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Christchurch Mechanics' Institute records

Identifier: Arch 0029


  • 1859-1874


Biographical / Historical

A Christchurch Mechanics’ Institute was first proposed in March 1852 by Charles Joseph Rae. A public meeting was held in July and an Institute founded but the venture failed. In 1859 Rae tried again, calling a meeting on 26 May where he proposed that a Mechanics’ Institute and a Book Club be established. This time his proposal was received more enthusiastically; a committee was elected, and rules were drafted. Temporary premises were found at the Town Hall, and the Institute was officially opened on 4 August 1859 by Sir John Hall.

Over the next 3 years, the Institute concentrated on acquiring its own building. With the assistance of a grant from the Provincial Council in January 1862, half an acre (sections 405 and 406) was purchased on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street. The design for the new building by Samuel Farr was selected following a design competition. The building was completed in October 1863 and the new library and reading room opened for business on 2 November.

The Institute’s finances were an issue throughout the years. In a bid to attract more support, a name change took place in 1868 and the Mechanics’ Institute became the Christchurch Literary Institute.

In 1873 the Institute was prepared to close (except for an hour each evening). After discussion between the committee and the Council a proposal for a free library scheme was promoted. The committee recommended the transfer of Institute property to the public library trustees. This proposal was put into effect in September by the Canterbury Public Library Act (1873), with the deed of transfer being signed on 15 December 1873.


3 Boxes

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Shelf TU B 3e, Tūranga, Tuakiri floor, ANZC Archives

Existence and Location of Copies

Some items from this collection have been digitised. See the external documents area for links to digitised records.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Christchurch City Libraries Archives Collection Repository

60 Cathedral Square
Central City
Christchurch Canterbury 8011 New Zealand