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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



A Church Settlement Foundation

The idea of a church settlement was first proposed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield in 1843, but it was not until 1848 that the scheme finally took shape with the formation of the Canterbury Association under the leadership of Lord Lyttelton and John Robert Godley. The site of the settlement was selected by the Association's surveyor, Captain Joseph Thomas, who was impressed by the proximity of a deep-water port, the availability of an immense tract of level country, and its accessibility by several routes. The Anglican character of the settlement was determined largely by the members of the Association. Canterbury was to be a Church of England settlement (as Otago had been Presbyterian), with generous provision for church, education, and other amenities such as the huge area of park land of which Christchurch is justly proud. The city was named Christchurch by Godley, after his Oxford College, Christ Church. The “First Four Ships” the Charlotte Jane, Randolph, Sir George Seymour, and Cressy arrived at Lyttelton between 16 and 27 December 1850 with 782 settlers. At first housed in barracks previously erected for them, the immigrants soon made their way across the Bridle Path over the Port Hills to the site of Christchurch. The Association's surveyor, Edward Jollie, laid out the city between four broad avenues in a grid pattern, leaving a wide open space in the centre for the erection of the Anglican Cathedral. This Gothic-style stone building was commenced in 1864 and finally completed in 1901. It is the Cathedral which completes the very English appearance of Christchurch, with its wide streets, spacious parks, trees, and gardens. Included in the city's wide sweep of park land are the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park (497 acres), set aside by the early planners. Of historical interest is the Riccarton Bush Reserve, originally owned by the Deans Brothers, who settled in the area in 1843. They named the place Riccarton, after the parish on the outskirts of Kilmarnock, where their father's home was situated, and the river (the Otakaro) they called the Avon, after the Scottish stream of that name.

Christchurch's rectangular street pattern is as much a result of its flat topography as of the intentions of its early surveyors. At first the city was bounded by Salisbury, Barbadoes, St Asaph, and Antigua Streets, but soon after it extended to the four broad avenues – Bealey, FitzGerald, Moorhouse, and Rolleston Avenues. The symmetry of this rectangular pattern is broken by the sinuous bends of the Avon River with its parallel Oxford and Cambridge Terraces, and the diagonal Victoria and High Streets, which were added to the original plan as access ways to Papanui and Sumner. The city has now outgrown its original size, and suburbs of varying ages and types surround the city, such as Sumner, New Brighton, Cashmere, Fendalton, Papanui, and semi-industrial Addington.

To perpetuate the memory and achievements of Canterbury's founders, there are statues to James Edward FitzGerald, Superintendent, 1853–57; William Sefton Moorhouse, Superintendent, 1857–63, 1866–68; William Rolleston, Superintendent, 1868–76; and John Robert Godley, Founder of Canterbury. There are also statues of Queen Victoria, Captain James Cook, and Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

Population of Christchurch Urban Area

Census of 1951 Census of 1956 Census of 1961
Christchurch City 123,548 142,711 151,671
Riccarton borough 8,016 7,914 7,372
Lyttelton borough 3,681 3,589 3,400
Heathcote County 7,092 5,228 6,070
Remainder of urban area 31,884 33,925 51,997
Total 174,221 193,367 220,510

by Richard Gregory Heerdegen, M.A., L.R.S.M., Junior Lecturer in Geography, Massey University of Manawatu.