On 24 October 1870, around 10am, a fire was discovered in an empty house in Lyttelton.
In no time at all, the fire jumped over the street and soon the block that sat between London, Oxford, Canterbury Streets and Norwich Quay was ablaze. The fire did burn as far as Dublin Street though, threatening the ‘Mitre’ Hotel that still graces Lyttelton today.
Those on hand did the best they could, pulling down fences and even buildings in the hope of halting the fire. Prisoners of the Lyttelton Gaol were released to help with efforts while the ships in the harbour fled out to sea, some only narrowly escaping catching fire.
With the arrival of the Christchurch Fire Bridge by tram around 1pm, the fire was finally stopped after 4 hours of destruction. Two thirds of Lyttelton had been destroyed – 5 acres in all. Amongst many private homes, businesses such as the Bank of New Zealand, the Lyttelton Times, Canterbury Hotel, Robin Hood Hotel, the Lyttelton Post Office and the Dalgethy Warehouse (that had been full of wheat and spirits) were lost. 30 businesses in all were in ruins.
Christchurch was quick to respond, sending food and other supplies. The fire was so fierce that the red glow was visible from the plains.