Aug 29, 2008

Christchurch 1961 Panorama

Since early August, 2008 the Christchurch City Libraries has been posting historic images on Among the most recent posts has been a sequence of undated photographs taken from the roof of the 1930, seven storey, St Elmo Courts, Art Deco apartment building in Hereford Street at the Montreal Street corner.

Above is an east-west partial panorama constructed from some of the Libraries' photographs.

To the extreme Left is the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street, with the 1908 YMCA building on the site. Next to it (along Cambridge Terrace) can be seen the rear of the YMCA's Gordon Hall of 1885. To the Right of the Gordon Hall is a pale green two storey wooden building. Demolished in 1998, this was the 1940 headquarters of the NZ Army's Southern Military District. Clearly visible is the fire damaged roof of this building, which burnt in February, 1961.

Demolished in 1968, the 1908 YMCA building was replaced by the current Police Station in 1973. Along the range from Cambridge Terrace to Montreal Streets are the buildings of the 1863 Police Barracks and the 1873 & 1906 Police Stations. These were progressively demolished between 1973 and 1984 for a car park. At the corner of Montreal Street is the 1909 residence of the Chief Inspector of Police.

Between Montreal Street and Rolleston Avenue is a range of houses dating from circa 1880-1900. The most conspicuous of these is the vastly expanded Hereford Private Hotel ($10 a night and $1.50 for breakfast in 1984).

To the Right are the buildings of Canterbury University (now the Arts Centre). In the foreground can be seen the former 1883 Llanmaes House, subsequently the Student Union building from 1929, it is now the Dux de Lux Restaurant & Bar.

Aug 27, 2008

The Majestic Theatre

The Site

Originally the southwest corner of "Cabbage" Wilson's market garden, the Majestic Theatre site was designated in 1874 for an hotel as part of Wilson's Newmarket commercial development. William Wilson had become the city's first Mayor in 1868, but failed to attract an hotelier prepared to pay £117 per annum for a 21 year lease, so by the later 1870s a large two storey wooden building was erected on the corner as the premises of the grocers Hubbard, Hall & Company, with the offices of the Commercial Union Assurance Company above.

The Architects

The Australian Luttrell brothers: Alfred Edgar (1865-1924) and Edward Sidney (1872-1932) established one of New Zealand's foremost architectural practices when they arrived in Christchurch in 1902 after winning a competition for the design of the third White Hart Hotel in High St (demolished in 1984).

Alfred acted as the principal designer and engineer, while the smooth-talking Sidney co-ordinated building programmes and dealt with clients. Their skills and versatility made an impact on the architecture of Christchurch that remains an important and visible contribution to our architectural heritage.

Also building contractors, among their surviving projects are the 1902 Lyttelton Times Building (now the X-base Backpacker's Hostel) and the 1905 Royal Exchange building (now the Regent Theatre), both in Cathedral Square, the 1906 New Zealand Express Company building on the southeast corner of Hereford and Manchester Streets and the 1908 Theatre Royal in Gloucester Street.

After Alfred's death in 1924 the design work of the firm was undertaken by Jack Hollis and Allan Manson. Manson took over the practice when Sidney Luttrell died in 1932 (renamed as Manson, Seward & Stanton in 1936). In 1929 Allan Manson and Jack Hollis designed two major buildings, with similar facades, for the city.

Beath's Department Store at the corner of Colombo and Cashel Streets was originally intended to be six storeys, but the Great Depression put the project on hold and the store, which is now The Crossing transit centre, was completed at three levels in 1935.

The other project was the five level Majestic Theatre building for John Fuller & Sons Ltd at the corner of Manchester and Lichfield Streets. The original design proposal was for a three-tiered auditorium, with seating for 4,000, but this was later modified to two tiers with seating for 1,650.

The Theatre

Unlike Beath and Co, Sir Benjamin Fuller’s (1875-1952) cash rich Australian company, backed by their sixty-four New Zealand theatres, with unmortgaged freeholds, survived the Great Depression better than most.

The new theatre was the city’s first with a steel frame (of 380 tons), and the brick clad exterior was rendered with stucco to create an effect of two-tone Buff Limestone blocks, separated by white pointing.

The Fuller’s new building was completed in early 1930, with the western third of the upper three floors as offices. Known as Majestic House, with a separate entrance on Manchester Street, the offices were occupied by the Department of Labour (now Work and Income New Zealand).

Promoted as "The Show Place of Christchurch," the city's largest theatre was leased to Christchurch Cinemas Limited, which was made up of a partnership of Hayward Pictures Ltd, Waters and Spence Ltd, Fuller Pictures Ltd and Edward Joseph Righton of Christchurch. Fitted with sound apparatus for the "talkies," and seat plugs for hearing aids, it opened on the 1st of March, 1930.

