Englefield Lodge

230 Fitzgerald Avenue, Avonside, Christchurch

  • Englefield Lodge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Pam Wilson.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1867 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes house on its site.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 8 DP 6117 Pt RS 26 (CT CB397/49), Canterbury Land District


The house called Englefield was built by William Guise Brittan in 1855/6. One of the Canterbury "pilgrims" who arrived here in December 1850, he was a major figure in founding the Canterbury settlement, holding the position of Commissioner of Crown Lands. In 1851 he purchased three 50 acre rural blocks, one of which, RS 26, was farm land just outside the four avenues which defined the central city of Christchurch. Brittan first lived in the central city area on Oxford Terrace but had moved with his family to his "rural" property which he called Englefield by 1855/6, when this house was completed. The house's environs which were developed into a beautiful garden stretching down to the Avon River, made it a showplace of early Christchurch.

In 1864 Brittan sold the block of land (3 acres, 2 roods) on which Englefield Lodge stood for £2,000. A number of transactions followed until 1869 when Legislative Councillor E.C.J. Stevens acquired the property, formally purchasing it in 1872. His widow retained it after his death in 1915 and it was sold in 1922 to J.J. Collins who subdivided the property further, retaining Englefield on its present 1 rood , 24 perches.

There has been conjecture that the house may have been designed by Benjamin Mountfort, but this is rejected Dr. Ian Lochhead, the authority on Mountfort, and it now seems more likely that Brittan's nephew, Charles Fooks, was the designer. It is a 12 roomed, one and a half storeyed residence with a slate roof.

The present owners have maintained and restored the house after exhaustive research into its history. Up until recently the house was threatened by a proposal to make nearby Avonside Drive an expressway.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This is one of the oldest houses in Christchurch, continuously in use as a residence since its construction in 1856. It is notable as the home built for one of Canterbury's most significant pioneering settlers who played an important role in the province's establishment.

Although there is no documentation to establish who the architect was, the qualities of the design, especially the vaulted drawing room, indicate the hand of an experienced and skilled designer. The family links with Charles Fooks make him a strong possibility.

The type of construction, partially of "cob" and with one of the very earliest slate roofs, is a notable feature of the building. It was constructed of the best materials available at the time in Christchurch and was planned to be a home of quality and status.

A house of this scale and provision incorporating an eclectic range of features internally as well as externally, provides an indelible record of the technical skills of the 1850s in Canterbury.

Englefield Lodge has special aesthetic values because of its romantic Gothic styling, used for several colonial houses in Christchurch, but examples are rare today.

The house is significant because of its size and styling, representing the early aspirations of a prominent citizen with a strong belief in the future of the province.

It provides specific links to the founding families of Christchurch, equal in significance to the Deans of Riccarton, albeit not as public in profile. Note the opinion of Governor Grey in 1852, that Canterbury was full of promise after seeing Brittan's "model farm" property.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

As one of the earliest residences in Canterbury, the house reflects an important aspect of New Zealand's history, the planned settlement of the province.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The house's owner, William Brittan, was a key figure associated with the establishment of the Canterbury Province. The property has importance as the site of some significant early sporting and cultural events. It became an early showplace on the border of the town centre with the development of the farm and the house's surrounding garden.

(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua

The Avon River which formed the property's original northern boundary was an important food source, with the cabbage tree on Englefield Lodge's bank recognised as a traditional fishing marker. In the first decades of European settlement "Maori Joe" is recalled mooring at this site to trade fish.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The property has the potential to illustrate the living environment of a Christchurch resident in the 1850s.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The materials used for the house's construction have

technological significance, and it also has special value because of the qualities of the design.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

The house dates from the first decade of the province's settlement. Within the City Council area only Deans Cottage, 1843, Category I (now presented as a museum at Riccarton), the Pegagus Building, 1852, Category II (much altered and now part of a restaurant and bar) and the Parkerson House, 1852, Category II at Sumner are older.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

An historic area has been registered around the house. It provides an interesting cultural landscape of which Englefield Lodge is the centre piece. As the original 50 acres of Brittan's farm was subdivided, cottages and then larger houses were built and they provide a unique representation of the city's development with groups of dwelling illustrating the differing times of construction.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Fooks, Charles

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Born in Bristol, Brittan trained as a doctor-surgeon and served on the General Palmer on its trips to the Far East. He married Louisa Chandler in 1842 and shifted to Sherborne where he and his brother Joseph, also a doctor- surgeon, abandoned their profession to become co-proprietors of the Yeovil Flyer and Sherborne Mercury. He was very interested in the Canterbury Association from its inception, was the first to register his name as a buyer in January 1850 and was elected Chairman of the Society of Canterbury Colonists, April 24th 1850. He was placed in charge of the Colonists' Rooms established by the Association at No.1 Adelphi Square, London, becoming the man to whom potential colonists referred for information about the planned settlement.

