Jan 31, 2009

Cathedral Square 1957

Historiography is the study of the history of history (the writing of history always illuminates two periods - the one history is written about and the one it is written in).

Above is a photograph that quite recently appeared in a Christchurch newspaper. It is identified in the caption as "... in the 1950s outside The Star building in Cathedral Square..."

The photograph was taken on the morning of Sunday, the first of December, 1957 in front of the Colonial Mutual Life building on the eastern corner of Cathedral Square and Colombo Street north. The 97 year-old building was demolished in 1977 to make way for what is now the Camelot Hotel.

Jan 30, 2009

High Street 1860-2009


Three views of High Street, between Hereford and Cashel Streets in 1860, 1863 and 2009.

The middle image is an engraving that appeared in the London Illustrated News and depicts the 9th of July, 1863, a red letter day for Christchurch, the occasion being in honour of the marriage of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) to Alexandra, a princess of Denmark.

The town was en fete and a procession from Papanui Road at Bealey Avenue, passing through the cty streets to Ferry Road at Fitzgerald Avenue, was one of the main features of the event. But the engraving fails to show that the streets were inches deep in mud, owing to the torrential rain of the previous day. School children waded through mud along the whole of the route.

All trades were represented emblematically in the procession, and the Foresters and Oddfellows added a picturesque touch to the display. Commemorative trees were planted by the Misses Begley, Fitzgerald, Alport, Ollivier and Luck, and this ceremony was followed by a children's treat in William Barnard's Horse Repository in Cashel Street, where toys and refreshments were provided.

The Reverend James West Stack, of Kaiapoi, arranged for a cavalcade of Maori warriors from the Tuahiwi Pa to be included in the festivities, and they camped in Hagley Park. These Maori were specially entertained at the first Theatre Royal in Gloucester Street, Bishop Harper presiding and Canon Stack and Messrs John Ollivier, John Hall, Charles Obins Torlesse and William "Cabbage" Wilson acted as stewards. An address by Maka Makomako, the Ngai Tahu tribal chieftan, to Queen Victoria concluded in characteristic vein thus: "May God preserve you, O mother of the white and dark skinned races. May He keep you in joy and peace, and may your days equal those of the immortal Rehua, and may you see the happiness of your children's children and of the nations Jehovah has committed to your care."

The steeple in the earlier views, which was a Christchurch landmark visible from great distance, was that of the second Wesleyan Methodist church built on the High Street site in 1859. Superseded by the extant 1865 stone church in Durham Street, the old building lingered on into the mid 1880s as a Draper's shop.

Jan 28, 2009

Lyttelton 1855


This is a restoration of the earliest known photograph of Lyttelton. Dated 1855, it is view down Canterbury Street from the north-east corner of the intersection at London Street. Taken from the immediate vicinity of what is now the site of the Volcano Cafe, it shows what was then the main shopping street of the early port. The conflaguration of 1870 cleared the way for the horizontal London Street to replace Canterbury Street in that respect.

Viewed from the south-west corner of London Street are:
Armitage Brothers's Butchery

William Pratt's Drapery and General store. Pratt subsequently sold out to the Baker and Confectioner Thomas Gee (this photograph comes from the collection of Gee's Grandson, Alfred Selwyn Bruce). William Pratt went on to found the Christchurch store that became Ballantynes.

The front fence of the house of Henry William Reid. A Dr. McCheyne lost his life by falling down the (extant) entrance steps behind the gate.

Unknown shop.

Samuel Gundry's hardware store

Mrs Coe's Drapery shop

The Livery Stables of Thomas Bruce and Coe (the aforementioned Alfred Selwyn Bruce (1866-1936) was the son of Thomas Bruce (1826-1887) and his wife Ellen, formerly Gee (1833-1928).

The first Mitre hotel on the corner of Norwich Quay, opened by Major Hornbrook in 1849 and destroyed by fire in 1870.

Jan 27, 2009

Christchurch Now & Then: The Temperance Hotel

Subsequent to a reader's enquiry concerning the location of Christchurch's Temperance Hotel, we're pleased to have been able to ascertain the following.

What would become 145-151 Cambridge Terrace was originally a triangular shaped quarter acre town section at the south-west corner of Cambridge Terrace and Gloucester Street. The first building on the site was a single storey villa, with two extended bays facing the river.

Built across this site in the late 1880s, Lodge's Temperance Hotel and Boarding House was demolished in 1963. The Canterbury Horticultural Society's Hall was subsequently built over the garden and the extant Warren House five storey office building constructed at the street corner in 1965.

