Canterbury’s First School Opened – 6th January 1851

Just fifteen days after conducting Canterbury’s first Anglican Church service, Rev. Henry Jacobs opened a boy’s school in two rooms of the Lyttelton Immigration Barracks. He only had twelve pupils and it cost two guineas to enroll.

In  April 1852, the school made the move over to Christchurch, setting up its base at Christ’s Church (St Michael and All Angels) parsonage with only five pupils. It had been the dream of the Canterbury Association that the Cathedral and the city’s college be at the heart of Christchurch. By the following year, a 10 acre site had been chosen in the Government Domain (Hagley Park) so the school had room to expand.

On 26th November 1857, the first of Christ’s College’s building was completed.

Named Christ’s College by Canterbury’s first Superintendent, James Edward Fitzgerald, after his Cambridge school, those who assisted, taught and founded today’s Christ’s College is a huge list of who’s who in early Canterbury; the college is very proud of its history and its past pupils. The Canterbury University (first known as Canterbury College) is considered a spin-off from Christ’s College.

In 1863, a building which had been designed by James Edward Fitzgerald called ‘Big School’ was completed. At the time, the whole school could fit inside this simple construction. It is now the oldest educational building still in use in New Zealand. After a few upgrades and additions, ‘Big School’ is now the school’s library.

Christ’s College is the oldest independent school in New Zealand.

* Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library – – Woodwork class, Christ’s College, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-005283-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. *

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