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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]


Residents of Christchurch read their newspapers morning, afternoon, and evening, again at the end of the week, and also when “special editions” are justified by the receipt of very important news. In return for this liberal patronage, they supply the public with all the latest information of the world, written and displayed in a bright and interesting manner. A marked feature of the Canterbury newspapers is the excellent illustrations in the weekly journals, which are sometimes compared favourably with similar productions in the Old World.

The “Lyttelton Times” is the oldest newspaper in the province. The Canterbury Pilgrims landed on the 16th of December, 1850, and the first issue of the “Times” appeared on the 11th of January, 1851, there being absolutely no delay except that necessitated by the reerection of the plant. The establishment of the paper had been arranged by the Canterbury Association, which entered into a contract with Mr Ingram Shrimpton, of the Crown Yard Printing Office, Oxford, to send out the necessary plant in one of the first four ships. Mr John I. Shrimpton, his son, came to Lyttelton in the “Charlotte Jane,” bringing with him the plant and a staff of workers A building was erected in Lyttelton, and very soon the journal was born. Of its first issue, the “London Times” said: “English newspapers, like the British Constitution, have grown gradually into their present strength. We are proud of the acquaintance of our new contemporary, and envious of his power. If the editor of the ‘Lyttelton Times’ could create so much out of nothing, what could he make out of such a breeding heap as this of London.” The late Mr James Edward Fitzgerald, whose name is closely associated with the early history of the colony, was the first editor, and one of the most brilliant early contributors was Mr John Robert Godley. Canon Knowles was the first sub-editor, but at that time he was plain Mr Francis Knowles. Mr Shrimpton was manager and canvasser. After the “Lyttelton Times” had been in existence for over three years, Mr Ingram Shrimpton came from England and took charge, and he was editor for more than a year. He increased the size of the paper, and removed the plant to more commodious premises in Oxford Street. On the 4th of August, 1854, a change was made from a weekly to a bi-weekly, and two years later, the eight pages were extended to twelve. In July, 1856, the journal was sold by Mr Shrimpton to Messrs C. C. Bowen and Crosbie Ward, the price being £5000. Mr Ward became practically the editor, and with his extraordinary power and talent, he sent the paper forward on its career. In 1857, another enlargement was made in size. In 1861 Mr Bowen, who had taken a prominent part in the literary work, sold his interest to Mr William Reeves, and Messrs J. W. Hamilton and T. Maude also became associated with the paper. Owing to the death of Mr Crosbie Ward, Mr Reeves was compelled to undertake control of the literary department, as well as of the commercial side of the enterprise. He introduced many reforms, and among his achievements was the purchase of a stereotyping plant and a webb printing machine. In 1863, two years after Mr Reeves's connection with the “Times” began, a move to Christchurch was necessitated by the growth of the town on the plains, and the seaside domicile was deserted, though the old name was retained. A small cottage in Gloucester Street was found sufficient for all requirements. Not for long, however, as it was soon found necessary to make additions. They were continued from time to time until the present block of brick buildings, three stories high, was erected, to send forth a daily morning newspaper of eight pages, an evening paper (the “Star”) of four pages, and the “Canterbury Times,” an illustrated weekly of sixty-eight pages. The “Canterbury Times” was first issued as a weekly edition of the daily newspaper in 1865, and the “Star” made its first appearance in 1868. Amongst its editors, the “Times” has had, besides those already referred to, Mr R. A. Loughnan, Mr W. P. Reeves (the present Agent-General of the colony), and Mr S. Saunders, the present occupant of the editorial chair. The present manager is Mr J. C. Wilkin. The memory of Mr John Hebden, the first editor of the “Canterbury Times,” when its form was changed in 1878, is still cherished on account of Mr Hebdon's qualities as a man and abilities as a journalist.

The Christchurch “Press” was established in May, 1861, by the late Mr James Edward Fitzgerald. An indication of the object and principles of the founder is given in a letter which he wrote to the late Dean Jacobs: “My dear Jacobs, I want your regular assistance for my new paper, ‘The Press,’ to appear immediately. You must give me an article weekly on some pleasing literary topic—review of books, education, schools, inspection of schools. It will do you good, and us all good, if you will help. We mean, please God, to have the first paper in the colony, and to elevate and vindicate the Press. I want all the talents. And I give you your choice. You must help, regularly and vigorously. It will bore you at first, and become a rest and a luxury to you in a short time. Could you meet me on Saturday? I have been kicked, and can't walk, or I would have called on you. I shall be at the Gresson's Saturday. — James Edward Fitzgerald. Christchurch, May 14th, 1861, P.S. Please show this to Cotterill, and say I must have him too. The state of the colony demands help from all. He could come and talk it over, too. Mr Sale, Fellow and Tutor, of Trinity College, Cambridge, is just appointed working editor.” It was on the 25th of May, 1861, that the first number of the new journal was issued. Mr Watts Russell, of Ham, Mr Henry Lance, of Horsley Downs, Mr H. J. Tancred, the Rev. J. W. Raven, of Woodend, and Mr R. J. S. Harman, of Christchurch, were associated with Mr Fitzgerald in the enterprise. page 237 Professor S. G. Sale, the “working editor,” referred to in Mr Fitzgerald's letter, was the first to wield the editorial pen. Dean Jacobs, who was then the Rev. Henry Jacobs, fully justified Mr Fitzgerald's confidence in him, and gave much valuable literary assistance. Mr Joseph Brittan, of Avonside, was another noted contributor. But the chief controller of the journal, and the author of its political policy, was Mr Fitzgerald himself. The most notable of the paper's early contributors was undoubtedly Mr Samuel Butler, the author of “Erewhon,” “Erewhon Revisited,” a translation of the Odyssey, and other works. On the 17th of March, 1863, the “Press” made its appearance as the first daily newspaper circulated in the province. The 18th of February, 1865, saw the first number of the “Weekly Press,” which afterwards incorporated the “New Zealand Referee,” and has now a very extensive circulation all over the colony. “Truth,” the evening newspaper published by the Press Company, was first issued on the 15th of May, 1893. The “Press” now occupies a very handsome building in Cashel Street.

It may not be out of place to mention here a remarkable publication that still lingers in the memories of many of the earlier settlers. Its title was “Canterbury Punch.” It was no mean follower of its great namesake; and it reflected in its pages the striking talent of its editor, Mr Crosbie Ward. Though it lived for only five months in the early days of the province, and was issued only twenty times, its caustic wit, humour, and brilliancy earned for it a reputation which still survives. In Canterbury, as in other provinces in the colony, there have been newspapers which, though brilliant enough, have died, generally through lack of capital. The “Sun,” once ably conducted by the late Mr W. H. Pilliet, the “Globe,” the Echo,” and the “Telegraph” stand in this category.