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Godley Head (1865)


Godley Head before the tower was moved down the cliff face. (Date of photograph unknown)



Godley Head is situated on the Port Hills between Christchurch and it's harbour Lyttelton. The headland was named in 1900 after John Robert Godley the founder of the Canterbury settlement Christchurch. Previously the headland had been known as Awaroa by the local maori and then Cape Cashalot, this name given by a French whaler Captain Jean L'Anglois who in 1838 nearly wrecked his ship on the headland.

As Christchurch was first settled in the 1840's and 50's, and the Canterbury plains were quickly converted into pastoral run holdings for grazing sheep, wool exports from the port of Lyttelton deemed a lighthouse necessary. In 1849 Captain Thomas, Chief Surveyor for the Canterbury Association suggested a lighthouse be built at Godley Head. In 1859 finances were secured by the Canterbury Provincial Council and the planning begun.

The lighthouse tower was built from locally quarried stone and was first lit on April 1  91, 1865. The lantern was designed and built in England. Along with the tower, a double stone house was built with a slate roof. This dwelling housed both the Head and Assistant Keepers and their families.

It is a fixed light 2nd order dioptric.  91

The cost to build the lighthouse was 4705.  91

Never an isolated station, there was always a constant stream of goods and people traveling over the Port Hills road between Lyttelton and Christchurch. A track to the lighthouse branched off this road bought many visitors and enabled the keeper's children to attend school. In the 1930's a road was finally built from Evans Pass. All visitors were offered a cup of tea and slice of fruit cake from the Head Keeper's wife. Later as the number of visitors increased a charge of six pence was requested. Before the road, supplies for the light were landed by launch every three months at the base of the cliff in Mechanics Bay and pack horses hauled the supplies up the 150m cliff via a steep trail.

As fog was a problem, in 1910 a explosive fog signal was added. The fog signal, a Slaughter's Cotton Powder Explosive Signal was built down below the light on the waters edge accessed by a very hazardous path. As the signal used explosives and the rock face was unstable, using it was a risky proposition. The signal was replaced in 1927 with a compressed air warning system near the lighthouse.

In 1916 a new incandescent light replaced the old kerosene lamp.

Due to the strategic vantage point, in the 1880's fortifications were built around the lighthouse. During the Second World War the Army moved back onto the lighthouse grounds and installed a battery of six inch guns. As the lighthouse was in the direct line of fire of the guns installed, the old tower was demolished and the lantern room was moved further down the cliff face. The old keepers cottage was relocated behind the Taylor battery. About 1942 a second assistant keepers cottage was built close by.

In 1946 the lighthouse was electrified, the road was improved with a tar seal finish and later a new house was built for the remaining keeper.

The lighthouse was automated in 1976 and handed over to the Lyttelton Harbour Board. It is now under the control of the Lyttelton Port Company.


For more information on the gun emplacements




From Christchurch take Dyers Road then head east on the Summit Road till it ends at the car park. You can also use Evans Pass Road from Sumner to reach the Summit Road. A walkway heads out to the lighthouse and gun emplacements. The lighthouse and grounds are closed to the public.


Island South
Province Canterbury
Location Lyttelton Harbour
Number K4286
Date Commissioned April 1865
Date Decommissioned
Automated 1976
Latitude 43 35' South
Longitude 172 48' East
Elevation Above Sea Level 97m
Height 6m
Range 17 N. miles
Made Lantern from England
Construction Stone quarried on site. White tower with brown cupola.
Converted Kerosene To Diesel 1916
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Present Tower Not original
Authority Lyttelton Port Company
Date Visited January, 2004


Principal Keeper From To
First lit on April 1 91, 1865
John F Ericson  192 1880  192 1883  192
John Frederick Rayner  80  81  91 December, 1883  80  81 August, 1894  81      September, 1894  80
Alexander McKinlay  80 September, 1894  80 November, 1900  80
Edward Robert Wilson  199 November, 1900  199 May, 1904  199  245
William Chandler  183 1904  183  245
Patrick Henaghan  22 April 29, 1907  22
David Partington  22 January 17, 1912  22  April 17, 1913  22      (Died on Duty)  22
Percy Edwin White  166  166
T (Tom) B Smith 20 years    1930's-1950's


Assistant Keeper (1st) From To
  First lit on April 1 91, 1865  
Basil Muter  22 November 1, 1867  22  
John Wheeler  22 February 12, 1870  22 c  December, 1870  22
James Nelson  22 December 8, 1870  22
Alexander Parks  22 July, 1874  22 November 25, 1879  22
Walter Canton  22  c May/June, 1891  22 C August/September, 1895  22
Jerome Sinclair  22  September, 1895  22 July 1897  18
William Murray  22  February, 1902  22 c  June, 1905  22
Robert Wallace  198 1960  198   (6 months) 1960  198
Bill & Isabel Whitley  64 c 1962  64 c 1963/4  64



Additional Sources:


64Christchurch Star, Section C, December 8, 1999

91Star , Issue 4872, 10 February 1894, Page 6. South Island Lighthouses



183. William Chandler (Diane Chandler, March 22, 2010)

192. John F Ericson (Trevor Meikle, May 25, 2010)

199Edward Wilson (Lynda Webster, March 9, 2012)

198. Robert Wallace (Tim Wallace, July 7, 2013) 

207John Frederick Ericson (Lyall & Marilyn Smillie, February 18, 2010)

245New Zealand Herald, Volume XLI, Issue 12544, 11 April 1904, Page 5


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Text and photographs. Copyright 1999-2013 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.

If anyone has any information on this light please contact me.

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