Good though the restrained Art Deco exterior is, it is the theatre's auditorium that is probably the more significant. For more than three decades the discreet luxury of an interior in the Hispano-Moorish architectural tradition would ensure that the Majestic remained preƫminent among the thirteen theatres within the central city.

The Fuller-Hayward organisation was also the original promoters of the Miss New Zealand contest, which was billed as a “Quest for a Screen Type.” Ten provincial finalists were chosen from the more than two thousand hopefuls who entered the contest. The finalists toured the country appearing in a spectacular show at the new Majestic Theatre, after which the patrons voted for the contestant of their choice.

In 1946 Christchurch Cinemas Limited was sold to locally born Sir Robert Kerridge (1901-1979) and in that same year the Majestic was badly damaged by fire. The building was subsequently renovated under the supervision of the Architect Harry Francis Willis (1893-1972), who had designed the 1932 New Regent Street development and the now concealed 1934 Art Deco facade of the State Cinema at the northeast corner of Gloucester and Colombo Streets.

By the 1950s there were fashion parades during the interval before the main feature and even three-dimensional films (requiring patrons to wear spectacles, with red and green lenses). In 1960 New Zealand cinema ticket sales peaked at forty million, but within three years television was beginning to take its toll on Christchurch cinemas. However, the large theatre, with its excellent stage facilities, enjoyed a revival with the Startime Spectacular live music shows. There were also performances by some of the legendary Rock 'n Roll groups of that era, these included the Beatles, The Kinks, The Dave Clark Five and Manfred Mann.

The theatre closed on the 28th of August, 1970, becoming Moby Dick's Nite Spot. The club is probably best remembered as the salubrious venue where the legendary Christchurch glam rock band Odyssey performed regularly. Six years later it was again badly damaged by fire and the night club closed.


The Christchurch Revival Fellowship, which had originally met in the old Horticultural Hall on Cambridge Terrace after being established in 1962, owned a building opposite the Majestic by 1976. On that fateful Sunday morning the churchgoers looked on as the old theatre burned. A member of the congregation purchased the gutted night club and two years later the Christchurch Revival Fellowship became the City New Life Centre, but it would still be another year before restoration was complete. With seating reduced to eleven hundred the former theatre is now known as the Majestic Church.

It is understood that there is a proposal to restore the Art Deco Theatre and it is to be hoped that the facade will be returned to its former glory.

Aug 26, 2008

A Different View...

Detail from an elevated southerly view of the Christchurch CBD from the roof of the long derelict Christchurch Women's Hospital on Colombo Street.

From a Slackninja photographic essay, the accompanying text is not without interest either:

"...the place is a lot bigger than it looks, although you can move through it exceptionally fast, after wandering through wards and consulting rooms (which makes up the bulk of the complex) we found our way into the admin block and stared in amazement at the largest number of spent 9mm marker rounds I have ever seen in my life and more spoons and pins from practice grenades than you can shake a stick at, we then went rapidly through more wards and misc staircases and made our way to the roof, which was awesome, in the fact that it spans the three largest buildings..."

Aug 24, 2008

Podcast: Rita Angus - Cass (Circa 1936)

Painting reproduced courtesy of the Rita Angus estate.

Sam Neill narrates an introduction to Cass by Rita Angus (Circa 1936).

View other artists and artworks from the Christchurch Art Gallery's Works from the Collections audio tour »

Help with downloading files

To download these audio files, right-click on the "Download..." MP3 link (or control-click on a Mac) and select "Save Target As..." (or "Download Linked File" on a Mac) to save the file to your hard drive.

Aug 22, 2008

Christchurch 1965

These are the earliest known colour aerial photographs of Christchurch.

Aerial photography of Christchurch, which dates from 1918, is an important tool in accurately dating the city's development.

Aug 19, 2008

Edward Jollie Memoir

Edward Jollie was the Surveyor who laid out the township of Lyttelton and the city of Christchurch in 1849.

1 0. Preface


2.00Wellington: 1842-1845

3.00Nelson: 1845-1846

4.00Otago: 1846-1847

5.00Nelson: 1848-1849

6.00Christchurch: 1849-1851

7.00North Canterbury: 1852-1860

8.00South Canterbury 1858-1859

9.00Auckland: 1860-1861

10.0Francis Jollie

11.0Christchurch 1861-1865


103 Acknowledgments & Bibliography

103 Appendices103 1

103 103Caroline Orsmond Jollie 1836 -1919

103Margaret Jollie 1862-1936

103 103Francis Jollie 1865~1921

103 103Elizabeth Jollie 1866~1928

103 103Mary Jollie 1868-

103 103Edward Jollie Jnr 1871-1925

103 103Jollie’s mother, Margaret 1795-1872

1906 England Brothers House

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An interpretive display by Canterbury Heritage for the foyer of the restored 1906 England Brothers House on Christchurch's lower High Street.

