Christchurch Mechanics' Institute

Cover imageA collection of material relating to the early years of the Christchurch Mechanics' Institute. The Institute was the foundation organisation of the Canterbury Public Library, later known as Christchurch City Libraries.

Unpublished, [1859-1874]

View digitised items

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.

The Provincial Superintendent gave the control of the library to the Board of Governors of Canterbury College, through the Canterbury Museum and Library Ordinance Amendment Ordinance (1873). Canterbury College took over the running of Canterbury Public Library in February 1874.

Digitised items

View catalogue record

Related material

Christchurch Mechanics' Institute History
A brief history of the institute
Christchurch Mechanics' Institute Archive Digitised Material
Other material from the Christchurch Mechanics' Institute Archive

This material has been digitised from the Archives and Manuscripts collection of Christchurch City Libraries.