The Horticultural Hall and the adjacent Synagogue in Gloucester Street were demolished in 1984. These sites have remained car parks ever since. The street level of Warren House is currently occupied by the Santorini Greek Restaurant.

Jan 25, 2009

s s Gazelle 1852-1889


There are no known specific photographs of the Lyttelton coastal passenger steamer Gazelle. However, she appears in the distance in five photographs of the port taken between 1861 and 1879, and it's therefore been possible to recreate her original appearance with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Screw driven steam ships were still something of a rarity in 1852 when the 78.85 ton vessel was launched by John Horn (1815-1895) from Malcomson's Neptune Iron Works at Waterford, Ireland. Early propellor designs were plagued with vibration and the paddle wheel driven steam ship remained more popular into the 1860s.

With a length of 25.17 metres, 4.95 metres in the beam and a draft of 2.35 metres, she was clinker built of overlapping iron plates, affixed with clench bolts. In the 6.75 metre engine room two diagonal direct acting 30 horsepower steam engines were geared to a single shaft. Built by Wilton & Company of Deptford, England, the engine cylinders were 36 centimetres in diameter, with a stroke of 46 centimetres.

The eventful career of the Schooner rigged vessel began in the ownership of Anthony G. Robinson of London, where she was registered in 1853. Sailed to Australia, she was sold in March, 1854 to Frederick Evelyn Liardet of Ballam Park at Sandridge, who used her for carrying the Royal Mail and overseas passengers from Port Melbourne to the city.

In April, 1857 ownership was transferred to Captain William Lushington Goodwin (~1798 -1862) of Launceston, who employed the Gazelle in the passenger trade between Launceston and Georgetown. On the 28th of August 1860 she was sold to a James Nichols, passing three days later Charles V. Robinson of Launceston and James Lilly of Melbourne for service between the coastal ports of south-west Victoria and Melbourne until September 1861. She then passed briefly to James Tobin Cockshott (1831-1867), a merchant of Melbourne.

But the longest chapter in Gazelle's career began with her arrival in the command of a Captain James at Lyttelton in October, 1861. Her new owner was Frederick Banks (1825-1894), of Heathcote, Christchurch. A partner with Murray Aynsley in the shipping agency of Miles & Co. on Norwich Quay, Banks had arrived from Melbourne in 1857.

In the service of Miles & Co., from November, 1861 Gazelle carried passengers, in two classes, from Lyttelton's Peacock's Wharf to the South Island coastal ports of Kaiapoi, Kaikoura, Akaroa, Timaru and Port Chalmers. Until 1863 she appeared in the command of Captain Thomas Gay, whose previous vessel, the whaling brigantine Corsair, had been wrecked at Lyttelton in April, 1861.

In March of 1863 the Gazelle stranded at Saltwater Creek in the Kaiapoi River estuary. By the Autumn of 1864 she was carrying miners to the gold fields at the head of Pelorous Sound in the Marlborough district.

By the later 1860s, economic depression and the development of the provincial railways precipitated a decline in the demand for coastal passenger services and Gazelle was plying Lyttelton Harbour carrying Immigration and Health Officers to overseas vessels entering the port and also acting as a tug and passenger tender.

Serving the port of Christchurch on the Heathcote River at Woolston by 1862, on Saturday, the 2nd of November, 1867 Gazelle ran ashore on the north spit when towing two ketches across the bar at Sumner. Expected to become a total loss, the wreck was sold to new owners (probably Talbot, McClatchie & Co.), recovered over a specially built way and rebuilt by Anderson & Grubb at Corsair Bay for £1,000 (the engine being rebuilt by John Anderson's Lyttelton foundry).

In 1868 the Port of Melbourne registry (40931) was tranferred to Lyttelton. In July of that year she salvaged cargo from the 163 ton brig Daniel Watson, which had been wrecked on the Shag Reef in Lyttelton harbour. On the 15th of August a Tsunami originating off the seaboard of Peru caused the Gazelle to break her moorings when a tidal surge swept up the Kaiapoi river. The steamer smashed into the wooden schooner Challenge as a consequence. But her greatest claim to fame came on the 22nd of April, 1869 when she conveyed Queen Victoria's second son from the 4,686 ton steam frigate Galatea anchored off Little Port Cooper into the township.

On Tuesday, the 27th of September, 1870 Gazelle's captain; the dour, black-bearded, Scotsman Hugh McLellan, was seriously hurt when he fell into the hold while the vessel was moored at a Kaiapoi wharf. McLellan (1836-1905) resided at Lyttelton's extant Islay Cottage and would subsequently become the Harbour Master, but a forceful personality and fierce Highland pride made him enemies in the port and he was forced to resign in 1885.

