Remembering Canterbury's 150th Anniversary celebrations in the year 2000

With the demise of so much of beautiful Christchurch's heritage and thus a lot of its history in the recent earthquakes of September 4th 2010, December 26th 2010, February 22nd 2011 and June 13th 2011 - I thought i'd do a blog about a special time I shared celebrating the city's 150th anniversary in the year 2000.  At this time I was Secretary/Treasurer of the Canterbury Pilgrims & Early Settlers Association.


Below is my account of the weekend.  An article written in 2000 for the New Zealand Society of Genealogists.

December 16th 2000
My first personal priviledge, was to lay a handmade posy of roses at 7.30am on the memorial plaque in the 'Four Ships Court', Cathedral Square, bearing the name of my G G G Grandparents Robert and Sarah EVANS nee KITCHENER.  They arrived aboard the CRESSY  with their son Richard (2), later to become Patron of our Association [and was the second to last surviving original pilgrim off the first four ships] and their infant daughter Lucy (Later Mrs Benjamin PAWSEY). Robert and Sarah had a further 12 children born in Lyttelton and Rangiora.

Committee members of our Association turned up at the same time to lay wreaths at each tree in the middle of each area designated for the first four ships and at John Robert Godley's statue.

The service held at St Michael's and all Angels Church in Oxford Terrace at 8 am especially for members of our Association was extremely moving... the candles lit and the lights dimmed. One could not help to find their eyes drawn to the small Pilgrims Chapel within the church. This was built in 1900 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pilgrims. (Father Williams had informed our Association at a special service the week before that the church and land were the only allotments of the Canterbury Associations original land shares that were still being used for their original intended purposes).

After the service, we went outside to the bell tower where Father Peter Williams, with the help of an assistant rang the bell 150 times. This bell originally came out on the CHARLOTTE JANE with the pilgrims.  We were then invited to write our names and our Canterbury connections (if any) down on paper and this is to be bound into a book to be kept at St Michael's and All Angels in recognition of our Associations service.

My daughter Jessica and I then went and lit a small candle each in the Pilgrims Chapel and just felt humbled by the sheer tenacity our forebears must have was a very emotional connection for me.  A Croissant breakfast was enjoyed afterwards at the church.

The service at
Holy Trinity Church in Lyttelton was filled with laughter and was also an emotional experience. Reverend Howard Pilgrim (Yes that really is his name :o) has a wonderful sense of humour as does Rev. Jim Consedine, The Rt. Rev. David Coles and The Rt. Rev. John Patterson (who cracked the congregation up with his little aside about how he was the tenth successor to his title and so his family called him Mitre 10 ... think about it!

Hon. Christopher Godley read excerpts of his G G Grandmother Charlotte Godley's letters written on 16 December 1850 that were sent to her mother. In these it mentioned, how on arrival Mr Fitzgerald's wife stayed aboard the CHARLOTTE JANE  with a headache and did not disembark immediately...see guys ...the excuse has been used for years *grin*

The laying of floral tributes at Pilgrims Rock [see ** end of this item] was attended by a large number of the public which was heartening to see.... we appear to have gained several new members from this which is wonderful.

One of the most moving moments was after the release of the 150 pigeons beside Pilgrims Rock.  Members of the Heathcote Players, adults and children, dressed in period costume walked up towards the rock through mist. They milled about the rock and enacted a small scene, which was delightful. It bought home really what it must have been like for those sea weary immigrants arriving somewhere totally alien to what they were used to.

My second personal privilege was to lay another posy of roses at the Rock.... I had made a montage for both of my posies used that day of small pictures of my ancestors with their details and it was eerie seeing their pictures almost right beside where they would have walked into their new life.

I'm also extremely proud of my daughter Jessica.  A 16 3/4 year old who can see how important it is to know of her heritage and to see the historical significance of the overseas guests that were in attendance at our church service at Holy Trinity...(Sir Humphrey Wakefield included).

I would also like to mention how pleased I was to be able to assist Association members Graeme and Noelle Oke who came over especially from Albury, New South Wales, Australia to take part in the celebrations this particular weekend.

Jessica and I are looking forward to the Grand Parade tomorrow.  We will be in costume representing our Association. Neil Withell our President will be carrying the flag and
Colin Amodeo, author of 'The Summer Ships' will be carrying our Associations banner.

Sunday 17 December ~ The Grand Parade and Victorian Garden Party
What a beautiful day it was today! The weather couldn't have been more perfect...overcast to start with but brightened up later after the parade.

There was a chance for Jessica and I to take each other's photo beside the CRESSY plaques as we had dressed in costume for the parade.

