Naming of New Brighton

Richard Greenaway is an expert on the local history of Christchurch. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross-check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories and the first of these concerns how New Brighton came to be named.

Thomas Free senior, his son, William, Stephen Brooker, David Wilson Hamilton and Enoch Barker supposedly crossed the river with bullock and dray and set up camp in the park area near the Bower Hotel site. Certainly, they bought property there. Supposedly the Waste Lands Commissioner, William Guise Brittan, came up the river on a boat on 16 December 1860 and Brooker wrote the name ‘New Brighton’ on a board and planted it in the ground. He had known Brighton in England.

The naming of New Brighton is mentioned in Brooker’s 1899 newspaper obituary.

In the Star of 20 May 1922, Conrad Oram, who was living in England, wrote that his grandfather, George Oram (1826-76), a hotel keeper, named New Brighton. This is probably not correct. However, George Oram was an early landowner and was associated with Joseph Harrop Hopkins (1837-1910) and his attempt to boost New Brighton. The area on the south side of Seaview Road, stretching back to Union Street, was called Oramstown. The area from Union Street to the river was Rainestown, named after a soda water manufacturer, Thomas Raine (1820-1907). Union Street marked the union of the two towns.

There were celebrations of 100 years of New Brighton in December 1960.

New Brighton, New Zealand : Canterbury’s playground – 1923 pamphlet

The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies.


On 20 May 1922: John W. Bissett told the story in a  Star article on the suburb’s history. There are many letters on the early days of New Brighton following the 29 April 1922 publication of George Thomas Hawker’s reminiscences, ‘Old New Brighton.’

Ferrand, B. F., ‘The borough of New Brighton: an experiment in local government’ (M. A. History thesis), 1951

Christchurch star-sun, 16 December 1958, G. E. Chisnall told the story of the origins of the name ‘New Brighton’ and chronicled the district’s history till about 1890..

Yesterday, today and tomorrow – win a copy of Christchurch dreaming

book coverA surprising number of books have already emerged following the earthquakes. One of the nicest is Christchurch dreaming. Read our interview with author Mary Hobbs.

The first part of the book covers the establishment of the city and is illustrated with some great photographs, many of them drawn from Christchurch City Libraries heritage collection. The rest of the book looks at the most loved places and aspects of Christchurch life, finishing up with a hopeful vision of the future city from a number of architects. Throughout are messages and thoughts from Cantabrians both famous and unknown.

The book has a wealth of fascinating images, including a coloured version of the famous Black map of 1856 which shows the natural features of Christchurch.

PhotoOne of Mary’s favourites from our collection is this photo of Hurst Seager’s street decorations.

We have a copy of Christchurch dreaming from the lovely people at HarperCollins to give away to a lucky library member – it would make a great present. Just add a comment and link to your favourite image from Christchurch City Libraries.

Competition terms and conditions:

  • To enter this competition you must live in Canterbury.
  • If you are a winner, you consent to your name, photograph, entry and/or interview being used for reasonable publicity purposes by Christchurch City Libraries.
  • Staff of Christchurch City Libraries and their immediate families are not able to enter.
  • The competition ends on Friday 2 December at 5pm.
  • We will announce the winner on Monday 5 December 2011.
  • We will notify the winners by telephone and/or email.
  • The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.