Christchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.
Guests Rakesh Naidoo (Strategic Advisor Race Relations at the Human Rights Commission), Archna Tandon, and Jane Buckingham (University of Canterbury historian) discuss Indian migration to and settlement in New Zealand across the centuries.
Part I: History of Indian migration to and settlement in Aotearoa, including changes to immigration policy and its effects; key drivers for Indian migration; Indian international students
Part II: Being ‘Indian’ in New Zealand vs being ‘Punjabi’ etc in India; navigating multiple identities in multiple contexts
Part III: Factors that can enable and hinder successful settlement
The modern Ferry Road Bridge marks the site of where a ferry service once operated to serve those settlers who, after having arrived in Lyttelton and having crossed the Port Hills via the Bridle Path, would commence the final leg of their journey to Christchurch.
When standing on the bridge, let your gaze wander along the banks of the Heathcote River until it comes to rest on a house, partially obscured by trees, with an ad hoc blend of nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture. This is 285 Bridle Path Road, or as it was once known, Ferrymead House.
Although there is very little other than the house to show for it now, this was once the site of a busy cargo wharf and railway station.
In December 1851, James Townsend (d. 1866) leased a plot of one hundred and fifty acres next to the Heathcote River from Robert Godley for a period of three years. As part of this lease, Townsend was required to establish approaches to the ferry and provide a punt for the use of which he could charge tolls. In 1852 the ferry was moved further upstream to the site leased by Townsend.
Upon the site he leased, Townsend built a kitset house using the ‘best Van Dieman’s Land timber’. From an early photograph taken in December 1863 by Alfred Charles Barker we can deduce that it was similar in style to another ‘Hobart-town timber’ house, Dullatur, built in Opawa in 1852. Townsend’s house (as seen in the photograph below) faced north, with an east-west roof line and two dormers on the northern side of the first floor. Although he originally named its Greenlands, the property eventually came to be called Ferry Mead.
In July 1853 the mercantile firm of Joseph Longden and Henry Le Cren of Lyttelton advertised the house for let, describing the property as ‘one hundred acres of freehold land…situated on the Bank of the River Heathcote, where schooners can land goods at all times.’ It is possible that no one initially took up the offer, as by March 1854 Joseph Longden was still advertising the property. In October 1855 Charles Torlesse, who had married Townsend’s third daughter, Alicia, in 1851, was advertising the property for sale on behalf of Townsend.
By March 1856, John Mills, a former settler from Tasmania, was living at Ferrymead, where he sold roofing shingles which he imported from Tasmania. However, in September 1856 he sold up his stock and chattels and departed New Zealand. It is possible that the property remained in his possession, as by August 1857, Frederic Le Cren (a ferry master at the Heathcote) advertised the house for sale (or let). At this time it was described as a “desirable and convenient residence” containing six rooms and accompanied by a garden with trees, a stable, cart shed, fowl house, piggery and stock yards. Three months later, Frederic Le Cren married Cecilia, the eldest daughter of John Mills.
Initially the Heathcote had been used by cargo boats to bring goods further upriver to a site which later became known as Steam Wharf. In 1861 the Canterbury Provincial Council decided to build a railway line from Christchurch to the site of a proposed tunnel to Lyttelton. In 1863 this Christchurch-Heathcote railway line was extended to Ferrymead before officially opening on 28 November 1863.
Even though a former ferry operator, Thomas Hughes, had kept a house on the western side of the river known as the Heathcote Hotel, the prospect of a railway line and cargo wharf at Ferrymead offered the opportunity for a rival institution. In April 1863 Stephen “Yankee Doodle” Curtis opened a store at Ferrymead House. In that same month he applied for a license to sell liquor which was granted on the condition that he improved the house before the license renewal in the following year. By July he was referring to the building as Ferrymead Hotel.
The photograph taken in December by Alfred Charles Barker shows how the new settlement at Ferrymead looked. The approach to the now redundant ferry is situated in the foreground. Beyond stands a cluster of buildings, the centre of which is the Ferrymead Hotel. Next door, to the east, is the gaol and policeman’s house. Situated between the hotel and the river were the refreshment rooms and a goods shed. Just beyond this were the railway line and the cargo wharf.
In 1886 the property was purchased by the Bunting family who used the land surrounding the former hotel to grow tomatoes. During their ownership the building resumed its original role as a house.
The house underwent renovation during its ownership by Leonard and Annie Shearman (nee Bunting), fruit growers, who are recorded as residing in the Heathcote Valley by 1913. During this time, a porch was built over the main entrance which was enclosed at a later date. A box window was added to the west façade of the ground floor. Upstairs, the two north facing dormers were merged to form an unusual gable. These changes must have been made after 1906 as a painting by Florence Hammond dated from that year shows the building in its original form. A photograph dated from the 1920s, when the property was still owned by the Shearmans, shows that the structural changes made to the building were already in place.
