Mar 10, 2009

Historically Important Photograph Indentified


A recent indentification enquiry from a reader has resulted in the discovery of a photograph of considerable signficance to historians of Victorian photography. By Nelson King Cherrill, it is a photograph of Oakford, his Christchurch home, and was purchased on a New Zealand Internet auction site for eight dollars, which is estimated to be approximately one hundredth of its value in an international market.

One of the most respected names in Victorian photography, Cherrill (1845-1916) is first recorded as active in that profession in 1865. Aged 32, with his wife and two children he emigrated to New Zealand in July 1876. An internationally renowned writer and lecturer on photography, Cherrill set about making a local name for himself, becoming a Warden of the pro-cathedral (St Michael and All Angels church), Honorary Secretary of the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury and a Christcurch City Councillor from 1879. After five apparently successful years, Cherrill closed his Cashel Street studio and returned to England. It has been suggested that, as a big fish in a very small pond, he lacked professional challenge in an obscure provincial backwater.

Situated upon a sandy hillock on a 20 hectare rural block on the southern side of lower Riccarton Road, Oakford had been built in 1857 by Henry Joseph Hall (1837-1897). Hall appears to have also owned the adjacent block, which now comprises most of the Riccarton shopping precinct, but was originally known as Hall's Township.

Advertised for sale or to let in the Lyttelton Times, as located over Hagley Park, near the Riccarton Railway Crossing, with nine principal rooms, Nelson Cherrill sold Oakford in 1881 for £650 to George Low Beath (1827-1914), a Draper and Outfitter also of Cashel Street.

The last owner of Oakford was John Heaton Rhodes (1888-1960), lawyer, chairman of the Christchurch Press Company Ltd. and a grandson George Rhodes (1816-1864), an early Banks Peninsula farmer.

The much enlarged and somewhat modified Oakford homestead was demolished in 1965 to make way for the development of the Riccarton Village Inn motel in Mandeville Street (which was originally known as Chinamen’s Lane).

Donated to the Riccarton Borough by Jack Rhodes, the Mandeville Reserve on the eastern corner of Riccarton Road and Mandeville Street survives as the last 888 square metres of his 3.2 hectare garden.

Photo Credits

Top: circa 1880 photograph by Nelson King Cherrill (1845-1916), courtesy of Early Canterbury Photographers.

Bottom: circa 1960, illustration from Riccarton, the founding borough: a short history, by Ian McBride, edited by Malcolm Hopwood, prepared for the Riccarton/Wigram Community Board, Christchurch City Council, 1994.


Jayne said...

But...but..but...they did WHAT to that beautiful house?!

Canterbury Heritage said...

And just in case you might have thought that since 1965 some progress had been made in conserving our built heritage, a nearby house of significant historic value is currently being offered for sale as a potential demolition opportunity in favour of yet another motel.

Jayne said...

Happens here, too.
Despite the heavy heritage overlay on properties local councils have managed to bulldoze lovely old buildings that suddenly "lost" their heritage status *sigh*.

Canterbury Heritage said...

I think that the polite label is Utilitarian Pragmatism and one should no doubt take a charitable view of those, who knowing no better, succumb the ethics of expediency. But I do wish they'd stick to horse-trading and stay out of politics.