Feb 28, 2008

China becomes 4th largest visitors source

28 February 2008 - China overtook Japan to become New Zealand's fourth largest source of visitor arrivals in January, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The 122,000 visitor arrivals from China represented an increase of 15,500, up 15 percent, on the same month last year. In contrast, the 119,500 visitor arrivals from Japan represented a decrease of 14,000, down 10 percent from the previous year.

The top three sources of visitor arrivals in January were Australia (956,400), Britain (289,400) and the United States (219,400).

The Canterbury Heritage web site is available in Standard Mandarin and also the other ten most frequently spoken languages by visitors to the province. 11% of site visitors are outside of New Zealand.

The web site also conforms to the AA certification standard of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative in providing accessibility to people who are blind or visually impaired.

Feb 27, 2008

Historic Christchurch Building Demolition?

27 February 2008 - A much photographed shop at the corner of Barbadoes and Armagh Streets is currently being offered for sale as a potential redevelopment site.

Although somewhat dilapidated and sporting later windows to the upper floor accommodation area, this circa 1875 building, last sold for $200 in 1945, is widely considered worthy of restoration.


4 April 2008 - Christchurch newspaper The Star reports that Barry King (82), who operated the city's oldest bicycle shop from the premises for 63 years has sold to new owners who will renovate the building for commercial use.

Feb 26, 2008

Conservative Christchurch Bishop Elected

26 February, 2008 - Victoria Matthews, who was the first woman to be elected a bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, has reportedly been chosen bishop of the diocese of Christchurch in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Under the church's rules, her nomination must still be approved by the province's house of bishops and members of the General Synod.

8 March, 2008 - 9th Anglican Bishop of Edmonton, Matthews, who was nominated twice as Canadian primate, pulled the church in a more conservative direction...

More at the Edmonton Journal

This Week in Canterbury History

Lyttelton, 4th of March 1855
The legendary sheep rustler James Mackenzie, sentenced to five years' imprisonment, made a third escape from the Lyttelton Goal, but was re-captured eleven days later. He was unconditionally pardoned in January 1856.

Scots Highlander 'Jock' Mackenzie became one of New Zealand's most enduring folk heroes when he was arrested for stealing 1000 sheep from The Levels station, near Temuka.

Mackenzie's daring exploits won him the admiration of many of the marginalised; small would-be farmers wanting their own land, or resenting the power of plutocratic wealthy landowners, could identify with him, as could those who didn't fit the smugly Puritan mould of bourgeois Canterbury society.

Theatre Royal Celebrates a Century

The third Theatre Royal, which stands opposite the original site in Christchurch's Gloucester Street East, opened on the 25th of February, 1908 with a performance of the Broadway Musical The Blue Moon.

There is a display of theatre programmes from the last 100 years at the Christchurch Central Library (25 February - 16 March 2008, daily 10:00am - 4:00pm). The presentation also includes a 1997 documentary film Shadows on the Stage. Narrated by Judy Newburgh, an Usher at the Theatre Royal for over forty years, the film reveals not only the theatre's history and architecture, but also a behind the scenes account of life at the theatre. The screenings are every hour between 10 am and 4pm.

Feb 23, 2008

Canterbury Orcadians Unite

The Shetland and Orkney Societies of Canterbury are to combine. The final meeting of the Canterbury Shetland Society was held in Christchurch on the 17th of February. Members formalised the shutting down of the society in preparation for a special meeting on 2nd March, when a new organisation representing them and the members of the Orkney group comes into being. The meeting will be chaired by Shetlander John Laurenson, headmaster of Shirley Boy's High School in Christchurch. More at the Shetland Times.

The Canterbury Heritage Biographical Index indicates that between 1863 and 1875 not less than 40 emigrants from the Shetlands and 19 from Orkney settled in the Province.

Feb 22, 2008

Hay’s - a Christchurch Icon

Jim Hay (1888-1971) opened his Gloucester Street department store on Friday the 13th of December, 1929. In 1938 the shop expanded on to Colombo Street and four years later, with the purchase of the 1910 Hayward building, Hay acquired an Armagh Street frontage. His upper floor office in the top (1957) image overlooked Victoria Square.

