Inspector of Nuisances: From the CCC Archives

Inspector of Nuisances 1862-1864 now digitised

The CCC Archives are beginning to digitise, and make publicly available, some of our most vulnerable, fragile and fascinating early records of the Christchurch City Council.

First off the digital press is archive CCC/ARC/343/78 – which includes the reports and correspondence of the Inspector of Nuisances and the reports of the Sanitary Commission 1862-1864.

The Inspector of Nuisances was appointed by the CCC Sanitary Committee, with the role being established in the early days of CCC in April 1862. The Inspector reported issues relating to rubbish, sewerage, drainage, health, traffic, roads – so many ‘nuisances’ in the early city before there were specific departments or other boards to deal with them (the Christchurch Drainage Board for example was not established until 1876). It cannot have been a terribly fun job and in 1863 they went through three Inspectors alone, until William Pearce was appointed and remained in the role until 1877.

The reports give a real glimpse into what life must have been like in the early days of the city with endless concerns on the unsanitary conditions people were living in. The early reports of the Sanitary Commission are fascinating to read – see p20 for the 6th May 1862 report from Dr Barker, the Registrar of Death, which lists the of number of deaths by fever from 1857-1861 including the specific streets where people died. The follow up report on p23 from 9th May 1862 outlines the shocking conditions found in the Immigration Barracks on Kilmore Street. Worthy of noting that by the 1870s we were one of the unhealthiest cities in New Zealand, with high rates of diseases such as typhoid (152 people died in Christchurch during the epidemic of 1875-1876), and with our underground sewers not beginning to be constructed until 1879.

But there were also all of the additional ‘nuisances’ the Inspectors were responsible for – such as five families living in one cob cottage (report 22), a large number of stables and pigstys leading to all kinds of issues around smell and manure problems, endless complaints about cesspools and nightsoil men, and creative solutions e.g. let’s just drain it into the Avon (which was a standard practice again until the late 1870s).

The Inspector of Nuisances reports are available on Canterbury Stories. These reports have been indexed and we have transcriptions available on our webpages (sometimes word for word) – so please take a look at those if you cannot decipher the handwriting: Council archives : Christchurch City Council ( / Correspondence/ CCC ARC 343 78-81

Inspector of Nuisances

Christchurch City Council Archives

Annabel Armstrong-Clarke
CCC Archivist