Engineering New Zealand Engineering Heritage Jobhunt Foundation


FOOKS, Charles Edward, (1829 - 1907)

Charles Edward Fooks, civil engineer/surveyor/architect. was born in Weymouth, England on 19 Sept 1829, son of Charles Berjeu/Berjew Fooks/Ffoks, surveyor and Mother’s maiden name, Chandler, and was raised an Anglican.

Educated at Salisbury, Edmonton. He was articled to a London architect and surveyor - Cooper of Lincoln's Inn. He spent his holidays with his uncles Joseph and Guise Brittan at Salisbury. He later worked in his father’s survey office in Camberwell.

He married Catherine Compton (1832 –1901) on 16 Jan 1851, St-Mark's, Kennington, London, England. They had 8 children: Alfred August, Charles Compton, Herbert H, Dr Fooks, (Tauranga), Catherine Mary (F) and 3 small daughters died Sept 1863 – (probably from typhoid).

He and his wife arrived in NZ in 1851 on the ‘Steadfast’, and settled mainly in the Ashburton and Christchurch areas. In the period 1855-56 he was in the Survey office of the Canterbury Association as an architect. Fooks then tried farming but not with great success and around 1866 he undertook a feasibility study of irrigating the Canterbury Plains. Then in 1869 he laid out first water races for Charles Reed at Westerfield which were still being used in 1940 by the Ashburton County Council. Also around this time he laid out and superintended the road from Omihi to Cheviot. In 1871 he reported on the irrigation of the region from the Waimakiriri to Rolleston, was voted by the Council for this work.

In 1873 he was appointed Engineer to the Wakanui Road Board. Then in 1877 he became the first Borough Engineer of Ashburton, practising as a licensed surveyor, engineer and architect in Canterbury. He was associated with much of the early development work of Ashburton County. He designed the Longbeach drainage scheme and also the drainage scheme for the Cheviot Flats.

As an architect he designed first Church at Avonside, and the NZ Insurance Co building in Hereford Street, Christchurch.

In 1874 he was a member of the Ashburton Road Board. At other times he was Church warden of St Stephen's, Ashburton and Secretary with Cyrus Davie of the Cattle Show in Christchurch.

He was a very able surveyor, architect and engineer from the earliest days of the Canterbury province. His work, especially the provision of stockwater races over the Canterbury Plains (rather than irrigation as the term is understood now) must have been of great value.

The Fooks family between them carried out the work of the Borough engineer from 1878 - 1933. Associates : Nephew of Joseph and Guise Brittan, Cyrus Davie, John Ollivier, Hugo Friedlander (Mayor of Ashburton), G H Moore of Wakanui, C Reed of Westerfield, Colonel Brett.

Public Standing: A very respected member of the community.

He died in Ashburton on 17 November 1907.


  • Cyclopedia of NZ – Vol. 3;
  • "Lyttelton Times" 14.1.1886, 20.12.1870, 10.5.1872, 11.5.1874, 14.1.1886, 1.10.1863, 10.9.1853, 17.12.1853, 21.10.1854, 4.5.1861, 25.6.1852, 13.8.1862;
  • Canterbury Association papers, (Alexander Turnbull Library);
  • Brown, John "Ashburton" ?;
  • Popple, G L "Malvern County - a centennial history" (1953);
  • Lands and Survey Office Deeds;
  • Acland, L T "The Early Canterbury Runs";
  • Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1940);
  • MacDonald Biographic Index – Item F 220;
  • F.W Furkert "Early NZ Engineers" (1953).

Author: Susan Weekes

This essay appears in the Biographic Dictionary of Civil Engineers, Vol 2. (ICE, London)