By January, 1874 she was listed as being either commanded or owned by Captain Thomas McClatchie (1833-1903) of Brittan Terrace, Lyttelton. Two years later, in the command of Henry Zachary Nichols, with seven crew and one passenger aboard, a member of the crew was lost overboard 15 miles off Lyttelton Harbour's Godley Head.

Although by the later 1870s she was still a sound sea-going vessel, Gazelle was facing stiff competition from newer and more powerful vessels in the Lyttelton service. In 1877 she undertook a five month salvage expedition to the General Grant, which had been wrecked on the Auckland Islands in 1866. Her master Captain Giles was able to locate the wreck, but no gold was recovered.

Six months later the little ship was inolved in a more successful salvage, recovering cargo from the wreck of the Ann Gambles in Bluff Harbour. But there was insufficient work for her in the South Island coastal trade and she was sold in April, 1879 to Reginald Bright of Melbourne. Re-registered there, a month later she was sold on to W. H. Wischer and Company, Superphosphate and Fertiliser merchants.

By March, 1884 Gazelle was owned by William F. Walker of the Waratah Bay Lime, Marble and Cement Company. Captained by John Brown, she plied in the Lime trade to Waratah Bay, Victoria and also called at other Gippsland ports to load general cargo. Subsequently cut down to a Lighter and with her engines removed, she was used by the Barham River Timber Company to carry timber to vessels loading in the crescent shaped Apollo Bay (located between Lorne and Cape Otway, 187 km southwest from Melbourne).

Succumbing to an easterly gale of the notorious Bass Strait weather, the Gazelle was swamped at her mooring and blown ashore in Apollo Bay on the 25th of February, 1889. Laden with railway sleepers, she would become one of the 16 known shipwrecks in the bay (of which only three have been identified).

Not quite forgotten across the Tasman Sea, her New Zealand sojourn is commemorated by the naming of Gazelle Lane in the Christchurch suburb of Redcliffs.

Corrections and amendments, etc. would be appreciated.

Jan 23, 2009

Maori from Taiwan 5,200 years ago

New research into language evolution suggests that the Maori originated in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Scientists at The University of Auckland have used sophisticated computer analyses on vocabulary from 400 Austronesian languages to uncover how the Pacific was settled.

The results, published in the latest issue of the prestigious journal Science, show how the settlement of the Pacific proceeded in a series of expansion pulses and settlement pauses. The Austronesians arose in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Before entering the Philippines, they paused for around a thousand years, and then spread rapidly across the 7,000km from the Philippines to Polynesia in less than one thousand years. After settling Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, the Austronesians paused again for another thousand years, before finally spreading further into Polynesia eventually reaching as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island.

Further reading: Science Daily

Podcast: A History of History

From ancient epics to medieval hagiographies and modern deconstructions, historians have endlessly chronicled, surveyed and analysed the great many things that keep happening, declaring some of them good and some of them bad. 

But the writing of history always illuminates two periods – the one history is written about and the one it is written in. And to look at how the writing of history has changed is to examine the way successive ages have understood their world. In short, there is a history to history. 

From the BBC's In Our Time series comes a 42 minute discussion by Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek Culture and Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge; John Burrow, Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford and Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London

Right-click on this 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.

Christchurch Now & Then

Easterly views of Cashel Street, at the High Street intersection, in 1863 and 2009

Jan 22, 2009

'cisco in Chch


Built in the classic style of late 19th century San Francisco is this row of substantial Christchurch townhouses on the southern side of Chester Street East at Madras Street.

Jan 21, 2009

The First Royal Visit

Known as "Affie" and also considered to be the handsomest among his numerous kin, Victoria and Albert's second son spent three early Autumn days in the Christchurch of 140 years ago.

His Royal Highness Alfred Ernest Albert, Prince of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Saxe-Coburg, Gotha, Saxony, Edinburgh, Strathearn, J├╝lich, Angria, Westphalia, Cleves and Berg, Earl of Ulster, Kent, Ravensberg, Henneberg and of the Mark, Lord of Ravenstein and Tonna, etc.

Beneath a most amiable exterior Prince Alfred (1844-1900) would appear to have concealed a rather dissolute character; prior to his arrival in New Zealand, he'd kept his escorts and the New South Wales Governor's carriage waiting for three hours in front of the home of a well known Sydney prostitute. Alfred's only son would later be involved in a similar scandal, but lacking his father's cavalier disdain for bourgeois convention, shot himself during his parents' Silver wedding anniversary celebrations.

