Lyttelton Harbour, a drowned volcanic cone on the east coast, is the port to the largest South Island city, Christchurch, which is minutes away by road or rail. Christchurch has been an important trade centre on the fertile Canterbury Plains which extend south towards Timaru since William and John Deans settled at Riccarton Bush about 1843. They named the Avon after a river in their native Scotland.
Lyttelton was gazetted as an official port-of-entry on 30th August 1849 and was renamed nine years later in honour of Lord George Lyttelton, who was chairman of the Canterbury Association.
The painting highlights the excitement and social gatherings during vessel arrivals and departures. The ships became celebrities and household names. Shipping movements were gazetted with much anticipation.