Cricketing Colonists

For more rights information Contact Us

More About This Title Cricketing Colonists


John Robert Godley, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, James Edward FitzGerald – these are the names that usually come to mind as the founders of Canterbury. But there was a fourth vitally important individual, arguably equal in importance to FitzGerald, whose story remains largely unknown. William Guise Brittan led the first Canterbury Pilgrims, chaired the Society of Canterbury Colonists and controlled the Land Office in early Christchurch. The ‘bell-wether man’ of the Canterbury project, he was the first to pay for land in the settlement, inspiring others to follow his example. William Guise Brittan was also known as ‘the Father of Cricket’ in Canterbury and established three churches in Christchurch. His elder brother Joseph, who joined him in 1852, had a significant influence on local politics and he, too, was a cricket enthusiast. The Brittan brothers were leading figures in the Canterbury settlement, and made substantial contributions to the province, yet they were unpopular, both their careers ended in failure and disappointment and they have been mostly forgotten. This timely and fascinating account seeks to explain why, exploring their work and family lives (and their bank accounts), and along the way providing a richly detailed panorama of life and politics in early Christchurch.


Geoffrey Rice is Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Canterbury, where he lectured in European history for nearly 40 years until his retirement in 2012. His recent books, all about Christchurch and all published by Canterbury University Press, include Victoria Square: Cradle of Christchurch, Christchurch Crimes and Scandals, All Fall Down: Christchurch’s Lost Chimneys and Christchurch Changing. Frances Ryman taught classical studies at Burnside High School for over 20 years and won awards for restoring William Guise Brittan’s sole surviving Christchurch residence, Englefield, in Fitzgerald Avenue, only to see it wrecked by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.