Godley Head Bunker
Image: Joan McCallum | DOC

Introduction

Built in 1939, the Godley Head coastal defence battery is ranked as one of the top ten New Zealand coastal defence heritage sites.

Godley Head buildings and structures were damaged by earthquakes in June 2011. Some - including the gun emplacements - are still closed, pending repairs. Most walking tracks in this area are now open but the Tunnel Walk remains closed.

This headland is a breathtaking coastal location, only 50 minutes drive from Cathedral Square, Christchurch. Built in 1939, the fort is ranked in the top ten New Zealand coastal defence heritage sites.

Even before the fort was built, the visual range of the headland was used to guide ships around the peninsula, with the help of the Godley Head light. The lighthouse, built in 1865, had to be moved during WWII to make way for the fort. During the Christchurch earthquakes of 2011 parts of the cliff became unstable, and the cupola and glassed in lantern room of the lighthouse was removed to preserve it. Note; public access is not available to the remains of the lighthouse in its current location.

In the threatening early years of World War II, Cantabrians were comforted that the two 6 inch long-range guns of the fort ensured their city was not defenceless against a surprise attack. In its heyday, the fort was staffed by over 400 men and women and was a self-contained community featuring three gun emplacements, two searchlights, a plotting room and two radars.

Godley Head coastal defence battery.
Godley Head coastal defence battery

It closed in 1963 and remaining today are three large gun emplacements, seven military buildings, and other features. A complete WW2 anti-aircraft gun on long-term loan from Ferrymead Trust has been returned to the site.

Ongoing restoration work is being undertaken on the many buildings and structures around the headland. Visitors could explore one of the underground magazines, thanks to electric lighting installed. To view the other magazine, a torch was required.

Onsite interpretation panels have been placed all around the site, to explain the significance and historic stories. The Godley Head Heritage Trust is in the process of establishing a museum in the former regimental headquarters building and quartermaster's store.

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