Jun 10, 2009

Epitaph: John Grubb 1817-1898


As a member of the Canterbury Association's thirty-five strong initial work party, John Grubb, a thirty-two year old Scottish Carpenter arrived at Lyttelton on the 2nd of July, 1849.

His first responsibilty was the erection of the five prefabricated dwellings and Blacksmith's shop, carried from Wellington in the hold of the Fair Tasmanian. Three weeks later John commenced the construction of a 46 metre jetty, at which the first emigrants from the Association's chartered sailing ships would arrive 17 months later. Among those passengers were his wife Mary and their three daughters.


Early in the following year John Grubb built an extension across the front of what the historical record appears to indicate as being the 1849 prefabricated cottage of Joseph Thomas, the Principal Surveyor and Acting Agent of the Canterbury Association.

Initially granted a licence to occupy the site at the time when Captain Thomas relocateded to a more substantial dwelling, Grubb subsequently purchased the property for £23, when the set price for a bare section was £12.

By 1864 Mary and John's family included a further seven Lyttelton born children and an additional floor had been added to the 1851 extension.

Situated at 62 London Street, the house (below) remained in the Grubb family until 1961 and was purchased in 2006 by the Christchurch City Council for $260,000. We look forward to its restoration...


The mismanaged Canterbury Association collapsed in 1852 and John Grubb set himself up as a Shipwright on the foreshore (below foreground), in the vicinity of where the defunct second Railway Station now stands. A builder's model of John Grubb's Caledonia, the first vessel built of New Zealand timber and entirely by local industry, is in the collection of Canterbury Heritage.


Born on the 7th of November 1816, the former Mary Stott married John Grubb on the 26th of January 1842. She died at Lyttelton on the 18th of October 1886. Born on the 1st of May 1817 at Ferryport-on-Craig, Fifeshire, John survived his wife by a further twelve years. Lyttelton's oldest resident died in his 82nd year on Saturday, the 19th of February 1898.


The extensive and somewhat folkloric history of the Grubb family and their endeavours are well documented and thus the pioneering John Grubb can be considered as one of the seminal figures in the foundation of our community. That his final resting place in Lyttelton's Canterbury Street Cemetery lies ruined and forgotten might well seem to be a barometric indicator of our current cultural climate.

5 comments:

Jayne said...

That's a great article about John Grubb and the house is lovely, thank goodness it's in heritage hands.

Our local cemetery had many of the headstones repaired through an agreement between the Cemetery association committee and the stone mason students at the local trade school.
Could something similar be suggested to Lyttelton Cemetery trust?

Canterbury Heritage said...

Cemetery Association committee? Lyttelton Cemetery trust? If only such things existed. Stone mason students at the local trade school? The nearest educational institution offering training in stone masonry would appear to be situated in Melbourne!

But the local Council has budgeted $710,000 per annum for heritage grants for each year between 2009-2019. Sad to say that amidst a frenzy of self congratulation that Council allocated a mere $90,000 in heritage grants for 2009. That's about 0.0018% of the budget allocation for the development projects of its property holding subsidiaries, all of which would appear to pay handsome Director's fees to politicians.

Down here in Swamp City it might seem that there ain't no fast buck or cost-effective media opportunities in tarting up old cemeteries.

kuaka said...

If only the dead would rise up and vote (twice) as they do in Chicago!

Nice work (again!) on the epitaph entries.

Sarndra said...

Fabulous. I'm loving the depth of detail in the stories...carrying on the tradition we've come to expect LOL! :-)

Canterbury Heritage said...

Thanks for the encouraging comment Sarndra, I've just received eight interesting and previously unpublished photos of Christchurch taken in the later 1870s and early 1880s. Restoring and annotating them should help keep the ears apart a bit longer and be a temporary relief from the preoccupation with the epitaphic.