White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885
When the Canterbury people landed they found a jetty "which would do credit to an English watering place," So an old-time diary says, a number of neat-looking buildings, called the immigration barracks, and a house for Mr. Godley. These places were roofed with shingles. There was even a paling fence round the barracks, and "streets" had been marked out, for we must remember that originally Lyttelton was to be the capital.
Governor Grey was there to welcome the new arrivals, having gone down in the Government vessel, the Fly, and altogether the newcomers had their way very pleasantly smoothed for them. Five hundred of the immigrants were accommodated in the barracks, and a week's rations served out to them. Even some of the cabin passengers were glad to find a shelter in the barracks, but they had to find their own food. Fortunately the weather was perfect, and the strangers were saved the discomfort of rain and mud, such as the pioneers of Petone Beach experienced more than once.
At Lyttelton no one had expected the four ships to arrive so close together in point of time, and when three dropped anchor within two days the people ashore were nearly at their wits end to deal with such an influx. Naturally they had expected to deal with one ship load at a time, and thought that they would have been able to get one batch safely through their hands before the next arrived. However, there was no confusion, and everyone soon settled down. All sorts of living places sprang up in quick time, from iron buildings, to the sod cabin, or even a blanket tent.
Godley was appointed Resident Magistrate, but the immigrants were picked people, and we read that Lyttelton with a population of eleven hundred "was as quiet as an English village." Some of the pilgrims came from walks in life which one would not expect to furnish ideal material for "roughing it," but a diary records that "a regular West End style of gentleman was the day after landing wheeling his truck about, hard at work, as there was much to do in a short while."
Lyttelton was, however, only the stepping stone to the plains, and the immigrants soon began to trek across to the promised land. There was only a bridle track over the Port Hills, and the regular route was by sea to Sumner and then up the river. Freight was 30/ a ton, much to the chagrin of the immigrants, but more boats soon arrived from Wellington, and a bit of healthy competition soon put that to rights.