Early European

Can you imagine being eight months pregnant and sharing a makeshift V-hut with your husband, your three children under five, another couple and their daughter?

Those were the conditions for Mrs Emma Barker when she first arrived in Canterbury in 1851. A quick look into the family’s hut will give you an idea of just how cramped the family was on the wide open plains of Canterbury.

The Barkers were not the first Europeans in Canterbury. Explorers, traders and missionaries had been making visits since the late eighteenth century. The first permanent European settlement was a whaling station at Peraki on Bank’s Peninsula set up in the 1830s.

Even though a handful of European settlers were already here, the biggest impact came from the systematic immigration schemes sponsored by the New Zealand Company. Hundreds of settlers, including the Barkers, arrived within a short span of time forever changing the landscape and local society. A quick look at Dr A C Barker’s panorama shows just how much the landscape had changed by 1860.