Nov 27, 2008

Curator's Choice

This month's Curator's choices from the Canterbury Heritage collection are vintage luggage labels from Christchurch's most prominent hotels in the first half of last century.

Nov 26, 2008

Christchurch Portrait Photographers

Built in the front garden of an earlier (and extant) house in the mid 1880s, this is 209 High Street, Christchurch. Now occupied by Kennett the Jeweller, it is situated on the western side of High Street, between Lichfield and Tuam Streets (near to the Manchester Street intersection).

By 1906 the upper floor was the Crown Studio of the photographer George Oswald Viertel. In 1925 it was listed as the photographic studio of Ernest Millard, becoming the studio of Ingham Milnes by 1930. Known as the Elmar Studios in 1944, it had became Elmar and Ambrose Studios by 1971, when Mr J. Ambrose combined his Armagh Street premises with the long established business.

Although many Cantabrians would have old photographs bearing at least one of the aforementioned names, perhaps few would be aware that their historic family portraits originated from the upper floor of this building.

The old house behind 209 High Street



The entrance to the upper floor Crown Studios to the Left. A vertical arrangement of photographic portraits is just visible to the Right of the entrance.

Candid street Photographers were a familiar sight in Cathedral Square from the later 1920s until the early 1960s. This example of a proof ticket come from the collection of Anthony Rackstraw, publisher of the Early Canterbury Photographers web site.

Lyttelton Dusk


An elevated northeasterly view of Lyttelton, with Quail Island to the foreground, in the early evening of the 13th of November, 2008.

Original photograph by Hugh of Wellington.

Nov 24, 2008

Cashel Street 1862

Probably dating from 1862, this is the earliest known easterly view of Cashel Street from the High Street intersection. 

To the Left is the provincial government's Customs building, to its Right is the seed shop of the market gardener William Wilson, who would become the city's first Mayor. The large oval roofed building is the horse bazaar and auction rooms of William David Barnard, a Christchurch Municipal Councillor from 1868.

Known as Tattersall's Auction Rooms, it would become H. Matson and Company. Replaced by the Tattersalls Hotel in 1900, it's the site of a car park building in 2008. Beyond the auction rooms is the Saddlery of Archibald Admore. Further on to the corner of Manchester Street are first generation buildings in what was the 1851 garden of Captain Richard Westenra, earliest New Zealand forebear of the renowned Hayley Westenra.

To the far Right at the corner of the extant Kiver's Lane is the 1860 grocery store and bakery of Charles Kiver (1816-1882).

William Barnard's premises with an auction in progress


Although there were two commercial photographers known to be operating in Christchurch by 1856, there are as yet no known streetscapes of the city before 1859. By the time that the above photographs were taken there were fifteen photographers listed in Christchurch.

Nov 20, 2008

Harewood 1964

Borrowed from the R.A.F. for the 1955 film Reach for the Sky, the landmark 1945 Supermarine Spitfire graced the front lawn of the Canterbury Brevet Club building at the northern corner of Memorial Avenue and Russley Road from 1964 until 1984.

The Spitfire was subsequently replaced by a fibreglass replica, moulded from the aeroplane. Completely restored in 1984-85, the aircraft is now displayed at the RNZAF Museum at Wigram.

The replica was given to the people Christchurch when the club shifted from the building to the former Wigram air base's officers' mess in October, 1999.

Townsend Observatory 1896

A rare photograph of the newly completed biological laboratory and observatory tower of the Canterbury College of the University of New Zealand about June, 1896.

The dome was originally constructed of canvas and wood. The observatory is the only part of the Arts Centre still owned by the University of Canterbury. Each year the Department of Physics and Astronomy appoints a student as the Townsend Observer. Public viewing is held during the months of the year when there is no daylight saving.

Nov 19, 2008

Halswell: Mount Magdala

An interesting Photographic Essay from the Slack Ninja web site.

