Aug 11, 2017


Arriving by sea, it's best to enter enter a port at dawn as the rising sun burns off the motionless sea mist.  When the air has been freshened during the night and seems to hold a faint scent of flowers.  Dew gleamed on every leaf and blossom, creating the feeling that the place had been created anew that very morning. The ship slowed to a speed at which the throb of her engines was no longer perceptible and the vessel glided silently into the tranquil harbour.

But then again, for the more modest and chaste-souled of closet ethnographers, it's probably all about ways of seeing...

An all fur coat and no knickers sort of town, where it's better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody, this is Auckland, largest conurbation of what Orstryliuns know as the sheep-shaggers of the shakey isles.  You might well think so, but one couldn't possibly subscribe to the Ocker opinion that a Kiwi leisure centre is five sheep tied to a lamp post, or that the only reason that they have women here is because the sheep can't cook.

Although exemplifying the Oceanic Malaise of apathetic boredom and vapid monotony of incurious minds, this little world unto itself is a cheerful, friendly kind of place, peopled with escapists, unpublished poets and endearing halfwits with comic accents.

Protected by mediocrity and insensitivity from the terrors of the world in a cultural climate that hopefully engenders patience and stoicism among expatriates, Homo Kiwiensis enjoys a comfortable lower middle-class existence with a mental outlook of its own, self-judged and self-approved (each little sugar-coated embellishment seems to be the outward denial of an inner doubt). 

Unravaged by the fierce intellectual life of our century, or any other, it's becoming an increasingly polarized culture, not yet freed from the disturbing passions of its past, but already troubled with anxieties about a very different future, quite possibly as an ark where the residue of civilisations' last golden age might shelter from a seemingly inevitable ecocide.

Jan 7, 2015

Along a Road Less Travelled: a Preface

After a more than five year hiatus, Mr Canterbury Heritage returns, to endanger his relative anonymity in recounting a more personal history of the province in particular, and thereby to a recent saga of these remote islands in general.

The narration of our earlier stories proved quite unexpected results, not the least of which is that, since its inception, this social history and its ancillary extensions have accumulated a readership now well within its second squillion.

But more surprising was, that although the subject has been exclusively about a provincial backwater of a society that's long been used as a literary trope for remote obscurity, New Zealanders account for only fourth place among the readership. Those in North America and Europe comprise a significant majority.

However, the inspiration and encouragement to return and proceed upon a road less travelled rests mainly with a whole lot of Kiwis.

From smarmy criminals to old school chums now with chairs at distinguished foreign universities.

From those who've farmed their land for seven hundred years to visceral magnates with political influence and a hankering to slither up the social ladder.

From neuro-developmentally disabled indigents living under city bridges to painted cougars in the caravanserais of senescent nomads that wander our byways.

From belligerent bureaucrats, with antisocial personality disorders, to Prime Ministers come to borrow the mower.

And yea, even unto to the sixth affluent generation of patrician gentry, whose influence may have waned since they threatened the wrong prime minister, but nonetheless still get wheeled out for a spot of dinnertime persiflage with visiting foreign heads of state.

And many more...

This then will hopefully, for awhile at least, become a quasi-ethnographic assessment of an era at a place where the surge, of what we term civilisation (for better or worse), dissipates on its farthest shore.

In lieu of a suitable illustration for this preface the writer makes so bold as to include a recent effort, of which a local swineherd was the muse.

The portrait is a result of the ArtRage computer application, which facilitates not only a full range of the artist's traditional tools and palettes, but much that was previously unachievable by painters of old.

Nov 8, 2014

Christmas card, 2011

The belated image is of Canterbury Heritage's Christmas card for 2011, a truly memorable year in which a spot of the whimsical was sorely needed.

Aug 2, 2009

Christchurch Heritage Tragedy

It was announced on the 31st of July, 2009 that a two storey Sydenham warehouse dating from the late 1860s is to be demolished to make way for a new terminus for Leopard Coachlines.

Situated on the eastern side of Montreal Street, between the railway line and Disraeli Street, and forming part of the complex of buildings that has been the premises of CRC Salvage and Demolition since 1984, it is Christchurch's oldest surviving industrial building.

Canterbury Heritage calls upon the Christchurch City Council and the Historic Places Trust to save this historically significant part of our cultural heritage from destruction.


Above: details from street and rear views of the historic warehouse, from a set of seven photographs by Greg O'Beirne.

