The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, passed by the British government, allowed New Zealand to establish a representative government. The initial 24 New Zealand electorates were defined by Governor George Grey in March 1853. Lyttelton was one of the initial single-member electorates.
The electorate was in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, New Zealand, and included the port of Lyttelton.
The nomination meeting for the first election was held on 15 August 1853 at the Reading Room in Lyttelton. The first election was held two days later on a Wednesday at the Resident Magistrate's Office in Lyttelton, with Charles Simeon as Resident Magistrate acting as the returning officer. The election was contested by Christopher Edward Dampier, the solicitor of the Canterbury Association, and James FitzGerald, who in the previous month had been elected Canterbury's first Superintendent. Fitzgerald won the election by 55 votes to 45, and represented the electorate until 1857, when he resigned due to ill health.
Crosbie Ward won the resulting by-election in May 1858. Ward was re-elected unopposed on 25 January 1861.
John Joyce represented Lyttelton 1887–1890 and 1893–1899. The electorate was held from 1913 by James McCombs for the Social Democrats and then for Labour; he was succeeded by his wife when he died, and then his son when she also died.
The 1925 general election was contested by Melville Lyons and the incumbent, James McCombs. The original count resulted in a tie of 4,900 votes each. The returning officer gave his casting vote to Lyons and declared him elected. A recount was demanded, and on 3 December 1925, an amended result of 4890 votes for Lyons and 4884 votes for McCombs was determined, with the differences in the counts explained by counting informal votes in a different way. Lyons' election was declared void on 13 March 1926, and the previous holder, McCombs, was restored as the holder of the electorate.
The seat has been held by National and Norman Kirk transferred to the safer (for Labour) Sydenham seat in 1969, just as his predecessor Harry Lake transferred to the safer (for National) Fendalton seat in 1960.
McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN0-477-01384-8.
Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer.
Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC154283103.
Norton, Clifford (1988). New Zealand Parliamentary Election Results 1946–1987: Occasional Publications No 1, Department of Political Science. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington. ISBN0-475-11200-8.