Jan 19, 2009

Christchurch Library Anniversary

This year the Christchurch Library, that municipal repository of our community's collective memory, is celebrating what is alleged to be its 150th anniversary. That hypothesis is based upon the library being situated in the High Street Town Hall from 1859.

In the interests of historical accuracy we would like to point out that a public reading room was opened in the Land Office at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Street in 1851 (above). Converted into our first Christchurch Library the following year, with more than a thousand books, an annual fee of one guinea ($2.10) entitled members to use the Lyttelton Library as well.

The source of the foregoing is The Early Days of Canterbury: a miscellaneous collection of interesting facts dealing with the settlement's first thirty years of colonisation 1850-1880, compiled by A. Selwyn Bruce and published by Simpson and Williams at Christchurch in 1932 (republished in facsimile by the Kiwi Publishing Company in 1995).

The poet Alfred Selwyn Bruce (1866-1936) was the son of the 1851 pioneers Ellen (1833-1928) and Thomas Bruce (1826-1899). In his interesting book Bruce aimed to immortalise the memory of many of the rank and file of our settlers, who were the founders of the province.

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