John Robert Godley Was Born – 29th May 1814

On 29th May 1814, the Founder of Canterbury, John Robert Godley was born to John and Katherine Godley in Dublin, Ireland.

As a teenager, he was educated at Christ Church College in Oxford and graduated in 1836. He studied the classics and decided to pursue a career in law. He had always been a sickly child and his continuous bad health caused him to drop his law studies. He was later diagnosed with chronic laryngitis.

He took to traveling, journeying around Ireland and North America. Seeing the effects of overcrowding and famine in person, he took a keen interest in colonisation. His profession as High Sheriff of Leitrim and his attempt to get into British Parliament soon had him rubbing shoulders with some influential contacts. He became very well known on his views on colonisation and this was how he got the attention of Edward Gibbon Wakefield – the owner of The New Zealand Company.

Together, they co-founded the Canterbury Association with the aspirations of building an Anglican city around a Cathedral and a college. It was during the very first meeting of the Canterbury Association on 27th March 1848 that he suggested the name Christchurch – not recorded down as Christ Church – for the new city on the newly named Canterbury Plains (formerly Port Cooper Plains). He wanted to honour his old school.

Wakefield seized the opportunity of Godley needing a warmer climate for his health by suggesting that he should travel to Canterbury to be the Chief Agent and oversee the foundations of Christchurch in person. He arrived in April 1850 with his wife Charlotte and young son, Arthur.

In 1852, not even two years after his arrival, he and his young family returned to England for good. It had not been an easy few years as he had battled the Association the whole way and really did become the people’s champion. He always put the needs of Christchurch before the demands from England.

In his last few years, he began to lose his voice and when it returned, he was banned from talking. Just a short 11 years after welcoming the First Four Ships, Godley died of tubercular consumption on 17th November, 1861. He was mourned by many.

For a more in depth look at John Robert Godley, please check out the attached link: http://www.peelingbackhistory.co.nz/john-robert-godley-1814-1861/

*Image courtesy of C.E. Carrington*

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