Charitable aid and welfare records - Christchurch
This guide focuses on the records we hold that document government administered charitable aid and social welfare in the Canterbury and Westland areas. It includes brief histories of the many publicly-funded aged care homes, charitable aid homes and hospitals, children’s homes, orphanages, reformatories and special schools in these regions, and lists of associated records. Early charitable aid records, adoption records, and records from the Department of Social Welfare are also covered.
Many of the records detailed below fall under access restrictions. These have been set in place under the Public Records Act 2005 to protect personal information about individuals. Permission to access these records may be granted on request to the agency that created them (or its successor).
As responsibility for various welfare functions and institutions lay across and moved between different government departments over time, access permission contacts range from the health boards to Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children, or to the Ministry of Education - depending on the institution concerned.
For more information about access restrictions and contacts, see Archway, or check with an archivist.
Early charitable aid activities
Early charitable aid material can be found throughout the Canterbury Provincial Government records that we hold here; these cover the period from 1853 to 1876.
While the Provincial Government initially looked to families, the Church and private charities to be the primary providers of relief to those in need, the steady growth of that need during the period, especially when the fragile colonial economy stagnated, meant that the Government became increasingly involved in the provision of various forms of relief and care to the aged and infirm, the deserted, orphaned, injured, unemployed and generally destitute.
A small Charitable Aid Department was set up reporting to the Provincial Secretary’s Office, and for most of the period the Charitable Aid Administrator was also the Immigration Officer (the two functions were closely associated, with poverty and destitution sometimes imported into the province through the assisted immigration scheme). The aid usually took the form of ‘outdoor relief’ in the form of a cash allowance and rations, or pay for unemployed working on the public works in the province. Increasingly the Government also dispensed charitable aid through the provision of places for the destitute in a number of institutions, including the Lyttelton Orphanage, Charitable Aid House, Female Refuge, and Burnham Industrial School, while at the same time continuing to support private and Church charitable aid providers and institutions.
The related material that we hold has been nominally indexed by our volunteers and the indexes are available via our in-house index terminal, and in the case of items of individual correspondence, on our online finding aid Archway.
The minute books and correspondence of the North Canterbury Hospital Board (its predecessors and off-shoots) are especially important (e.g. the Lyttelton Orphanage Committee, the Charitable Aid Board, the Memorial Home and Female Refuge Committee etc.) We also hold early registers and report books from many of the charitable aid institutions themselves (see below).
After the demise of the Provincial Government in 1876, charitable aid was largely left in the hands of local authorities, church charities and private organisations, though significant oversight of child welfare was provided by the Education Department from the 1880s onwards (including the administration of special and industrial schools).
Charitable aid and social welfare institutions
We hold many records from the publicly-funded charitable aid and social welfare institutions that have provided care to the people of Canterbury and Westland since the second half of the 19th Century. These include aged care homes, charitable aid homes and hospitals, children’s homes, orphanages, reformatories and special schools.
Details of the records that we hold relating to individuals who were housed at, or who were attendees of these institutions are appended; also included are brief histories of each of the institutions.
Please note that we do not hold material relating to private or church institutions. In some cases the only records that we hold from an institution are administrative in nature - where that is the case, a brief history of the institution has still been included below, but no related records are discussed.
In some cases, the full record references are not given; in order to locate individual items in these instances, please refer to our online finding aid Archway, or to our in-house index terminal.
An asterisk (*) within a record description indicates that an in-house index is available for the record.
Armagh Street Depot (1875-c.1930s)
When the Charitable Aid House reverted to Church use, in July 1875, the women and children who had been housed there moved to this establishment. A decision was made to close the Depot in August, 1888, and those housed here were then transferred to the Queen’s Jubilee Memorial Home.
In 1894 the original Depot building was replaced, and a new building was opened to serve as a temporary shelter for destitute men, many of whom were waiting for admission to Tuarangi (Old Men’s Home), Ashburton.
Aid was dispensed from this site for many years; indeed, as late as the 1930s, the Depot was being utilised as a temporary home for unemployed young men.
