Family History – Hospitals, Orphanages and Charitable Aid

Hospital and institutional records and histories can contain background information about life in an area at a particular period of history, as well as details of particular staff, residents and patients. The resources may not list details about specific people, but can be of use to fill in the background of your ancestors’ lives.

On this page

Hospital records

Published histories of local hospitals

For histories of local hospitals held at Christchurch City Libraries, you can search our catalogue under the following subject headings:

In the operating theatre, Timaru Hospital. 1910?
In the operating theatre, Timaru Hospital. 1910?

Annual reports of the Inspector-General of hospitals are published in the Appendix to the journals of the House of Representatives, H-34, 1883; H-7A, 1884; H-18, 1885; H-9, 1886; H-19, 1887; H-7, 1891; H-3, 1892; H-23, 1893; H-22, 1895-1910; H-31, 1911-. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the annual reports include a separate report on each hospital. Patient numbers are often recorded but there is no information on individual patients. There is, however, often mention of individual staff, especially senior staff.

Private hospitals

Strathmore on Ferry Road

Christchurch City Libraries holds photographs of the hospital and an article about it appears in The Press: A modern surgical hospital The Press, 29 October 1895, p. 3.

Lewisham Hospital was established by the sisters of the Little Company of Mary in 1914. It later became the Calvary Hospital and then the Mary Potter Hospital. For information on the history of the hospital, see:

Private maternity hospitals see below

Maternity hospitals

House brought from England by Rev. Charles Richard Mackie (1798-1882)
House brought from England by Rev. Charles Richard Mackie (1798-1882)

Female Refuge/Essex Maternity Hospital

The Refuge provided maternity services for unmarried mothers, although usually only for a woman’s first illegitimate child; 'recidivists' were not assisted. The library holds this photograph of Strickland, the original house on the site which became the laundry for Essex Hospital.

For published accounts of the work of the Refuge, see:

St Helen’s Hospital / Christchurch Women’s Hospital

Other maternity hospitals

Salvation Army hospitals

The Salvation Army ran a succession of maternity homes/hospitals in Christchurch, each new one replacing the last. In order these were:

  • Rescue home (opened 1885)
  • Mizpah Maternity Home (Cashel St, opened 1897)
  • Grace Hospital (Bealey Avenue, opened 1906)
  • Bethany Hospital (Paparoa St, 1950-1982)

The Salvation Army in Wellington holds some records for Grace Hospital and Bethany Hospital. Email or phone 04 382 0710.

Bethany Maternity Hospital, Papanui CCL-StarP-00919A, In copyright, Christchurch Star Archive.

Private maternity hospitals

Until the 1920s, most women had their babies either at home or in small, unlicensed 1-2 bed maternity homes, run by local maternity nurses or midwives. Over the next decade, childbirth in New Zealand was medicalised and by 1935, 78% of babies were born in large maternity hospitals with doctors in attendance. For discussion of this change, see:

Nurses at Maori Hospital, Temuka, South Canterbury. 1918
Nurses at Maori Hospital, Temuka, South Canterbury. 1918

Maternity hospitals with more than 2 beds had to be licensed from 1903. These hospitals were inspected by the Inspector-General of Hospitals whose reports were published in the Appendix to the journals of the House of Representatives (H-31, 1905; H-22, 1907-1910; H-31, 1913 onwards). Reports on individual homes are not included; only an overall summary is given but these sometimes mention individual maternity homes and their proprietors.

Christchurch private hospitals, private maternity homes and convalescent homes, 1850-1950: index of names
A useful list of hospitals and private maternity homes.

Many unlicensed maternity homes were run by women in their own homes so cannot be located in Wise’s directories unless the name of the maternity nurse is known. Until the 1920s at least, many of these "nurses" were not registered so they cannot be traced in the lists of registered nurses and midwives published in the New Zealand gazette until 1933. The New Zealand gazette is also available online in our libraries and can be browsed from 1841 onwards.

There is an factsheet on our website about Te Kohanga Maternity Hospital, 25 Fendalton Road.

Psychiatric hospitals

Sunnyside Hospital

Medical staff

See Doctors and Nurses from the Employment page.