Hay's subsequently became Haywrights in 1968 and then Farmers in 1987. The old building was demolished in 1997, but the new Farmers department store is but a fraction of the size of its famous predecessor. More on the Christchurch Libraries' Heritage web site.

Feb 21, 2008

A Gate with a 150 Year History

The Synod Hall and Library of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch was completed in 1859. Built in the medieval Gothic revival style to the design of the renowned Benjamin Mountfort (1824-1898), the building featured corrugated iron cladding on a hardwood frame.

Now enjoying a revival, this was something of a daring architectural experiment for the time. But its acceptance is evidenced by Mountfort's use of the same cladding on the 1875 Administration building & Surgeon's premises for the Christchurch Hospital.

Situated in Rolleston Avenue on what is now part of the site of Christ's College, the building was demolished in 1919. However, the original door and portico survive as a gate between the College grounds and the Botanical Gardens.

Note: the use of corrugated iron as roof cladding does not appear in the Canterbury photographic until 1879. Thus "restored" buildings predating that year and sporting an iron roof are not authentic. Prior to the 1880s Australian hardwood shingles were the most common form of roof cladding, with Slate tiles as a more expensive option.

Feb 20, 2008

Lyttelton 1866

The 1866 Residential Directory includes biographical notes. Compiled from data extracted from the Stevens and Bartholomew's New Zealand Directory for 1866-67, published at Melbourne, 1st August, 1866. The directory's statistical data has a cut-off point of June 30, 1865. Accordingly there's a strong possibility that the information relates to the latter part of that year.

The 1866 Yellow Pages, extracted from the same source, lists all agencies of government and commercial enterprises at the port.

Feb 19, 2008

What Price Ashburton History?

That’s the question Ashburton ratepayers have to ask themselves as a row brews on the future of the historic railway station. The station has a Historic Places Trust II rating and protection under the local district plan, but is on the demolition list by owner Peter Hanson. The Ashburton District Council is making a last-ditch effort to save this slice of Ashburton’s history. More ...

The Ashburton Guardian, Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Feb 18, 2008

Minson's of Christchurch

Enlarged image opens in a new tab or window

A nondescript facade on the East side of Colombo Street between Gloucester and Armagh Streets belies the story of what was once a fondly remembered Christchurch institution.

In 1892 forty-eight year-old William Minson arrived in the city with a young family. Settling at the "The Hollies," on the banks of the Heathcote river in Opawa, he purchased a hardware shop originally established in 1857 by William Neeve. As Minson & Company he turned the business into a replica of the old family crockery and glassware emporium at St Ives in Cornwall.

With what was probably the best range and quality in the city, Minson flourished to the extent that he moved the shop further up Colombo Street into the 1882 three-storied Compton House. In 1912 he extended the premises through to Gloucester Street. Succeeded by Arthur William, the oldest of his three sons, Minson died in 1925 aged 81 and now lies in Linwood Cemetery.

Carville Stewart recalled Minsons in the late 1920s: '... a long narrow shop on Colombo Street, north of Cathedral Square, that sold good quality china, cutlery and glassware - they kept a great deal of their stock on island displays alongside a central aisle that ran down the length of the store. The floor was wooden and when you walked down that very long aisle, every piece of china, on every one of those island displays, rattled alarmingly. It sounded as if every piece of expensive china was going to fall off and break into a thousand pieces - quite terrifying for a shy little boy who just wanted to see the Micro Models at the back of the store."

Alas commercial acumen is not an inheritable trait and its fourteenth decade the venerable store declined into extinction, but shorn of its elaborate facade in the 1940s the old premises survives as a dilapidated ghost of its former glory.

Island's Tallest Building Begins to Dominate Skyline

The 92 metre, 23 floor residential tower and 171 room hotel complex under construction in Gloucester Street East will soon be the tallest building in the South Island.

Externally, the building will be sheathed in stone for the first six levels with a pyramid on the roof, serving both as an architectural feature and a platform for generating energy.

The pyramid assembly will support solar water heating panels and may also house a wind turbine beneath the apex. These systems will generate energy for the building and the national grid. The pyramid will also be used as a communications tower and become a distinctive landmark on the city skyline with an illuminated beacon at the top.

