privileged to re-open The Sign of The Takahe.  Honoring our present communities with history, heritage, performing arts and music, bringing communities together to share the good memories,  celebrate local communities and Thanksgiving for Greater Communities.

Community Celebration Themes

  • Re-opening of the Sign of The Takahe
  • Canterbury Anniversary Day
  • Community & Business Awards
  • Community & Business Christmas Celebration


sign of takahe before repairs.jpg


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A sincere THANK YOU goes to Dr Bruce Harding … Haydn Rawstron … Jennifer Barrer … Roy Sinclair, Evelyn Harding and Leta Quartermain for their valuable input/contribution towards the Cashmere/Port Hills Christchurch Community & Business Association/The Port Hills Foundation Charitable Trust History/Website > SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY BY PRODUCTIVE ASSOCIATION WITH THE PORT HILLS FOUNDATION.

leta & bruce harding




I have lived most of my life in Christchurch. Amongst other employment, I spent 15 years as a reporter on the Press. These days I am a semi-retired writer and photographer. I am a regular contributor to Latitude magazine, Canterbury’s principal lifestyle publication.

My one community effort rewarded me with a Civic Award last year. It was for having a World Peace Bell gifted to New Zealand. It has been a feature in Christchurch Botanic Gardens for almost 12 years.

Some years ago I visited Cowra, a small town in NSW, Australia. I attended their annual Cherry Blossom Festival. While there, I discovered the Australian world Peace Bell and heard the story of a Japanese mayor, Chiyoji Nakagawa, collecting the coins of countries of the newly formed United Nations and casting a huge bell to be presented to the UN, its purpose to say “What happened to my country (referring to the atomic bombing in 1945) should never happen to any other. The UN accepted the bell in 1954. The World Peace Bell Association was established in 1982 to continue Nakagawa’s work. Bells were gifted to countries making a significant contribution to world peace.

I signed an agreement with the WPBA in Tokyo in August 2004, and a bell was subsequently made for New Zealand.

Roy Sinclair…


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Womens Suffrage Celebration 2019

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