The ‘Cressy’


For the Canterbury Centenary in 1950, the New Zealand Post Office issued a set of stamps. The 3d stamp depicts John Robert Godley, leader of the Canterbury Association’s venture and the Founder of the Province.
And behind the statue of John Robert Godley on the stamp, is a sailing vessel – the CRESSY – one of the first four ships.
The picture of the ship is taken from a drawing by Mary Townsend who was a passenger (and artist) aboard the Cressy.



Although flax traders and whalers had earlier operated on the coast, the first permanent European settlement in Canterbury was a whaling station established by Captain George Hempleman in March 1837, at Peraki – an inlet on the southern coast of Banks Peninsula. A party of nine settlers, sent by a Sydney firm of millers, arrived in April 1840. They were the first Europeans to make a home on the Plains at what is now Riccarton. They left after eight months as their crop had been eaten by rats.
On 17 August 1840 French settlers landed at Akaroa and founded the first town. A few years later farms at Purau, Riccarton, and Pigeon Bay were established and it was from here the establishment and extension of the province grew. The first settlers chosen by the Canterbury Association (formed in England) disembarked from the first four immigrant ships – ‘Charlotte Jane’, ‘Sir John Seymour’, ‘Cressy’ and ‘Randolph’, at Lyttelton in December 1850 and this date is recognised as that of the official founding of Canterbury. John Robert Godley had been placed in charge of the first colonists. These pioneers who chose to settle at Christchurch had to make a laborious trek over the hills separating Lyttelton and Christchurch by way of a rough track, which became known as the Bridle Path.
Source: New Zealand Post.

Built as a three-masted wooden Blackwall frigate by Philip Laing at Sunderland U.K. for Duncan Dunbar, London.
1843 Launched as the CRESSY.
Tonnage 720 ton, dim. 128.8 x 29.8 x 21.4ft.
Ship rigged.

Her maiden voyage was with convicts from the England to Australia.
On the 28 April 1843 she sailed from Plymouth under the command of Captain James Molison with 296 male prisoners onboard bound for Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). She  arrived in Hobart on the 28 August 1843 after a passage of 112 days. It is believed that during this voyage she carried four guns – she had painted gun ports.

After the convicts had disembarked, the ‘Cressy’ sailed to Sydney N.S.W. with onboard sundries, passengers and troops, a total of 72 persons. Arrived in Sydney 13 September 1843.
From Sydney she sailed in ballast to Guam and returned to England.

In 1846 under the command of Captain Molison she made a voyage from London to Barbados. At this time she was rigged as a barque.

On the 10 May 1847 she sailed from Plymouth under the command of Captain H. Withers with 278 emigrants onboard, arriving at Adelaide, Australia on 19 August, after a passage of 97 days.
After disembarking her passengers, she sailed for Bombay, India.
In 1850, the ‘Cressy’ made a voyage from London to Calcutta.

In 1849 the Canterbury Association was formed, and its leader John Robert Godley arranged for new settlers to emigrate to Canterbury.
Four ships were chartered, the ‘Charlotte Jane’, the ‘Randolph’, the ‘Sir George Seymour’ and the ‘Cressy’ to transport the 782 colonists and emigrants, stores, equipment, material to build houses, a church organ and a printing press.

On the 07 September 1850 the ‘Cressy’ sailed from London via Plymouth to Port Lyttelton, New Zealand under command of Captain J.D. Bell with 27 cabin, 23 intermediate and 105 steerage passengers. On the 27 December 1850 she arrived in Lyttelton 11 days behind the three other ships, due to a sprung fore-top-mast south of Cape of Good Hope.

On the 29th January 1851, the ‘Cressy’ sailed via Colombo and Madras back to London where she arrived in December 1851.

On the 20 September 1855 she sailed from Plymouth under command of Captain Tanner with 2 passengers and 204 Government immigrants onboard to Sydney, NSW where she arrived on 12 January 1856.
During this voyage she lost one member of the crew who fell overboard from aloft.
After disembarking the passengers and cargo, she sailed for Madras.

After returning to England she was used to carry troops to India, including 238 men to help quell the Sepoy mutinies in 1857.
From then until 1860 Duncan Dunbar is listed as the owner and she sailed mostly between England and India.
In 1861 the owner is given as Castellain & Co., Liverpool and she is sailing under the command of Captain Lawton.

In 1864 Lloyds of London reports the ‘Cressy’ has foundered on a voyage from London to India. No position or date was given but it was still under the command of Captain Lawton.

Source: Lloyds Registers.

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