Around the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Hagley Park stretches north and south, an open urban space of almost 165 hectares.

People walking in Hagley Park

Heritage

In December 1850, the first ships carrying British settlers arrived in Canterbury. Many of the colonists built huts along the Avon River in what is now North Hagley Park. This cluster of huts became known as Settlers Corner.

The settlers used a natural spring close to their homes, known today as Pilgrim's Well. A stone memorial encloses this spring on the north bank of the Avon. The memorial commemorates the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the first ships.

The area which is now Hagley Park was scrubby grassland and shingle, criss-crossed by creeks feeding the swampy Avon river. The colonists intended their new city to have green spaces. It wasn't long before they were clearing and planting, developing what was to be "reserved forever as a public park, and open for the recreation and enjoyment of the public."

The settlers named Hagley Park after the English country seat of Lord Lyttelton, chairman of the Canterbury Association which established the Church of England settlement of Christchurch.

In the 1860s a section of Hagley Park was chosen as the site for the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Early Canterbury settlers found the expanse that is now Hagley Park "unprepossessing in appearance". They soon began planting the many trees that have grown to make the park the green heart of Christchurch city. There are now more than 3000 trees in Hagley Park.

The first formally recorded planting in Hagley Park was an avenue of Oriental plane trees, established in North Hagley in 1870.


Lakes Victoria and Albert

In 1897 the people of Christchurch marked the Queen of England's 60th anniversary by excavating a lake from the naturally occuring swamp in North Hagley park and naming it in the Queen's honour. Lake Victoria was stocked with perch and became a favourite spot for sailing model yachts.

The lake was a centrepiece of the 1906-07 New Zealand International Exhibition. The Government of the day chose Christchurch to host the massive trade and tourism event, which covered more than a quarter of Hagley Park.

More than one million visitors came to the exhibition to see the many industrial and commercial wares on display, and to enjoy recreation attractions like the overhead gondola and the giant boat ramp into Lake Victoria.

The description of Christchurch as the 'Garden City' started at this time.

In 1916, an area close to Lake Victoria was excavated for soil to improve the border on Rolleston Avenue. The excavated area became Albert Lake, named in memory of Victoria's husband.