Topic: A New Life in a New Country by Ivan D. Taylor

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A New Life in a New Country 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.  Both sides of my family ventured out from England as pioneering families. This is the story of one family and their association with the borough of Woolston.

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

Edmund served 8 years as a ships steward in the navy, and on release took up gardening. He was a top cricketer representing the Surrey County for several years.

They left England from Gravesend on the 2nd May 1873 aboard the Punjaub which was under the command of a Captain Renaut. It was an Iron Clipper, not a large ship being only of 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 just survived a shipwreck on their way to England and were reported “to have all been in very 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 voyage with acute diarrhoea and enteritis and was buried at sea.  Elizabeth’s parents were also passengers.

The trip took a total of 20 weeks, arriving outside of Lyttelton Harbour on Friday September 20Th 1873, but all was not well. The ship was forced because of adverse winds, to anchor at Little Port Cooper for several days before it was able to enter Lyttelton Harbour.  It had been a long and very 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, with Edmond

conducting all the burial services. On board they were burning 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, a newly established quarantine station. They were all taken to this island in Lyttelton Harbour in the ships boats towed by the S.S.Mullogh a steamship. It was reported that they 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 very ill, with 32 passengers still needing some form of medical attention.  Many of the sick didn’t recover as a further 37 passenger deaths were recorded on the island. Both of the Taylor children were listed in the doctor’s records as having 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 boxes 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.

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 River where they were taken across the river by Mr. Garland in his ferry.  They carried on to a house in Junction Street  which they rented until moving to Cathedral Square where they lived for around two years, eventually purchasing a new house in River Street in Woolston. This must have been a great relief to the family to at last have somewhere to settle down permanently. It was only a small house but it was a very solid house and still stands today as the only house now left in that street.

Christchurch in 1873 was still very much a pioneer city with transport mainly horse drawn over very poor rutted roads, and river boats, with un-bridged 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 by 1880  Ferry Road had graduated from just 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 un-common to see at least 20 ships in the river at any one time.  The Ferrymead bridge keeper who had to operate the bridge for each of the boats entering and leaving the river, and collect the bridge opening fee, and the tolls for using the road bridge, 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 the Dixon Brothers and a small shop operated by his wife, my relations on my mother’s side.

Joseph Hopkins donated a large sum of money towards the construction of the Garlands Rd 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 and the borough called Woolston was born.

By the 1880s Christchurch was no longer a pioneer town. Trout had been released in the Avon River; the railway now went as far as Timaru in the South and Rangiora 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, and England had beaten Canterbury at cricket. 

 The city was now on the move. The family quickly settled into what was fast developing as working class suburb. They added a further 6 children to their family. A total of 9 children were born and raised by Edmund and Elizabeth over a period of 20 years.  All the children attended either the Woolston or Bromley schools. 

Different members of the extended family eventually built or purchased several properties in and around Woolston at different times; they pursued several different occupations and trades and established businesses in Woolston.

Religion played a big part of the Taylor family, both Edmund and Elizabeth were members of the Primitive Methodist sect, a very strict fanatical division of Methodism, and also the Bible Christian Church of England, and very quickly on arrival they established a branch of this church in Christchurch.  The first meeting was held in 1874 in the Taylor’s house in

Cathedral Square, and as they gathered more followers they moved to the Druids Hall. Eventually all the different Methodist groups combined to form the Union Methodist Church.  Methodism had its beginning in Christchurch when a Mr. Gould donated a block of land on a side street in Woolston, and a small hall was built on this site in 1878. Seven years latter Mr. J. Ballantyne donated the present site and the hall was moved to this new site, where in 1879 their first church was also built.

Music played a big part with several of the brothers being members of the Woolston Brass Band and the famous Christchurch Cycling Band. There were musical evenings on Sundays, and at Christmas time all the family joined together for a huge Christmas dinner, followed by cricket on the front lawn and music and song in the evening.

Woolston and in particular Ferry road became a major retail and servicing area for not only the general population of Woolston but for the many major  factories that 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 bordered the river.

There are no memorials erected to this ordinary working class family, only all their gravestones in the Woolston Cemetery, but in there 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:

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