John Robert Godley Died – 17th November 1861

My hat is off to John Robert Godley who turned his passions into actions, founded an association that convinced some of the biggest names of England’s upper class to part with their money, traveled half way around the world into the unknown, offered a face to face assurance to our first Cantabs, worked 15+ hours a day pushing the pen and battled for the infant Christchurch to become self governed, all the while, battling a disease that would eventually lead to his early death.

He first felt the sting of his ill health as a young man. He had wanted to become a lawyer but it was a career that never materialised thanks to being too ill. By the time he came to met Edward Gibbon Wakefield through his interest in colonisation, he had been told he suffered from chronic laryngitis and was in need of a warmer climate. Upon forming the Canterbury Association with Wakefield, Godley agreed to travel to New Zealand as the Chief Agent to overlook in person the establishment of a Church of England settlement that would be known as Christchurch.

Along with the warmer climate, Godley also practised Hydropathic Treatment. This radical method caused quite a stir amongst our settlers! It was not uncommon for Godley to spend the night away from home as you can imagine, travel was slow on horseback. Loyal to his treatment, his hostess would be asked to bring him a soaked sheet in the morning and then he would then proceed to wrap himself up in. Sounds awful and I don’t see how this would have helped him.

In 1852, not even two years after his arrival, he and his young family returned to England for good. 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 the 17th November 1861. He was mourned by many.

For a more in depth look at John Robert Godley, please check out the following link:

*Image courtesy of Christchurch Art Gallery –

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