The ground floor plan includes a restaurant and a cafe-cocktail bar with hotel reception. Levels 17 to 20 will include eight three-bedroom apartments.

Restored School Re-opened at Waimate

Douglas school was once a centre piece of the small community 17km South-west of Waimate. The school opened with a roll of 20 in 1912, closing in 1951. The old building was donated by Timothy Mehrtens, whose father Martin was a former pupil of the school.

Moved in 2005 by the Lions Group to the grounds of Waimate Museum, the Mayor addressed a crowd in a top hats and coat tails yesterday at the re-opening of the restored School.

Feb 17, 2008

Christchurch Central Fire Station 1899-1913

Bearing almost no resemblance to its first incarnation, this was the Central Fire Station from 1899 to 1913.

From here horse-drawn fire engines, with steam-powered pumps, sped along Lichfield Street to quell the Great Fire of Christchurch; sixteen substantial inner city buildings were gutted that Summer's evening, a century ago.

On the South-west corner of Madras and Lichfield Streets, the building was remodeled in 1927 by the remarkable Charles Luney (1905-2006) and occupied by Radley Brothers, Produce Auctioneers, for the next four decades. Herbert Edward (Bert; 1902-1975) and Geoffrey Radley's business soon became the city's largest wholesale produce market.

By the early 1970s the introduction of supermarkets and processed food effectively brought an end to the produce markets, which had been a feature of this area since the days when "Cabbage" Wilson had his market gardens here in the late 1850's (William Barbour Wilson was also the city's first Mayor).

With a Taekwondo Centre upstairs, Turner's Car Auctions subsequently occupied the street level until 1993. Since then the old Fire Station has been the city depot of Ricki Shaw's Apex Car Rentals.

Cultural Evolution and Polynesian Canoes

The process of natural selection can act on human culture as well as on genes, a new study finds. Scientists at Stanford University have shown for the first time that cultural traits affecting survival and reproduction evolve at a different rate than other cultural attributes. Speeded or slowed rates of evolution typically indicate the action of natural selection in analyses of the human genome.

This study of cultural evolution, scheduled to appear Feb. 19, in the online Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, compares the rates of change for structural and decorative Polynesian canoe-design traits.

More at Science Daily 17 February 2008
More at About.com 19 February 2008

Natural selection and cultural rates of change -- Rogers and Ehrlich, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Deborah S. Rogers and Paul R. Ehrlich


It has been claimed that a meaningful theory of cultural evolution is not possible because human beliefs and behaviors do not follow predictable patterns. However, theoretical models of cultural transmission and observations of the development of societies suggest that patterns in cultural evolution do occur. Here, we analyze whether two sets of related cultural traits, one tested against the environment and the other not, evolve at different rates in the same populations. Using functional and symbolic design features for Polynesian canoes, we show that natural selection apparently slows the evolution of functional structures, whereas symbolic designs differentiate more rapidly. This finding indicates that cultural change, like genetic evolution, can follow theoretically derived patterns.

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

On the 15th of February 1994 the city of Christchurch achieved a unique distinction within the wider historical record.

16,837 Teddy Bears (along with their friends) attended the World's largest Teddy Bears Picnic in North Hagley Park.

Feb 16, 2008

Fleshin' Out Dem Dry Bones

Republished here for the first time since 1856 The Progress of Canterbury : A Letter Addressed to Joseph Thomas, Esq., Late Principal Surveyor and Acting Agent of the Canterbury Association is a 7,422 word pamphlet in the form of an open letter from one of the more unusual Shagroons to his long term friend; an even more unusual sort of chap.

Bob Waitt and his chum Joe Thomas arrived at Wellington in 1840. Robert Waitt (1816-1866), a 24 year old canny Scot settled at what was then known as Te Aro Beach, establishing himself as a General Merchant, Agent, Auctioneer, Importer, Exporter and Coastal Trader. Joseph Thomas (1803-1881), a former Army Captain, joined the survey staff of the New Zealand Company.

