Topic: The Taylors in Woolston by Ivan D. Taylor

Topic type:

The Taylors in Woolston by Ivan D. Taylor is a 2012 Memoir and Local History Competition entry

Archived version here.

We can only imagine today what it must have been like for our forbears to make that vital decision to start a new life in New Zealand, giving up their friends, jobs, property for a new life in a strange country thousands of miles away, which they probably knew little about.  Both sides of my family ventured out from England as pioneering families. On my mother’s side, the Dixons in 1845 settling in Little Akaroa, farming, boat building and establishing a large butchery business in Christchurch, eventually the Canterbury Frozen Meat Company; and on my father’s side the Taylors arriving in Woolston in 1873. This is the story of the Taylors and their association with the borough of Woolston.

I understand that they were encouraged to come to New Zealand and in particular Woolston by a Mrs. Wise a family friend who had previously immigrated to New Zealand several years earlier.

Edmund Taylor was born at Simple marsh Lodge, Addiestone, Surrey on 2nd January 1839, the eldest son of John Taylor. He married Elizabeth Sarah Harding on 22nd May 1864.

Edmund served eight years as a ship’s steward in the navy, and on release took up gardening. He was a top cricketer representingSurreyCountyfor several years.

They left England from Gravesend on 2nd May 1873 aboard the Punjab, under the command of a Captain Renaut. It was an iron clipper, a ship of only 882 tons. On this journey it carried 340 passengers, comprising 201 British and 112 Danish immigrants as well as Russian and other nationalities. The Danish passengers had survived a shipwreck on their way to England and were reported ‘to have all been in bad physical condition and not in good health.’

The Taylor family consisted at this time of Edmund aged 34,Elizabeth 30, and sons Herbert 8, Henry 7, and Alfred 2.  Unfortunately Alfred died on the journey with acute diarrhoea and enteritis and was buried at sea. Elizabeth’s parents, the Hardings and their families, were also passengers.

The trip took a total of 20 weeks, arriving at Lyttelton Harbour  on Friday September 20Th 1873, but all was not well. Because of adverse winds the ship was forced to anchor at Little Port Cooper for several days before it was allowed to enter Lyttelton Harbour.  It had been a long and unpleasant journey as there had been several outbreaks of typhus, measles and other diseases on board.  Because of this the ship was not allowed to dock, and its passengers and crew were put under strict quarantine and not allowed to leave the ship.  

These illnesses had caused the deaths of 7 British and 21 Danes during the voyage. All were buried at sea. On board they burnt sulphur on shovels between decks and tobacco and charcoal in small stoves to help ward of the illnesses.

After an inspection by Dr Donald, the local health officer, it was decided to move all the passengers and crew to Ripapa Island in the middle of Lyttelton Harbour, recently established as a new quarantine station.  This Island was originally a defended Maori pa. The passengers were taken to the island in the ship’s boats, towed by the S.S.Mullogh, a steamship.

Ripapa Island was later to become famous as the place where Count von Luckner, a captured German Raider Commander was imprisoned, eventually escaping during the 1814-18 war.

It was reported that the passengers were ‘well pleased with the conditions and glad to be off the Punjaub and onto dry land at long last.’ A hospital was immediately established on the island as many of the passengers were still extremely ill, 32 needing some form of medical attention. Their ages ranging from 7 ½ to 47. Some of the sick didn’t recover as a further 47 passenger deaths were recorded on the island. William, Herbert and Alfred were all listed in the doctor’s records as suffering from measles.

The plight of the passengers was causing some concern to the residents of Lyttelton and Christchurch and they helped with boxes of fruit and flowers, eggs, meat and fresh clothing, etc. The Lyttelton residents even held a benefit concert in the Lyttelton Colonists Hall raising 27 pounds, 11 shillings and 4 pence by way of donations. Food gifts were also donated.

Most of the passengers were given a clearance by 30th October and those who had no accommodation or employment arranged were sent to the Labour Departments Depot in Addington to live until they found work and somewhere to live. The Punjub and its crew were eventually given a clearance and it left for England with one of the first exports of wool from Ashburton and North Canterbury farms as its cargo.

On receiving a clearance the Taylor family travelled by train from Lyttelton to the Hillsborough station, now known as Woolston, and walked  a short distance to the Heathcote Riverat Cemetery Road (nowGarlands Road) where they were taken across the river by Mr. Garland in his ferry at a point upstream from the present Garlands Roadbridge. A bridge was not built here until 1881. They carried on to a house on the corner ofJunction Streetand Moody’s Terrace, now Rutherford and Lane Streets, which had been secured for them as temporary accommodation by Mrs. Wise.  They later moved to a rented property in Cathedral Square, living here for around two years. 

