Doctors and Health in Early Christchurch and Lyttelton

Canterbury Museum Friends Talk

This talk took place on 3 August 2021.

This talk introduces some of the leading medical practitioners in nineteenth century Lyttelton and Christchurch, and the chemists and druggists who made up their prescriptions.


Early twentieth century medicines from the Museum collection. Canterbury Museum UD2018.5.294–297, 300, 351–359

Bennett's Hospital on the Avon (1962) described them as "a rugged lot...of prickly individualists".

Colonial life included a lot of sickness and injury – colds and flu, broken bones, cuts and gashes, scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhoid – and the doctors' remedies were as various as their training and qualifications. Most still believed that diseases were spread by bad smells or "miasma" and were slow to accept Pasteur's research on bacteria or "germs".

Many of the herbal based medicines were little more than placebos, while some of the chemical based medicines were potentially harmful, especially those based on mercury or lead. Pain relief was mainly by means of opium in the form of laudanum. It was a different world back then, and hearing of their problems should make us grateful for the benefits of modern scientific medicine.

Hosted by the Friends of Canterbury Museum.

Places at this talk are limited so please register (button below) if you are keen to attend. 

This talk took place on 3 August 2021.

3 August 2021 10.15 am – 11.15 am Register
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