Giles Family


North Canterbury, New Zealand

Launcelot Giles

Born in Somersetshire, England in 1818. He was brought up on a cheese and cider-making farm. In 1837 he married Rachel Clothier. Rachel, also from Somersetshire, was born in 1821. Over the next 15 years they had eight children: Mary Jane (1838), Lancelot (1840), Thomas (1842), Samuel Clothier (1844), Elizabeth Ann (1845), Benjamin (1848), Eliza Jane (1850) and Martha (1853).


In November 1855 they sailed from London on the 506 ton barque ‘Oriental’ for New Zealand. On the 27 November Rachel gave birth to their ninth child, Ada Augusta Oriental. The ‘Oriental’ arrived in Auckland on the 25 February 1856. Departing Auckland on the 29 March 1856 the ‘Oriental’ arrived in Lyttelton on the 12 April.



The ‘Oriental’, a barque of 506 tons, was one of the first five ships sent out to New Zealand by the New Zealand Land Company. In addition to her voyages to Wellington and New Plymouth, she made further passages to Lyttelton, Auckland, Nelson and Dunedin.


The Diary of Albert Gray

Written when Albert was 90 years of age. It includes a description of his early life in England, the 1855/56 voyage of the ‘Oriental’ to New Zealand and his subsequent life in Canterbury.




The area known as Clarkville marks the centre of the ‘Kaiapoi Island’ district, so called for its situation between two equally large branches of the Waimakariri River, which met at Kaiapoi and continued out to sea. The main route to Clarkville from Kaiapoi is along Island Road. This is a legacy of the district’s early name which was changed to Clarkville in the 1880s, to honour Joseph Clark who donated land for the local school.


Beyond The Waimakariri (D N Hawkins)

The lower reaches of the Waimakariri have changed radically since 1850, for at one time the river divided into two equally large branches about seven miles from the coast. The North Branch took a northerly course, changed direction sharply, and rejoined the South Branch again to form an island (Kaiapoi Island) of about seven thousand acres.


This island was covered with swamps but draining it was considered an easy matter, and as it contained some of the most fertile soil in North Canterbury it attracted some of the earliest land purchasers. The township of Kaiapoi grew up at its northern tip, and because it was so accessible to new settlers it was by-passed by prospecting sheep men until 1854.


The Clarkville Story (Charles Brockelbank)

Mr James Baker arrived on the ‘Cressy’ in 1850 and lived for five years in Lyttelton. He moved to Kaiapoi in 1854 and had a cattle run on ‘Kaiapoi Island’. It appears that his position as owner did not last very long, for history shows that some of his run, which was leased, was sold from time to time and Mr Baker retired to Otaki Street, Kaiapoi, where a house had been built for him.


Recollections of life on Somerset Farm (Bruce Giles)

My grandfather (Launce William Ernest Giles) died in 1940 when I was eight years old and Dad (Victor Rix Giles) took on the farm. Dad was the third generation after Launcelot, and my grandfather Ernest to farm the land. The old sod house was still standing when we moved into the farm and we lived in it for eight or nine months while Mum and Dad built another house.


Anyone not familiar with the property, if you go along Giles Road to the entrance to the Silverstream vineyards the sod house was on the right of their driveway. It had no running water; the hand pump was in the wash house across a cobbled area adjacent to the back door. When we lived there it did have electricity and the telephone. To have a bath we went the cowshed because that was where the hot water was for washing up after the cows were milked, there was a copper there and earlier an oil fired water heater. The sod house originally had a shingle roof on it, that is timber cut to length and split with an axe, some where along the line, it may have been my Grandfather, put a corrugated iron roof on the house.


Traction Engines and Threshing Mills

With the introduction of the double-furrow handled plough in 1868, with reapers and binders, the grain drill, and the traction engines, the expansion of wheat farming went ahead and N. Gardener, J. Coopland, the Moderate brothers, and the Baxter brothers, all began threshing in the Carlton and View Hill districts. By 1870 Barr & Brown, James Dixon, J.S. White and Belsher & Fairweather, began contracting too.


Another early contractor was Launcelot Giles. He arrived in Lyttelton by the ship ‘Oriental’ in 1856 and spent a few months in Christchurch before going over the Waimakariri and buying land at Clarkville. He was experienced with threshing machinery and early imported a plant to New Zealand. Later he bought out more modern machines and worked them for a long period.


The Ohoka Punt

A resurvey of the routes was made in May 1872, after which it was decided to construct two lines, 10km apart, although  the line would initially end at West Eyreton, rather than carrying on all the way to Oxford.


The first train left West Eyreton for Kaiapoi on December 27, 1875. On February 1, 1878, the West Eyreton-Oxford section finally opened.

Ohoka benefited economically and socially from the advent of the railway. The train in the area became nicknamed the “Ohoka Punt”. Due to the swampy nature of the land, the train gave the appearance that it was riding on water, sending spray out both sides as it travelled across the area.


Brian W Smith, P O Box 40351, Upper Hutt, New Zealand

Email: knightsmith(at)

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