Christ's College, Christchurch

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Christ's College Canterbury
Christ's College, Christchurch
33 Rolleston Avenue,
New Zealand
Coordinates 43°31′47″S172°37′33″E / 43.52972°S 172.62583°E / -43.52972; 172.62583 Coordinates: 43°31′47″S172°37′33″E / 43.52972°S 172.62583°E / -43.52972; 172.62583
TypeIndependent, Single-sex, Secondary (Years 9–13), Day & Boarding
MottoBene tradita, bene servanda
(Latin for "Good traditions, Well maintained")
Established1850;171 years ago (1850)
Ministry of Education Institution no. 330
School roll688 [1] (March 2021)
Socio-economic decile10

Christ's College, Canterbury is an independent Anglican secondary day and boarding school for boys, located in the city centre of Christchurch, New Zealand.


Founded in 1850 by Reverend Henry Jacobs in Lyttelton as a school for early settlers, College is the oldest independent school in the country. [2] The college currently caters for approximately 647 students from Year 9 to Year 13.

Christ's College is an International Member of The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC). The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) represents the Heads of the leading independent schools in Ireland and the United Kingdom and International schools mainly from the Commonwealth. Christ's College is one of only three member schools in New Zealand.


Pupils of the Lower School with Schoolmaster Mr Wiggins, c. 1903 ChristsCollege1903.jpg
Pupils of the Lower School with Schoolmaster Mr Wiggins, c.1903
Christ's College dining hall (1968) Christ's College dining hall, Christchurch.jpg
Christ's College dining hall (1968)

Christ's College (formerly Christ's College Grammar School) was established in 1850 and directly modelled on the pedagogic vernacular of English public schools, such as Eton College and Radley College. The school was most likely [3] named Christ's College by James FitzGerald, Canterbury's first Superintendent, after his old College at Cambridge (Christ's College, Cambridge). [4] At its foundation, the school was run from two rooms at the immigration barracks at Lyttelton, [5] and the emphasis was on a classical education, including Greek and Latin, Modern languages, Mathematics, English, History and Geography. Students were also expected to conduct scientific experiments, to draw and sing. [2] It used to be closely associated with the Lyttleton Collegiate Grammar School which was also located in the Lyttleton Immigration Barracks.

The school left Lyttelton in 1852 and moved over the hill to the St Michael's parsonage in Oxford Terrace with 16 students. Henry Jacobs, the first headmaster, ensured that his school enabled both boarders and day boys to attend. [2]

Christ's College moved to its present site in 1856, with 35 pupils and a staff of three. This location, adjacent to the Government Domain (now Hagley Park), provided the college with room to expand, and the school gradually began to acquire additional buildings. The first of these building were wooden, providing homes for the staff and their families and an increasing number of boarders. By 1863, Big School, the first of the stone buildings, had been built on the west side of the quadrangle in which all classes were taught (in present-day it is the school's library with additions by Sir Miles Warren and currently the oldest educational building still in use in New Zealand), followed in 1867 by the Chapel. [2] The school developed slowly around this central quadrangle, and today the 'quad' is treated with reverence, and therefore students are not permitted to walk on it, only staff members and permitted visitors. The Cathedral Grammar School used to be the Lower School of Christ's College when it struggled financially from 1895 to 1922.

In its early days, the College taught boys as young as six, with each boy arriving with a different level of education. Subsequently, there was a wide age range in many classes and, until the number of classrooms increased, they were all taught together. [2]

The school motto, Bene Tradita, Bene Servanda in Latin translates to "good traditions, well maintained".

The Christ's College Quad and Dining Hall The Christ's College Dining Hall and quad.jpg
The Christ's College Quad and Dining Hall


In the original survey of central Christchurch (known as the Black Map), which was undertaken in 1850, it was envisaged for Christ's College and ChristChurch Cathedral to be built adjacent to one another in Cathedral Square, modelled on Christ Church, Oxford. [6] The area set aside for the college in Cathedral Square, 3 acres 1 rood and 3 perches (13,230 m2), was found to be insufficient. In a meeting in June 1853 between Henry Sewell, Henry Jacobs, Rev. Robert Bateman Paul, and Thomas Cass, Sewell took the group for a visit of a site earmarked as the Government Domain (i.e. botanical gardens). The group agreed on the site, subject to approval by Bishop Selwyn, which was later obtained. [7] Years later, this land transaction was formalised through The Cathedral Square Ordinance 1858, a law passed by the Canterbury Provincial Council in October 1858. [8] The compensation paid for the transfer of land to the Provincial Council was £1,200, but with 10 acres (40,000 m2), the college was also given a much larger piece of land. [9]

The Christ's College grounds have a collection of nineteenth century, and turn-of-the-century buildings, as well as newly built buildings such as the Old Boys Theatre and the Fine Arts Building. The neogothic style is dominant, as was the case for most notable colonial-period buildings in Christchurch, such as the Cathedral, and the original buildings of Canterbury University (formerly Canterbury College), which is now the Christchurch Arts Centre. 'Big School', built in 1863, is the original classroom for the Christchurch site of the school, and is one of the oldest surviving buildings of its type in New Zealand.