Within a few days of arrival in the province in December 1850 he was appointed by Governor Grey and John Godley as Commissioner of Crown Lands in charge of the Land Office and was again elected as Chairman of the Colonists' Society in January 1851. From February 16th 1851 he supervised the allocation of "Orders of Choice", the process by which colonists selected their land purchases. In 1856 he was made Commissioner of Crown Lands and Treasurer of the Waste Lands Board.

Englefield Farm was the name William Guise Brittan (1809 -1876) gave to the 50 acre block of land, Rural Section No.26, which he purchased in 1851. He named the home he built here in 1856 Englefield Lodge.

Brittan was very active in all community affairs, serving as a magistrate and on various Boards. He promoted and supported the establishment of Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Avonside and donated the land for St. Paul's Church at Papanui. He was altogether a very influential early colonist who contributed a great deal to the establishment of the province both in his professional and commercial work as well as in social activities. He was involved with the Horticultural Society, the Agricultural Society, Masonic Lodge, Roads Boards, Christ's College, and the Education Board. He founded a shipping business on the Avon River, was in partnership in a brickworks and in timber milling, he developed the Halswell Quarry and the Lincoln Road tramway and part of his property fronting the Avon was the site of Canterbury's first brewery.

An indication of his character, and the esteem in which he was held in Canterbury, is illustrated by his choice by prominent citizen, John Deans of Riccarton, as an executor of his will.

Apart from Rural Section No. 26, Brittan also purchased in 1851 Rural Section No. 5 (Papanui Bush) and a Town Section diagonally opposite the Land Office on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Street (now Worcester Boulevard). Living in his first home on this central town site he promptly organized the milling of timber at Papanui and the development of his farm at Englefield. R.S. 26 was sited on the eastern edge of the town, bounded to the north by the Avon River. In pre-European days the Avon River (Otakaro) was a major landscape feature where local Maori gathered food. On the Englefield section of the river-bank a large cabbage tree was used as a fishing marker. The original was removed about 1922 but it was formally replaced in 1994 as a memorial to its traditional use.

The farm on the edge of the town which Brittan developed, served, like the Deans' farm at Riccarton, as an illustration to newly landed settlers of the potential for successful farming. In February 1852 Governor Grey was brought to view this "model farm" and from it gained the opinion that Canterbury was full of promise. A small cob cottage was built here by this date, probably to house the two farm workers Brittan employed. He enlarged his original 50 acre land holding by purchasing the neighbouring block, Rural Section 29, before he began selling substantial parts of the property in December 1859. In 1854 Brittan leased a small area of land on the river frontage of his property to Archer Croft and Hamilton Ward who established Christchurch's first brewery here. The brewery operated from this site until 1860 when it transferred to the other side of Fitzgerald Avenue. Known as Ward's Brewery, it was one of the city's long lasting enterprises, its imposing complex of brick buildings still standing.

By 1856 Englefield Lodge was built and Brittan was in residence here. His home was rapidly surrounded by a fine garden featuring rhododendrons, camellias, lilac and lavender as well as thriving, rapidly maturing, English trees. This garden was one of the first to establish Christchurch as a "garden city". The extensive grounds allowed for cricket matches to be held as the home base for the Avonside Cricket Club, the first such club established in Christchurch. Brittan was generous in permitting the public to visit, allowing the features of the property to become well known. The roadway that was later to become Avonside Drive was now formed by Brittan along the river bank which edged his northern boundary. Entrance to the property was from the north, with the drive sweeping around to the present main doorway.

Always an astute businessman, Brittan purchased a large farming run, which he named Lansdowne, at Tai Tapu on the outskirts of Christchurch, and as pressure on the town sections in Christchurch increased, the Englefield land's attractiveness for subdivision was recognized. The land was close to the town centre, its elevation making it well drained (unlike many other areas) and it adjoined the river which served as a highway. In 1864 Englefield Lodge was resurveyed onto a three and a half acre block of land and sold. George Hanmer purchased for £1,250 an adjoining block of RS 26 to the east of the house which he subdivided in 1865 into small c.17 perch sections, thus beginning the substantial breaking up of what had been a model farm.

Brittan and his family moved out to Lansdowne and the new owner and resident of Englefield Lodge from 1869 was Edward Stephens. He was an estate agent and Legislative Councillor and was involved in many organizations. He was president of the Christchurch Rowing Club and was responsible for the arrangement of the very popular regattas which took place each year on the stretch of river alongside Englefield. Stephens laid out a four hole golf course on the property, establishing this sport for the first time in Canterbury.