Aug 1, 2009

Now & Then: Christchurch Unchanged

There are few views of Christchurch that have not changed signficantly in the last century, but this south-westerly aspect of the Antigua Boatsheds and the Hospital footbridge from Cambridge Terrace can be counted among them. Glimpsed through the trees to the upper Left in the drawing is the spire of the hospital's original chapel and also the water tower, which was demolished in 1946.

The 1909 pen and ink drawing is by the English artist Sydney Robert Jones (1881-1966). A notable watercolourist, etcher and illustrator, Jones studied at the Birmingham School of Fine Arts and then worked for an architectural practice in that city. After the First World War Jones specialised in depicting rustic England. He toured the country with his wife, Frances, recording in pencil drawings and water colours, English villages, cottages, and manor houses. Jones also wrote several books on the English countryside, including Old English Country Cottages, The Charm of the English Village, The Manor Houses of England, London Triumphant, etc.

As yet we have been unable to locate an historical record that indicates that a 28 year-old Sydney R. Jones visited Christchurch.

Jul 30, 2009

Curator's Choice: 1930 School Certificate

From our archive comes a blank New Zealand School Certificate from the 1930s. Listed are all of the possible subjects then available to students. Nearly a quarter of them are technology based subjects suited to young males intending to sign articles for a five year industrial apprenticeship, with a further 20% tailored to the requirements of their eventual spouses to be.

Beyond compulsory English, a further six languages, including Mãori, offered graduation opportunities. Among them were Latin and Ancient Greek, and although the former might still be available in rare instances, by the later 1950s not even Christchurch's more exclusive groves of Academe offered Greek as part of their curriculum for a classical education.

Thus it was that a youthfull Mr CH would cycle down to Miller's Department Store in Tuam Street (currently the City Council offices) every Saturday morning, where Leslie Beaumont Miller (1890-1960) made his top floor staff cafeteria available as a classroom for serious lads hoping to learn sufficient Greek as to be able to enjoy Plato in the original.

Jul 29, 2009

Art Deco Christchurch: West Avon 1930


The West Avon apartments on the south-west corner of Hereford and Montreal Streets in what was then the inner city suburb of West End.

Built in 1930, but now sporting a 1980s penthouse, the Grade 3 protected building is currently painted in shades of blue and orange.

West Avon was designed by the Christchurch architect Wilford Melville Lawry (1894-1980). A long time resident of Mount Pleasant, Lawry subsequently designed the now demolished 1934 Methodist Orphanage and Children's Home in Harewood Road, Papanui (below). The site is now occupied by an old people’s home.

Among Lawry's other surviving designs are the 1935 Regent Theatre at Hokitika (below top) and the 1940 Century Theatre in Edgeware Road, St. Albans (below bottom), which was converted into a supermarket in 1969.

Jul 27, 2009

Canterbury's First Fire Station


Photographed in August, 1862, this is a view of the three buildings occupying Lyttelton Town Section 33 to the eastern side of the access to the Canterbury Association's 1850 jetty. In 2009 it is the south-eastern corner of Norwich Quay, where the over-pass to the wharves begins just below the intersection with Oxford Street.

A similar view 147 years later

To the Right in the top photograph, at the south-eastern corner of the intersection is the Lyttelton Fire Station. Built in 1858, it preceeded the formal establishment of the Lyttelton Fire Brigade by four years.

Above the engine shed's front doors is the sign of the Liverpool, London and Globe Fire Insurance Company. That company shipped the engine, and the bell in the belfry above, from England to their Lyttelton agents.

Under the supervision of Thomas James Curtis, the Fire Brigade's Superintendent from 1862, the engine's steam powered pump could lift water, via a hose from the beach, three blocks north to Exeter Street.

From the rear in 1865

Next door, to the centre of the top photograph, is the 1852 premises of Bowler and Company. William Bowler (1803-1863), who lived in Sumer Road (just visible at the top Left of the top photograph), was a General Merchant and Shipping Agent. Bowler sent the first direct shipment of wool from Canterbury to London in 1856 and was subsequently owner of the paddle tug Lyttelton, which began service in the port from January, 1861.

Sketch detail: 1869 Royal Visit

Although the company's sign continues to indicate Bowler and Co., Isaac Thomas Cookson (1817-1881), agent for the Liverpool and London Fire Insurance Company had already entered into partnershp with Bowler, with the company's name becoming known as Cookson, Bowler and Company

The Fire Station and adjacent premises of Bowler and Company were demolished by 1880 to make way for the Lyttelton Harbour Board's extant former offices, currently occupied by The Harbourmaster's Café.