Quad and buildings The Christ's College Quad and buildings.jpg
Quad and buildings

Upper department (College House, University of Canterbury)

College House was created as part of Christ's College in 1850. [10] According to College House:

[Christ's College] was instrumental in the establishment of Canterbury University in the early 1870s.

The upper department became a residential college of the university after it was founded, and soon it was referred to as College House. [10] The upper and lower departments (tertiary and secondary departments) separated in 1957, and College House became independent.

College life

Christ's College Entrance, Administration block to the left, Old Boys' Theatre to the right and School House in the centre background Christ's College entrance.jpg
Christ's College Entrance, Administration block to the left, Old Boys' Theatre to the right and School House in the centre background


The chapel. New Zealand - Going to school - 9414.jpg
The chapel.

The chapel is an integral part of the school with compulsory religious education being undertaken until Year 11. Every Wednesday congregational practice takes place, in which the whole school sings, and practises hymns, psalms, prayers and chapel routine. Boys are also required to attend chapel on Monday and Friday mornings and usually alternative Sundays, even if it coincides with their own church service outside the school. The school chapel service takes priority and compulsory two services each term are required. Parents and family are welcome to attend Sunday chapel. Music is an integral part of school life, the Christ's College Chapel Choir consists of approximately eighty boys though changes yearly with the incoming year 9 group and leaving year 13's. The choir sings at chapel services, public and private events and takes part in several singing competitions such as the Big Sing, and in 2007 the international Summa Cum Laude Festival in Vienna (attaining second place).


The school offers students NCEA Levels 1, 2, 3 and scholarship examinations through NZQA. From 2022, they will be discontinuing NCEA Level 1 and replacing it with 'the College Diploma', a two-year course from Year 10-11. However, in some cases Cambridge Mathematics Examinations are also offered. There are many academic disciplines offered at the school as subjects, varying from the standard English and mathematics to French, drama, classical studies, physical education, art history, sciences and many other subjects. Subjects like English and Mathematics are a compulsory up to year 11. Year 9 and 10 classes consist of a wide array of subject to introduce students to different subject to see what they enjoy before having to select subjects in year 11 which go towards NCEA level 1.


The college also places a strong emphasis on extra-curricular activities; both a summer and winter sport is compulsory for all year levels with many options available, and throughout the year there are opportunities for the dramatic arts, music, debating, model United Nations and several other extra-curricular activities.

There are opportunities for all boys to be involved with the performing arts, with a Junior and Senior production each year, an annual inter-house play festival and more; in fact, over half the college population is involved in drama each year. [11]

Saturday activities have been compulsory for those who do not have games on this day since Saturday morning classes were abolished. There is an extensive list of activities to choose from in 2009; this included archery, mountain biking, pool activities and scuba diving, rock climbing, Spanish, theatre sports, tennis, video production, workshop and weight training. Extra tuition has been available in art, biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, drama, economics, English, German and music.

Christ's College rugby team, 1940 CCRugby1940.jpg
Christ's College rugby team, 1940


Sport is compulsory for all boys; there is an extensive selection of sports available with boys choosing both a summer and winter option each year.[ citation needed ] As well as school sports, there are ongoing inter house sporting competitions in which all boys are encouraged to participate. Extra sporting activities are also available: for example, the school ski club buses to the ski fields on weekends during winter terms. Sports facilities on site include Upper the school playing field, an all weather facility, a 5-lane indoor 25-metre heated swimming pool, gymnasium and weights room. Offsite facilities include the nearby Christ's College cricket ground (which also has football and rugby fields) which consists of four hectares of South Hagley Park, and Kerr's Reach on the Avon River which is home to the Christ's College rowing club, consisting of a boat house which houses top quality rowing equipment. It is claimed that a form of rugby was being played at the school as early as 1853. [12] Each year its rugby team plays with Wanganui Collegiate School, Wellington College and Nelson College in a tournament known as the "Quadrangular". It also has a long-running rivalry with Christchurch Boys' High School, and an annual rugby match between the two schools is fiercely contested.

The Christ's College Sports Field called Upper, at sunset Christ's College Sports Field (Upper) at SunSet.jpg
The Christ's College Sports Field called Upper, at sunset

House system

In keeping with the tradition of English public schools, Christ's College has ten Houses accommodating around 650 students. There are three boarding houses and the dayboys are organised into seven more houses. Each house has a housemaster responsible for the care of the boys.

