Feb 27, 2009

Christchurch Lyttelton Road Tunnel opened 27 February 1964

With the removal of the Heathcote end of the historic Bridle Path, and the demolition of houses in the vicinity, construction began on New Zealand's longest road tunnel in 1962.

Built at a cost of £3 million by a joint venture consortium of NZ's Fletcher Construction Ltd, and the American Henry J. Kaiser Co., Inc., the 1.9 km tunnel involved the use of 250 kg of explosives to remove 150,000 cubic metres of rock. It was then lined with 1.5 million glazed white tiles.

Opened on the 27th of February 1964 by Brigadier Sir Bernard Fergusson, last British Governor General of New Zealand, the tunnel replaced a tortuous route over Evans Pass on the Port Hills.

Note: the artist's rendition in the 1962 promotional illustration at the top bears little resemblance to what eventuated.

Special thanks to Anthony of the Early Canterbury Photographers web site for the following items of tunnel ephemera from 1964.

An elevated southerly view of the Heathcote entrance to the tunnel, showing the toll gates and administration building.

Feb 25, 2009

Photographic Excellence


An elevated north-westerly view along lower High Street towards the junction at Manchester and Lichfield Streets by David Jones of Christchurch.

Not the Tourist Hype


Canterbury's smugly Puritan capital is a Jekyll and Hide sort of town. That quality is particularly apparent on weekend evenings, when binge drinkers roam Christchurch's inner city streets.

Above is a foreign visitor's view of the intersection at the junction of High, Hereford and Colombo Streets. Photographed on a Saturday night, when it's despoiled with litter and drunken vomit, the immediate precinct has recently undergone an extensive makeover, which includes a $250,000 kitsch representation of a Wheatsheaf (below).

Photo credit: top pic is by Peter Ulrich, a Web designer from Berlin.

kuaka said...

250k buys a lot of Guardian Angel citizen patrols - or real police. Time for the CCC to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to street drinking &, dare I mention them, boy (& girl) racers. When civil authority leaves a vacuum regrettably you get the private vigilante application of remedies, eg recent attacks on taggers, boy racers etc. Nonetheless, residents could take the streets back by some (peaceful) en masse turnouts.

Chch public art is downright dull & hideous. A shot of the ice cream cone thing would complete the Square montage. Timid Chch folks get what they deserve, I suppose. Small wonder many of us flee.

Anonymous said...

I love how the blue light from the under seat lighting makes it appear as though a forensic investigation is underway - urban forensics encompassing the whole gamut of bodily fluids.

There is something lacking in Christchurchs civic attitude - no amount of repaving, clusters of bits of metal or coloured lighting will never make this area appear as though the general public have a stake in it. I always found it rather crowded - not with people, but with other urban fixtures - now made worse but an almost wholesale removal of the urban playgournd that it should be - sit here, not there, drink here not there, walk here not there, and in this direction not that direction.... look here at an overscaled 'thing', identify an important point being made, nod and walk on.....

Canterbury Heritage said...

If there's anything to be learned from history, it is, that in the broader time scale and in spite of our conceits, all civilisations are little more than straws in the wind. They evidence organic qualities in that that they germinate, grow to maturity, bear fruit in the form of high culture and then wither into decay. As Benjamin Franklyn observed "Great empires like great cakes are most easily diminished at the edges," and at few places would that seem more self-evident than upon western civilisation's remotest frontier.

Social fragmentation is an inevitable symptom of a reversion to barbarism, that vigorous trunk from which the delicate bloom of high culture briefly flowers, which in the case of Christchurch would appear to have been in the two decades from 1930. The progress of cultural decline appears to have gained greater momentum in recent decades as social organisations such as religions and unions, etc. have waned into insignificance. 

The immoderate use of psychotropic drugs (including alcohol) for recreational purposes facilitates an escape from the unacceptable realities of every day life. Thus what's happening on weekend evenings in Christchurch is symptomatic of a cynical rejection of our received social values, now only shared by those with significantly more yesterdays than tomorrows. 

