Narrow Well Beaten Dirt Track Becomes Chancery Lane – 1880

From 1851 Dr. A.C. Barker had always had problems with others concerning his plot of land on the North West corner of Cathedral Square, close to where the former Government Life has just recently been demolished.  Nicknamed the ugliest building in Christchurch, it has never the less – since the 1960’s – cast its shadow over the little ally way we know as the Chancery Lane.

The Barkers, who began their life in Christchurch in a make-shift camp (on the site of the Rydges Hotel) – using the top sail of the ‘Charlotte Jane’ as a tent – began to experience the pain of living so central to the city real early on.  From 1851, the doctor was already moving on the drunks (from the Golden Fleece Hotel in Colombo Street and the White Hart Hotel in Lichfield Street) who had stopped to rest in his campsite.  Some even had to be further persuaded to leave by the producing of a hand pistol.

To add to further bother, by the late 1850’s a well walked track was beginning to form along the front of his house and surgery north to Gloucester Street, coming out between Elizabeth Coe’s Millinery and Joseph Papprill’s Taylor shops.  It was a very well known short-cut.

“…we got up our fence, but unluckily a sort of path had got made just in front of my tent door, and I had some difficulty in preventing people from using it”. ~ Dr. A.C. Barker

By the 1880’s, the land concerned had changed hands and brick and stone buildings were erected.  The little track was made into an ally way and named the Chancery Lane, after its namesake in London.  Chancery Lane in London was associated with the legal profession and the name ‘Chancery’ actually means ‘a court of equity’.  The Hereford Street of Christchurch in the 1880’s was known for its many legal offices and many lawyers were seen to use the cut-thru to get to the courts quicker.  The name was fitting and was in use in 1881.

Sadly, what remained of Chancery Lane after the quakes and other close by demolitions, this beloved walk-thru now has a place amongst our lost history (2015).  There are no plans in the city’s rebuild to have this historic ally-way rebuilt.

*Image of Chancery Lane in 1882 courtesy of Canterbury Heritage Blog –

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