Under the ownership of the Shearmans a museum was established behind the house which, during the 1930s and 1940s, catered to visits by school classes. The museum collection consisted of photographs and items associated with the history of Ferrymead House and its environs.
In 1971 the house and nursery were purchased by Philip Wright (1943-2015), who had an interest in horticulture. A collector of antique items, Philip Wright kept the museum and the nursery open to the public, as an advertisement from the Christchurch Star (April 15, 1976, p.21) shows. In 2008, a short documentary “The Lost Time Traveller” was filmed, which consists of interviews with Philip Wright as he takes the viewer on a tour of the property. The documentary provides some glimpses of the interior of the house, including the original staircase.
The house suffered damage during the Canterbury earthquakes and the chimney, which was already on a lean prior to the earthquakes, was later removed.
When The Clash wrote Should I stay or should I go in the 1980s, they did not intend it to refer to earthquake struck cities; nevertheless it would make a fitting anthem for Christchurch in these post-quake days. There’s so much coming and going, and to quote The Clash:
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double.
A library is the perfect place to bear witness to these great migrations of people. In a single day in any one library, you could meet up with The Stayers, The Goers and the Inbetweeners.
The many new arrivals to Christchurch come from all over the world. This week alone I have met (and this to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas): three from New Guinea, two Irish builders, one English rose. The latter had arrived a mere three hours earlier and had come straight from the airport to Central Library Peterborough to use the internet and take out books on tramping around Christchurch and Kiwi cooking. I’m grouping them with The Stayers because that’s what I hope they will do.
Some people have thought it all through and decided it is time to go – usually to The Land of Oz. Not the whole country mind, just the bits on the edge like The Sunshine Coast and Western Australia. Oz might as well not have a middle as far as most Goers are concerned; it’s all about the sunshine, the salaries and the surf. Actually, put like that it does sound great, but I do hope they’ve been told about Capital Gains Tax and the possible effect of migration on pensions. If you’ve decided to move on, the library has heaps of resources to help you, like Living and Working in Australia.
What with all this moving around, there is bound to be some fallout. And here it comes: the parents who have been left behind – The Inbetweeners – doomed to a life of both staying and going. They have lost their children and their grandchildren and instead have been gifted iPads, Smart phones and e-readers. This is a huge technological hurdle for many of them. But they are so proud of their clever off-spring who have landed lives in Australia and talk of how it is only a matter of a few hours’ flying time to meet up again. I smile, because I do that already and am now best friends with a pair of flight socks. They ask if we can help them with all their new gadgets. And, yes, we can. Several libraries around the network offer drop-in computer classes tailored specifically to this group. Just phone 03-941-7923 and our wonderful Fingertip staff will help you out. Alternatively, check our Classes and Events calendar.
But moving around isn’t about age really. Eileen Hall was 93 when she sang Should I Stay or Should I Go in the film Young@Heart. Have a listen, it’s great. And if she could get up on a stage and belt that out at 93, who is to say that The Inbetweeners wouldn’t make a great go of it in Woolloomooloo (or wherever)?
After the rollercoaster ride of the interviews with Lionel Shriver and William Dalrymple, the festival event with Alison Wong talking on her book As the Earth Turns Silver was like a soothing balm to the soul. Wong does not just write fiction, she writes poetic fiction and freely admits that “I care about every word”.
This book is a slice of life in Wellington in the early 1900s where inter-racial prejudice was rife. It is a love story about a clandestine relationship between a pakeha woman and a Chinese man. It is never destined to have a happy ending. Wong researched this period very thoroughly and slowly – the book was about 12 years in the making. It is quite beautiful and flawless – like a little gem. I believe that it will be well loved in the many reading groups around the country and certainly my book club can look forward to meeting up with it sometime very soon.
Wong wrote from when she was a little eight year old girl and found early on that she loved books with “emotional substance” she mentions two books that she remembers affected her very deeply, The Hill of the Red Fox and Owls do Cry by Janet Frame. She finds writing poetry easier than fiction writing and confessed that she often does not feel like writing, saying “it is a real test of character for me”. When inspiration is flowing though, she likes to write in little cafes and coffee shops where she can be seen sitting with her laptop, a latte and a view of the Wellington coast that she loves so much.
There is a scene towards the end of this book involving two Devonshire teas that made me weep. It is so beautiful it cries out to be painted. Instead I will make do with the thought that the character has while she sits with her cream scones: “There is nothing more empty than that which was full.”