Affie's mum might have been able to rule her daughters with a rod of iron, but the philandering lads proved to be an embarrassing problem, which , like her Empire, was best viewed from some distance. Thus it was that in 1867 the 23 year-old prince found himself in ostensible command of H.M.S. Galatea (below), a 4,686 ton Ariadne class auxiliary steam frigate, with a compliment of 450 to try and keep him out of harm's way.

Subsequent to economies in order to reduce the number of ships on foreign stations, Britain's Royal Navy had compensated by forming a Flying Squadron, which undertook extensive world-wide cruises for training and flag waving purposes. And so, after leaving Sydney on the 6th of April, 1869, the squadron warships Challenger, Rossario, Blanche and Galatea reached Port Nicholson five days later.

Departing from Nelson at 11 pm on the 21st of April, and with her 800 horsepower engine maintaining a speed of 13 knots, the ten year-old Galatea, in company with H. M. S. Blanche, arrived at Lyttelton at 8.00 am on the following morning. The frigate anchored off Little Port Cooper and her escort moved further up the harbour to Camp Bay.

The steamers Gazelle, Moa, Comerang and Betsy Douglas took passengers by the first train from Christchurch to view the largest warships to have entered the Port. (Galatea was to be opened for public inspection for several hours on the days of her visit).

The paddle steamer Gazelle, with about fifty passengers aboard, was the first to leave the wharf, and only having been launched from the Lyttelton slipway the previous day, looked like a gaily painted yacht. It was expected that the Prince would land from his Captain's barge, and the passengers aboard the small steamers were anxiously watching for him to disembark. However, the Gazelle, which had been engaged by the Government to convey the baggage of the Prince and his suite ashore, when going alongside the Galatea, offered to place the vessel at the disposal of the Prince for his own conveyance, and upon the offer being accepted, the Gazelle's passengers were transferred to the Moa.

At twenty minutes past ten, the Galatea's guns fired a royal salute to announce that the Prince had left the vessel, but the mode of transport chosen by the royal party was unknown to the crowd assembled at the wharf. Their confusion was increased as the paddle steamer, which was flying a Union Jack instead of the royal standard, came alongside the wharf. But when the Governor, Sir George Bowen, was recognised among the passengers, they were finally convinced that the Prince and his entourage, who were dressed in plain suits, were aboard.

The landing steps were covered with red and blue cloth and a pathway of shells led through a triumphal arch, decorated with ferns, Nikau fronds, Flax and Toitoi, to a small red dais bearing the royal arms. On the side of the arch fronting the water were the words, "Welcome, Victoria's Son" and on the reverse side, "God Bless Prince Alfred." On the dais the Prince was received by William Rolleston, Superintendent of Canterbury, while a local band belted out God Save the Queen and a guard of honour from the Lyttelton Volunteer Artillery presented arms. It would be a long remembered day for the 400 Lyttelton children who had been given a school holiday to view the ceremony.

After a speech from the Mayor of Lyttelton, the royal party boarded a special train for Christchurch (above), where they arrived at 11.20 am on that Thursday morning. At the railway station (below) the Prince was received in a tent pavilion, filled with the rarest plants and a bevy of provincial Mayors, with yet another speech by John Anderson, Mayor of Christchurch. Army volunteers presented arms, another band played the National Anthem, the Artillery fired a royal salute and, seated in a carriage, the Prince was escorted through the town by a procession, which included four Bands, and was more than a Kilometre long.

Film speeds in 1869 were extremely slow by modern standards and so long shutter exposures prevented the capture of movement. Accordingly, there are no known photographs of the procession, but here are three photographs of the triumphal arch in High Street, between Hereford and Cashel Streets.

With 56 hotels serving a boozy population gradually approaching 7,000, an enthusiastic crowd of more than 8,000 Cantabrians lined the muncipality's streets. Sorely in need of a breather, the royal party retired to the Clarendon Hotel (below), where a suite of rooms had been reserved, to be recieved by the somewhat theatrical owner, George Oram, who was dressed as a Footman in breeches and a powdered wig.

At 1.15 pm, the Prince left the hotel to attend a Civic Reception in the Canterbury Provincial Council Chamber, at which many local dignitaries were presented. After lunch, accompanied by George Bowen and William Rolleston, the Prince travelled down Lincoln Road and on to Governors Bay, returning to his hotel at about 5.30 pm.

During the day a free dinner for a thousand citizens was given at Barnard's horse repository in Cashel Street (below), and the Oddfellows held a fete at their Lichfield Street premises, but the Prince didn't attend either function.