To the Right in the top photograph is the store of James Drummond Macpherson (1829-1894), built in 1859 on piers above the original beach. A Customs Agent, Lloyd's Agent, Ship owner, General Merchant, Coalmonger and Farmer, Macpherson was the first representative of Mathieson's Agency, a London company which shipped merchandise to the colony on consignment.

circa 1863

From 1864, using spoil from the railway tunnel construction, reclamation of the foreshore began. Five years later, with nearby soil quarried by prison labour, the beach in front of Scotsman's store disappeared beneath the site of the Port's first Railway Station.

circa 1908

The 1859 store became the Railway's offices and parcel shed, a role that it would continue to fulfil until 1963.

Overpass construction 1962

Knowing the price of everything, but nothing of heritage value, between 1965 and 1970 the Lyttelton Harbour Board set about the needless destruction of most of the historic buildings along the town's waterfront. James Macpherson's 1859 store was among the first to go. Its site remained vacant for 40 years, eventually succumbing to a nondescript concrete box in the neo-brutalist tradition.

The only surviving relic of Macpherson's ownership is the 1855 steam tug Mullogh, whose rusting bones now rest on Lyttelton Harbour's Quail Island.

Jul 23, 2009

100 Years Ago Today 23 July 1909: Lyttelton Larrikins, Linwood Library & Colonist's Collections

Idlers at the Post Office corner in Norwich Quay, Lyttelton, have in many years polished an area on a big telegraph post, and a band along the post office wall, by the constant rubbing of tired shoulders, and countless men have spat upon the footpath thereabouts.

Yesterday several men who were causing an obstruction at the corner were "moved on" by a constable, but as soon as he had passed four of them resumed their posts on the path. Three of them found the consequences this morning in the Lyttelton Police Court.

Sergeant Ryan stated that many complaints were made of the way in which idlers blocked the footpath at that corner, and also at the one opposite, and that great annoyance was caused to people, especially ladies, using the path for its legitimate purpose. In this case he did not press for a penalty, being desirous only of impressing those in the habit of lounging in the vicinity with the fact that the by-law should be observed.

Mr George Christopher Smith, J.P., was on the Bench, and the three men, Carl Davidson, Peter Peterson and Otto Neilson, having pleaded guilty, he fined each of them five shillings and costs.

Linwood Library Opened by the Mayor

Opening Day

The Linwood Public Library, which. has been established through the efforts of the Linwood Citizens' Association, occupies the neat wooden building that was in former years the Linwood Borough Council Chambers, on the corner of Worcester Street and Stanmore Road. The building is vested in the City Council, which has granted its use to the Library Committee, and has also made a grant towards the purchase of books. The amount thus granted has been judiciously expended, and there was a very fair assortment of books upon the shelves of the institution when it was formally opened yesterday.

Mr William Wilcox Tanner, president of the Linwood Citizens' Association, welcomed the Mayor of Christchurch, Mr Charles Allison, and thanked the Council for its assistance in establishing the library. He assured the Mayor that the institution would, grow, and that it would prove in the future of very great value to the residents of the eastern portion of Christchurch. The Mayor said that he heartily sympathised with any movement for the foundation of a library, and he must congratulate the Linwood people upon having at last obtained one. The success of the library would, to a great extent, depend upon the wisdom exercised in the selection of the books placed upon the shelves. Care must be taken that none of that numerous class of modern novels which were pernicious in their tendency were allowed a place upon the shelves.

Linwood was not making the use of its recreation ground which it could and should do, and he hoped that in regard to the library, the residents would see that it was to their best interests to make use of the opportunities which were now placed in their way. He declared the library open, and wished it a successful and useful career. (Applause).

Mr George Watts Russell, M.P., congratulated the people of Linwood upon the progressive step they had taken, and said that though the library was at present but a small one, he believed it was based on good, solid, progressive lines. In two years, he believed, it would have greatly increased its size, and justified its existence.

