First Land Allotted to Settlers – 17th February 1851

On the 17th and 18th February 1851, the first allotment of land to the settlers took place.

The land office (pictured with the flag standing outside) hadn’t even been finished as people gathered outside.  It was situated where the earthquake damaged Christchurch Municipal Chambers now sit (as of 2014).

“Outside the scene looked busy enough.  Groups of land purchasers, lounging under the verandah, or lying under the luxuriant fern and grass with which the streets of Christchurch are still green, discussed the merits of their selections or their hopes of obtaining favourite spots.  Around, horses were tethered and dogs quarreled; bullocks, dragging timber from the [Papanui or Riccarton] bush, raised dust on the recent track; and the carpenters continued to work on the outside of the building, within which the exciting business of the day was going on”. – The Lyttelton Times  22nd February 1851

Fifty sections were allotted that first day and 56 sections the following day.  Present were Canterbury’s Founder, John Robert Godley, William Guise Brittan (who was in charge of the land office) and the surveyors who had laid out the sections and our streets (not only in Christchurch but also in Lyttelton and Sumner), Thomas Cass, Charles Orbin Torlesse, Edward Jollie and John Boys.

The name of the purchasers were called as pulled from a ballot.  With the surveyors acting as land officers, they assisted those first lucky settlers with selecting the land they wanted.

All the first sections selected were in Lyttelton.


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  1. David Welch says:

    Writing the book on the Lyttelton Railway Tunnel (thanks for your help) brought home to me the downside of the “planned city”. Railway technology was obviously seen as something years away for the Australian colonies and New Zealand in 1851 and no real provision was made for creating a centralised railway station, within the four town belts (now Four Avenues). Notwithstanding those who didn’t own horses having to walk miles to get anywhere, even way back in 1863 people were pissed off that the new Railway Station was so far from the central business area. Suggestion were made even before the station opened that carriages be disconnected from the steam locomotive and towed by horses up into the town centre. The age old problem – trying to build to incorporate new technology – often either not enough allowance is made OR the technology never catches on.