May 7, 2008

Lyttelton's Grubb Cottage Reëvaluated

By means of the digital interpolation of the first image of the nascent settlement, with the earliest known topographical survey map and recent aerial images of the township, it is possible to indicate an earlier and historically more significant origin to Lyttelton's Grubb cottage.

Joseph Thomas, Principal Surveyor and Acting Agent of the Canterbury Association, arrived at Lyttelton, with a working party of thirty five, on the 2nd of July, 1849. In the hold of the Fair Tasmanian were five prefabricated dwellings, a Blacksmith's shop and four horses.

After initially living in tents, erection of the prefabricated buildings was completed nineteen days later. That day Walter Mantell sketched the results from the vicinity of where the Time Ball Station now stands.

Reflecting the prevailing social values of the time, the settlement was spread over three separate locations. The Blacksmith's shop and tradesmen's accommodation were situated to the near northeast of where the proposed wharf was to be built. The three houses for the middle management staff were erected 256 metres to the West on what would become Norwich Quay, next to what is now the Mitre Hotel site.

But more importantly the house of the Acting Agent was situated on a promontory 87 metres to the North-by-northwest of the middle management's cottages. This simple two roomed dwelling was erected on a north-south axis overlooking a small stream, which then dropped 5.2 metres in what would become its front garden when the town survey was completed.

In April, 1850 Thomas moved to a larger cottage in the precinct of the Emigration Barracks and John Grubb, a Carpenter in the Canterbury Association's employ, was subsequently granted formal permission to squat on the section where Joseph Thomas' first home stood. On the 1st of July 1851 the Association held the first ballot for the sale of sections and John Grubb purchased his section for £23. As the set price for a Lyttelton section was £12, this amount would appear to indicate pre-existing improvements.
As indicated in an April, 1852 sketch by William Holmes (above), Grubb had extended the cottage to a "T" shape, with a single storey extension on the southern end of the earlier two-roomed cottage. On an east-west axis the extension featured a simple, south facing, veranda overlooking London Street. The subsequent photographic record indicates that the bedrooms in the higher gabled roof line and the bull nosed veranda of this extension were added about 1865. This is the building as it now appears.

The rear portion of the house is accordingly believed to be the original home of the actual founder of Canterbury and the oldest surviving dwelling of the provincial settlement.

The house remained in the Grubb family until 1961 and was subsequently purchased in 2006 by the Christchurch City Council for $260,000. At the end of May, 2008 the Council announced plans for spending a further $250,000 to fund necessary conservation and stabilisation work.

Satellite view of the building's location
geo:lat= -43.601916
geo:lon= 172.719294

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