The City Council had voluntarily handed over the building for the library, from which it had been receiving revenue, and it had given a subsidy. That subsidy, he believed, would be made an annual one, in the same way as the subsidy given by the Council to the Sydenham Library. In regard to the Christchurch Library he was sorry to say that they could get no subsidy from the Council. The Mayor was as hard as a rock on that subject. He desired to thank Councillors Thomas N. Horsley and Henry John Otley, representing the Linwood Ward on the City Council, for their services in advancing the cause of the library, and also Mr W. W. Tanner, who had devoted a great deal of time to preparing documents and doing other secretarial work which, required the experience of a man of public affairs. The district was under a debt of gratitude to Mr Tanner in this matter. In conclusion. Mr Russell said he would be pleased to give the newly-opened library any assistance, in his capacity as chairman of the Board of Governors of Canterbury College, or as a member of Parliament. (Applause).

There was a very large attendance of residents at the opening ceremony, at the conclusion of which afternoon tea was dispensed by the ladies of the district.

Early Canterbury: The Museum Collection

A joint meeting of the Board of Governors of Canterbury College and the committee recently set up by a meeting of old colonists was held at Canterbury College yesterday afternoon in connection with the decision of the Board of Governors to establish a section at the Canterbury Museum for the collection of mementoes (sic) and records of the colonisation of Canterbury. Mr William Guise Brittan was voted to the chair pending the arrival of Mr G. W. Russell. M.P., chairman of the Board.

Mr Robert Speight, assistant curator at the museum, who was requested to report on the space available, said that it was intended to reserve a part of the statuary room for the collection, which would include documents, maps, portraits and pictures of the early days. Mr Brittan said he understood that considerable space would be required. Mr John C. Andersen said that even the official records would require a larger room than the Board room, and there would also be files of newspapers, maps and so on.

Mr Henry George Ell, M.P., said that the first thing was to collect, and the question of space would be one for the Board. It was sufficient at present that there should be a safe resting-place for documents as they were collected. Mr John D. Hall said that it would be important to frame conditions, to be attached to all documents, books or pictures handed over, to ensure their safety and preservation.

A. sub-committee consisting of Messrs G. W. Russell, M.P., H. G. Ell, M.P., J. D. Hall, A. C. Rolleston, Rockwood Charles Bishop and W. G. Brittan was appointed to draft conditions and to prepare a general appeal to the public for records of the history of Canterbury, and particularly early Canterbury. Mr G. W. Russell suggested that Mr Speight should .be secretary to the joint committees, and should take charge of the work on behalf of the board of Governors. The suggestion was agreed to.

Mr G. W. Thomas (Akaroa) wrote expressing his willingness to collect records of Akaroa and Banks Peninsula. It was resolved to write to the following gentlemen asking them to form local branches affiliated to the Central Committee :- Akaroa, Mr G. W. Thomas ; Kaiapoi; Mr Joseph Lowthian Wilson ; Geraldine, Mr Thomas Buxton, M.P. ; Timaru, Mr James Craigie, M.P.

In reply to Mr Ell, Mr Russell said that the collection of Maori history should be a separate project. It was not so important as the European history.

Editor's note
Articles from The Star newspaper of the 23rd of July, 1909.

Where known, individual's initials have been expanded in the first instance to their full names to assist researchers, etc.

Jul 22, 2009

100 Years Ago Today 22 July 1909: Cathedral Square Gathering

Gathering in the Square

At 2.30 p.m. a meeting of the unemployed was held in Cathedral Square. There was a large gathering, and a resolution was carried to the effect that a committee should be set up to hold a monster demonstration, to bring the needs of the unemployed before the public.

Mr Kilgour spoke at some length regarding the problem of unemployment, and said that Mr T. E. Taylor, M.P. had practically insulted the deputation in the morning, by saying that there were men who did not want work. Mr A. D. Hart, of the Trades and Labour Council Committee, was asked to speak, and said that if demonstrations were to be held, he would urge on the men the necessity of doing nothing that would bring them into disfavour.

It had been argued that there were any amount of men who were looking for work and praying that they would not find it, but it was undoubted that the problem was more acute this year than it had ever been. That was a disgraceful state of affairs, and it had been brought about by the mismanagement of the present Governnent. Sir Joseph Ward was touring the Old Country while there were women and children crying out for bread. The Dominion was paying for that tour, and it was not right that such a state of things should exist.

The members of Parliament were merely puppets, and the City Council had failed in its whole duty to the unemployed, while the Government had ignored their claims altogether. The men should see to it that they sent to Parliament at the next general election men who would study their interests. The only solution of such problems was a true Labour Party in the councils of the country.
The Star, 22 July 1909