On Friday, the 23rd the Prince was obliged to sit through speeches by local Maori and West Coast politicians. In the early afternoon, driving himself by four-in-hand to Riccarton, he attended the Autumn race meeting of the Canterbury Jockey Club.

That evening the Banks and principal buildings were brilliantly illuminated, and crowds promenaded the streets 'till a very late hour. There was a Royal Ball for 300 guests in the Provincial Council Chamber, where the Prince's host at the Clarendon Hotel got sloshed and assaulted the artist John St Quentin. George Oram was subsequently fined 20 shillings in the Magistrate's Court.

Below: the fourth triumphal arch at the intersection of Colombo and Armagh Street.

For the benefit of the hoi polloi, on the morning of Saturday the 24th the Prince attended a Pigeon racing match in the Botanical Gardens, where he also planted an English Oak and a Giant Sequoia on the Armstrong Lawn, facing Rolleston Avenue. Passing through the fifth triumphal arch at the intersection of Cashel and Colombo Streets (below), he later attended a children's function in the Garrison Drill Shed in Montreal Street, where Master Samuel Thomas Stansell of the Durham Street West Wesleyen School made a speech and more than 3,000 young Cantabrians rendered another version of the National Anthem. That evening he was guest of honour at a private dinner given by the members of the Christchurch Club in Latimer Square.

The royal visit ended the following morning when Prince Alfred boarded the Eclipse class sloop HMS Blanche (below) bound for Port Chalmers, where he arrived at 12.30 pm on Monday the 26th of April.

In retropect it would be considered an era when pioneering hardiness deemed our far-flung colonials more robust and thefore less accustomed to nervous strain than their seemingly effete English contemporaries. Accordingly, a degree of culture shock appears to have prevailed between the prince's overly civilised suite and their local hosts. Amongst themselves, the royal party joked about the excrutiating pomposity of local dignitaries, but the prince's successors on more than fifty subsequent royal visits would come to accept such tedious pretension as just another occupational hazard of the job.

Prince Alfred at the time of his visit.

Photographic credits: the photographers Alfred Charles Barker (1819-1873) and Daniel Louis Mundy (1826-1881) and the Artist William W. Stewart (1898-1976), the photographic collections of Anthony Rackstraw, the Christchurch City Libraries, the Canterbury Museum, the Alexander Turnbull Library, the Australian Mariners' Welfare Society, the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, et al.

Jan 20, 2009

Lyttelton 1864-2009


145 years apart are a pair of north-easterly aspects of the corner of Norwich Quay and Canterbury Street.

All of the buildings in the 1864 image were destroyed by fire in 1870.

On the corner is Peter Cameron's 1851 Robin Hood Tavern and Billiard Rooms, subsequently reincarnated as the Royal Hotel.

Jan 19, 2009

Christchurch Library Anniversary

This year the Christchurch Library, that municipal repository of our community's collective memory, is celebrating what is alleged to be its 150th anniversary. That hypothesis is based upon the library being situated in the High Street Town Hall from 1859.

In the interests of historical accuracy we would like to point out that a public reading room was opened in the Land Office at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Street in 1851 (above). Converted into our first Christchurch Library the following year, with more than a thousand books, an annual fee of one guinea ($2.10) entitled members to use the Lyttelton Library as well.

The source of the foregoing is The Early Days of Canterbury: a miscellaneous collection of interesting facts dealing with the settlement's first thirty years of colonisation 1850-1880, compiled by A. Selwyn Bruce and published by Simpson and Williams at Christchurch in 1932 (republished in facsimile by the Kiwi Publishing Company in 1995).

The poet Alfred Selwyn Bruce (1866-1936) was the son of the 1851 pioneers Ellen (1833-1928) and Thomas Bruce (1826-1899). In his interesting book Bruce aimed to immortalise the memory of many of the rank and file of our settlers, who were the founders of the province.

Lyttelton Hulks circa 1933

To the Left foreground in this photograph of the south-western foreshore of Quail Island is the recently beached 1855 steamer Mullogh. Beside her lie the remains of the steam lighter Lyttelton, beached in 1907. Beyond the Lyttelton can be seen the remains of the circa 1882 steam launch Waiwera. Behind the Mullogh is the hulk of the three masted Australian barquentine Frank Guy, which was beached about 1932.

The s.s. Mullogh as built.

In this recent view, the remains of the Mullogh can be seen to the lower Left, with the Lyttelton and Waiwera all but vanished. In front of the Frank Guy are the bones of the 1865 Tea Clipper Darra, beached in 1951.

