Situated in the centre of Christchurch, Cathedral Square features notable buildings and has been the focal point of civic activity.
Cathedral Square was first named Ridley Square to commemorate Bishop Nicholas Ridley, martyred at Oxford in 1550. (His co-martyrs and colleague bishops, Cranmer and Latimer, also have squares named after them). The square is laid out in the form of a cross.
The Square was originally designed to be a privately owned space for the Cathedral and a grammar school modelled on Christ Church, Oxford. However, the Square gradually became a community focal point and a major centre of activity. In 1974 it was redeveloped to provide large pedestrian areas, and traffic was diverted around the perimeter of the square.
Cathedral Square was occupied by people on February 22, 2011 when the 6.3 earthquake hit. Dramatic scenes occurred as the Christ Church Cathedral crumbled and a woman was rescued from a window in the cathedral tower. Many notable buildings around the square, including The Press building, Warner’s Hotel, the BNZ building, Government Life building, the Grant Thornton Building, Crystal Plaza and Chancery Chambers, were damaged and later demolished. The Old Government Building (now the Heritage Hotel) survived and reopened. The Old Chief Post Office building, another heritage feature, survived. Cathedral Square remained inside the CBD Red Zone cordon until 30 June 2013.
In 2018 the new library building, Tūranga, opened in the north western section of the square.