History confirms that the naïve assumption that repressive authoritarianism can do more than just supress the symptoms of social decay has never worked. There are no convenient answers to Christchurch's current social problems, just more authoritarian repression, political posturing and media hype along the route to the inevitable.

But cheer up, upon the best information currently available, one can reasonably assume that the location pictured above will be well below sea level by the end of this century, New Zealand will then have a population of around 80 million and our political masters will have quite a different set of problems to contend with. But in the meantime one can choose to view life as either a comedy or a tragedy - the emporer Nero is said to have played upon his fiddle while Rome burned...

Feb 23, 2009

Caledonia 1853-1866


The first vessel to be constructed at Lyttelton was launched from the port's earliest slip-way close to where the former railway station now stands, adjacent to where she is depicted below at the lower Right.

With a displacement of 20 tons and the registration number 40337, she was also reputed to be the first New Zealand vessel built of indigenous timbers. Constructed by the Scottish emigrants John Grubb (1817-1898) and George Marshall (1821-1874), the light displacement cutter was christened Caledonia by Mrs Mary Grubb at 1 pm on Wednesday, the 31st of August, 1853.

With her shallow draft, the gaff-rigged Caledonia appears to have been built specifically for the coastal river trade. Although her hold had the capacity to carry about 30 bales of wool, her principal role would have been to carry both construction timber from George Marshall's sawmill at Pigeon Bay and the early emigrant's heavy luggage from Lyttelton to the wharves at the port of Christchurch on the Heathcote River at Woolston.

The ship building partnership with George Marshall appears to have been a short-lived affair, as two years later John Grubb is listed as being in that business with the Shipwrights Robert and Magnus Allen, also of Lyttelton. However, it's recorded that George Marshall's younger brother, Captain John Wallace Marshall, was a trusted Heathcote River pilot. The Captain is also listed as the Master of Grubb and Marshall's second vessel; the steam lighter Canterbury, which they built at Pigeon Bay in June 1855.

During her short career the Caledonia encountered at least four significant mishaps, with the last being fatal.

The first occurred at the end of 1856, when her Master and seaman Marsh were drowned when the ship's boat, laden with bales of wool, capsized at Boat Harbour, 15 kms south of Kaikoura. The well known and much esteemed Captain Randal had been a crew member of the Charlotte Jane, first of the Canterbury Association's emigrant vessels to arrive at Lyttelton in 1850.

In July 1863 the Caledonia was bumped on to a sand bank by a heavy roller when crossing the Bar at nearby Sumner. The vessel's main mast snapped just above the deck and Edward Newton promptly jumped overboard in time to save himself from being struck by it. William Callaghan, the other crew member, was however not so fortunate. At the helm, he was knocked unconscious when struck violently by the masthead.

At some unspecified date, probably as a consequence of the great tidal wave of 1863, the vessel was driven ashore at Little Akaloa in Akaroa Harbour while employed in carryinging timber to Lyttelton.

Caledonia's final mishap came on the 16th of April 1866 when she struck the treacherous rocks below Whitewash Head, which stands between Taylors Mistake and Sumner (below).

The carvel planked scale model of the Caledonia was built using the vessel's indigenous woods and extensively copies her original construction methods. The model is 43 cm in length, 34 cm above the keel and carries the barely decipherable inscription "Caledonia 1853" on the base of the pedestal.

Feb 22, 2009

Podcast: Tramlines

In a 14 minute talk from Radio Australia's Ockham's Razor series, retired chemist Dr Trevor McAllister looks at the history of the tram, from the first horse-drawn service to the technology that has created the electric trams.

Image: once again a familiar sight in central Christchurch, is this vintage tram being removed from a New Brighton garden in 1969.

Tales of Banks Peninsula

Canterbury Heritage is pleased to announce the Internet publication of a new edition of Tales of Banks Peninsula.

Compiled by 1883 and published the following year by Howard Charles Jacobson (1841-1910), the Editor and owner of the Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, the book is a compilation from various sources about old identities and early historic events, and also small pieces written by Jacobson for his newspaper.

