Christ’s College was modelled on the Public Schools of England which many of the men in the Canterbury Association had themselves attended. The emphasis was on a classical education, which included Greek and Latin, modern languages, mathematics, English, history and geography. However, boys were also expected to be able to conduct scientific experiments, and to draw and sing.
Once in New Zealand, conditions for staff and boys were, at the beginning of 1851, exceedingly primitive. It is unlikely that books and equipment which had arrived on the twenty Canterbury Association ships were even unpacked before the school left its barracks in Lyttelton and moved over the hill in 1852 to the St Michael’s Parsonage in Oxford Terrace. It was to here that Henry Jacobs, the first Headmaster, relocated a school which enabled both boarders and dayboys to attend. Robert Simeon Jackson and Benjamin Thornton Dudley, both of whom were later to be ordained Anglican priests, were the first two boarders in a school which at that time numbered 16.
By 1856, when Christ’s College moved to its present site, there were 35 pupils and a staff of three. The advantage of the location, adjacent to the Government Domain, was the room to expand, and the school gradually began to acquire additional buildings. Initially they were wooden, and these provided homes for the staff and their families and the increasing number of boarders. By 1863 the first of the stone buildings, Big School, had its place on the west side of the quadrangle, followed quickly in 1867 by the Chapel.
The College Chapel has always been the focus of the school, and although it was founded by those who also founded the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, and as such is an integral part of the education associated with the Diocese, it has also never been exclusively Anglican in its acceptance of boys. Indeed, amongst the first 100 names in the College List are to be found the sons of those who espoused many denominations. The 1854 Deed of Foundation, by which the Church Property Trustees set up the College, included many of the early clergy and laity as members of the Board of Governors, or Fellows of the College. The first Warden of the College was George Augustus Selwyn, the first and only Bishop of New Zealand. When his Diocese was divided, the position devolved to the first Bishop Henry John Chitty Harper, and then to all subsequent Bishops of the Diocese.
Worship in the Chapel is enhanced by the Chapel Choir. Boys have always been expected to contribute to the services of Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Communion. Gradually a surpliced choir began to lead the music. At the time of Bishop’s Harper’s 50th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated in the College Chapel in 1879, a comment was made that the choir was nearly all made up of his twelve grandsons.
Harper’s sons and grandsons were among the first boys to be awarded scholarships for their education at Christ’s College. The Canterbury Association planned that one third of the sale of the lands in the Canterbury Settlement would be set aside for religious and educational purposes, and others who shared their aims and ideals collected, donated and willed money over many years to create endowments for the College.
The one scholarship which has survived with its original name since that early period was founded by Maria Somes, second wife of Joseph Somes, one time chairman of the New Zealand Company. She was entitled, by the purchase of a land order, to 50 rural acres in Lyttelton and either a quarter acre section in Lyttelton or a half acre in Christchurch. She chose the former and the subsequent sales and ongoing leases continue to provide scholarships and exhibitions.
DAYBOYS AND BOARDERS
The long-standing tradition of boys coming to Christ’s College from local homes, as well as from all parts of the country began early in Christ’s College history. While some walked down the road to school, others rode their horses and later their bicycles. Many travelled long distances over many days from the Hawke’s Bay and Invercargill to take advantage of the education which Christ’s College offered. College at this time taught boys as young as six, and each boy arrived with a different level of education. Consequently there was a wide age range in many classes and, until the number of classrooms increased, they were all taught together. Families whose sons came to Christ’s College at that time are now up to their sixth generation of attendance.
Sport too, has always been an integral part of the College and a balance for academic endeavour. In 1862 the Games Committee was set up by the boys, and it was that committee which managed the day to day running of sporting activities and the library. They also arranged the purchase of equipment, organised coaches and set about levelling Upper so that the tussocks and hollows would not interfere with their games. However, as the number of sports increased, it was no longer possible for boys to undertake the increased amount of logistical work, nor for all the sport to take place within the grounds. Thus, to this day, some sports, including cricket, are played on the neighbouring Hagley sports fields.
Houses provided the boarders with their base within the school, and these changed their names as Masters came and went. The name Jacobs has been retained, while others have been replaced by School, Richards and Flower’s. Initially boarders’ meals were provided by the wives of the staff members in whose Houses they boarded. However, with increased boarding numbers, this was no longer possible, and so the large Dining Hall in which staff and boarders could meet and eat as a community was planned and completed in 1925.
Day boys had locker space, but it was not until 1909 that the first two day boy Houses were formalised. They were named North Town and South Town, and boys were allocated to them depending on whether their homes were north or south of Gloucester Street. These Houses became Harper and Julius in 1924, and Condell’s, Corfe, Rolleston and Somes have been added over the years.
The many year groups within the Houses have always co-operated to foster House spirit and to compete in sporting and cultural competitions. Cricket and football games were established as soon as there were enough boarders to compete against each other, and gradually music and drama challenges were added. Houses have always provided the basis for the pastoral care of all the boys at College. Housemasters, tutors and matrons all work together in association with the chaplain and, more recently, a counsellor.
MASTERS AND CLASSES
All of the seventeen Headmasters in the past 157 years, and the many hundreds of staff have used their considerable skills and abilities in the teaching of the over 13,000 boys who have attended the College since 1850. Until the late 1980s boys were expected to attend academic classes on Saturday morning. Increasingly, however, Saturday sport encroached on this time, and so Saturday Activities were developed. Boys who are not involved in teams use the time to have extra tuition or to gain skills in clubs as diverse as cooking, mountain biking and archery.
In 1851, Susan Alport was on the Attendance List at the Christ’s College Grammar School in Lyttelton, and she appears to have been the only girl ever to be formally listed as a member of the College. However, she is not the only girl ever to have been taught by Christ’s College staff, as for many years girls have been included in classes where it has been appropriate and necessary because of staffing, and College has had a long-standing relationship with St Margaret’s College and Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in both music and drama.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HISTORY OF CHRIST'S COLLEGE PLEASE SEE OUR ARCHIVES PAGE.