top of page
John Grigg 2.jpg

Ashburton District, situated south of Christchurch, covers 6175 square kilometres in the Canterbury region on the East coast of the South Island of New Zealand with a population of 27,372 (2006 est).  It is the third largest centre in  Canterbury, after Christchurch and Timaru.  The area around Ashburton is frequently referred to as Mid Canterbury,                    

which is the name used by theDistrict’s representative  sports teams.  It covers from the Southern Alps in the west to  the Pacific Ocean, Rakaia River in the north, to the Rangitata River in the south, including the towns of Methven, v Mt Somers and Rakaia

The Mâori name for the town is Hakatere.  While there was pre-European settlement of the area by Mâori, they mainly  used the coastal area to journey along the Canterbury Bight between Taumoto by Lake Ellesmere in the north and  Arowhenua south of the Rangitata River in the south or they travelled along the foothills.

Ashburton was named by surveyor, Captain Joseph Thomas of the New Zealand Canterbury Association, after the 3rd Baron of Ashburton, later Lord Ashburton.  It was originally a treeless plain, covered in tussock, except for a few cabbage  trees and matagouri and swept periodically by gales from the north-west.  The wide snow fed braided rivers meant fords

constantly changed and crossing could be difficult

The first building was an accommodation house built on a ferry reserve on the northern bank of the Ashburton River in  1858 by William Turton, where he lived with his wife, Francis and their two young children. 

William Turton also ran a ferry service and was the Postmaster.

The town, surveyed by Robert Parks in 1863-64 served local farms.  The town is laid out around two central squares either  Side of the railway line and main highway, Baring Square East and Baring Square West.

One of the more prominent rural runholders was John Grigg.   Originally from Cornwall, John Grigg purchased  land of over 30,000 acres between 1863 and 1873 to make up the run called ‘Longbeach’  south of Ashburton River.   A smaller Longbeach

Estate is still held by Grigg descendants.

By 1864 the coaches of Cobb & Co. were using the route through Ashburton in a two-day service between Christchurch and Timaru and maintained it until the completion of the railway in 1874 when the rail/road bridge was built over the Ashburton


As we do not have mail facilities, all enquiries should be sent to  our email address.  

Group Email:


You do not have to be a member of our Branch to visit our library, but non-members are charged $10 per hour to use our facilities and postal research is chargeable  on a case by case on request .

Our School Records Officer will answer queries at the cost of $10 for up to 10 names per request.

Our 2021 – 2022  sub is $35 single, and $45 for 2 people within a household.

Clock Tower,   Baring Square East

Down load a research request form HERE

Print fill out either Post or email

John Grigg statue in Baring Square East

bottom of page