Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood
The Canterbury Freethought Association was founded in Christchurch, September 4th, 1881. A number of Christchurch residents objecting to the exclusion of a duly elected member from the British House of Commons, sympathising with Mr. C. Bradlaugh in his struggles, and desiring to help the fund his friends were raising for defending his cause in a costly lawsuit promoted by Mr. Newdegate, subscribed the sum of £35, and at a meeting of the subscribers to arrange for its remittance to England, it was resolved by those present to form the nucleus of a Freethought Association, forty names being at once enrolled. In a few days a room was hired for holding weekly meetings, and the first meeting held Sunday evening, September 4th, 1881, when the name was fixed which it now bears, and officers and an executive committee elected for the ensuing year Wm. Pratt being chosen, as president.page 52
In the course of a few weeks, from the increase of members, the room was found too small, and a hall was rented and fitted up in Worcester-street, and opened in November—the Cathedral and the Jewish Synagogue being opened the same week.
This hall fairly answered the purpose for about twelve months, though it was often inconveniently crowded, when overtures were made to the trustees for the tenancy of the German church, which were accepted, and it was taken possession of February, 1883.
The association consists of a president, secretary, treasurer, musical director, librarian, and a committee of twelve, with 120 subscribing members, the subscription being 2s 6d per quarter. Connected with the hall, which will seat 250, is the nucleus of a circulating library of nearly 300 volumes, chiefly upon Freethought and scientific subjects.
On Sunday mornings there is a Lyceum for children, with 61 on the roll, and an average attendance of 50, under a lady superintendent, and several class leaders, the programme of instruction being singing, marching, calisthenics, short selected readings, an address or suitable moral story by one of the leaders, and lessons in singing and musical notation, with the aid of a blackboard, by a competent music-master.
A small but very efficient band and choir forms an attractive feature of the evening meetings, which are held in the hall every Sunday evening from 7 to 9 o'clock, the time being occupied with readings, lectures, and free discussions upon all subjects relating to human welfare and improvement, the prime object of the association being to disseminate rational views of life and its obligations here.