Photo credit: thanks to Steven McLachlan of the Shades Stamp Shop for the circa 1933 photograph.

Jan 18, 2009

Podcast: Vegetation Cuts City Crime

From the University of Illinois, and of timely relevance to Christchurch, is research that indicates that there are fewer occurrences of crime against both people and property when buildings are surrounded by trees and greenery.

Compared with buildings that had little or no vegetation, those with high levels of greenery had 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes. Even modest amounts of greenery were associated with lower crime rates. The greener the surroundings, the fewer the number of crimes that occurred.

From Australia's All in the Mind series comes Greening the Psyche, a 30 minute podcast;

"Intuitively we sense that nature relaxes us; even small pockets of green in the concrete urban jungle seem to make a difference. But finding good scientific evidence for how and why has been more difficult, until now. Crime rates, academic performance, aggression and even ADHD; could a bit of greening make all the difference? And, ecology on the couch; a self described 'ecotherapist' with novel techniques."




Jan 17, 2009

Early Medieval Christchurch


The long corridor of the Canterbury Provincial Government building was built between 1858 and 1861 in the early Medieval Gothic revival style.

In this timeless, but recent photograph, the view is reminiscent of what would have been familiar more than seven centuries ago.

Jan 16, 2009

Christchurch Gothic


The internal courtyard of the seat of the Canterbury Provincial Government (1853-1876). 

Built in the Medieval Gothic revival style, New Zealand's only surviving Provincial Government buildings were constructed between 1858 and 1865. 

Only the ageing trees would appear to indicate change in the ensuing 144 years.

Jan 15, 2009

1858 Canterbury Provincial Government Building


The first part of the Canterbury Provincial Government building, on the eastern side of Durham Street between Armagh and Gloucester Streets, was built by 30 year-old Frederick Jenkins, a builder of Ferry Road.  The foundation stone was laid on the 6th of January, 1858 and the  total cost was £5,757, inclusive of Benjamin Mountfort's architect's fees and Aaron Whincop's interior decoration expenses.

In May of the following year a second contract was let for the addition of a tower to the street frontage, an extension to the southern wing with a pair of dormer windows in the roof of the new section and a council chamber to the east. 

Below: 1859 photograph of the rear of the building by Dr. Alfred Charles Barker (1819-1873) taken from the balcony of his house at the corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace.

Later in 1859, using the traditional cruck frame method of construction, Jenkins added the first Provincial Council chamber to the back of the building (below).

Credits: 1859 photographs; Dr. A. C. Barker Collection, Canterbury Museum.

Jan 14, 2009

1861 Christchurch Hotel Demolition


We are pleased to announce that subsequent to the publication of the following article the Christchurch City Council has offered free fire/structure/condition reports and to fast track any heritage grant applications, which would meet 40% of refurbishment costs of the hotel.

It has also been announced that as a possible future use, New Zealand Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development (NZAAHD) has applied for community funding to development the Occidental as emergency/transition housing for young people aged 16-24 years. The Ministry of Youth Development has also expressed an interest in using the building to accommodate young people on the independent youth benefit, with a programme to teach living skills.

Described as an eyesore by Katie McKone in Christchurch's The Star newspaper, the former Collins' Family Hotel and Boarding House at 208 Hereford Street, overlooking Latimer Square, is threatened with demolition by its owners; the curiously named City Foresight Ltd.

Built  in 1861 to the design of the Architect Samuel Coleridge Farr (1827-1918), the hotel and livery stables were popular with the wives and families of the members of the nearby 1862 Christchurch Club, of which James Collins had been the Steward since its foundation in 1856.

The hotel became known as the Occidental in 1889 when John Harris became the Licensee. George Pain (1854-1904) is listed the the Hotelkeeper from 1900. Benjamin Perry (1845-1926) acquired the License in 1906 and his son Ben (1885-1956) became the Publican when he died. Popular with the horse racing fraternity during that time, the renowned author Janet Frame was a housemaid-waitress there in 1947.

Perry's Occidental Hotel eventually declined into a Backpackers hostel in 1998. With the bedrooms painted in lurid colours, guests also complained that the former hotel was damp and smelly, unsurprisingly it closed in August, 2006.

Purchased in 2006 by another budget hotel company, Stonehurst Accommodation Ltd changed its name to City Foresight Ltd. in May, 2008.

Russell Harcourt Glynn is Chief Executive Officer of City Foresight Ltd. and Manager of the 1926 Stonehurst Hotel, which claims to "maintain our environmental integrity and to continually enhance our surroundings."