The service outside Christchurch Anglican Cathedral at 10am was certainly well attended by the public and the speech that was done for the 100th anniversary was repeated along with other dignitaries playing their part.

The Grand Parade started off with Ngai Tahu and 'pilgrims' walking over the stage and down Worcester Street towards Victoria Square.  These had police car escort and the Town Crier.  Our Association was not far behind, with only the NZ Navy Band in front who were absolutely delightful although the music at times was rather jazzy and got us walking to fast and nearly right into the back of Neil Withell and Colin Amodeo (carrying the Association banner)!

As the march continued, it was clear to see how our Association is becoming more recognised within the public. We were applauded as we passed it was a great thing to be recognised! The crowds lining the route were well attended, especially once we got back onto the Worcester Street section and towards the Art Centre.

A touching moment indeed was once we had entered the Botanical  Gardens.  As our Association's small party walked past the dignitaries who were sitting, they applauded us.... a truly humbling moment for this to have been done and I know, this act did not go unnoticed by others.

The Botanical Gardens looked resplendent with many of the public themselves in costume and with penny-farthings and other assorted early transport roaming about the place.  People dressed in old-fashioned police uniforms and army uniforms. Everyone was having a wonderful time, you could tell by the reactions on peoples' faces.  A truly positive spin off from the whole thing...the togetherness it seemed to promote.  Each and every one of us having a special story within our families.

I had a beaut time with my a photo of the Mayor of Christchurch on a penny farthing [see below] and Jessica got hers taken with the nice old fashioned army guys and we also dared to go into the museum in our costumes and ask if we could take flash photos in 'Canterbury Street' which they kindly allowed us to do.  I perched on the penny-farthing...pretended to be entering the photographers... took a photo of Jessica with the horse, all great memories for the future.

Long live the pride in our pilgrim ancestors.

And long may our Association continue to grow.
[I resigned a few months later to commence university studies] 


**Pilgrims Rock:
This monument, situated in Lyttelton's historic precinct was erected on its current site in 1934 thanks to the planning of the Lyttelton District Community Arts Council. It was unveiled by the then President of The Canterbury Pilgrims Association Mr E R Webb.

On the day of the unveiling, a large square, red flag flew from the Flatmast of the Time Ball station on the hill overlooking the harbour, indicating that a sailing ship[the Charlotte Jane] was approaching down Lyttelton harbour.
The signal letters of the Charlotte Jane N.R.B.H. were then raised and stayed flying until sunset.

Because of land reclamation and the position of the railway lines, the stone was moved from its original position on the earlier shoreline at the spot where the Canterbury Pilgrims and Early Settlers landed, to its current location at what would have been the start of the original jetty.

Every year on the Anniversary of the landing, 16th December 1850, The Canterbury Pilgrims and other interested parties, place a commemorative wreath of flowers on the Pilgrims Rock. Prior to this, a Church Service is held in Lyttelton's Holy Trinity Church, where many of those early pioneers were baptised, married and held their funerals - [Neil Withell 2000]

Letter above written by Neil Withell - President, Canterbury Pilgrim & Early Settlers Association that was placed in the time capsule with list of the members in year 2000

Neil Withell [L] (Then) President of Canterbury Pilgrims Assoc. & Sir Humphry Wakefield [R] relative of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who masterminded large scale emigration of the British to New Zealand

Myself [with pen]  in the capacity of Secretary/Treasurer of the Canterbury Pilgrims & Early Settlers Association writing about my early Cantabrian ancestors along with other members at St Michael's and All Angels Church , Christchurch.  The pages were later bound into book form to be kept at St Michael's.  My daughter Jessica is in the foreground.

Father Peter Williams, with the help of an assistant rings the bell 150 times. This bell originally came out on the CHARLOTTE JANE with the pilgrims

Honourable Christopher Godley, 4th Baron Kilbracken and great great grandson of John Robert Godley - founder of Canterbuy, addresses the crowd at Pilgrim's Rock precinct, Lyttelton

Pages 4 and 1 of Holy Trinity Anglican Church service for Canterbury's 150th Anniversary

Pages 2 and 3 of Holy Trinity Anglican Church service for Canterbury's 150th Anniversary

Pages 4 and 1 of St Michael & All Angels Church service for Canterbury's 150th Anniversary

Pages 2 and 3 of St Michael & All Angels Church service for Canterbury's 150th Anniversary

Reverend Dr Howard Pilgrim states prayers and blessings

Mayor of Christchurch [at the time of celebrations] Garry Moore and his wife getting into the spirit of things

Neil Withell's President's report for the year 2000

Turning point 2000 - Canterbury 150th Anniversary Celebration events



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