From the school's early days, Houses were a base for boarders 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. It was not until 1909 that the first two day-boy Houses were established. They were named 'North Town' and 'South Town', and students were allocated to them depending on whether their homes were north or south of Gloucester Street. In 1924, these Houses were named Harper and Julius – Condell's, Corfe, Rolleston and Somes have also been added over the years. [2]

The year groups within the Houses are encouraged to build 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 competitions have been added. [2]

Day Houses

Houses for dayboys provide a place for study and recreation, a Common Room, showers and changing facilities, and areas for storing books and sports clothing. Boys meet here at the beginning of each day for House Assembly where they receive notices for the day and reminders of forthcoming events to prepare for from their Housemaster. [13]

Boarding Houses

Flower's House Flowershousecc.JPG#filelinks
Flower's House

In the boarding environment, the facilities and support systems are more comprehensive. Assisting the Housemaster are an assistant housemaster, a matron, and two live-in tutors who are also studying at university. Most of the school facilities, such as the library, computer room, gymnasium, pool, music and art rooms, and the workshop, are open for use by boarding boys out of school hours. Evening activities during the week include set times for homework, but recreational activities are also encouraged. [13]

The Christ's College Boarding Programme keeps boarders busy in the weekends. With age-appropriate activities tailored to each year group's needs, boarders are given a number of opportunities that may not be available to dayboys. [13]


Boys wearing the college's uniform. New Zealand - Going to school - 9394.jpg
Boys wearing the college's uniform.

The black and white striped blazers and ties Christ's College boys wear are instantly recognisable and well known especially within Christchurch. There are two types of appropriate uniform – Sport's Uniform, Dress Uniform (known by the boys as stripes or suits). During Winter terms dress uniform is worn on Mondays and Fridays, and sports uniform is worn on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Dress uniform is required for chapel services and other formal occasions. A high standard of dress is expected at all times and boys are punished for incorrect or incorrectly worn uniform, boys must always wear their blazers when in town, even with summer uniform.

Each house has a different uniform for inter house sporting events and is made up of a rugby jersey or singlet in the house colour and black or white shorts, depending on the house. Each different sport also has its own uniform for games, a tracksuit consisting of black pants and a black tracksuit top with College crest is required for travelling to and from games venues and for field trips where the uniform of the day is not suitable.


The Christ's College governing body comprises a chairman, Warden and Fellows. [14] The Bishop of Christchurch is ex officio Warden.


Notable alumni

Old Boys' Theatre, and Jacobs House Jacobsobt.JPG
Old Boys' Theatre, and Jacobs House

Alumni of Christ's College are known as Old Boys, and may elect to join the school's alumni association, the Christ's College Old Boys' Association (CCOBA). [15] Some notable Christ's College Old Boys include:



William Pember Reeves William Pember Reeves (crop).jpg
William Pember Reeves

Entertainment, media and the arts


Captain Charles Upham, VC and Bar VCCharlesHazlittUpham.jpg
Captain Charles Upham, VC and Bar

Public service



See also


  1. "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "History". About Us. Christ's College. Archived from the original on 9 September 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  3. McIntyre, W. David (22 June 2007). "FitzGerald, James Edward 1818 – 1896". Dictionary of New Zealand biography. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  4. College, Christ's College 125 Years. Bascands Ltd.
  5. "Christ's College Memorial Dining Room". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand . Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  6. Wigram 1916, p. 147.
  7. Sewell 1980, pp. 306f.
  8. "Session X 1858 (October to December 1858)" (PDF). Christchurch City Libraries. pp. 12–14. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  9. Wigram 1916, p. 148.
  10. 1 2 "History". College House. College House Canterbury. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  12. "Christchurch Chronology 1853". Christchurch: a chronology. Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 3 July 2006.
  13. 1 2 3
  14. "Who's who". Christ's College. Christ's College. Archived from the original on 8 September 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  15. "Christ's College Old Boys' Association". College Life. Christ's College. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  16. Allan Craswell "Wells, Murray Charles 1936–," in: History of Accounting: An International Encyclopedia. Michael Chatfield, Richard Vangermeersch eds. 1996/2014. p. 607.
  17. "Sir Hugh John Dyke Acland". Timaru District Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  18. Gustafson 1986, p. 309.
  19. 1 2 Gustafson 1986, p. 313.
  20. "Sam the man". New Zealand Listener. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  21. Gustafson 1986, p. 326.
  22. Gustafson 1986, p. 329.
  23. Gustafson 1986, p. 338.
  24. "HON FRANCIS JOSEPH ROLLESTON". Timaru District Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  26. Robinson, Sheila. "Williams, Kenneth Stuart 1870–1935". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  28. Jack Hazlett at
  29. "James Lassche : RowingNZ". Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  30. Simon Maling at
  31. "Obituary". The Press . LIV (9868). 21 October 1897. p. 6. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  32. Alastair Robinson at
  33. James Ryan at

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