An excerpt from the text:

"Mount Magdala was a Catholic institution run by the Good Shepherd Sister’s on the outskirts of Christchurch, near Halswell. It operated from 1888 to 1968, at which time it was taken over by the St John of God Brothers, who ran a boys home. It is interesting to note that both of these groups have paid out compensation to people who claim they were abused while in their care. There is an interesting article about abuse in Magdala institutions

My dad ran a nearby bakery and would donate each days leftovers to the St John of God boys. Lord knows if the boys ever got the leftovers but at least the dirty old priests didn’t get their hands (or any other parts of their body!) on me! Like many large institutions of the time, Mt Magdala was largely self sufficient, which included running their own farm. There are 5 buildings left, but 4 of them have been given demolition consent. The remaining one, called the granary (a building where grain is stored) is safe for now. It is a long thin building – maybe 6m x 30m..."

Nov 17, 2008

A hand coloured, circa 1930, northery view from Cambridge Terrace towards the Bridge of Remembrance.

To the Right is the 1907 home of Doctor FitzGerald George Westenra (1861-1917) at 96 Oxford Terrace. Gerald Westenra built his house on the 1852-1857 site of Christ's College, which he attended from 1870. The house is now occupied by a vacuously named eatery - apparently the nickname of Gerald's daughter Theophania.

Nov 15, 2008

Our history may be somewhat closer than many of the more recent generations are aware...

As a child the Ngati Toa tribal chieftain Te Rauparaha (~1760-1849) remembered the visits of James Cook to New Zealand between 1769 and 1777. He also knew Edward Jollie (1825-1894), whose 1861 wedding was attended by this contributing Editor's Great Grandmother. Accordingly, there are no more than three degrees of separation between Captain Cook and living New Zealanders.

In the case of Canterbury there are still a few locals who knew the last survivor of the original settlers of 1850. Among them is 93 year-old Austen Deans, last surviving Great Grandson of John Deans who settled at Riccarton in 1843.

Richards Evans aged in 16 in 1864

Richard Evans (1848-1944) arrived aboard the Cressy as a two year old. The second to last survivor of the first four ships and a Patron of the Canterbury Pilgrims Association, he is remembered by Roger Ridley-Smith, who is thereby a remarkable link to the very beginnings of Christchurch.

The Reverend Frederick Brittan (1848-1945), last survivor of our first settlers, delivered a eulogy at Richard Evans' funeral.

Tea drinking 90 year-old Richards Evans seated beside a young Roger Ridley-Smith

Roger Ridley-Smith writes:
My father, E D R Smith, (1901-1975), a lawyer in Rangiora, knew Richard Evans. In 1938, the three of us went to the Bridle Track where there was a ceremony at the memorial there. It may have been the unveiling of it. Evans, who would have been aged ninety, sat in the back of my father's Chevrolet. and I recall him as a small man with a snow white beard. I was aged seven. Memory is fallible, but that is as I recall it.

Dilapidated and forgotten, this is the grave of Georgina Sophia and Richard Evans in St John's cemetery at Rangiora.

Canterbury Heritage is gratefully indebted to Sarndra Lees for the 1864 photograph of her Great Great Uncle and his grave. Also to Dr. Ridley-Smith for the 1938 photograph of his father's 90 year old friend.

We would also be very pleased to hear from anyone who can expand upon this interesting aspect of our history.

Nov 12, 2008

Half a Building


Probably photographed in 1906, this is Harry Gudsell's Saddlery on the north side of Cashel Street, in what is now part of the City Mall (between Colombo Street and Oxford Terrace).

The building first enters the city's visual records in 1855 as the premises of the Hairdresser Tommy (Thomas Bowhill) Thompkins (below). Later a Publican at Heathcote, Bowhill Road at North Beach is named after him.

The Saddlery is standing at the extreme Left of an original quarter acre section, first occupied by the premises of the Carrier Richard Sutcliffe and now the site of the Sony Electronics shop (below).

This part of Cashel Street was the first city block to be entirely occupied by buildings and was the centre of the early town's original shopping and banking district. Demand for street frontage could have neccesitated the removal of the the Right hand part of the Saddlery building in order to allow access to the rear for horses and possibly wheeled vehicles at a time when the (not visible) building to the Right of the Saddlery was constructed. It would have been a later building on the same original section, to which the Saddlery appears braced.

The Saddlery would have been sited to the Left of the above group of buildings, photographed in 1862.

