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Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood

Christ's College Grammar School

Christ's College Grammar School.

The establishment of a College with two departments, a Collegiate and a Grammar School, was one of the plans proposed by the Canterbury Association in founding the Canterbury Settlement, and the Rev. H. Jacobs, M.A. of Oxford (now the Ven. the Dean of Christchurch), was appointed in May, 1850, by the Association, Classical Professor of the proposed college, and came out in the Sir George Seymour, one of the first four ships. T. A. Calvert Esq., B.A. of Pembroke College, Cambridge, afterwards Registrar of the Supreme Court in Canterbury, was appointed mathematical tutor. Early in 1851 a commencement of both the proposed departments was made in Lyttelton, a room in the Immigration Barracks about twelve feet square, roughly whitewashed, with a small table and a few wooden stools as furniture, being the first college lecture room. A similar room was allotted for the Grammar School. After a while the want of a school in Christchurch was much felt, and a room, 17 feet x 16 feet, having been erected near the present St. Michael's Church, the school was opened on the 26th April, 1852. There had been five students receiving instruction in classics and mathematics in Lyttelton, and at no time for many years afterwards were there no students at all.

The commencement of the school in Christchurch was primitive, and would seem amusing now. The first day five pupils presented themselves:—C. C. Pritchard, H. I. and F. Mathias (sons of the late Ven. Archdeacon Mathias), D. T. Williams, and Charles Hood Williams. Before the end of 1852 the numbers rose to sixteen, but the work was very elementary. Of those entered the first day the Dean says the old school register bears record of one that he could "read a little—write a little;” of another that he could "read pretty well—write a little,” and of a third that he could "scarcely read or write;” of the remaining two one had "gone through a good part of page 61the Latin Grammar once,” and the other had actually "done a little of the Latin Delectus.” Progress was greatly hindered by irregularity and unpunctuality of attendance, caused by eccentricities of clocks, bad weather, and necessities of life in those early days when servants were scarce. Excuses for lateness or non-attendance had to be accepted, when the servant had gone off to the Victorian diggings and there was no one to chop the wood, milk the cow, or mind the ex-baby when a new one appeared.

The College was founded by the Church Property Trustees, by Deed of Foundation, bearing date May 21st, 1855. It is evident that at that time the Grammar School was regarded as quite a subordinate part of the College which was contemplated by the Association and actually founded. But the Grammar school was a part and the rest in the future, and it became in name and reality "Christ's College Grammar School.”

The school increased, and on the 24th July, 1857, the Provincial Council having conveyed by grant ten acres of the Domain to the "Corporation of Christ's College,” the corner stone of the new building was laid with as much solemnity as was practicable under the circumstances. On the 26th November the schoolroom was opened, and a public examination of the school held, but the sub-Warden's house was not ready for occupation till July next year. After a while, the number of boarders increasing, a house for the second master, which should serve as a second boarding house, was built, £1800 being raised, partly by grant of the Provincial Council, and partly by subscriptions among friends at Home and in the Colony. This was opened for boarders before the end of 1860. In 1863 a big schoolroom, sixty feet by thirty feet, was built, and in 1867 a stone building, a college chapel, was completed, which was consecrated on the 10th December, 1868, by the Warden, the Bishop of Christchurch, on his return from London, where he had gone to attend the Lambeth Conference. On the 5th November, 1857, the old schoolroom, the head master's house, and the Somes' building were destroyed by fire, supposed to be the work of an incendiary, but were immediately re-built in a severely plain style.

The governing body of the school department is the Warden, sub-Warden, and Fellows of Christ's College; and besides the Head Master (C. C. Corfe, late scholar of Jesus College, Cambridge), there are three classical, three English, and two mathematical masters, graduates of Cambridge or Oxford, besides the usual complement of French, German, Drawing, Music, and other masters. There are in the school 180 day boys and 95 boarders. Two or more senior Somes' scholarships page 62are open each year to boys between the ages of 15 and 18, worth £40 per annum in the case of boarders at any of the recognised houses, and £20 in the case of non-residents, tenable for four years. Two junior Somes' scholarships are also open to boys under thirteen and under twelve, worth £30 for boarders and £15 for non-residents. Sons of Clergy scholarships of £30 and £15 are also open to sons of clergy who have held the license of the Bishop of Christchurch for not less than twelve months, and whose parents or guardians are resident within the Diocese.

The upper department supplies residence, college discipline, and religious instruction to students attending the lectures of the Canterbury College, and a theological training for those who are preparing for Holy Orders. There are eight scholarships connected with this department, value £80 per annum.

With the school grounds are the boys' play-ground, fives court, practice grounds for cricket and football, and a large swimming bath. Recently a good Volunteer Rifle Company has been formed under an efficient drill instructor.