When his widow died in 1922, notable Christchurch Architect J.J. Collins purchased the house and it is believed he was responsible for some of the structural changes which occurred - the alteration of the entrance porch, the addition of the brick buttresses, stuccoed coating over the bricks and enclosing of the conservatory. In 1927 Collins sold the house on just 2 roods, 36 and a half perches (the present size of the section) to Mr. Eric Rawlings. During his ownership in the war years the house was briefly subdivided into flats when accommodation in the city was short, but this had no permanent impact on the structural integrity of the house. In 1946 it was purchased by Mrs. Saunders, a widow, who shortly remarried and became Mrs. Popple. On her death in 1972 the property passed to the Salvation Army and for a few weeks it was empty. The present owners Mr. and Mrs. Ryman, who have skillfully cared for the house, scrupulously maintaining its historic features, purchased it in August 1972.

For many years the future of the house was threatened by the Christchurch City Council's plans to make Avonside Drive an expressway. There was considerable public opposition to this as it would have requires removal of many houses and the plan has now been modified. A degree of widening has occurred, resulting in the removal of a house at the corner of Fitzgerald Avenue and Avonside Drive. At the suggestion of Mrs. Ryman, the area of land adjacent to Englefield Lodge which remained after the corner was widened, has been made into a garden reserve commemorating William Guise Brittan.

On the 6th April, 2001, the Englefield Historic Area was registered. (Plan of the Area is attached.) The area encompasses Englefield Lodge and illustrates how what was originally a successful farm on the outskirts of the city was subdivided for closer settlement. An interesting range of houses survive. Built during three phases of subdivision, these provide a microcosm of the city's evolution.

Physical Description

When the house was offered to be sold or let in 1865 it was described as follows:

"Family residence with 4 acres of land, Englefield, on the Avon, Town Belt East.

This property, delightfully situated, combining the advantages and convenience to town with a rural situation.

11 rooms

Stable, hayloft and harness rooms, coach-house, woodshed, fowl house etc."

The outbuildings described have gone, the section is reduced in size and some changes have been made to the house but it remains very original after nearly 150 years.

The solidly built one and half storeyed house features lively roof forms of varied heights. On the north, east and southern façades are distinctive gables with bell cast eaves, each individually decorated with half timbering, timber tracery and barge boards. The main entrance is on the western side recessed under the elaborately detailed gable. The southern gable has the massive chimney from the drawing room rising through it, while on the eastern side the gable is simply finished with a perforated barge board. Strong accents are provided by the brick chimneys.

The bedroom at the northern end of the house opens through to an open balcony under a simple hood. The balcony rests over a bay window while a further hooded, east facing bay window lights this section of the ground floor. These are examples of the varied window forms around the building.

One enters in to a low ceilinged L-shaped hall from which the simple stair rises. It features slim timber balusters and a wreathed handrail. To the right of the entrance is the imposing drawing room, 23 by 16 feet, with two pairs of elegant French windows opening to the west. Although this room no longer has its original black marble fireplace, it remains original in character and is remarkable for its high vaulted ceiling, divided into five bays by shaped timber ribs carried down the walls as applied columns with simple Gothic caps and bases.

The dining room, of similar size and elegance, opens from the left end of the hall. It has a high stud, a grand, north facing bay window and French doors which opened to the earlier conservatory on the west, now enclosed. A further large living area on the north-eastern corner may have served as a morning room. The kitchen area has been upgraded though there is little structural change. The remaining areas of the ground floor retain their heritage character, form and proportions.

Upstairs the rooms have varying shapes and the floor levels are dictated by the ground floor spaces. There were three bedrooms fitted in to the north and east of the drawing room's high vaulted ceiling. Storage spaces are provided in odd corners and what was once a bedroom has been converted for use as a bathroom.

Notable Features

Original dining room fireplace; ribbed vaulting in drawing room.

Construction Dates

1920 -
House was owned by J.J. Collins: Former conservatory opening from dining room altered in form and enclosed with brick walls. Exterior stuccoed.

Brick buttresses replaced timber as external support for the barrel vaulted drawing room.

Front entrance porch altered, originally an open porch supported on decorative timber posts, now partially enclosed in brick.

Internally only very minor structural change. Kitchen area upgraded. Upstairs, bedroom converted to bathroom.

Replacement of original drawing room fireplace.

Construction Details

Ground floor is of brick the upper of cob (clay, cut tussock and manuka strips). Exterior stuccoed later and brick buttresses added. Slate roof.

(Source of bricks not established. Were they of local manufacture or imported? Earlier researchers suggest they may have come to New Zealand as ballast.)

Completion Date

6th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

NZHPT File 12013- 077

Detailed notes and information provided by Mrs Francis Ryman who has been researching the property's history and William Brittan's life for many years. Her book on the subject will be published shortly.

Historic photos provided by Mrs Ryman.

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.