North Canterbury, New Zealand
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
The ‘Oriental’, a barque of 506 tons, was one of the
first five ships sent out to New Zealand by the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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