Register of Outdoor Relief for Destitute Children [includes Armagh Street Depot] 1885-1886 CH384 5/3, 2*
Armagh Street Depot Admission & Discharge Register 1922-1930 CH384 9/3, 9
Armagh Street Depot Admission & Discharge Register 1928-1934 CH384 9/3, 8
Burnham Industrial School (1874-1918)
This institution was opened by the Government in 1874 in order to provide both for the welfare of destitute and neglected children, and also for the reformation of criminal children. Those destitute were often boarded out to foster parents, in order that they be provided with a home environment, whilst others were taken into service. In 1901, the institution became purely a reformatory, and many non-delinquent children who had been housed there were sent on to Caversham Industrial School, Dunedin.
Burnham Industrial School Photograph album of boys [indexed] 1914 CH438 /1a
Miscellaneous Photographs CH438 /1b-1i
NB: Most records regarding attendees of this school are to be found in the Record Books, Registers & Nominal Rolls at our Wellington archive.
Canterbury/Lyttelton Orphanage (1870-1904)
This institution, a replacement of the Christchurch Orphan Asylum (Addington), was established by the Government in August, 1870, in the building of the former Lyttelton Hospital. It burnt down in 1904, after which it was superseded by the Waltham Orphanage.
Various items of correspondence relating to the Lyttelton Orphanage 1869-1876 CH287 See Archway for individual items
Returns/Registers of Children Supported by the Government in the Lyttelton Orphanage 1870-1874 CH287 CP639a/15 (1870)*; CP121, ICPS1171 (1871); CP124, ICPS1704 (1871); CP 131b, ICPS 1562 [with 1627] (1871-72); CP644a/9 (1872)*; CP650d/1 (1872)*; CP150, ICPS2141 (1874); CP658a/18 (1874)*
Returns of Children Supported by the Government [includes some orphanage attendees] 1874-1875 CH287 CP665a/6 (1874-75)*
Lyttelton Orphanage Committee Minutes Book - Dec 1885 - Apr 1888 1885-1888 CH384 1/3, 1*
Lyttelton Orphanage Committee Minutes Book - Apr 1888 - Oct 1890 1888-1890 CH384 1/3, 2*
Charitable Aid House/Selwyn House (1873-1875)
This was opened by the Government in 1873 in the buildings of the former Christchurch Orphan Asylum, Addington. In 1875, women and children housed here were moved on to the Armagh Street Depot, as the building reverted to Church use.
H. Callendar – Charitable Aid Report for period 01.07.1874-31.03.1875 – [includes: Return of Children at Charitable Aid House] 1874-1875 CH287 CP665a/6*
Various items of correspondence relating to the Charitable Aid House 1874-1875 CH287 CP163, ICPS 2021 [and attached files; see the Charitable Aid Index on ISYS for more details]
Cholmondeley Memorial Children’s Home (1925-Present Day)
Located in Governor’s Bay, and opened in 1925, this institution replaced the New Brighton Convalescent Cottage which opened in 1900 to care for convalescent children, and the offspring of convalescent mothers. The property was gifted to the children of Canterbury by Hugh Heber Cholmondeley.
To this day, Cholmondeley provides for the temporary housing and care of children who are unable to stay in their own homes due to familial crisis. It is maintained by a private charitable organisation (the Cholmondeley Children’s Foundation), with Government assistance, and public donations.
Christchurch Orphan Asylum (1862-1870)
This institution, located in Addington, was founded and administered by the Anglican Church, though most of the children were supported by Government funding. When the establishment closed in 1870, those children supported by the Government were transferred to the Canterbury Orphanage, in Lyttelton. These buildings were later used as the Charitable Aid House (also known as Selwyn House).
Various items of correspondence relating to the Christchurch Orphan Asylum 1862-1870 CH287 See Archway for individual items.
Christchurch Receiving Home (c.1901-?)
