Charlotte Godley (John Robert Godley’s wife – Founder of Canterbury) wrote proudly to her mother back in England about how her garden was coming along. She wasn’t as pleased about a gate that existed between her home and the Lyttelton Immigration Barracks. The gate was in constant use as the newly arrived settlers would seek her husband’s attention at all hours of the day and night.
The Lyttelton Immigration Barracks sat on the corner of Oxford Street and Norwich Quay, the Godley’s house sitting above on Sumner Road.
Constructed from timber imported from Australia, 4 barracks were built early 1850. They could hold 300 people so you can imagine when 700 or so settlers piled off the First Four Ships, a lot of tents and A-frame housing suddenly appeared to help with the overflow. By the end of 1851, 15 more ships carrying pilgrims had docked at Lyttelton.
The barracks were centre of life about the Port, taking on the additional role as Canterbury’s first Library as each Canterbury Association ship brought with them about 2000 books each. The first land meeting took place there on 20th December 1850 and the Godley’s hosted a ball on its wooden floor boards early 1851. The school that would become known as Christ’s College also called the barracks home.
With the opening of immigration barracks at Market Square (now Victoria Square) and also at Addington – the Lyttelton barracks became unused and were knocked down in 1876, just 17 years after the arrival of the First Four Ships. This plaque that sits in this Lyttelton car park wall marks the site of these barracks.
* Photo courtesy of Annette Bulovic *