Jul 7, 2008

Decline and Fall

John Azariah Slater Royds (1840-1919) from England's industrial north made a name for himself after settling at Invercargill. The Royds family prospered and two of his sons set up as produce merchants at Christchurch (a later Royds produce merchant recently made a bit of a splash for keeping his girlfriend on ice).

In 1857 the Wood brothers built a seven storey windmill in Antigua Street. It soon became apparent the ferocious Christchurch winds were too much for the structure and in 1860 they leased (and later bought) land on the 1843 Deans farm at Riccarton. Here they erected a water driven flour mill on the Avon River. By 1900 the city was enjoying one of the peaks in its unstable economy and demand for lifestyle acreage had turned lower Riccarton into valuable real estate.

The Wood family sold a portion of their land, between the upper Avon and a tributary stream, to John Ingledew Royds (1870-1949). In 1908 the ardent Prohibitionist built Royden, a substantial house overlooking the river, with Tennis courts and a horse paddock fronting on to Straven Road.

About 1937 Royds sold the house to Ernest Edward Coombes (1900?-1968). Within two years Coombes had split the acreage into residential sections, developing Royds Street across the former horse paddock.

Royden's penultimate owner sold the house to what he believed to be a heritage Family Trust. That trust turned out to be a property developer, who demolished the house in May, 2007 upon the justification that "It was extremely Borer-ridden. I could have honestly pushed that thing over with my digger, sideways. It was very, very rotten and very unstable." However, a regular visitor to Royden before the advent of the developer, and who knew every room, got quite the opposite impression from the then owners.

Construction of three luxury townhouses then commenced on the site, which is now in the suburb of Fendalton, rather than the less salubrious Riccarton of an earlier era. In July, 2008 The Press newspaper reported that the development appeared to have been abandoned at a mid-construction phase.

Had the citizens of Christchurch yet further need of example that the City Council allows heritage buildings to be demolished by a strange type of stealth through the Resource Management Act, then the vacant site of the former Tivoli Theatre will suffice.

Marking the end of the grand movie theatre facades that were once dotted around Cathedral Square, the former theatre was also demolished in May, 2007. Without the impediment of an heritage listed building, the 2,700 square metre vacant site is now for sale by its property developer owner.

Further reading

Construction halted on Royden homestead site
The Press, 07 July 2008.

Royden - Our Building Legacy
The Press, 26 January, 2008.

Canterbury Heritage acknowledges the copyright of the Christchurch City Council and Fairfax Media Ltd in respect the above images.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

J I Royds named the house in Royds Street 'Rochdale' not Royden. John Royds.