Written by the Maori historian the Reverend James West Stack (1835 -1919), the first part covers the legends and folklore of the Maori, from the warfare between the Ngati Mamoe, Ngai Tahu, Ngatiawa and Ngapuhi tribes until the advent of European settlement in the mid 1830s. Stack's contribution is followed by the anecdotal reminisces of many of the earliest European pioneers in the district.

The book's historical significance may be appreciated by the knowledge that it was republished in 1894, 1917, 1976 and continues to be cited in the adjudications of the Waitangi Tribunal.

Where the subject matter deviates, the chapters have been re-paragraphed for this edition. In the interests of historians and genealogical researchers, etc., the proper nouns or names have been amended to their current usage. Punctuation, abbreviations and Dickensian-era grammar have also been slightly amended in accordance with current conventions, but beyond that, this revised edition remains faithful to the original text.

The links to the parts of the book (in blue) open in new tabs or windows.

Frontis and prefaces to the earlier editions.
Pa of Nga-Toko-Ono (The Pah of the Six)
Tu Te Kawa
Waikakahi (Wascoe's)
Ngai Tahu Taking Possession
Te Mai Hara Nui
Kai Huanga (Eat Relation)
Raid on Panau (Long Look-Out)
Capture of Te Mai Hara Nui
Maoris Reorganising
Death of Tu Te Hou Nuku
European Account of the Massacre in Akaroa Harbour
George Hempleman and his Purchase of Akaroa
George Hempleman's Diary
"Headed Up" (The imprisonment of Puaka at Peraki)
The French Settlement of Akaroa
Early Days
Arrival of the First English Ship
Reminiscences of the First Five Years
A Lady Colonist's Experiences
Billy Simpson
Jimmy Robinson
Jimmy Walker
"Chips" (Adolph Friedrich Henrici)
Thomas Richard Moore, M.D
French Farm and the Survey
John Henry Caton
The Chief Paora Taki's Story
Story of a Snake Hunt in Akaroa Harbour by Mrs. Tikao
The Mysterious Disappearance of Mr. Dicken
Harry Head
The Loss of the Crest
LeBon's Bay
Okain's Bay
Little Akaloa
German Bay
Robinson's Bay
Duvauchelle'a Bay South
Pigeon Bay
Head of the Bay
Island Bay
Little River
Charteris Bay
Gough's Bay
Mr. Philip Ryan
Mr. Thomas White
Mr. William Isaac Haberfield
Our Jubilee
The Legend of Onawe
The Legend of Gough's Bay

Image credit: Akaroa, April 1840 (an engraving entitled Baie d'Akaroa, from Voyage au Pôle Sud et dans l'Océanie sur les corvettes l’Astrolabe et la Zélée, 1837-1840, by J. Dumont d'Urville.)

Feb 21, 2009

60th Anniversary: 21st of February, 1949

The Christchurch City Council informs its citizens that a grant of armorial bearings was made to the city by the Royal College of Heralds by letters patent on the 21st of February, 1949.

Being the sixtieth anniversary of that allegedly august event, we'd like to point out that Christchurch already had a coat of arms (below).

This prior armorial bearing included a depiction of the Lyttelton railway tunnel, which was replaced in the 1949 version by an abstract representation of the first four ships to bring emigrants from Gravesend to Lyttelton.

The first four ships mythological conceit emblazoned upon our more recent heraldic arms conveniently overlooks a number of awkward facts, not the least being that these newcomers were welcomed by the Canterbury Association's emigrants who had already arrived via Wellington.

Feb 19, 2009

19 February 1873

The original proposal for an Anglican cathedral for Christchurch called for an iron and glass structure along the lines of London's 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition building. Regretfully, this design was abandoned in favour of a more conventional neo-Gothic structure in stone. Thus it was that the foundation stone of Christ Church Cathedral was laid on the 16th of December 1864, but by the following year construction plans had been halted as a consequence if inadequate funding.