Described as an engaging character the eccentric Waitt, a Wellington Municipal Councilor by 1842, sealed his letters with a neat Dinna Forget in place of the usual crest or monogram. In 1850 he opened a branch of his business at Lyttelton and by 1854 had also leased the Motunau station from Edward Greenwood. To the North of the Waipara River, and then known as Double Corner, he renamed it Teviotdale Station (in his text Waitt refers to Motunau as Motinua).

Fellow run holder Charles Cox described him as a red-faced man with tow-like white hair, large prominent tusks of teeth, and abundant evidence of being addicted to tobacco for chewing purposes. A picturesque story-teller, his friends are said to have known him as "white-headed Bob, the liar."

At some time between 1854 and 1857 Waitt purchased the 50 acre Casterton estate in the Heathcote Valley from the Reverend Robert Paul, where he is described as a Gentleman by 1860 - a presumption that would probably have invited ridicule in his native Jedburgh. He died, aged 50, in 1866 and is buried in Christchurch's Barbadoes Street Cemetery. Survived by only one of his three children, he was thereby the grandfather of Leo Acland, author of the renowned The Early Canterbury Runs.

The ostensible recipient of Waitt's loquacious paean led the Canterbury Association's 1848 preliminary expedition. Acting as the first resident Agent and Principal Surveyor he appears to have offended many of the 110 Europeans employed in the early development of the Theocratic Utopia. Said to be overbearing, unreliable and impulsive, the large, burly and bespectacled Thomas was unable to brook advice or opposition.

The opinion of his assistant Edward Jollie was that Thomas was not altogether in his right mind, "...he had had so many losses from putting trust in other people's honesty that he had become suspicious of everyone. He was however a very honest and hard working administrator of affairs for the Association..."

Joseph Thomas' boss arrived at Lyttelton in April 1850, expressing dissatisfaction at what he considered the excessive expenditure on some of the works which Thomas had thought necessary. The eventual consequence being that Thomas left the Province in January 1851, departing the colony permanently in the following year.

Perhaps one of the least fortunate aspects of his legacy was a refusal to allow his assistant to include broad avenues and crescents in the city plan, describing them as mere "Gingerbread."

However, Waitt's contemporary perspective on the early development of the Province makes for an interesting read.

The Progress of Canterbury : A Letter Addressed to Joseph Thomas, Esq., Late Principal Surveyor and Acting Agent of the Canterbury Association

Feb 14, 2008

Friendship House goes East

Now remembered only by Christwegian grandparents was the Sunday night Teenage Coffee Club in the Methodist Central Mission's Friendship House on Cambridge Terrace between Colombo and Manchester Streets.

The adjacent Church bought the late 1880s house in 1961 and opened the club the following year. By the late 1980s it had become the Cleopatra's on Avon restaurant. Now sporting a most exotic interior the old building is partially obscured by the facade of the Indochine restaurant, as it is now known.

To the Right in the earlier photo is the 1873 Primitive Methodist Church, destroyed by arson in 1981.

The house to the Left at 207 Cambridge Terrace was probably built about 1873 on to the front of an earlier two-roomed cottage. It first enters the photographic record in 1878 and the porch was a later addition.

Demolished in 1965 it was replaced by the commercial photographic studios of Mannering and Associates Ltd. Subsequently the premises of Diederik van Heyningen's Lightworkx Photography, in 2008 it's the design studio of Sons & co.

Christchurch's Oldest Café

Originally Wyberg and O'Callaghan's restaurant, subsequently Paul's Quick Lunch and then the Pine Room Coffee Bar & Tearooms, the Globe Café celebrates its first century as a much favoured place for early breakfasts, lunch and people watching.

At street level of the recently restored Edwardian baroque England Brothers House and opposite the Schools of Jazz and Fashion on lower High Street, the Globe is situated at the center of student and arty life at the funkier end of town.

The Things We Forgot To Remember

From Britain's Open University comes a series of discussions by distinguished academics. Although not specifically pertinent to Canterbury they broach subjects that are relevant to how we perceive and record history. Of ten to twenty minutes duration, they're particularly recommended to the serious scholar.

Transcripts of the discussions are available from the University's Web site.

The Nation and the State

How has the writing of history, especially the scholarly aspect of it, been associated with the nation and the state?