The brick building to the Left of the Saddlery was designed by Bejamin Mountfort and built in 1879 as an extension to Mountfort's 1875 Ironmongery for Twentyman and Cousins (below).

Both the 1875 building and the later extension still exist (below), but only the facade of the upper floor of the extension has not been modified beyond recognition. The gated right of way (draped with blankets in the top photograph) is also extant and would have originally given access to stables and for the weekly night cart.

At the time that the top photograph was taken the Twentyman and Cousins' building had become the premises of A. G. Healing and Company, bicycle trade suppliers and vendors of the Ideal and Leader brands of bicycle tyres.

An early photograph of Harry and Sarah Ann Gudsell

Born at Weedons in 1871, Henry (Harry) Gudsell is recorded as a Saddler at Sefton in 1905. By 1910 he was living in Division Road (now Street), Riccarton, later moving to nearby Picton Avenue.

Probably the last surviving building from the earliest phase of the inner city's development Harry's Saddlery had been replaced by 1907 with a two storey brick building. Harry moved his premises to the other side of the old Twentyman and Cousins' building. The business is listed at the new address in 1925 as Gudsell and Close, Saddlers of 81 Cashel Street.

A Board member of the Wharenui School, he was also a Councillor of the Riccarton Borough from 1913 until 1929. Harry Gudsell died in 1937.

Canterbury Heritage is gratefully indebted to Anthony Rackstraw, publisher of the excellent Early Canterbury Photographers web site for the photograph of his forebear's half building, which appears to be unique in the Christchurch visual record.

Surname Genetics

From the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester comes an item which may be of particular interest to family Genealogists.

New research looking at 500 British surnames suggests that there's a 70% to 87% chance that you are distantly related to a man who shares your surname. That's the findings relating to people of British origin who bear a same surname, which is not occupationally derived – and the key is in our genes.

It's not just names that are passed from father to son, because for a male to be male, he has to inherit 'male genes'. These genes are all stored on the Y chromosome, meaning that all related men will have the same Y chromosome.

This information led Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes to start investigating his own surname. After writing to every Sykes in the phone book and looking at their genes, he found that 70% had the same distant ancestor.

Since this discovery, Turi King from the University of Leicester has expanded the study to include 500 British surnames.

Nov 11, 2008

Cultrural Vandalism?

An historic Christchurch house is currently threatened with demolition.

Situated on the Northwest corner of Riccarton Road and Deans Avenue, and marketed as far afield as Asia and Britain, the substantial two storey brick dwelling is being offered for sale by Tender as a redevelopment site, apparently suitable for yet another nondescript motel (thank goodness that economic recession is a two edged sword and might thereby offer a respite in this instance).

Although The Press newspaper reports that Christchurch residents are shocked by the potential loss, theirs is the only New Zealand city not to provide statutory protection for its built heritage.

To date none of the media reports pertaining to the house have been able shed light upon its history. In pursuit of its preservation, here then are our preliminary research findings.

Occupying a part of what was a large Wheat field in 1869, the one acre section at the southeast corner of the 1843 Riccarton Farm was sold by the Deans family on the 10th of March, 1879 for £1,000 to a Mr Kelsey, an Ironmonger of Manchester Street, Christchurch. Mr John Deans requested that the name Township of Riccarton be given to the area, prior to this time Riccarton Road had been known as the Great South Road and Deans Avenue as West Belt. Kelsey erected a wooden house on the site, which was subsequently replaced prior to 1890 with the current brick house by a Mr Hamilton (possibly the Builder Hugh Richard William Hamilton (1850-1934).

Before 1900 Hamilton sold the house to Professor Francis William Chapman Haslam (1848-1923). A scholar at St. John's College, Cambridge, Haslam's most famous pupil was the author Rudyard Kipling. Born in Sri Lanka, where his father was a translator of the Bible into Sinhalese, Professor Haslam arrived at Christchurch in 1879 to replace the renowned John Macmillan Brown in the chair of Classics at the Canterbury College of the University of New Zealand.

By 1920 Frank Haslam had sold the house to Richard Ernest James (1873-1970), who lived there with his unmarried sister; Miss N James. Richard James sold the corner of his garden to the council for a nominal 10 cents in order that New Zealand's first traffic roundabout could be developed at the intersection. Antique furniture from the house, donated by Mr and Miss James, now graces Fendalton's Mona Vale homestead.

By 1978 the house and its surrounding half an Hectare had come into the possession of its current owners; Hunter Lounge Suites (Christchurch) Ltd. The company conducted its furniture-making and sales business from the site, but now operates from a refurbished former Mitre 10 hardware store on Moorhouse Avenue. Hunter Lounge Suites is largely owned by Christchurch businessman Lionel Hunter, who does not wish to comment on this matter.

We'll continue to update this article as further historical information and/or developments come to hand.

Nov 10, 2008

The Port Lytteltons

Two passenger carrying refrigerated cargo vessels have carried the name of the Port to which they were both regular vsitors.

The first Port Lyttelton was built at Belfast in 1902 as the twin screw Niwaru. With a length of 135 metres and a beam of 17 metres, she was delivered to the Tyser Line in March of that year.

At a service speed of 12 knots, she regularly carried frozen meat from New Zealand to Britain, but her 22 year career was not uneventful. On her second voyage, the 6,444 ton cargo liner, took on water in a heavy sea and charcoal from the insulation of the refrigerating chambers clogged her bilge pumps. 26,000 carcases had to be jettisoned overboard.

In August of 1903 the Niwaru was holed when she grounded off Napier. A mat covering the hole was carried away and the net inflow increased to twelve inches per hour, but the vessel managed to return to Napier under her own steam.

But her place in history was assured when she departed from Wellington on the 29th January 1903 with Katherine Mansfield as a passenger. The entire passenger accommodation was occupied by nine members of the Beauchamp family. Niwaru sailed via Cape Horn and the Canary Islands, where a photograph was taken of the family with the ship’s officers.

In verses that she wrote during the voyage, Mansfield mentioned a Tiger cub, which the Chief Officer kept in the No. 2 hold during the day and exercised on deck at night, to the alarm of the women passengers. But of that incident apparently little memory remained nearly twenty years after, when she wrote to her father: “... I still I have a very soft corner in my heart for the Niwaru. Do you remember how Mother used to enjoy the triangular shaped pieces of toast for tea? Awfully good they were, too, on a cold afternoon in the vicinity of the Horn. How I should love to make a long sea voyage again one of these days! But I always connect such experiences with a vision of Mother in her little Sealskin jacket with the collar turned up. I can see her as I write.”

Most of the family returned to Wellington, but for the next three years Katherine remained in London as a pupil at the Queen’s College in Harley Street.

In 1914 Niwaru's owners were instrumental in bringing about the formation of the Commonwealth & Dominion Line, later to become the Port Line, contributing eight ships and their houseflag, which never changed. Although not a huge fleet, Tyser and Company's ships were considered to be the finest on the Australasian run and set the standard for the first thirteen ships built by the new Commonwealth & Dominion Line.

Renamed Port Lyttelton in April 1916, the vessel was subsequently seconded by the Royal Navy and converted to a troop ship as His Majesty's Auxillary Transport Port Lyttelton.

Returned to her owners in 1919, her career ended on the 23rd January 1924, when she ran on to the rocks at Beauty Point near the entrance to Tasmania's Tamar River. Salvaged the following month, the Port Lyttelton was sold for scrap at the time when there was a worldwide surplus of tonnage. She arrived in Italy in September where the ship was broken up.

By comparison the second Port Lyttelton enjoyed a somewhat less eventful 25 year career. Her greatest claim upon posterity appears to have been her role in New Zealand's waterfront strike of 1951. Local Wharfies (Stevedores) were charged with conspiracy relating to the loading of the vessel at Wellington in that year.

Launched at Newcastle in 1947 by R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Company, the 10,780 ton ship was only slightly larger than her ill fated predecessor at a length 148.47 metres and a beam of 18.95 metres.

The emergence of container shipping sealed her fate and she was sold to Shipbreakers in 1972. The second Port Lyttelton was broken up the following year at Faslane in Scotland.

Nov 8, 2008

Podcast: The Parish: administration and records

Of particular interest to family geneaologists comes a 48 minute podcast from Britain's National Archives, which gives a comprehensive explanation of the Parish system.

