9 months ago

Fitzgerald's Town

Bracken, still to be

Bracken, still to be seen today, grew on dry sandy ridges in various places, and some near Lincoln extended into the swamps. This was a lonely landscape. It was described as such by the Revd. Stack who accompanied Bishop Harper on his visit to the Canterbury and Otago districts in 1859 – 1860. 4 The Bishop and his party used guides, for there were no roads or tracks except close to the towns, and without assistance first–time travellers could easily lose their way. They left the road at the old Waimakariri river bed, at about the intersection of Halswell Junction Road and Springs Road, and then on for miles there was nothing but an endless sea of featureless tussock land. Although they appear to be flat the plains are made up of large overlapping low angle gravel fans formed by vast volumes of gravels flushed from major river valleys, such as the Waimakariri and Rakaia, as glaciers advanced and receded over the last 2.5 million years. During periods of recession, the interglacials, when climate was much as it is today, erosion was greatly reduced and vegetation was able to establish on the developing soils. Smaller rivers rise in the front ranges and flow eastwards in the depressions between the fans, and of these the Selwyn River is locally the most important. Other rivers and streams, including the Halswell and the L1 and L2 rivers at Lincoln, drained into and through the swamps, now mostly drained, and flow into the large shallow lake, Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere), to the south. 5 The hills of Banks Peninsula to the east are the eroded remains of two ancient volcanoes and provide a dramatic background to the landscape. The soils of the district vary, 6 there are the shallow to deep free draining soils on the flood plains of the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers, heavy clay and organic soils of the former extensive swamps to the east, and saline soils closer to Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere). Many of the soils to the west are stony and prone to drought, but the recent widespread use of irrigation has relieved this, although its application is not without its problems. Most of the land in the district supports dairying, cropping, horticulture, and stables for the breeding and training of race horses. These soils carried mixed vegetation when Polynesian migrants first arrived. Banks Peninsula was largely forested, the extensive wetlands were well wooded around their margins, and open forest covered the plains. The character of the forests varied from matai, especially along the flanks of the rivers, and kahikatea in the wetter land marginal to the swamps, to extensive areas of kanuka and manuka on the drier stony ground. This pattern was destroyed by fire during the Polynesian 6

period and the process was accelerated by the arrival of European migrants who flooded into the country from the middle of the 19 th century. The woodland was replaced by tussock which spread from the riverbeds and mountains to develop grassland which had last dominated the landscape between 18,000 and 14,000 years ago during the coldest phase of the last glaciation. The first Polynesian migrants were the Waitaha who arrived about 700 years ago and were displaced some 300 years later by the eastern North Island Ngati Mamoe. The Ngati Mamoe in their turn were overpowered by the Ngai Tahu whose most celebrated settlement, Kaiapoi Pa, was destroyed by the Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha and his warriors in about 1831. Friendly relations returned when Te Rauparaha released Ngai Tahu prisoners and allowed them to return home. The first migrants and their successors left signs of their living: near the Rakaia River mouth, at Taumutu, on Banks Peninsula, around Lyttelton Harbour (Te Whangaraupo), and along the coast well north of Christchurch. It is against this background that we consider the late nineteenth century establishment and development of Lincoln. The township was planned by James Edward FitzGerald, who held the lease for the Springs Run with his partners, and had the vision to recognise the potential for a town to service the growing rural population. He spoke of his town and the benefits, such as a mill, a store and a public house. All these were realised, but it was left to others to provide them. A year before the first auction FitzGerald sold a quarter acre lot, with right of way, to blacksmith Patrick O’Reilly on what is now Robert Street, an indication that he had faith in his belief that a town was sorely needed to service the district. Although the town was laid out and the streets named when Chudleigh walked around it in 1862, a hundred years were to pass before it began to change from a small rural village to take on the status of a small country town. However, it did not take the early settlers long to establish the basic infrastructure with busy smithies, an hotel, a school and a church. In this account we will trace the development of the town to about the end of the 19th century and consider the various influences, government, religious and secular, which contributed to it. The streets of the original subdivision are named after FitzGerald’s sons, Maurice, Robert, and William; his names, James, Edward, Fitz and Gerald; his friend Lord Lyttelton, chairman of the Canterbury Association; and a reminder of his Irish background, Kildare and Leinster Terraces. 7

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