Chancery Lane

From 1851 Dr. A.C. Barker had always had problems with others concerning his plot of land on the corner of Cathedral Square, where the former Government Life Building is awaiting to be demolished today.  Nicknamed the ugliest building in Christchurch, it has never the less – since the 1960’s – cast its shadow over the little ally way we know as the Chancery Lane.

The Barkers, who began their life in Christchurch in a make-shift camp – using the top sail of the ‘Charlotte Jane’ as a tent – began to experience the pain of living so central to the city real early on.  From 1851, the doctor was already moving on the drunks (from the Golden Fleece Hotel in Colombo Street and the White Hart Hotel in Lichfield Street) who had stopped to rest in his campsite.  Some even had to be further persuaded to leave by the producing of a hand pistol.

To add to further bother, by the 1860’s a well walked track was beginning to form along the front of his house and surgery north to Gloucester Street, coming out between Elizabeth Coe’s Millinery and Joseph Papprill’s Taylor shops.  It was a very well known short-cut.

“…we got up our fence, but unluckily a sort of path had got made just in front of my tent door, and I had some difficulty in preventing people from using it”. ~ Dr. A.C. Barker

By the 1880’s, the land concerned had changed hands and brick and stone buildings were erected.  The little track was made into an ally way and named The Chancery Lane, after its namesake in London.  Chancery Lane in London was associated with the legal profession and the name ‘Chancery’ actually means ‘a court of equity’.  The Hereford Street of Christchurch in the 1880’s was known for its many legal offices and many lawyers were seen to use the cut-thru to get to the courts quicker.  The name was fitting and was in use by 1881.

*images of the Chancery Lane during the 1880’s and 1960’s courtesy of*
*photo of Chancery Lane after the earthquake was taken by Annette Bulovic*

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12 Responses


    Fascinating – this lane was always a favorite place to visit when in town.

      • jan johnson says:

        I can remember the name well but not where it was situated, I left ChCh in 1966. I worked in the city for 6 yrs and thought i knew the place. Learning more every day with your posts. Thank you.

        • Hey Jan, Chancery Lane was between Cathedral Square and Gloucester Street, coming out opposite the Christchurch Public Library. Next door to the Library was Farmers…hope these places were there in 1966.

          • jan johnson says:

            of course it was where you said, I just did not reconise the stone building. loosing my bearings a bit.. It was there when i worked at Hays then the Farmers. i remember a stamp shop and a magic shop.

      • Tania Finch says:

        I remember walking through Chancery Lane a million times – I used to lock my bike up at the Library, and walk through the Square to Cashel Mall and the Triangle Centre, etc. I hope that Chancery Lane stays, esp since just about everything else is gone now.

  2. Kevin says:

    Hi. Looking for any photo’s of THE STAMP SHOP next to Burger bar Cathedral Square end or any photo’s of Chancery lane. Appreciate any reply. Thanks Kevin..

  3. Linda says:

    Hi, I’m also interested in the stamp shop in Chancery Lane. Does anyone know what it was called, or who owned it in the 50’s and 60’s? Thanks,

    • Richard says:

      Yes, I went there many times with my girlfriend to have coffee and pancakes in the 70s. The pancakes were nice and thick, and there would be classical music playing on the stereo. We also frequented The Albatross in the Square where the pancakes were quite thin but also great.

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