Located first in Barbadoes Street, before moving to Hereford Street, and finally to Fitzgerald Avenue, this home was used for the temporary housing of female children either waiting on foster homes, or to be sent into service
Female Refuge (Reformatory)/Essex Maternity Hospital (1864-1980)
This establishment was opened by the Anglican Church in 1864 to provide maternity services to, and act as a reformatory for, women carrying their first illegitimate child.
Initially, its administration and maintenance relied heavily upon public donations, but the Provincial Government became involved, with a building grant in 1867, and again in 1874, at which time the Charitable Aid Administrator took over formal control of the institution.
Later in its history, it acted as a maternity home for all women. In 1918 it became known as the ‘Essex Home’
Female Refuge Registers 1876-1886 CH384 7/3 series*
Female Refuge Report Books 1878-1919 CH384 7/1 series*
Female Reformatory Registers 1880-1883 CH384 7/2 series*
Female Refuge/Essex Home [Hospital] Case Book 1886-1894 CH395 1d*
Female Refuge/Essex Home Registers of Weekly Returns 1887-1911 CH395 /1a-1c,* 2a-2b*, 3a*
Female Refuge/Essex Home [Hospital] Diaries 1903-1959 (many years missing) CH395 See Archway for individual items*
Female Refuge/Essex Hospital Diaries re Patients 1905-1908 CH823 /109-112*
Essex Home Registers [of admissions and discharges] 1912-1945 CH384 9/3, 8; 9/3, 9
Essex Hospital Report Books 1920-1928 CH384 7/1 series
Female Refuge/Essex Home [Hospital] Maternity Register 1924-1930 (many months missing) CH395 See Archway for individual items
Fresh Air Home/Huntsbury Home and School (1923-1971)
This institution was opened in October 1923, to care for the children of patients in the Coronation Hospital Sanatorium, and to build up their health in an attempt to reduce the spread of tuberculosis. For more information about the Coronation Hospital, and the Fresh Air Home, see Health Records – Patient Information.
A school for these children, the Open-Air School, was opened on the site in August 1926. When the threat of tuberculosis lessened, in the 1950s, the home and school were renamed the Huntsbury Home and School, and cared for children whose families were in crisis until 1971
Children’s Fresh Air Home - Register of Applicants 1923-1943 CH373 /19
Children’s Fresh Air Home – Register of Patients 1924-1956 CH373 /24
Huntsbury Home - Register of Admission 1957-1964 CH552 /23
Huntsbury Home - Register of Admission 1964-1971 CH552 /24
Fresh Air Home - Register of Admission, Progress and Withdrawal [school] 1920-1955 CH206 /49e
Huntsbury Home School [combined with Fresh Air School] – Examination Register 1922-1935 CH206 /62g
Huntsbury Home School [combined with Fresh Air School] - Register of Admission, Progress and Withdrawal 1953-1965 CH206 /62e
Huntsbury Home School [combined with Fresh Air School] Register of Progress and Achievement 1959 CH206 /62h
Huntsbury Home School [combined with Fresh Air School] - Register of Admission, Progress and Withdrawal 1966-1971 CH206 /62f
Girls’ Receiving Home/Strathmore Girls’ Home (1906-c.1980)
Located in the Strathmore Hospital building in Ferry Road, now demolished, this home served the same function as the Christchurch Receiving Home. It was superseded by Kingslea in 1980.
Glenelg Health Camp and School (1945-2012)
Officially opened in April 1945, and situated on Murray Aynsley Hill, this institution provided health care and education to children identified as ‘not thriving’ in their home environment. Routine medical examinations of children were conducted prior to their entering school, and again during their school years, and referrals to health camps were made by Public Health Nurses and the Medical Officer of Health; typically once admitted, a child would stay at a health camp for several weeks. The Glenelg Health Camp was run by the Ministry of Health, and the attached School by the Department of Education.
Over the course of its life, the institution’s primary focus moved away from the provision of physical health care to children, towards assisting children with social difficulties. The Camp and School closed in 2012 following the Christchurch Earthquakes, but was later rebuilt by a private charity, Stand Children’s Services, and reopened under their administration in April 2014.
