9 months ago

Fitzgerald's Town


THE BEGINNING Lincoln is a thriving township 21 km south of Christchurch, home to about 3,000 people, part of the network of small towns in the Selwyn District and an important research centre. Lincoln University, offices and laboratories of several Crown Research Institutes, including Agresearch, Landcare Research, and Plant and Food, are all located there. It has excellent educational facilities from pre-school through to tertiary level, a large medical centre, a dental centre, a veterinary practice, four active churches and all other services necessary to provide and maintain the infrastructure of a small town. This was not the case in 1862 when James Edward FitzGerald, the first Superintendent of the Province of Canterbury, first editor of the Lyttelton Times, founder of The Press, and lease holder of the Springs Run, sub-divided a block of land to found a town he believed would service the growing rural population in the area. 3. The Lincoln Subdivision. Drawn by Wayne Kay, based on DRP 21 Land Information New Zealand. 4

In June 1862 J. Ollivier & Sons advertised the sale, by auction, of sections in the new town of Lincoln at their rooms in Christchurch. 1 The new town had much to recommend it. A stream of clear water ran through the town, land adjacent to the stream was to be permanently reserved as public gardens, a flour mill was soon to be established, and about the centre of the town there would be reserves for churches, schools and a courthouse. The surrounding countryside was being settled rapidly and would therefore provide work for blacksmiths and other trades people such as butchers and bakers. Further, a railway line to Little River was about to be built and the road to the eastern hills would provide ready access to their forests. Despite this optimism, Eric Reginald Chudleigh, who was working for FitzGerald as a cadet, was not particularly impressed when he walked around the town in July 1862. 2 Then settlers faced an empty and bleak landscape. Swamps of raupo, flax and toetoe to the east stretched from Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) north to the estuary and beyond, and the windswept tussockcovered Canterbury plains stretched 40 km to the front ranges in the west. T. W. Adams remembered that then the plains were “entirely destitute of anything that could fairly be called a tree” and “so free was the plains of any object to interfere with the sight, that Riccarton Bush could be distinctly seen on a clear day, ten or twelve miles away”, a sight often seen from Weedons in the early days of settlement. 3 However, there were scattered cabbage trees, especially on wetter land, and native broom, tutu, flax and toetoe followed the edges of steep-sided streams meandering across the plains and into and through the swamps. 4. Advertisement for Lincoln 5

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