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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

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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.

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GODLEY, Charlotte

(1821–1907).

Pioneer Canterbury settler.

A new biography of Godley, Charlotte appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Charlotte Godley was born in 1821 at Voelas, Denbighshire, North Wales, a daughter of Charles Griffith Wynne. Her father, a grandson of the Third Lord Aylesford, had assumed the name and nationality of his mother, Jane Wynne, and was for many years member of Parliament for Carnarvonshire. In 1846 Charlotte married John Robert Godley and accompanied him to New Zealand in 1850. Their son, Arthur, was born in 1847, a daughter, Rose, in 1852, and three more daughters following their return to England.

During her two years in Canterbury, Charlotte Godley exercised in her own sphere an important and beneficial influence on the early developments of society in the settlement, and after her departure she continued to maintain a keen interest in New Zealand affairs. She outlived her husband by 45 years and died in her house at Gloucester Place, London, on 3 January 1907, being survived by her son, Sir Arthur Godley (afterwards Lord Kilbracken, Under-Secretary of State for India), and three daughters.

She was a woman of grace, dignity, and gentleness, with a charming gaiety of manner and keen powers of observation. A collection of her letters to her mother, describing her Canterbury experiences, was printed for private circulation in 1936 under the title Letters from Early New Zealand. A public edition was issued in 1950. These letters contain a detailed and accurate account of social life and conditions in Wellington and Lyttelton during the eighteen fifties, including descriptions of town and countryside, gossip about church and political leaders and local personalities, Maori behaviour, and details of prices, wages, and clothing. Though she was a somewhat stolid writer, lacking the brightness of later correspondents such as Lady Barker, her Letters are valuable and informative because of her unique position as wife of the founder of Canterbury.

by Phillip John Wilson, M.A., Author, Wellington.

  • Letters from Early New Zealand, Godley, Charlotte (1950)
  • The Times (London), 5 Jan 1907 (Obit).

Co-creator

Phillip John Wilson, M.A., Author, Wellington.

Last updated 22-Apr-09