Glynn is reported in The Star newspaper article as saying in reference to the proposed demolition "You have to get emotions out of this, at the end of the day it is money. Emotions for me do not apply to this building - just because the building looks pretty and is heritage listed doesn't mean it is viable."

Along with former City Councillor Anna Crighton, Canterbury Heritage is both shocked and concerned at the prospect of the demolition of Christchurch's oldest surviving hotel.

Should a ghost haunt the old hotel's 35 rooms, then it's likely to be that of the wife of Captain the Honourable Francis Jollie (1815-1870) of Peel Forest. Jane Jollie died while staying at the hotel in 1869 and we would therefore exhort her shade to temporarily relocate to the other side of Latimer Square and thereby ensure sleepless nights for the seemingly Philistine Mr. Glynn.

Christchurch: Now and Then

Two matching north-easterly views of the north side of Gloucester Street, between Oxford Terrace and Colombo Street.

To the Left in the circa 1885 photograph is the Rink Livery Stables, which had begun life in 1867 as Richard Wildblood Kohler's Roller Skating rink (Dick Kohler had opened the city's first public swimming pool two years earlier on what is now the site of Hagley High School). The enormous building, which ran right through the block to Armagh Street, eventually gave way to Hay's department store.

To the stable's immediate Right are the Gothic style offices of the Public Accountant John Frederick Ballard, the first stone building to be constructed in the city. Beyond is the two storey Patent Office. The site of all these buildings is occupied in 2009 by the Farmers department store. 

To the far Right, at the corner of Colombo Street is Luck's Building, designed by the architectural practice of Mountfort & Luck about 1880. Apart from a minor section at the northern end of the Colombo Street frontage, this building was demolished in 1973.

Jan 10, 2009

Extinct Moa to be brought back to life?

A few years ago a minor furore was created when Maori claimed exclusive genetic copyright to the Moa, which they had hunted to extinction about 500 years ago.

In January, 2009 the New Scientist magazine published a list of 10 extinct animals that could walk the Earth again as a consequence of recent advances in DNA technology. The list includes the Moa, of which the two largest species, Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezelandiae, reached about 3.6 metres (12 feet) in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 250 kg (550 lb).

There is plenty of Moa DNA to be found in well-preserved bones and even eggs in New Zealand, so obtaining a Moa genome should not be difficult. Although only distantly related to Ostriches, it may be possible to boot up the Moa genome in an Ostrich egg.

We trust that our current fashions in racialism will not be allowed to impede this interesting possibility.

Further reading

New Scientist: Ten extinct beasts that could walk the Earth again.

Photo credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Elephantine Moa (Dinornis elephantopus), an Extinct Wingless Bird, in the Gallery of Fossils, British Museum, [1854–58]. Photographer; Roger Fenton (British, 1819–1869).

Jan 7, 2009

Airport Terminal Demolition

Plans have been announced for the replacement of the 1960 Christchurch International Airport terminal building. Designed by the modernist architect Paul Pascoe (1908-1976), the New Zealand Institute of Architects awarded him their Gold Medal for this building.

The $208 million redevelopment is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

Christchurch Architect Peter Beaven reminisces about Paul Pascoe for the Architecture NZ magazine (article link opens in a new window).

"Well, one day during the early part of the war we were down in Sumner and I saw this bloke standing there – Paul Pascoe – and there he was, big tie, looking out to sea like Milton or something, you know, seeing poetry ... and he said to me, “Ah, young Beaven, what are you thinking of doing?” and I said “Well, I don't know really, I'm trying to be told”. He said “Come in to the office with me”. So we got on the tram and went in to his office and within two hours talking Paul Pascoe somehow made clear what I'd seen, who I was, what I should do.

Two hours with Paul, that was it. Pascoe was the one. He was a charismatic fellow who knew something that architects are not taught: that architecture was a mystery and a huge psychic need that people had to have. It's a performance. I can remember that I ran into Hedley Helmore who is another good old architect – you see Christchurch used to be good, now it's shattered of course, but that's another matter..."

Comment from an expatriate Architect, now living in Australia.
I have recently come across your rather excellent blog on Canterbury Heritage. Being an ex-Christchurch resident now located in Melbourne, it is great to be able to keep up with the great achievements of individuals intent on keeping at least some of Canterbury's heritage known and discussed. Though, I have noted that your recent posts have failed to pick up on the imminent destruction of the Christchurch airport domestic terminal. 

