Early Godley dwelling uncovered in Lyttelton

Wednesday 27 June 2012, 12:57PM

By Christchurch City Council



An exciting heritage discovery has been made following recent demolition work at the site of the former Lyttelton Plunket building.

The remains of one of Lyttelton’s earliest dwellings, the 1850 home of John Robert Godley have been uncovered at the site. Godley was a key figure in the Canterbury Settlement

Demolition work on the 1940s Plunket building, which occupied the site, was completed last week. Before any disturbance of its foundations, archaeologists were brought in to examine the site.

Significant finds relating to Godley’s house include the pile holes of the original house, and post holes with timber. A drip line, where water (most likely rainwater falling from the roof) shows the outline of the building, was also found.

Early administrative records from the Lyttelton Branch of Plunket have also been found in a reasonable condition.

Major earthworks on the site stopped late last week while archaeologists continued to carefully excavate the house site.

Mayor Bob Parker says. “Considering the loss of much of Lyttelton’s heritage buildings, to have something of this importance revealed for the community is tremendous.

“This find comes at a time when the community are building a new future for their centre – with the Council’s recent adoption of the Lyttelton Master Plan. To uncover a tangible link to Lyttleton’s early settlement is ‘the icing on the cake’ for the Lyttleton community,” he says.

General Manager Strategy and Planning Mike Theelen says much more archaeological evidence had been uncovered than expected.

“We were optimistic that we would find some evidence of the Lyttelton Plunket’s history, and perhaps some signs that Godley had also lived on the site, but this exceeds our expectations.

“This is an important site for the community and I would ask that the public help us to protect the site by not entering it. Only authorised personnel are permitted on the site.”

While the building that was demolished was built in the 1940s, the site is pre 1900s. Any demolition on a pre 1900s site requires an Archaeological Authority. This is a requirement under the Historic Places Act.

Background information

The Lyttelton Plunket building was damaged in the 4 September 2010 earthquake and suffered significantly more damage in the 22 February 2011 earthquake. It has been closed since the September earthquake.

At a Council meeting on 17 May 2012 it was agreed that the building should be demolished following advice from Council staff that it would not be cost-effective to repair.

The Council’s decision to demolish the entire building came after it received a Notice of Demolition from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) under the Canterbury Earthquake Act 2011. Under the notice, the Council was required to demolish part of the building for safety reasons.

John Robert Godley was a key figure in the Canterbury Settlement, including forming the Canterbury Association in 1848 with Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Please find more information at: