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.


kuaka said...

any number of reasons to save...

an indictment of NZ journalism that the local rag can't even drum up some facts by a little original research. instead, "journalism" passes as reprinting press releases these days (numerous examples from recent election).

Thanks for doing the hard, honest work of gathering the facts!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Had one need of an example of the consequences of the Great Kiwi Brain Drain, then one need look no further than the fourth estate. With very few exceptions, even a modicum of talent might appear sufficient to lure our journalists to greener pastures.

With respect to our recent election, it was illuminating to hear just how many of our media personalities and politicians ended their sentences with "you know" - that revealing indicator of mediocrity of mind.

Sarndra said...

Fantastic background info, well done you for getting such a good overall story of the property and thanks for bringing this to our attention.

I thought Lionel Hunter died years back of drawn out cancer and his son Paul was running the business? Or was that one of those Urban myths?

Canterbury Heritage said...

The Press article nominated Lionel Hunter, but the son may be keeping the show on the road. However, Deidre Ellen and Lionel Walter Hunter of 38a Murray Place, St Albans are still listed as the owners.

Sandy said...

Hello Mr CH... I wonder if you still read comments on your fabulous blog. I wish you'd start it up again!

I found the grave of Professor Francis William Chapman HASLAM today at Hillsborough Cemetery. I wonder if this house is still standing...i somehow doubt it.

Let me know how you are going. sarndra at sarndra dot com :)

Canterbury Heritage said...

Hi Sandy

What a pleasant surprise to hear from you again!

Yes, still continuing to read the posts to the Canterbury Heritage
blog, also keep up with your flickr posts via RSS feeds.

Left Christchurch some years ago, currently wintering over in the Bay
of Islands before heading south again in the motor home for the

Five years since pursuing historical interests, now devoting energies and
inspirations to the more artful - mostly photo-realistic landscapes
and portraiture.

I'm amazed at the extent to which the blog is still read after being dormant for so long.

As ever


Ysolde Nichols said...

I'm the great grand daughter of Thomas Kelsey and my family history is that he had the brick house built. It was the first brick residence in Christchurch and as such, of great historical significance. So an absolute travesty to have demolished it. We have photos of my great grand mother standing on the upstairs balcony with my grandfather in her arms. He was born in October 1880 and is not a newborn in the photo. Thomas will have sold the house after 1881, when his wife took my grandfather back to England. Thomas was an entrepreneur and did a lot of things in his time. He was an importer, including ironmongery. Later in his life he was an accountant.