On the 19th of February 1873 the Anglican Synod voted on a motion to sell the cathedral site to the Provincial Council for public offices, for the sum of £10,000.

An alternative site was proposed for a section of three and a half acres on Durham Street, between Gloucester and Armagh Streets, opposite the Provincial Council buildings. It was also suggested that economy could be effected by letting the frontages for building sites conditionally on the fronts of the houses erected thereon facing the Cathedral. If this were done, the Synod committee suggested that the Cathedral would stand upon the northern frontage of the land and the tower would be on Armagh Street.

The proposal was defeated by only one of the thirty-five votes and construction in Cathedral Square resumed in 1875, with the building being completed eight years later.

Feb 16, 2009

The Day That Canterbury History Began

The history of Canterbury began exactly 239 years ago with the first of a number of significant errors (among the more recent being that Polynesian folklore constitutes history).

On the 16th of February 1770, the crew of His Majesty's Barque Endeavour sighted what Lieutenant James Cook concluded to be an island, which was duly named after Joseph Banks, the expedition's wealthy Botanist.

Cook's mistake was realised in October 1809 when Captain Samuel Chase, of the sealing ship Pegasus out of Sydney, tried to sail between the alleged island and the mainland. To the far south, Stewart Island was named after the captured former Spanish brigantine's first officer William Stewart, who surveyed that island's principal harbour.

Solomon Levey (1794-1833), a discharged convict of Sydney, and his business partner Daniel Cooper (1785-1853) were regularly sending ships to Banks Peninsula by the mid 1820s. Their crews traded with the Maori at Puari in the bay that still bears the misspelled name of Port Levy. In 1829 Cooper and Levey established a trading post at Puari for purchasing sealskins, pork and flax and there were soon a dozen Europeans living among the more than three hundred Maori at the settlement.

Prior to the 1850 inauguration of the Canterbury Association's settlement there were more than a thousand Europeans living in the vicinity of Banks Peninsula. Among their descendants can be counted Solomon Levey's kin unto the ninth generation.


Jayne said...

That was a very beginner's sort of mistake Cook made, considering how accurate his maps were (and continue to be).

My theory is that he was having too many late nights, too many games of "I Spy" and was just as human as any one else - he was exhausted.

Canterbury Heritage said...

The fine wines and general standard of luxury enjoyed in Endeavour's wardroom as a consequence of Joseph Bank's wealth and generosity might have been contributory factors to the mistake. However, the opinion that it was an island would probably have come from a member of the crew in the crow's nest.

Bearing in mind that even at Cathedral Square the land is (currently) less than 7 metres above mean sea level, it's feasible that Endeavour passed Banks Peninsula on a low tide, without sailing far enough into Pegasus Bay to ascertain the lie of the land in the vicinity of New Brighton.

kuaka said...

From Cook's Journal:

"At 8 o’Clock we had run 11 Leagues since Noon, when the land extended from South-West by West to North by West, being distant from the nearest shore about 3 or 4 Leagues; in this situation had 50 fathoms, a fine sandy bottom. Soon after this it fell Calm, and continued so until 6 A.M., when a light breeze sprung up at North-West, which afterwards veer’d to North-East. At sun rise, being very Clear, we plainly discover’d that the last mentioned land was an Island by seeing part of the Land of Tovy-poenammu open to the Westward of it, extending as far as West by South.... This Island which I have named after Mr. Banks, lies about 5 Leagues from the Coast of Tovy poenammu..."

Captain Cook's Journal during his first voyage round the world made in H.M. Bark “Endeavour” 1768-71 (Link opens in a new window).

Canterbury Heritage said...

Cook's estimate would have placed Bank's 'island' 24 kilometres off the coast.

Image credits: detail from James Cook's map of the South Island (
nzhistory.net), Endeavour replica off the Lyttelton Heads on the 16th of February 1996.

Feb 13, 2009

Christchurch's First Public Swimming Pool

An easterly view of the Avon River from just below the Montreal Street bridge.