Considering the new proposal is by Warren and Mahoney; the once great, though now utterly terrible, modernist architects, it appears some ethical debate regarding the destruction of a modernist legacy by an ex-modernist-still-pandering-their-wares-as-a-modernist has yet to be taken up by the local architectural fraternity let alone by the New Zealand Institute of Architects. 

After Sheppard and Rout's rather elegant extension to the international terminal, considering the difficulties of an airport, you might have thought it would have encouraged the airport authorities to once again reach further afield than a tabla rasa corporate identity. Here's hoping the recent economic woes can slow them down.
A further Architect's comment:
It's worth going out to the airport to see the rather confusing affair - brought about by the building of the new control tower (somewhere between the Chalice scuplture and a slipped disk) and the sudden proportions of the carpark building. 

Considering the way things are going in Christchurch - the revealing of, then cowardly destruction of the Tivoli Theatre, the replacement of the neo-Gothic prison at Addington for a future slum, the almost too close to call gutting of the museum, the populist stink that is the new art gallery, Cashel Mall's hopefull redevelopmet only to be turned into little Brisbane, the inevitable flop that will be the new City Council chambers and the current lot of high-rise towers now plumbing their foundations into the earth.... 

One must ask; what will the current generations built legacy be? A recent book that came out was Long Live the Modern on Modernist NZ architecture, as well as Sir Miles Warren's autobiography. Both great and important books to have, if somewhat incomplete, and lacking a foundation text. Maybe a post speculating on future built heritage would be interesting, especiallly if you can get other readers involved?

Two other buildings worth commenting on; Peter Beaven's Port Authority Tunnel administration offices and Shadbolt House in Lyttleton; both utterly fantastic. Beaven's metabolist satirical ship building, and Shadbolt house's constructivist theatricality, provide an important legacy to our built environment.

Jan 2, 2009

Christchurch 1909

Exactly two hundred years ago, in the year that canned food was invented, the first Europeans landed in Lyttelton Harbour.  Little could they have realised that a century later men would fly across the sea, Marconi would win the Nobel Prize for the invention of Radio and that the city of Christchurch would take pride in having New Zealand's tallest building (the New Zealand Express Company's 1906 seven storey premises on the southeast corner of Manchester and Hereford Streets).

1909 saw the completion of The Press newspaper building in Cathedral Square (below) and also the extant D.I.C. department store on the southern side of Cashel Street near to the High Street triangle.

Mainly printed in Germany, the coloured postcard was beginning to replace its monochrome predecessors in popularity, here are some examples that depict the city of a century ago.

A major event of that year was the visit to Lyttelton of two Battle Cruisers of the Royal Navy's Australia Station. The Cressy Class HMS Euryalas (1904-1920) was Flagship of the Australia Squadron. Seen here about to berth opposite HMS Challenger, the naval vessels attracted large crowds to the Port's No.3 Wharf. That year also marked the arrival of the Harbour Board's new Steam Dredge Te Whaka. Now moored at Port Chalmers, she enjoys a prolonged wait for restoration. 1909 also marked the demise of the 78 year-old Marine Artist John Gibb, whose detailed paintings of the Port in the Victorian era are among its most treasured images. Gibb's Worcester Street home is now occupied the the politician Tim Barnett.

A southerly view of Colombo Street from Cathedral Square. To the Right, on what was first known as Skillicorn's Corner, at the Hereford Street intersection, and now shorn of its cornice, is the only building in this photograph to have survived.

An elevated north-westerly view of High Street at the junction of Lichfield and Manchester Streets. To the centre is the extant 1900 Strange's department store. Subsequent to a Ratepayer subsidised restoration in the 1980s, the building is once again in a dilapitated state, and is currently being offered for sale by its Korean owners.

The 1876 Canterbury Museum facing Worcester Street from Rolleston Avenue. Subsequently shorn of its spire and some of Benjamin Mountfort's architectural ornamentation, a recent attempt to impose further desecration upon this significant building has been thwarted by public opinion. Now reduced to little more than a cultural Mall, we look forward to the restoration of both the structure and the former ethos.

A luridly coloured depiction of two extant buildings in Cathedral Square. Now a tourist information centre and cafe, the 1879 Government building would have been the scene of long queues on Pension days in 1909. To the Right is the former Royal Exchange building of 1904, which had lost its southern tower by 1954.

A southerly view of Colombo Street from Victoria Square, looking towards Cathedral Square. To the Left at the corner of Armagh Street is the 1904 Oram's building. Occupied in 1909 by Ridley, the Draper on the ground floor, the Sarony photographic studio was situated on the upper level. To the Right is the late 1850s Chemist shop of Messrs. Cook and Ross, which would be successively demolished between 1927 and 1933.