Aug 14, 2008

Christchurch: Warner's Hotel Restoration

The main block of Warner's Hotel was built in 1900, but 17 years later the Left hand third was demolished to make way for a cinema (below), which was in turn demolished in 1996. As part of a high-rise hotel development on the site the original neo-classic facade is now being restored.

The Liberty Cinema, 1930

Heritage Tragedy

In relatively sound condition in July, 2008, the historically important Ti Kouka House on Cambridge Terrace was damaged by fire in early August.

Subsequent to being allowed to become derelict, the circa 1865 home of Samuel de la Bere Barker (1848-1901) at 281 Cambridge Terrace near the Madras Street bridge, appears to have become yet another victim of a suspicious fire.

Regretfully, in the only New Zealand city not to afford protection for heritage buildings, this tragic event might seem to be following a familiar sequence that has seen the destruction of too many heritage buildings occupying potentially valuable redevelopment sites.

Update: 1 September 08

The above photograph of the fire damaged kitchen is from a sequence of images posted on flickr by ars666. Click on the photo to see the whole set, which opens in a new window.

Update: 20 Aug 08

An observer reports:-

"The place is in a pretty bad state, not much to take photos of sadly.

What really gets me is I'd visited it a month or two ago and aside from being a bit messy the interior looked to be in pretty good nick.

Now the kitchen and one of the back rooms, as well as at least one room upstairs are written off - I would say pretty much the whole rear of the house would need to be rebuilt if it were to be saved.

Maybe I'm just jaded but the situation this house was in, and then the subsequent burning of it seems pretty suspect..."

Aug 11, 2008

1870 Cantebury Masonic Lodge

Christchurch's The Press newspaper has recently published an article relating to the discovery of the hidden ground floor facade of the 1870 Masonic Lodge on the east side of Manchester Street, between Worcester and Hereford Streets.

Unfortunately the article contains some significant inaccuracies, which for the benefit of the historical record, we are pleased to correct:-
Named after the Patron Saint of the English city of Canterbury, the foundation stone of the second St Augustine Lodge No. 4 building was laid on the 9th of March, 1870 and the first meeting was held there on the 10th of August in the same year.

The Lodge was built to the west of the stables situated behind the home of Samuel Bealey (1821–1909), second Superintendent of Canterbury. A large hall was built onto the back of the Lodge in 1883.

The Freemasons moved to their third premises in Gloucester Street West in April, 1916. By 1920 two single-storey shops were built on the front of their 1870 Manchester Street Lodge, with a third shop occupying the former lane access to the Right hand side. The old building continues to appear in the photographic record until 1968, but had been demolished by 1972.

Proposed Redevelopment

Property developer Angus McFarlane will restore the 1870 facade, incorporating it into the foyer and Coffee shop, of the six level Manchester Business Centre. The proposed design of the new building, as depicted above, will be modified to enable the historic Palladian style facade to be visible from Manchester Street.

The original article: Hidden wall revealed, 09 August 2008.

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Architectural drawing by Canterbury Heritage for the site developer. The outer thirds of the lower floor facade have survived.

Christchurch Radio - 85 Years

On this day, the 11th of August, in 1923, the Christchurch Radio Society, which had been founded in 1921, began broadcasting in Christchurch with station 3AC.

In 1925, the Radio Broadcasting Company of New Zealand was floated in Christchurch and in 1926 began transmitting as station 3YA. from the extant A. R. Harris building on Gloucester Street (above)

It had two steel 49 metre (154 feet) transmission towers built on and alongside it which were Christchurch landmarks for 70 years. The station began with a 500 watt output and operated on a wave length of 405 metres.

In 1932, the station was taken over by the Government, and is now known as the Radio National Concert Program. The Harris building has been the centre of State broadcasting in Christchurch ever since.

The original 3YA Radio Studio

Aug 2, 2008

Bureaucratic Hypocrisy?

Against strong public opinion the Christchurch City Council allowed the demolition of the historically significant 1880 Sunnyside Hospital at Addington.

Now plans to restore part of the Hospital garden as a public park are being released by the Council for comment.

Christchurch City Council Parks and Waterways Planner David Sissons says it is proposed that features of the garden be restored, to recognise the historical significance of the site and to suit a new residential subdivision.

The neo-Gothic Sunnyside Hospital was demolished by Ngai Tahu Property Limited.

A property Project Manager formerly in the employ of what is probably Christchurch's most enduring political dynasty is now Development Manager of Ngai Tahu Property Limited.

The Chairman of a major City Council subsidiary company is also Chairman of the aforementioned political dynasty's property holding company and Policy & Research Manager for Ngai Tahu.

Further reading:

Christchurch City Council Press Release, 1 August, 2008.