Apr 11, 2009

The Christchurch Bicycle Band

We've recently provided further identification information concerning a pair of photographs of the Christchurch Bicycle Band for the U.S. based The New Zealand Journal. A copy of the first is included in the online collection of the Christchurch Libraries and of the second in the online collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library.


Dating from 1898, this north-easterly view was taken on the parade ground of the Canterbury Militia's Drill Hall, which was situated on the north side of Cashel Street West, between Cambridge Terrace and Montreal Streets. The early 1860s Hall, which could accomodate 2,500, was frequently used as a public venue, as was its 1905 replacement, the King Edward Barracks (demolished in 1996).

The building to the far Left, with the roof skylight, is the city morgue, behind the Hereford Street Police Station of 1873 (both demolished in 1974).


This is an elevated westerly view of Kilmore Street from the Victoria Street intersection, looking past Cranmer Square toward Hagley Park. It was taken through the upper floor window of John Mummery's Britannia Hotel, which would later become the photographic studio of the extant centenarian photographer Gladys Goodall.

Certainly taken before 1906, it can be dated with reasonabe probability to the early afternoon of Monday, the 25th of May, 1903. Queen Victoria's birthday fell upon a Sunday that year, but the event, which was celebrated as a public holiday named Empire Day, was held on the following day. The procession is proceeding to the celebrations in the newly renamed Victoria Square, where a Bronze statue of the Queen was unveiled.

Only the circa 1870 two storey building in the distance still exists; formerly a convenience store and then a school tuck shop, it stands at the corner of Cranmer Square opposite the former Normal School.

The Christchurch Bicycle Band

Equipped with bicycles from the Adam brother's Manchester Street Star Cycle Company, the band was formed in 1895 by the brothers Joshua and Frederick Painter.

On an outdoor occasion an unwary cyclist crossed their path. The band took evasive action, the lady fell off her bike, but the music continued uninterrupted. Apart from street parades, they also performed on the stage of the extant Opera House in Tuam Street until the Band's demise in 1915.

Received history indicates that the band claimed to be the only one of its type in the world. However, bicycle bands are recorded as having been popular since 1881 and continue to be so.


Jayne said...

Can't say as I've ever heard of a bicycle band before but I'm impressed!

Canterbury Heritage said...

That do seem to be a bit of an oddity, but the Dutch are proud of the long tradition of their bicycle band, which performed at the Edinburgh Tattoo in recent times. Even the Aussie's had one, it was called Mulga Bill's Bicycle Band.

Sarndra said...

Fascinating! I love the indepth commentary you give, especially on the buildings. It helps place the scene. Fascinating about the Morgue etc only being pulled down in 1974! I wonder if there are any more photos of the morgue in its later days? You know me Mr CH... death and all it touches on fascinates me!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Thanks Sarndra: one's consequently inspired to proffer the succeeding article; The Christchurch Morgue

Brett Painter said...

I am the great-grandson of Joshua Painter, one of the founders of the original Christchurch Bicycle Band. With the assistance of many fine Cantabrians, we have just premiered the new Christchurch Bicycle Band at the 2010 Ellerslie Flower Show, not far from where the original photos were taken. We look forward to entertaining Cantabrians for many years to come.

Heather Dunbar (nee Painter) said...

I am a great great-grandaughter of Frederick Painter. My husband and I have found out alot of bits and pieces about Frederick and Joshua. The band was the first free standing bicycle band in the world. The French had a band on bicycles but they were not free standing.

Would love to see photos of the band today to compare with those of the past. We have read Brett that some of your band members were from the NZ Army Band? We have found some. Was that you Brett on the big bike. Would love to get in touch to talk more about family of past so to speak.

Bel said...

I have a picture of someone from the Canterbury Militia which I love. Can anyone shed any light on it? I think it is from the 1860s. http://greatgrandmaswickerbasket.blogspot.co.nz/2012/06/canterbury-militia-photo.html