Our aims – Promoting, Preserving and Remembering
The main aim of the Association is to promote and preserve the history of our early settlement and of those pioneers who laid the foundations for this city.

The first meeting of the Canterbury Pilgrims Association was held on 8 October, 1923.

First Four Ships off Port Lyttelton

The Association’s first members consisted of a few of the remaining settlers who arrived in the ‘First Four Ships’ (arriving in Lyttelton, December 1850) and descendants of early settlers to the Canterbury region in New Zealand (‘Canterbury Association Ships’ up until 31 October, 1876).

Current members consist of descendants of those early pioneers and others who have an interest in that period of Canterbury’s formation.


Over the years, thousands of artefacts, diaries, costumes etc from that period and reflecting Canterbury’s early history, have been collected by the Association and are now held by the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

The Canterbury Pilgrims

Three half-score years ago-no more,
Since Godley stood upon the shore,
A leader of the Pilgrims bold,
Who framed the New upon the Old,
And stamp'd the Old upon the New,
'Neath speckless skies of sunny blue.

Three half-score years- and can this be?
'Tis but a ripple on the sea
Of Time: Oh! what a wondrous change,
Since o'er the ridge of yonder range
Hope led the Pilgrims, firm and true,
'Neath speckless skies of sunny blue.

They saw, from the yonder mountain's brow,
Plains yearning from spade and plough:
And where the naked rivers ran,
Vales waiting to be dressed by man:
Their help all Nature seemed to woo,
'Neath speckless skies of sunny blue.

They gave the breeze that fann'd the foam
Sweet farewell sighs to carry Home:-
But though old Albion was dear,
They saw a fairer England here
Awaiting them, the dauntless few,
'Neath speckless skies of sunny blue.

Behold their work! Revere their names!
Green pastures set in golden frames.
Around the City of the Stream.
Fulfil the Pilgrim's brightest dream:
With them a fairer England grew
'Neath speckless skies of sunny blue.

by Thomas Bracken

Thomas Bracken, “The Canterbury Pilgrims.” in Lays of the Land of the Maoris and Moa 1884

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