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Godley Gifts

 Christ Church, Oxford is commemorated in the name of Christchurch, New Zealand. The Province of Canterbury with its principal centre at Christchurch was founded in 1850 and so-named by John Robert Godley, an Irishman from Killegar in County Antrim. J. R. Godley (Harrow and Christ Church) matriculated in 1832 and in 1848 established a colonising society (The Canterbury Association) in Whitehall, London, which arranged the passage to New Zealand of the first 3,500 'Canterbury Pilgrims'. Godley himself went to New Zealand two years later to found Canterbury and Christchurch, taking with him his wife Charlotte and his 2-year old son, Arthur (later first Baron Kilbracken of Killegar).

The original membership of the London-based society consisted of fifty bishops, aristocrats and gentlemen, 48 of whom were Oxford or Cambridge educated. A third of these were members of Christ Church, as was half the membership of the society's management committee.

It wasn't just the name that was taken 12,000 miles to inspire a new settlement, but also the character of Christ Church's unique foundation, part cathedral/part college. The eponymous city was built around Sir Gilbert Scott’s Anglican cathedral; which dominates its large central square; its famous public school (Christ's College, 1850) and its original university college (Canterbury College, 1871, now the University of Canterbury) These three together realised Godley's vision for the settlement's 'college'.

With its outstanding neo-gothic buildings being a visual memorial to Godley's free, civilised and educated society, Christchurch even today is felt by many to be the most English city outside of England. The exquisitely produced New Zealand heritage publication, Godley Gifts; a copy of which was presented to Christ Church by Christopher Godley, 4th Baron Kilbracken; on 20 March 2009, reproduces sixty watercolours painted at the very dawn of the Canterbury/Christchurch settlement, and is a beautifully produced account of an Oxford colonising dream.
Haydn Rawstron, Christ Church (1968)


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