Gateway to the Hurunui

Town History

Amberley came into being in 1864, when Mrs Frederica Josephin Carter, one of the earliest freehold settlers north of the Kowai, subdivided her pastoral run, and put it up for sale – at eight pounds a quarter acre, among the cheapest sections of any Canterbury town under the name Amberley. (Website trivia: This site uses the font Fredericka the Great for it's headings!)

Amberley was first known as 'Brown's Bridge', after the name of the owner of an accomodation house located alongside the bridge. Amberley's earliest settler Alex said in his memos that Amberley was mostly a bog back when it was Brown's Bridge.

Apart from a handful of residents and businesses, including a blacksmith, a wheelwright and a carpenter, the settlement, named after Mrs Carter’s family farm in Oxfordshire, England, lay largely dormant until the arrival of the railway. The black smith until the railway establishment would operate as a mail man in association with Cobb and Co, a horse coach firm.

Once the first train pulled in, in 1876, a large number of the town sections were snapped up (at much higher prices) by tradesmen and Amberley began to expand quickly.

It is unlikely that any other town in the province had so much faith in its future as to start building a town hall within two years of its foundation, but this is what Amberley did, and the building, which seated four hundred, was opened on 25 April 1878.

The first meeting of Amberley Town Board was held in the school on Friday 21 November 1884. 26 year Alexander Greig, Amberley’s earliest settler, held the office of Clerk almost until his death in 1912. In 1908 Amberley welcomed it's first telephone exchange.

By the early 1900’s Amberley had spread over 540 acres, included 96 dwellings owned by 89 ratepayers, had and was home to more than 800 people.

Today, the town remains an important service centre for the surrounding agricultural community.

Credit for information:

Amberley War Memorial
Amberley War Memorial
Cobb and Co Coach

Cobb and Co. coach, Palmerston, Otago, 1876-1885, Palmerston, by William Hart. Purchased 1981 with New Zealand Lottery Board funds. Te Papa (O.000997).

Amberley, New Zealand, by Burton Brothers studio. Te Papa (C.013796)
Amberley, New Zealand, by Burton Brothers studio. Te Papa (C.013796)