Pressure on to keep Godley House for community

04:36, Apr 10 2013

History buffs want assurances the land on which historic Godley House stood will be kept for the community and not sold off to developers.

The Diamond Harbour house was so badly damaged in the February 2011 quake that it had to be demolished.

It had been registered as a Category II Historic Place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The Diamond Harbour and Districts Historical Association has written to the Lyttelton-Mt Herbert Community Board pleading for the site to be preserved and redeveloped as a community asset.

"After a century of being a community asset and attracting many visitors to this [the south] side of the harbour, it would be infinitely sad if the Godley House site was lost to the community," association secretary Jan Studholme said.

The house was built in 1880 as a family home by Harvey Hawkins, one of Lyttelton's leading citizens, on land bought from one of Canterbury's early settlers, Mark Stoddart.

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The property later reverted back to the Stoddarts.

Stoddart's daughter, renowned Canterbury painter Margaret Stoddart, lived and painted in the house. Several of her most significant paintings were of the house in its garden and harbour setting.

The family lived in the house until 1913 when it was sold to the Lyttelton Borough Council. The council then named it after the John Robert Godley, who came to New Zealand for two years as the Canterbury Association Agent and is known as the "founder" of the Canterbury settlement.

Godley never lived in the house.

Studholme said the association was concerned the insurance money the Christchurch City Council received for Godley House could be "swallowed up by the city".

The association wanted the payout reinvested in a new building on the site. It feared the land could be sold to developers.

"We urge the community board to ensure that the insurance money is secured for the redevelopment of the Godley House site, with a building that can act as a social meeting place for the community," she said.

The new Godley House could incorporate a Stoddart Art Gallery in which exhibitions could be held from time to time.

The Press