The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 45
The Province of Canterbury was, as the reader is doubtless aware, founded in 1848 by an association of members of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of Manchester, and Lord Lyttelton, took a leading part in the establishment of the settlement. The site page 38 of the capital was then a bare plain, through which a clear naked-looking river wandered seawards. Besides the tussocky grass that covered the flats, some thin scrub, and numerous tufts of the phormium tenax, formed the only vegetation observable. In the space of thirty years the entire face of nature here has undergone a marvellous change. True to their English instincts, the first settlers went in for comfort, and took the earliest opportunity to plant trees and shrubs around their dwellings, and now the city is, as it were, embowered in leafy plantations. As an illustration of the change in the aspect of the place, we may cite an instance in which a new chum, some years ago, was completely taken by surprise by the appearance of the city. This new arrival, on catching sight of Christchurch from the top of the Port hills (the railway was not opened at the time), exclaimed, as he gazed down on the city, "Why, the founders of this place must have been a parcel of d_____fools, to have selected the centre of a forest as a site for a town."
Christchurch is situated on the banks of the Avon, about five miles from the sea. The city proper contains an area of over a mile square. The population is about 14,000, exclusive of the suburbs. The streets are well laid-out, but the houses, which are principally built of wood, are by no means creditable to such a wealthy community as the citizens of Christchurch. Many of the public buildings, however, are noble edifices. The Supreme Court House, Normal School, Chief Post Office, Museum, Hospital, and the College are really fine buildings, and the Cathedral, now in course of erection, will some day be an architectural ornament to the city. A peculiarity about the public buildings in this city is that they have all an ecclesiastical look about them, and a few of the warehouses and banks wear also a "dim religious" aspect. Christchurch, in a commercial point, is one of the most flourishing cities in Australasia, and if the visitor passes a Saturday in the place, he will be astonished at the bustle observable in every portion of the town. Saturday is the market-day, and thousands of country folk come into town on that day to do their buying and selling, Dunedin as a wholesale depot certainly takes precedence of Christchurch, but for page 39 retail business, the latter city occupies a superior place. The hotel accommodation in Christchurch is good, and the visitor can have his choice of about, half-a-dozen first-class houses. Although we have found fault with the lack of enterprise displayed by the Christchurch citizens in not erecting better houses, we must certainly compliment them on their parks, gardens, and pleasure-grounds. The tourist will be delighted with the charming walks to be found in all directions around the city.
The Botanical Gardens are not equalled in New Zealand, and an afternoon's ramble in these tastefully-planted grounds will be found most enjoyable. Then the banks of the Avon will afford a delightful stroll for the pleasure seeker. This charming river is bordered on either side with full-grown willows, which droop over its sides, and in many places weave their boughs together, thus forming leafy arches across the stream.
On a clear moonlight night, the views obtainable from one or two of the bridges which span the river, are exceedingly pretty, and on such occasions it would not require much stretch of imagination to fancy oneself in Fairy-land. A row up and down the river is a treat which should not be missed by the pleasure-seeker. Boats are always on hire for a mere trifle, and a pleasant afternoon can be passed in a pull under the weeping willows, especially if the visitor has the good fortune to be acquainted with one or two of the Christchurch "Water-lilies," who, attired in their smart nautical suits, feather their oars on the breast of this crystal stream on the fine afternoons of summer.
The Christchurch Museum has the best collection of objects of interest in the Colony. One of the largest skeletons extant of the Moa will be found here, and a day should be devoted to the inspection of this institution.
The Acclimatisation grounds and other public reserves will repay inspection.