On the 25th January 1855, Wellington experienced a city changing 8.2 earthquake which was felt county-wide.
Jane Deans writes:
“One the 25th of January (1855) we had a severe shock of a earthquake, the worst I had felt till then. It did a great deal of damage to Nelson and Wellington, though not so much here. It came about nine in the evening. I was sitting reading, when all at once the house began to rattle, and my chair felt to be upsetting. The pictures swung on the walls, and the lamp on the table shook from side to side as if it would capsize. It was over in a few seconds, but lasted long enough to make everyone’s face pale, and their limbs tremble. That was a ‘shake’. In the middle of the night a very sharp “upheaval” one came, shorter but more alarming. Your Aunt Grace was sleeping with me, and was so frightened she grasped my throat with terror and nearly choked me before I got her to release. Slight shocks continued to come every night for many weeks after, possibly during the day as well, but when moving about they were not felt…”
There has been a few Earthquakes (1881, 1888, 1901, 2010, 2011) that have been a damaging blow to the Christchurch Cathedral as this photo from 1901 shows. The Deans do not mention these earthquakes as far as I know.
John Deans I writes home to his father in Scotland on the 28th September 1845 the following:
“I do not mind whether I wrote you before about the earthquakes we have here. I have only felt one myself, but they are pretty frequent about Wellington. The one I felt was about a year ago when in bed. William awaken me to say there was an earthquake coming and in a minute or so come it did; it was reckoned a pretty severe one, there was very little noise but a curious trembling feeling for a few seconds; it reminds me more than anything I know of being in one of Mr Fulton’s shops opposite the Council house in Kilmarnock when a heavy loaded cart is passing, but of course with less noise. The wooden houses yield to it, but the brick ones are thought to be rather unsafe. I should say stone ones would be still worse…”
In 1869, Christchurch was in a huge flap over the Royal visit of Prince Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria. His visit lasted 3 days which involved pigeon shooting at Riccarton. The Royal Duke hadn’t been gone more than a few days when Christchurch was hit with a earthquake. Jane writes:
“The excitement caused by the visit of Prince Albert had scarcely subsided when we had another visitation of a very different character. We were visited by one of the most severe earthquakes experienced here by Europeans. It came, as they usually do, without warning. A loud report like a cannon ball hitting the house, then a long rumble noise like a long, heavy train passing over a wooden bridge, shaking violently, all the time, perhaps a minute, but is seemed interminable. Coming, as it did, about eight in the morning, and not being very strong at the time, I was still in bed, but tried to jump up at the first notice. That, however was impossible. The sick, faint feeling and violent shaking compelled me to lie down again; then the feeling that every moment the roof was coming down on me was something dreadful…
*Text from Letters to my Grandchildren by Jane Deans*
* Text from Pioneers of Canterbury – Deans Letters*