Godley House, Diamond Harbour’s iconic heritage building and destination was badly damaged by the Canterbury earthquakes and has since been demolished.

Godley House


Godley House was built in 1880 by Mr Harvey Hawkins on land purchased from Mark Stoddart, who lived in nearby Stoddart Cottage. As well as being a family home and pleasure ground, the property was famed for its lavish parties, where boatloads of people would arrive from Lyttelton on Hawkins' steam launch, Waiwera. After a bad financial run, Hawkins went bankrupt, the house was put up for sale and the contents auctioned off in 1896. With no buyers for the property, it reverted back to the Stoddart family, who were the secured creditors.

Anna Stoddart and three of her daughters moved into Godley House in 1896. Here they helped to manage the farm and were known for hosting members of the art community, the house described as being "a mecca of many artists, botanists and sundry guests." When Anna died in 1911, the remaining members of the Stoddart family sold the Diamond Harbour estate to the Lyttelton Borough Council and Government and it was used as a hotel, restaurant and conference centre up until the September 2010 earthquake.

Download a short history of Godley House [PDF, 3.8 MB].

Deconstruction and Demolition

The 4 September 2010 earthquake damaged Godley House significantly but the building was considered to be repairable. After the 22 February 2011 earthquake however, hopes of restoration were dashed as two independent reports from structural engineers concluded the building was unsalvageable and advised demolition. On 11 September 2011, a wake was held for Godley House and the Diamond Harbour community and visitors from around the region turned out to farewell the historic home. Through careful deconstruction recorded by an archaeologist, a lot of heritage fabric was saved.


When the large concrete foundations on the southern side of the building were removed, a number of features were found beneath them including a fireplace foundation, concrete pathways and brick footing. This footing changes previous ideas about the layout and development of the south side of the house and it is now believed to have been extended in two parts. Two rain water tanks were also found, one dating back to the nineteenth century and the other likely to be its twentieth century replacement. These were constructed from concrete and brick and were left in-situ with a cover made of corrugated iron. The second tank was probably built in 1919 and contained reinforcing steel. The presence of these tanks shows us how a lack of water on the site was dealt with. 

Sixty artefacts were excavated from Godley House, all glass and metal. The glass artefacts were all alcohol bottles likely to have contained dark beers such as porters and stouts, or spirits. A number of different sizes were found ranging from pint (60 to 70 millimetres in base diameter) to the larger quart (75 to 88 millimetres in base diameter). All bottle sizes found correspond directly to quantities in which beer and spirits were sold both retail and wholesale. Quarts of beer would have sold for 6 to 9 pence per bottle (depending on the beer) and pint bottles would have cost about half that. Maker's marks were found on three black beer bottles although none could be identified to a manufacturer, one has however been found on other nineteenth-century sites in Christchurch. Other bottles included case gins and ring sealed wine and beer bottles. 

The one metal item found was a lead roofing nail. It has a rectangular cross section suggesting cut manufacture commonly used prior to the 1970s before the use of wire nails increased in popularity. It's possible the nail was used in construction of the house though the house was built in 1870.

The artefact composition is unusual because of what is absent. Nineteenth century domestic excavations usually produce large numbers of ceramics, food remains (animal bones) and other glass items like food related jars and non-alcoholic bottles. Knowing the domestic history of Godley House, it is a reasonable assumption to assume the family deposited their waste elsewhere on or off the property. Why the particular assemblage was deposited close to the house and without any other waste is unknown but it is unlikely that it is an accurate representation of the occupants and their activities. Based on bottle manufacturing methods, the bottles found were likely to have been deposited after the 1860s. 

Future plans for the site

The Godley House grounds are currently being used for community events. The Council will work closely with the local community and key stakeholders to look at all future options for the development of this historic site.