Memory and History

Remembering on a historical scale is a conscious act. In this podcast we look at how commemoration doesn’t just happen, it has to be willed. This often brings us back to stories told that refer to things we have in common, such as the nation and religion.

Download the mp3 file

Historical memories

Why do historians change their view of what's important? Who decides what's important anyway and what do they use as their sources?

Download the mp3 file

Families in history

How does our relationship with our ancestors change our view of history? Can we ever escape from our family and should we want to?

Individuals in history

Is there something about the way we think that changes the way we remember history? When it come to our memory of big events, do our minds play tricks on us?

Communities in history

What are the ways that communities fix and transmit their views of the past? Do communities remodel the past to suit its own interests?

1874 Canterbury Club Renovations

The Canterbury Club was founded in 1872 as the merchants’ rival to the 1856 Christchurch Club, which was primarily identified with rural runholders. It still has a membership largely comprising lawyers, accountants and businessmen.

Completed in 1874, the Club building on Cambridge Terrace was situated next to the original home of the city's first Bishop. Built by the civil engineer Henry Cridland in 1851, it was the first dwelling West of the river.

An archaeologist was on hand yesterday to search for artifacts under the foundations of the Canterbury Club's caretaker's cottage on Worcester Boulevard. As part of the club's $5.5 million upgrade, the 19th century cottage is being relocated.

The Press, 14 February 2008

The 12 floor, 40 metre Club Tower, Canterbury House, Worcester Boulevard

Feb 13, 2008

The 1918 Influenza Epidemic

Influenza Ward, Christchurch Hospital

In November 1918 Christchurch, like most New Zealand towns and cities, was affected by the Influenza pandemic sweeping the world.

Normal life was disrupted and by the time the epidemic had passed 458 people had died (out of a population of 92,773). The nearby Royal Hotel and even the Bishop's residence became over-flow wards for the afflicted.


Archaeological Evidence Reveals Lost Site of Early Christchurch Mansion

Occupying the 50 acre Rural Section 82 at Riversleigh (now part of Avonside), Wotton House overlooked the river, at the furthest reach of its quietest loop, from the early 1860s until about 1944.

Seated in front of his house, with his wife and two of his eleven children, is Fortunatus Evelyn Wright (1829-1912).

In a frontier town, where too many middle-class parvenus (with some of the veneer, but little of the substance) described themselves as "Gentleman," Forty Wright was the real McCoy. Descendant of French Dukes and the author John Evelyn (1620-1706), he was Canterbury's first Postmaster General.

Manager of the city's first Bank in 1856 and Consul for Sweden and Norway, Wright was also a director of the New Brighton Tramway Company and a Justice of the Peace.

Also among a litany of distinguished forebears was his namesake; the English privateer Fortunatus Wright (1712-1757). However, he should best be remembered for a paper that he read to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury in 1873; On the desirability of dedicating to the people of New Zealand small areas of land assimilating in character to the village greens of England.

Newspapers took the matter up and the recreational reserves that abound within the garden city are his lasting legacy. But the recreational reserve that once formed part of the grounds of his home is named after a local politician...

Shown above in a circa 1875 photograph, the eighty year-old mansion was demolished to make way for a much smaller house in spacious grounds, where archaeological evidence of its predecessor continues to be revealed in an extensive organic garden.

Revised 5 October, 2008.

The previously unidentified lower photograph is in the collection of Christchurch's Canterbury Museum.

Christchurch Press Buildings Redevelopment

Architect's 1906 drawing

The eight building site, between Cathedral Square and Gloucester Street, has been sold to an Australian construction company, which plans to refurbish the protected 1907 Press building in Cathedral Square for use as a hotel or offices and create a lane precinct through the property. A more recent adjoining building will be demolished to link Press Lane to Cathedral Junction.

The company is proposing to construct a new multi-storey building behind the facades of the 1877 Palace Hotel and the 1876 second Theatre Royal in Gloucester Street. More...

The Press, Wednesday, 13 Feb 2008

Feb 12, 2008

The Canterbury Heritage Photographic Archive

1864 Christchurch Coat of Arms

Published quarterly, the photographic index currently includes descriptions of 6,859 Geo-tagged streetscapes of the provincial capital and its environs.

