1 Sumner Road

1, Sumner Road

1, Sumner Road

Lyttelton Borough Council Chambers

1 Sumner Road

Former Lyttelton Borough Council Offices, Library
Date of building: 1887
Architects: J.J. Collins and R.D. Harman
Builders: Hollis, Williams and Green
Construction materials: brick with two street-facing facades
Style: Public building “Renaissance”
Situated on Part Reserve 35, Town of Lyttelton

When the town of Lyttelton was surveyed in 1849 Reserve 35, the area bounded by St David, Oxford, Winchester and London Street, was designated the “Market Place”. While the extent to which the Reserve was used as a market place is uncertain, it is known that one building on the site was a store constructed of canvas. Mr. H. Allwright was in charge of the store, and over 30 years later, as Mayor of Lyttelton, laid the foundation stone of the new municipal offices that were built on the same site. In his speech he reminisced about his early years there in what he claimed was the largest store in town. The 1868 Rates Map shows that other early buildings on the site included the town pound, a drill shed, and the old Resident Magistrates’ Court, located on the corner of London Street and Oxford Street.

Following the disastrous fire of 1870 that swept through the mostly wooden buildings of Lyttelton’s main business area, the decision to build in more permanent materials was an obvious one to make. The Lyttelton Borough Council identified the need for a new council office as early as 1871 when they debated the merits of moving to the old Court House to allow repairs to their existing offices and then renting them. This became an ongoing discussion but the financial position of the council delayed any decision for some years.

In 1886 the Council decided to apply to the Minister of Public Works for funding towards a joint Resident Magistrates’ Court and municipal offices. At a public meeting in August that year ratepayers met to discuss the proposal that the Council to apply for a loan of £3000 to build the new Court House and municipal offices. The intention by the Council was to let the ground floor to the Government for use by the Resident Magistrates’ Court and related services.

By November the plans drawn up by the architectural firm Collins and Harman had been decided on, and finance secured. The new building was a two-storied cube, with the Resident Magistrates’ Court on the lower floor, and the chamber and offices of the Lyttelton Borough Council on the first floor. The two out-facing facades of the brick building were plastered and finished with a block cornice and parapet. Lines were incised on the plastered surface to give the appearance of a stone building with details such as keystones. The roof was corrugated iron. The windows were arched, and on the first floor had square pilasters with curved capitals. The overall style was one popular at the time – a public building “Renaissance” with ornate finishes like the pediment shape above the cornice on Oxford Street, and foliage on the semi-column shapes on the first floor windows.

The main entrance was from Oxford Street, and originally had a small balcony above. It gave access to the Court and its attached offices, while another door closer to the corner gave admittance to the court room. A third door was located on the far end of the London Street façade, and opened onto the staircase that led to the council offices on the first floor. These offices originally included accommodation for the Mayor, the Town Clerk, the Borough Surveyor, and the Committee room.

The foundation stone of the new municipal offices was laid in a ceremony in January 1887 by the Mayor, Mr. H Allwright. In October that year the council took possession of their new offices.

As the requirement for a Magistrate’s Court in Lyttelton became less frequent, the court sittings were held in the council chambers, and the growing council staff took over the ground floor of the building. The Borough Council remained at 1 Sumner Road for over 90 years, moving in 1978 to the newly-renovated Albion Hotel on the corner of Canterbury and London Streets. The Council chambers were still used for Council meetings, and the ground floor became the new premises of the public library which moved across the road from 2 Sumner Road. Renovations were undertaken to prepare the building for its new purpose, with alterations designed by architects Lucking and Vial.

In 1991 the Council moved to Norwich Quay and further alterations, designed by Vial and Bellerby, were made to accommodate the growth in collection size. In May 1999 the library moved into its present location, the Lyttelton Post Office building on the corner of Canterbury and London Streets. No. 1 Sumner Road was sold for use as a residence and business premises.

In September 2003 the Lyttelton Borough Council Chambers were registered as a Historic Place Category 2. The building was badly damaged in the earthquake in February 2011 and was demolished later that year.


  • Lyttelton Library Information File: 1 Sumner Road, Council, Library
  • Johnson, John. The story of Lyttelton, Lyttelton Borough Council, 1952
  • Register record: Lyttelton Borough Council Chambers. NZ Historic Places Trust, Register Number 7525.
  • Rossie, Liza. Original research notes and material on Lyttelton built heritage.
  • Papers Past http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s