On 5th February 1868, Lord George Lyttelton – the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire – stepped off an English steamship and glanced around the port town that had been named after him.
Lord Lyttelton had been introduced to John Robert Godley in 1848 – the co-founder of the Canterbury Association – and accepted the role as Chairman of the association’s Management Committee.
He is remembered today as the glue that kept the association together over its five years of operation and Christchurch wouldn’t have happened without him. He was one of our greatest promoters.
History reported that he was pleased with the progress of Canterbury. He boarded a train at Lyttelton and took the six and half minute ride through the Lyttelton (Moorhouse) Railway Tunnel that had only been open for two months. It took a further 10 minutes to reach the city centre.
That night there was a public banquet at the Christchurch Town Hall where there were many speeches and toasts. As overcome as he was by such a hearty welcome, he was quick to correct those who referred to him as the founder of Canterbury. Apparently he pointed to the nearby portrait of Edward Gibbon Wakefield (that now hangs in the Canterbury Museum) and acknowledged the [John Robert] Godley Statue, which he had admired early that day, as the true leaders.
The next morning, again at the Town Hall, was a breakfast with two hundred of Canterbury’s earliest settlers – the Pre-Adamites (a term for those that arrived before the First Four Ships) and those that journeyed on the Canterbury Association ships. It was a grand reunion for all involved. That night, a ball of honour took place and then Lyttelton left to return to England.
He is also remembered in the naming of Hagley Park as his home was named Hagley Lodge.
* Image courtesy of The Canterbury Museum – http://www.canterburymuseum.com/*