Child Health - Glenelg Health Camp Admissions and Waiting Lists 1974-1984 CH799 /2h, /3c
NB: The Admission and Withdrawal Registers recording attendees of the school are held by the Ministry of Education - contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Hogben House and School/Halswell Residential College (1955-Present Day)
Formerly known as Marylands School, this institution was opened in Christchurch in 1955 by the St. John of God order of the Catholic Church as a residential school for children with learning difficulties. In 1984, the school was taken over by the Ministry of Education as a Special School for intellectually impaired students; it is now known as Halswell Residential College. The land and school buildings had been owned by the government since the 1970s, when money was given for it to be rebuilt following a fire. Various 1976-1989 CH232 See Archway for individual items
Hokitika Old People’s Home/Pounamu Home (?-1980s)
This home was situated at the Westland Hospital complex, and overlooked the Tasman Sea. Initially, only men were admitted to this facility, but later both men and women lived there. It closed along with Westland Hospital in the mid-1980s, at which time patients were transferred to the Plymouth Court Rest Home, or alternatively into a ward at Seaview Hospital.
Register of Patients 1954-1962 CH22 /67
McKenzie Residential School (?-2013)
This was a special residential school, for children with learning and social difficulties. It was situated in Russley, Christchurch, but was closed in January 2013 as part of the Ministry of Education’s review of special education services.
Various 1970s-1989 CH256 & CH232 See Archway for individual items
Queen’s Jubilee Memorial Home (1888-?)
This home was opened in Woolston by the United District Charitable Aid Board in December 1888, for the reception and maintenance of the aged poor. Whilst the home was being completed in mid to late 1888, the Government allowed the Board the use of the immigration barracks at Addington.
Memorial Home Admission & Discharge Register 1898-1930 CH384 9/3, 9
Memorial Home Admission & Discharge Register 1911-1939 CH384 9/3, 8
Jubilee Memorial Home Register [of admissions and discharges] 1921-1987 CH389 1/1
Samaritan Home (1896-c.1911)
Located in what had been the Addington Gaol, this institution was opened by the Anglican Church and the Charitable Aid Board. It functioned essentially as a ‘half-way house’ for both men and women, between other Charitable Aid institutions and prison.
In 1911, the Government took possession of the building, and the female inmates were transferred to the Female Refuge
Stanmore/Christchurch Boys’ Home (?-1988)
Located at 300 Stanmore Road, it is unclear when this institution for boys was opened, though it was certainly operational in the 1930s. Closed in 1988, at which time its residents were moved to Kingslea.
Stanmore Boys’ Home Menu Register 14 Oct 1936 – 3 Jul 1941 1936-1941 CH438 /7e
Stanmore Boys’ Home Daily Diaries 1946-1974 CH438 /2a-7a
Stanmore Boys’ Home Duplicate Daily Diaries 1947-1952 CH438 /7b-7d
Sumner School for the Deaf/Van Asch College (1880-Present Day)
This institution, supported by the Government, is for deaf children of both sexes. Originally the children that it served were a mixture of boarders and day pupils, but currently the emphasis is on the latter.
Notes [names of pupils with notes] 1880-1916 CH8 /31-32
Nominal Rolls 1908-1942 CH8 /28-30
Register of Pupils in Special Classes at Wellington, Auckland & Dunedin 1920-1961 CH8 /34
Pupil Status [Admissions & Discharges – including Titirangi 1943-1944 & Fendalton Road 1943] 1944-1969 CH8 /3
Diaries 1948-1955, 1967-1973 CH8 /36-43
Registers of Children’s Heights and Weights 1949-1968 CH8 /35a-b
75th Jubilee Records (1955) (1955) CH8 /15-26
Centennial History (1980) (1980) CH8 /27
NB: Van Asch College still holds many pupil records; please contact the Principal for more information.
Tasman Old People’s Home (1925-1980s)
This home was situated at the Greymouth Hospital complex, now known as Grey Base Hospital, and catered for men and women. It closed in the 1980s.