They eventually purchased a house in River Street (now Oak Street) in Woolston.  This street was originally known as Wharf Street because it had a wharf at the end of it, one of the many along this stretch of the river.

It must have been a great relief to the family to at last have somewhere to settle down permanently. Though it was only a small house, it was solid and still stands at the time of writing as the only house now left in that street.

There was at this time only one bridge over the Heathcote River, the swing bridge at Ferrymead opened in 1864. Because of the high toll charges demanded to use this bridge, compared to the cheaper rail fares, most people used the train or the ferryboat upstream from the swing bridge. Originally there was a small steam train from Christchurch but it only went as far as Ferrymead until the tunnel was opened in 1867. Many chose to use the railway to get to and from Christchurch and the intermediate stations, which meant that no longer did the settlers have to travel over the Bridal Path.

Christchurchwas still very much a pioneer city in 1873, with transport mainly horse drawn over poor rutted roads, and river boats on unbridged rivers only crossed by a ford or a ferry in the case of the deeper or larger rivers. The Evans Pass Sumner to Lyttelton road was only suitable for drays, but by1880 Ferry Roadhad graduated from a dray road to a proper road. In 1873 goods were still being transported up the Heathcote River by all sorts of craft. It was not uncommon to see at least 20 ships in the river at any one time.

The Ferrymead bridge keeper had to operate the bridge for each of the boats entering and leaving the river, collect the bridge opening fee, and the tolls for using the road bridge. He complained in 1880 to the council that he was spending the majority of his time working the bridge and had little time for anything else and asked for a rise in his pay.

Nearby this bridge there was a boat building yard owned by one of theDixonbrothers and a small shop operated by his wife, my relations on my mother’s side.

The two main wharves used were the Christchurch Quay, also known as Montgomery’s Wharf which was upstream from the present Radley Bridge, and the Heathcote Wharf or the Steam Wharf as it later became known as because it had a steam crane. This wharf was situated where the present Tunnel Road meets Ferry Road.  There were at least 20 other wharves between the present Radley Bridge and Ferrymead owned or operated either by a company or a private individual. The two at the end of Oak Street were known as Laurie and Milton’s and the Union.  

The main cargoes shipped into the river were timber from Thacker’s Mill at Okains Bay, Lime from the Amuri Bluff for the tanneries, coal from the West Coast for Holmes’s brick works and general goods fromWellingtonand Nelson.  Goods were often brought here by barge or small schooners from larger coastal ships docked in the Port of Kaiapoi, as it was quicker than crossing the Waimakariri Riverand travelling across poor roads and low land to Christchurch by horse and cart.

Both the Radley Street and the Garland Street Bridges were finally built in 1881 with a Mrs. Peel paying for most of the Radley Street Bridge. Mrs. Peel owned a large property beside this bridge and a teenage Edward (Ted) - my grandfather - became her full time gardener for several years.

Joseph Hopkins donated a large sum of money towards the construction of the Garlands Road Bridge. He did however have a proviso in that the name of the district be changed from Lower Heathcote to Woolston, his home town in England. The council agreed to his wish probably because they were short of money, and the borough called Woolston was born. He also has a street named after him in Woolston, Hopkins Street.

By the beginning of the 1880s Christchurch was no longer the pioneer town that you might think. Trout had been released in the Avon River, and the railway now went as far as Timaru in the South and Kaiapoi in the north. The road to the West Coast was open, with coaches operating daily. The early part of the cathedral had been built and already the top of the spire had fallen off as the result of an earthquake. England had beaten Canterbury at cricket, probably much to Edmund’s delight. It is not known if he attended the match.

There had also been a major inter-provincial art exhibition, and the Duke of Edinburgh had visited Christchurch. The city was on the move.

The Taylor family quickly settled into what was fast developing as working class suburb. They added a further six children to their family, Albert 1874, Edmund Jnr. 1876, Edward (Ted) 1878, Elizabeth 1880, Arthur 1883 and Leonard 1885. Albert, Edmund and Arthur were born in Woolston and the rest in Bromley. A total of nine children were born and raised by Edmund and Elizabeth over a period of twenty years, a handful in those times.  All the children attended either the Woolston or Bromley schools.  

Different members of the extended family occupied several properties in and around Woolston at different times owning houses in Regent Street (now Ferry Road), Heathcote Street, River Road, (now Oak Street) and Sumner Street (now part of Heathcote Street.)