Church orphanages

St Saviour’s Home was an Anglican home in Stapletons Road, Shirley, now the site of the Churchill Complex. The home catered for girls of all ages, and for boys aged between 2 and 5. Boys under 2 were catered for at the Babies’ Home, Sumner. After 5, they went to the Timaru Boys’ Home. For further information, see the Sun, 12 November 1927.

The Anglican Diocese of Christchurch holds records of children at all three institutions. Access to the material is restricted. Requests for access should be addressed to the Christchurch Anglican Diocesan Archives at

Nazareth House, Brougham Street, was a Catholic institution for girls. Both sexes were catered for at St. Joseph’s at Middleton, Riccarton at first; this later became boys only. Records of children cared for at these institutions are held at Regional House in Melbourne. Email the Regional House at

There were three Presbyterian homes, one for girls in Rhodes Street, and two in Blighs Road, one for boys, the other for young men. A sense of community: Celebrating 100 Years of Presbyterian Support in the Upper South Island has a chapter on these homes. Included are photographs of the buildings, staff and children. Presbyterian Archives do not hold Presbyterian Children's Home and Orphanage records and any enquiries should be directed to the relevant Presbyterian Support Office.

The Methodists had a boys’ and girls’ home in Harewood Road. The story of the South Island Methodist Orphanage and Children's home, Christchurch, opens a new window is a history of the orphanage and children’s home which was opened in 1914. This history was published after the first twenty years of operation. Includes photographs of the buildings, staff and children. Other information on the home appears in W. A. Chambers, Our yesteryears, 1840-1950. The library also holds photographs of the home.

Records for the home are held in the Methodist Church of New Zealand archives. They are designated “restricted access” and permission to obtain information from them has to be given by the General Secretary of the Methodist Church. Often there is an admission application for each child or family. There is also a register of administration which can be checked. Photographs showing children who are named are restricted.

There is a folder of newspaper cuttings, annual reports and other ephemera which is not restricted and can be accessed at Methodist Archives. A yearly orphanage supplement was published in the Methodist Times which has been digitised to 1948 and can be searched on the Kinder Library website. For further information contact

The Salvation Army operated orphanages around the country including one for boys, Bramwell Booth Home, at Temuka which opened in 1916. Salvation Army archives are held in Wellington. Records are held for a number of orphanages but the collection is not complete. Contact details are on the Salvation Army website.

Local body orphanages

Canterbury Orphanage, Governors Bay Road, Lyttelton. ca. 1900
Canterbury Orphanage, Governors Bay Road, Lyttelton. ca. 1900

The Canterbury Orphanage at Lyttelton was established by the Canterbury Provincial Council in 1869. The library holds a photograph of this institution (right). It was burnt down in 1904; see The Press, 26 March 1904, p. 8.

The North Canterbury Hospital Board’s boys’ and girls’ non-denominational home at Waltham replaced the Canterbury Orphanage in 1905. It was established in what had been a private home. Christchurch City Libraries has a photograph of this institution. A report of a commission of enquiry into the home appears in the Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives, H-22A, 1906.

The Cholmondeley Memorial Home at Governors Bay was founded in the 1920s. For photographs of this home, check the library’s catalogue under the subject heading, Cholmondeley Children’s Home - Photographs. It replaced the New Brighton Convalescent Cottage which had been established in 1900. It was for convalescent children and the offspring of convalescent mothers.

The Girls’ Receiving Home, managed by the Education Department, was established in 1918 in the Strathmore Hospital building in Ferry Road. A number of the girls appear in Christchurch City Libraries’ church register transcripts. The Home ceased operating about 1980 and was demolished in the late 1990s.

Charitable aid

Nurse Maude: from our photograph collection
Nurse Maude ca. 1900

Some published sources

  • M. Tennant, Paupers & providers: charitable aid in New Zealand, examines neglected or gutter children, beggars of the female sex, and others who were sick, poor, unemployed, frail and elderly in colonial, early 20th century and pre-Welfare State New Zealand. The book also deals with the assistance given by local and central government, and how the needy were viewed. Some individual institutions and cases are mentioned.
  • R. Chapman, Charitable aid in Canterbury, 1853-76, The New Zealand genealogist, May/June 2001, describes the charitable aid policies of the Canterbury Provincial Council.
  • Reports of the Inspector-General on charitable institutions, including orphanages, appear in the Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives, H-22, 1900-1910; H-31, from 1911.
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