This page contains information about the design and construction methods used in the provincial Council buildings.

Timber buildings

Photo of the timber corridor with a flagstone floor

The earliest timber buildings were relatively plain. The Council Chamber, where the councillors regularly met, was at the heart of the buildings as well as being the most impressive. You can still admire its arched ceiling of native timber and the galleries for the press and public at either end. Something to look out for particularly is the fine tracery on the bay window on the south side.

In 1859, work began on the second group of buildings. The province was better off financially and could afford something more elaborate and spacious. The result was a building of strong Victorian Gothic Revival style.

These first two timber buildings were connected by a long, low-ceilinged corridor, paved with flagstones and still has an atmosphere suggestive of the hushed cloisters of Medieval monks.

Stone Chamber and Bellamys

By 1861, the numbers on the ProvincPhoto of a carving of a bearded manial Council had swelled to 35 making it a tight squeeze in the small Timber Chamber. Benjamin Mountfort drew up plans for a new chamber along with social and dining facilities (giving them the same name, Bellamy’s, as those in London’s Westminster), and accommodation for a housekeeper.

With these buildings, Mountfort used a variety of local stone as the main building material. The Stone Chamber is in a High Victorian Gothic style and the stonework is magnificently elaborate.

As Canterbury historian John Wilson said, 'the interior of the Council Chamber is the building’s greatest glory'. There is a double-faced clock, encaustic (inlaid) tiling, beautiful stained glass windows, and carvings done in Christchurch by William Brassington.

Visitors can share Brassington’s sense of fun by searching for heads, birds, a cat, frog and other creatures. The timbers used in the interior of the Stone Chamber include native kauri and rimu.