Register of Admissions, Discharges etc. 1941-1956 CH709 /13
Te Oranga Reformatory/Girls’ Home Burwood/Girls’ Training Centre (Burwood)/Kingslea Home and School (1900-Present Day)
Te Oranga Reformatory was opened in 1900 for girls after the Burnham Industrial School became exclusively a boys’ school. In 1928 it was renamed the Girls’ Home Burwood. In 1945 it became known as the Girls’ Training Centre, Burwood. It functioned both as a reformatory and as a support centre for those whose parents or relatives were unable to care for them. In 1965, it was renamed Kingslea, and offered support to troubled adolescent girls, from 13 to 18 years of age. Generally, girls were taken in for 18 months to 2 years, and were offered educational, vocational, and social training. Kingslea School, which remains open to this day, was also founded in order to cater for these girls. From 1988 onwards, Kingslea Home and Kingslea School have catered for both boys and girls.
Te Oranga Home Roll/Kingslea Admission Registers 1900-1987 (many years missing) CH504 See Archway for individual items
Kingslea/Burwood Girls’ Home, Press Clippings, Memoranda and Memorabilia Relating to Girls’ Home 1908-1942 CH867 /2i
Miscellaneous Photographs and Slides from the Kingslea Girls’ Home c.1930-1987 CH867 See Archway for individual items
Kingslea Girls’ Home Files, Diaries and Dutybooks 1931-1987 CH378 See Archway for individual items
NB: Our Wellington archive holds further items relating to this institution, some of which are restricted, see Archway for details.
Timaru Old Men's Home/Timaru Benevolent Home (C.1895-?)
Housed in the former immigration barracks, the Timaru Old Men’s Home was established in about 1895 (prior to this, charitable cases were housed in wards of the Timaru Hospital). By the early 20th Century the institution, administered by the South Canterbury Hospital and Charitable Aid Board had accommodation for about forty men and women, and was known as the Benevolent Home.
Registers 1884-1932 CH886 /169c*-169e
Tuarangi Old Men’s Home Ashburton (1870s-?)
Established in the former Ashburton Immigration Barracks in Short Street, Ashburton, this was a home for elderly men, which also had an infirmary ward.
Initially the home was administered by a special committee, appointed by the Christchurch Hospital Board, though it was passed into the hands of the newly formed North Canterbury and Ashburton Charitable Aid Board in 1885.
A new, purpose built facility was opened in August 1902, adjacent to the showgrounds. The Māori name, Tuarangi (‘Old’) was adopted at this time.
Ashburton Home Returns of Patients 1899-1903 CH527 308/244*
Tuarangi Home Admissions & Discharges 1900-1939 CH384 9/3, 8; 9/3, 9
Tuarangi Home Returns of Patients [also includes several press cuttings] 1903-1908 CH527 /236*
Tuarangi Home - Particulars of Inmates 1935-1969 CH1082 /1a-2d
Tuarangi Home - Inmates 1938-1958 CH701 5/26
Tuarangi Home Patients’ Index [admission register] 1939-1962 CH527 /237
Tuarangi Home Register of Inmates 1955-1981 CH1082 /3a
Tuarangi Home - Inmates 1959-1968 CH701 5/26
Waltham Orphanage (1905-1940)/Waltham Children’s Home (1941-1957)
This institution, opened in 1905 by the North Canterbury Hospital Board, in what had been a private residence, replaced the Canterbury Orphanage (Lyttelton). It accepted male and female children who had been orphaned or abandoned, or whose parents, through illness or misfortune, were simply unable to care for them.
In 1957, it became the Teresa Green Home for the elderly. Children who would formerly have received care from this institution were thenceforward sent to the Huntsbury Home.
Orphanage Admissions & Discharges 1905-1939 (many gaps) CH384 9/3, 8; 9/3, 9
Waltham Home - Register of Admissions [children] 1947-1957 CH552 /23
Department of Social Welfare
We hold the region’s Social Welfare Case Files, created by the Department of Social Welfare (now known as the Ministry of Social Development), related and predecessor agencies in the course of their work with children in need.