For hundreds of years the parish was the most important unit of local government. This talk covers the historical administration of the parish, its officials and their records, as well as showing you how you can use these records to trace your ancestors and find out more about their local community.

The Lapita Voyage

An epic 6,000 Kilometre voyage is to be undertaken to discover the origins and migration routes of the ancestors of ancient Polynesians and their animals.

The voyage will be the first ever expedition to sail in two traditional Polynesian double canoes, which attempts to re-trace the genuine migration route of the ancient Austronesians.

From November, 2008 to April, 2009, the voyage will depart from the Southern Philippines, via southern Solomon islands en-route into the Pacific.

The expedition will be undertaking research work along the way, taking hundreds of samples from animals such as dogs, cats, chickens and pigs to use in the ongoing investigations into the origin of these important farmyard animals, which the ancient Polynesians carried with them into the remote Pacific.

Called the Lapita Voyage, it will be crewed by two Polynesians, two scientists, a cameraman and the initiators James Wharram, Hanneke Boon (catamaran-designers) and Klaus Hympendahl (author and organiser of the project).

At the end of the voyage the two double canoes will be presented to the inhabitants of the small Polynesian islands of Tikopia and Anuta, acknowledging the debt owed by Western yachtsmen to the Polynesian inspiration for their modern catamarans.

Further reading: The Lapita Voyage

Now & Then

This is the North-west corner of Colombo and Lichfield Streets in 1870.

Edward Reece (1834-1887) founded his Hardware business on this site in 1856, erecting new premises in brick and stone to the design of Samuel Charles Farr in 1870, with an extension in 1878.

The interior of Reece's Ironmongery in 1903

The building survived until 2006, when it was demolished by the proprieters of Ballantyne's variety store to make way for the current edifice.


Built before 1897 for James Howey (1856-1933), to the design of Collins and Harman, was the former City Buffet Private Hotel on the northwest corner of Colombo and Lichfield Streets. Modified beyond recognition, the facade of Edward Reece's Ironmongery can be seen to the Right in the 2001 photograph (above).


Nov 7, 2008

New Ship for Lyttelton

Soon to be a frequent visitor to the port of Lyttelton, the largest New Zealand operated cargo ship Spirit of Endurance will arrive at Auckland on Sunday, the 9th of November, 2008 on her maiden voyage from China. 

With a service speed of 17 knots and a gross tonnage of 7,464 tonnes, the 130 metre vessel will load about a thousand containers for Lyttelton and Port Chalmers.

Photographs by courtesy of Pacifica Shipping (1985) Limited

Nov 6, 2008

Lyttelton 3 January 1938

The Imperial Airways Short S23 C Class Flying Boat G-ADUT Centaurus at the port of Lyttelton on the 3rd of January, 1938 (with a coal hulk and a coastal collier at Gladstone Pier in the middle background).

Centaurus Road in the Christchurch suburb of Cashmere was named to commemorate this first visit of a flying-boat to the South Island.

Delivered in December 1936 the aircraft carried 5 crew, 17 passengers, and 2035 kg of mail. There was sleeping accommodation on night flights for 12 passengers.

Seconded to the Royal Australian Air Force in September 1939, she was sunk at her mooring in Roebuck Bay during a Japanese air raid on Broome on the 3rd of March 1942.

From the photograph album of Ray Burgess and Elsie Mulholland published by John Willoughby of Didcot, Oxfordshire, England.

Nov 5, 2008

Darfield circa 1922


The Homebush homestead, home of the Deans family for six generations, photographed in the early 1920s.

From the photograph album of Ray Burgess and Elsie Mulholland published by John Willoughby of Didcot, Oxfordshire, England.

Nov 2, 2008

Britannia at Lyttelton 1977


Mid-afternoon, Friday, 4th of March, 1977.

An elevated southerly view of HMY Britannia at Lyttelton's No. 6 Wharf. To the Left is the Leander Frigate HMNZS Waikato (1966-2002). Across the end of the wharf can be seen the Fisheries Protection and Survey vessel HMNZS Kuparu (1943-1989).

The Royal Yacht sailed in the late evening for a secluded Banks Peninsula bay, where the Queen and Prince Phillip enjoyed a quiet weekend.