Only the evidence of the straightened river banks between Cambridge Terrace (Left) and Rhododendron Island (Right) reveals that this had once been the site of the Christchurch City Council's first swimming baths, which opened on New Year's Day in 1877.

When completed the high-fenced 45 metre pool was 2.7 metres deep at one end and 1.2 metres at the other. The entry fee was threepence and the baths were open from 6 am to 9 pm during the season, which lasted from the 1st of October until the 31st of March.

As a consequence of the health hazard posed by effluent draining from the nearby hospital, and the rising popularity of beach bathing at New Brighton and Sumner (brought about by the introduction of the tram service), the swimming pool closed in March 1886.

William Aitken was custodian of the baths and also proprietor of the nearby Montreal Street boat sheds (1875-1929) and it was from the vicinity of those boat sheds that this hand coloured, circa 1905, photograph was taken.

Much fought over in the 1850s for possession by school boys, Rhododendron Island owes its name to the Reverend Henry Jacobs (1824 -1901), first Dean of Christchurch and incumbent of the nearby St. Michael's Church, who planted the island with the earliest Rhododendron specimens brought to Canterbury.

Feb 11, 2009

Now with 321 articles and 584 illustrations online Canterbury Heritage celebrates its first year of Internet publication. Spread over four web sites, with a blog as the main portal, the journal has been enjoyed by 29,532 readers since February, 2008. 

Christchurch's First Public Well

On this day one hundred and thirty five years ago the Christchurch City Council sank the first public artesian well at the triangular corner of Tuam Street and High Street. Bored to a depth of 25 metres, the pressure was sufficient to force the water more than 3 metres above the ground level.

In an area mainly populated at that time by Irish Catholic labourers and domestic servants, the well provided drinkable water to the local populace. An ornamental pond, with decorative cast-iron railings was subsequently erected over the well (above centre Right circa 1880). This structure was removed in 1930 when the immediately adjacent premises of the merchants Wilson, Sawtell and Co. was replaced by the High Street Post Office (now Alice in Videoland). Since then a raised flower bed (below) has occupied the site of the city's first public well.


Jayne said...

Is there a plaque or anything to mark the spot?

The garden bed looks lovely, wouldn't take much to attach a plaque to the bluestone wall.

Canterbury Heritage said...

The only plaque at the site identifies David Marshall's three life-sized bronze Corgis installed in 2003 as an amusingly irreverent commemoration of the queen of New Zealand’s 50th jubilee.

There are very few commemorative plaques within the city, but there are a number of ephemeral interpretive display, of which the historical inaccuracies of many might appear to indicate a degree of nepotism in their commissioning.

Feb 10, 2009

Christchurch Contrast

A pair of photographs, taken within the same hour and from vantage points barely twenty metres apart, that epitomise the best of the historic and contemporary aspects of the city.

A westerly view of the Provincial Council buildings from across the Avon River at Oxford Terrace between Armagh and Gloucester Streets.

An easterly view of high rise buildings facing on to Victoria Square from the south side of Armagh Street, between Oxford Terrace and Colombo Street.

Feb 7, 2009

The Way We Were

Christchurch's The Star newspaper publishes the regular The Way We Were series of illustrated articles. This week's wee gem is a photograph of a pair of shops in Victoria Square.

The caption includes the following information "... probably around the turn of the 19th century, shows Paddy's Market, a well patronised group of stores and stalls which sold fruit, vegetables and many other bits and pieces."

However, in the intrests of historical accuracy we tender the following:

In what was known as the market place until 1901, the former Immigration Barracks (subsequently the second Fire Station), Police Station and assorted City Council sheds were demolished in 1878. A group of thirteen wooden shops was subsequently erected on the western side of lower Victoria Street, between Armagh Street and the bridge to Papanui. These shops sold only fresh produce, which also included meat and fish. The development was a fairly short lived affair and the photographic record indicates that all of the shops had been removed by 1885. There would appear to be no evidence in the historic record to indicate that any part of Market Place was ever known as "Paddy's Market."