They pursued several occupations and trades and in several cases established their own businesses - Edmund as a gardener and tanner, Arthur as a joiner, Leonard as a mill-hand and dairyman, Henry as a saw miller and painter, Edmund (Ted) my grandfather, gardening then taking up the Seaview dairy farm in 1910. This farm was situated on the south-east corner of Dyers Road and Ferry Road. He later had a large orchard in Gardiners Road, Papanui.

Religion played a big part of the Taylor family. Both Edmund and Elizabeth along with the Harding family were members of the Primitive Methodist sect, a strict fanatical division of Methodism, and the Bible Christian Church of England. Soon after their arrival in Christchurch, along with Messrs Tregeagle and Read whom they had met on the way out from England, they established a branch of this church in Christchurch. 

The first meeting was held in 1874 in the Taylors’ house in Cathedral Square, and later as they gathered more followers they moved to the Druids Hall in Worcester Street. They also established a sub-branch in Woolston and were regular worshippers at both services, until the Bible Christian Church combined with the Primitive Methodists and then the Union Methodists to form the Union Methodist Church.

Mr. Harding, Elizabeth’s father, was a lay preacher and often took the services. Both Edmund and Mr. Harding had taken services on board the Punjab including burials at sea.

Methodism had its beginning in Woolston when a Mr. Gould donated a block of land on a side street and a small hall was built on this site in 1878.

Seven years latter Mr. J. Ballantyne (the draper) donated the present site and the hall was moved to this site. With the combining of the various styles of Methodism this hall became too small and the present church was built in1879 to seat 300 followers. The members of the Taylor family were now regular members of this church and were instrumental in the establishment of Methodism in Christchurch.  

Edmund sometimes played the organ, and as a lay preacher often delivered the sermon.

I have no doubt that the family members would have been outspoken on temperance matters when a licensing committee was formed in Christchurch in 1895 to control and restrict the sale of liquor. Methodists had strong ideals as regards the evil of ‘The Demon Drink,’ campaigning vigorously against it.  In later years several of the Taylors were strong supporters and office-holders of the Sons of Temperance Lodge, including my own father, right up to the lodge’s demise because of falling membership in the 1970s.

Edmund (Ted) was also a librarian at the Woolston Public Library for over 29 years.

Music played a big part in the family entertainment and several of them were early members of the Woolston Brass Band and the famous Christchurch Cycling Band. Musical evenings in one of the family homes were common place especially on a Sunday evening, and at Christmas time when all the family joined together for a huge Christmas dinner. As a youngster I can remember the long tables, set out under the apple trees at Grand-dad’s orchard with a horde of relations, many of whom I didn’t know. There was plenty of food, and dinner was followed by the traditional all-in cricket match on the large front lawn at Gardiners Road, and games with my many cousins. This was followed in the evening by music and song, but strictly no alcohol, just orange juice and lemonade. 

Unfortunately Grand-dad’s failing health in later years forced the sale of the orchard and the demise of these great Christmas family gatherings.

Canterburywas booming by the late 1880s with a population of 129,900 in 1891 made up of 66,752 males and 63,148 females. As a borough Woolston had a population of 2532 persons. There was 1276 acres of rateable land with the rates set at general 4½ pence, river board rate 5/32 pence, and drainage 1 half-penny all levied on the unimproved value of the land.

Woolston and in particular Ferry Road became a major retail and servicing area not only for the general population of Woolston but for the many major and minor factories established there over the following years. As the roads improved the river trade finally came to an end along with many of the industries that once bordered the river.

Four of Edmund’s sons and their families continued living in Woolston, two next to each other in a short section of Ferry Road opposite the Old Nugget factory, and two in Heathcote Street just around the corner. Leonard moved to work and live in America, with Arthur the last to leave Woolston in 1938.

There are no memorials erected to this ordinary working class family, only all their gravestones in the Woolston Cemetery, but in their own small way they all played their own individual part in the history and development of Woolston.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:




Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

The Taylors in Woolston by Ivan D. Taylor

Note:About the Author: Ivan D. Taylor has published three books. The Road to the West Coast sold 1800 in a year, and Let ‘Em Go is selling steadily, too. Abby’s Story was a limited edition for family and friends. He is working now on a history of the North Canterbury Railways, in its final stages. His main writing is as a transport historian, researching and writing for several local and overseas magazines. Ivan also writes and edits the Veteran Car Club of New Zealand Magazine, and has had several articles published in New Zealand Memories.