For many years (from the 1880s onwards) the oversight of child welfare was undertaken by the Education Department - a role formalised under the Child Welfare Act of 1925, which created a special Child Welfare Division within the Education Department to make better provision for the maintenance, care and control of children under state protection (the Division also administered New Zealand’s Special Schools). A separate Department of Social Welfare was created in 1972, and took over most of the Division’s welfare functions, though control of the special residential schools remained with the Education Department.
Files include the personal, family, academic and institutional details of individuals who received state oversight and care, and sometimes include information about foster parents and adoptions. Some files include many family members, while others focus on one child. Files may have been created for any of the following reasons: a needy family, parental inadequacy, supervision, maintenance, housing, neglect and ill-treatment of children.
These files are permanently restricted, and access to them can only be obtained via application to Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children. If you believe that there may be a file of interest to you or your family, you can contact:
Manager, Privacy Official Information Services
Privacy Official Information Team
Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children
PO Box 546, Wellington 6011
0508 326 459 (and ask for privacy and official information services).
Private charitable aid was the mainstay in supporting destitute adults in the second half of the 19th Century, though (as can be seen in the institutional histories above) Charitable Aid Boards, under the administration of the country’s Hospital Boards did oversee a number of homes for the elderly (and other charitable aid cases), and also provided funding for needy individuals admitted to hospital wards during this period.
Manager, Privacy Official Information Services
Privacy Official Information Team
Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children
PO Box 546, Wellington 6011
0508 326 459 (and ask for privacy and official information services).
It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th Century that the first governmental measures were taken in the area of adult welfare - most notably with the introduction of the Old Age Pension in 1898. We hold very few records of pensions and benefits. In Christchurch we hold miscellaneous pension records from Waimate and Timaru (1899-1916) [Archives Reference: CH24], Department of Social Welfare War Pensions Registers (1946-1988) [Archives Reference: CH485], and Unemployment Benefit (and Sickness) Registers (1939-1985) [Archives Reference: CH454].
If you are adopted, or believe that you may have been adopted, and you are at least 20 years of age:
Write to Births, Deaths and Marriages requesting a copy of your original birth certificate. This will provide the names of your birth parents, unless they have placed a block on the information. (For adoptions after 1 March, 1986, there is no provision for birth parents to place a block on this information).
Request any information that Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children may hold about your adoption in their records.
If you are a birth parent of a child who was adopted, and that child is at least 20 years of age:
You may apply to Adoption Services at Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children to find out about the adopted child. Please note that the child may have placed a block on their information.
For more information please do not hesitate to contact Adoption Services at Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children.
Apply to Births, Deaths and Marriages, via the contact details above, for a copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate. Please note that you are likely to be asked to provide proof both of your direct descent from the adoptee, and also of the fact that the adoptee’s parents are now deceased.
Information about Maori adoptions registered via the Maori Land Court from 1901 to 1955 was published in the New Zealand Gazette, some volumes of which are available for viewing in the reading room by placing an order on Archway [Archives Reference: CH1116].
You can also contact Adoption Services at Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children for further guidance and assistance.
While we do hold some court registers and files relating to adoptions, these are totally restricted under the current provisions of the Adoption Act 1955 and the Adult Adoption Act 1985, in the interests of protecting the personal privacy of those mentioned therein. Please ask an archivist for more information.
Further sources here may be of interest and assistance to those researching aid and welfare in Canterbury and Westland. Especially complementary to the records discussed above are many of our holdings from these regions’ courts, particularly those regarding maintenance orders and adoptions, though these are subject to access restrictions; ask an archivist for further details, and see Justice Records.
Also relevant are the health and education records that we hold here. For more information about these see Health Records, and Education Records.
Our Wellington archive has further sources that may be of interest to those researching in the area of welfare. Most notable as far as our region is concerned, are the Industrial School Nominal Rolls, Welfare Case Files and Registers of Foster Parents. See the national Child Welfare and Adult Welfare research guides for further details.
Last modified on 31 October 2019