Approximately 1,470 historically significant photographs are restored and added to the archive each year. The next update will be 31 March 2008.

Canterbury Heritage Photographic Archive Index

A Revised Index of Volume 3 (Canterbury) of the 1903 Cyclopedia of New Zealand

The 4,449 entry revised index includes further biographical data extracted from the Canterbury Heritage Biographical Index, which currently exceeds forty-eight thousand early settler biographies.

Christchurch 1953 & 2008

Opposite the Canterbury Provincial Council buildings on the West side of Durham Street between Armagh and Gloucester Streets in 1953 and 2008.

Amuri Motors was the local agents for Studebaker and the British Standard and Triumph cars, which were assembled at the NZ Motor Assemblies Ltd factory on the South side of Tuam Street at the Fitzgerald Avenue corner.

Built on the site Doctor Edward Jennings' ostentatious Otakaro House before 1918, the garage first appears in a 1928 streetscape, at which time the business was the agency for the American Dodge Brothers automobiles.

Demolished in 1965, the old name survives as the Amuri Courts building.

Feb 10, 2008

Canterbury University College 1877-1891

A recently restored photographic sequence showing the architectural development of the former Canterbury College of the University of New Zealand from 1877 to 1891.

Originally a residential area, the 1933 purchase of Llanmaes House (subsequently the Student Union and now the Dux de Lux restaurant), completed the acquisition by the University of the block enclosed by Worcester, Hereford, Montreal Streets and Rolleston Avenue.

The Medieval Gothic Revival buildings have comprised the Christchurch Arts Centre since 1991.

From the top; 1877, 1878, 1882, 1891 & 2007.

Christchurch Arts Centre
Christchurch Now & Then #17

Feb 9, 2008

Christchurch Now & Then 1947-2007

A pair of elevated Southerly views down Colombo Street from the Cathedral tower taken on the 26th of February 1947 and the same day sixty years later.

The older photograph shows Dunstable House at the corner of Colombo and Cashel Streets burning, with a loss of 41 lives.

Lyttelton's Trilby Fish & Oyster Saloon

Charles Luney opened his second restaurant, the Trilby Fish & Oyster Saloon, on the lower East side of Canterbury Street in 1904.

It boasted a separate ladies' dining room, thereby preserving the refined sensibilities of the town's matrons from the rough and ready manners of the seamen and wharfies who frequented the popular Fish & Chip eatery.

But perhaps Luney's most significant offering to posterity was his eldest son; Charles Seymour Luney (1905-2006). Into his late nineties the city's most renowned builder continued to preside over the enterprise, which constructed many of the more significant buildings of his century.

Barely recognisable in its current incarnation, the early 1870s building is now an apartment duplex.

The Mystery of the Timaru Bottle Dump

The mystery of the bottle dump on the site of the original Timaru court building may have been solved, possibly proving it wasn't a case of court staff being fond of a drink or two.

Archaeologist Kiri Petersen has been checking out the Heaton Street site prior to work on a new courthouse beginning and located a pit containing hundreds of bottles dating back to the 1870s.

The site was probably that used by a bottling factory for five or six years in the 1870s-1880s, according to South Canterbury amateur historian Jeremy Sutherland who has researched the history of South Canterbury breweries and bottling companies.

He suspects Mrs Petersen had located an area where the bottling company dumped its broken or unusable bottles.

The Alton Brewery began production in 1873 on the site now occupied by the Countdown supermarket. It later became the New Zealand Breweries and operated through to the mid 1970s.

Mr Sutherland said it was possible the bottling company had bottled both beer from the neighbouring brewery as well as bottling aerated drinks.

He noted virtually all the torpedo shaped bottles recovered were damaged, which supported his view it was the dump of a commercial operation. The bottles could either have been broken by youngsters attempting to get the marble out, or the glass might have gone cloudy making it unsuitable to be reused.

Mr Sutherland said it was common for brewing and bottling companies to dump bottles on site. When the nearby brewery site was cleared 12 years ago, three old wells were located. Each had been filled in using bottles and other rubbish.

The Timaru Herald, Thursday, 07 February 2008