The photograph published in The Star shows the second and third shops at the Armagh Street end of the block. The image comes from a panoramic sequence of five heavily retouched photographs, showing all of the shops in about 1880.


Feb 6, 2009

Christchurch 1872-2009


A pair of southerly views of Manchester Street from the intersection with High and Lichfield Streets.

The site of this intersection had been a low lying swamp when construction of the Sumner Road commenced in 1849. This factor, along with the original proposal to build the Christchurch prison in the vicinity, ensured that development in the area did not flourish until the mid 1860s, when Manchester Street south became the principal thouroughfare between the central business district and the railway station.

To the Left in the earlier photograph, at the north-east corner of Manchester and Lichfield Streets, is the recently constructed premises of the grocers Hubbard, Hall & Company, with the offices of the Commercial Union Assurance Company above. The building was demolished in 1929 to make way for the extant Majestic Theatre.

At the south-east corner of Manchester and High Streets (centre Left) is John Barrett's Borough Hotel. Built by George Mouritz in 1865, it replaced Mrs O'Hara's single storey Harp of Erin Tavern. On Boxing Day in 1879 the intersection was the scene of a sectarian riot when parading Orangemen and Irish Catholics (who frequented the Borough Hotel) fought in the streets. The old hotel was demolished in 1881 to be replaced by the renamed Barrett's Hotel. Currently a Backpackers' hostel, the name was changed to the Excelsior Hotel at sometime between 1889 and 1892.

At the south-west corner of Manchester and Lichfield Streets is the Riccarton Mills store, premises of the Scottish Corn merchant Peter Cunningham (1839-1915). This building was demolished in 1904 in favour of the extant first stage of the Ridley's building, now occupied by the Ruben Blades Hairdressing Academy.

At the north-west corner of High and Lichfield Streets (Right) is the first chemist shop of George Hartley Bonnington (1836-1901). A partial reconstruction of this shop can be seen in the Canterbury Museum. Bonnington's pharmacy had originally been the premise of the Draper William Strange (1834-1914), who had subsequently moved to the adjacent shop (at the extreme Right) in 1863. The row of shops was demolished in 1899 to be replaced by a four storey extension to what became the vast department store of Strange & Company. What had become Australasia's largest department store went into liquidation in 1929, and shorn of its cornice and pediment, the dilapated building barely survives into its second century.


kuaka said...

Very nice past & present item, as usual. Might one add that the Jubilee clock tower stood at the NW corner of High and Manchester Street circa 1897 to sometime in 1930s? It was just behind where the flower beds are in the present day pic. I'll refrain from commenting on the "kinetic" sculpture on the spot today (the red poppy looking object behind the trees).... The clock tower is now at the Victoria & Montreal streets corner.

Canterbury Heritage said...

At a cost of one thousand pounds, the clock in the tower was made to order in England in 1862 from a design prepared by the Provincial Architects Benjamin Mountfort and Isaac Luck. Deemed unsuitable for erection on the stone tower of the Provincial Buildings on the Armagh Street frontage, it lay among the rubbish in the old council yard on Oxford Terrace, where Captain Scott's statue now is. It was eventually erected by means of public subscription in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The intersection became familiarly known as "Clocktower," until the structure was removed in 1930.

The tradition of naming major city junctions has now been lost, but the intersection at Cashel and High Streets was known as "The Triangle" and the intersection of High, Hereford and Colombo Streets was commonly known as "The Bottleneck."

History is not a tale of progress, but a succession of cycles in which civilisation alternates with barbarism. In the case of Christchurch the most significant cultural apogee appears to have been achieved in the 1930s and 1940s. Thus the recently erected and naïvely abstract Poppy mobile on the corner might require a charitable sentiment, with the consolation of knowing that its gimcrackery will date soon enough.

Sarndra said...

Good grief that poppy is just gross....I haven't seen it before. Chch has changed so much even in the 18 months since I left.