Apr 28, 2009

History Happened Here

No other New Zealand city can claim to have surviving buildings within the central business district from the first decade of settlement, but then neither does Christchurch, which appears to have ignored this unique distinction.

From its beginnings in 1851, that section of Cashel Street, which now lies within the City Mall, was the nascent town's first commercial precinct and the first block to be fully occupied by buildings. Remarkably, two of these early structures, although both altered beyond recognition, survive into the twenty-first century. Facing each other across the mall are the 1856 Union Bank and an original cottage of what is probably an even earlier vintage (below).


The earliest history of 87 Cashel Street West is still shrouded in mystery, but it's probable that by 1858 it was leased by the Draper Louis Nathan, Canterbury's first Jewish settler. Subsequently the premises of a Saddler, by 1875 the Cashel Street building had become adjoined on both sides by substantial second generation brick buildings, both of which survive behind modernised facades.


In 1876 the building was purchased by Nelson King Cherrill, who substantially renovated the premises, creating an ornamental arched shop facade. At this time the roof line was altered to a Mansard design, with an extant large window from the upper floor level through to the roof line, thus providing an ideal photographic studio to a popular London design, with which Cherrill would have been familiar (below). One of the most respected names in Victorian photography, Cherrill (1845-1916) closed his studio and returned to England in 1881.

In February 1884 the building became the photographic studio of Theophilus Easter (1832-1913), formery of Easter & Wallis of Colombo Street, but his soujourn was not long, as from 1887 to 1891, Thomas Reginald Attwood (c1865-1926) is recorded as being a photographer at the address. By 1908 the building had been subdivided into two street level shops, with the premises of a Signwriter occupying the first floor studio.


Now with a couple of fashionable frock shops on the ground floor, the upper level is currently an apartment (below).



Footnote

The renowned collector of early New Zealand photographs Anthony Rackstraw writes;

"It's probably only a minor observation, but for me its interesting to note that all the Cherrill portrait photographs I have would indicate from the shadow on the subject's face that they all sat in front of the studio window against the east wall (closest to Colombo Street), in the area that has now been subdivided off to form the kitchen. The eleven Cherrill photographs in the Alexander Turnbull Library collection also indicate this; the shadow is always in the same side of the face, except one which strangely is the other way around."

Anthony's observations would tie in with the stairway being at the Oxford Terrace (western) end of the studio, with the small window lighting the stairwell.

Addendum

Canterbury Photography said...

The tea and coffee importing business of Browne and Heaton can be seen in one of these photographs. The following is from an article that appeared in The Press of 25 November 1995:

"Browne and Heaton, tea and coffee specialists formerly of Cashel Street, have become a Christchurch institution - a name synonymous with good taste, but oddly enough there never was a Mr Browne or a Mr Heaton. The business was started in 1908 by Mr Billingham, who had worked for a well-known Birmingham tea and coffee importers by the name Browne and Heaton. Believing the name of a respected English firm would help him establish a business in Christchurch, he took the name of his former employers.

Sadly, Mr Billingham died soon after Browne and Heaton's opened in Cashel Street but the business continued under his assistant, Mr Smith, and has now been in the Smith family for three generations. Trevor Smith has worked at Browne and Heaton's for 54 years - starting work for his father after college in 1945. Ironically, when Trevor travelled to Britain five years ago, he found that the original Browne and Heaton (Birmingham) had long ceased to exist - bombed out in the early years of World War 2.

A wide selection of society shopped at Browne and Heaton: housewives, doctors, lawyers, immigrant ... and once a week Lady Wigram's chauffeur would call to pick up a standing order for freshly ground coffee. Now wholesalers in Tuam Street, Browne and Heaton still serve regular customers of many years."


Further reading


An illustrated biography of Nelson Cherrill on the Early Canterbury Photographers web site.

An appraisal of Nelson Cherrill's career by Bill Jay, first Director of Photography at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts


Photo credits

Engraving of the interior of a Victorian photographic studio: photoLondon

Detail from an 1878 photograph; collection of the Christchurch Photographic Society, detail from a 1946 photograph; collection of the Canterbury Museum, circa 1860 and 2009 photographs; Canterbury Heritage Archive.

5 comments:

Jayne said...

Loved this post with the photos to compare the evolution of the bank.
It's only lost a small amount of it's original grandeur, it's still there peeping out from under the hideous lemon painted corrugated iron ;)

Canterbury Heritage said...

Thanks for the appreciation Jane, it was the back of the building, which is much closer to the original, that first aroused interest about 3 years ago. In what will undoubtedly be an ongoing project, I'v been researching it ever since.

Canterbury Photography said...

The tea and coffee importing business of Browne and Heaton can be seen in one of these photographs. The following in an article that appeared in the Press of 25 November 1995:

Browne and Heaton, tea and coffee specialists formerly of Cashel Street, have become a Christchurch institution - a name synonymous with good taste, but oddly enough there never was a Mr Browne or a Mr Heaton. The business was started in 1908 by Mr Billingham, who had worked for a well-known Birmingham tea and coffee importers by the name Browne and Heaton. Believing the name of a respected English firm would help him establish a business in Christchurch, he took the name of his former employers.

Sadly, Mr Billingham died soon after Browne and Heaton's opened in Cashel Street but the business continued under his assistant, Mr Smith, and has now been in the Smith family for three generations. Trevor Smith has worked at Browne and Heaton's for 54 years - starting work for his father after college in 1945. Ironically, when Trevor travelled to Britain five years ago, he found that the original Browne and Heaton (Birmingham) had long ceased to exist - bombed out in the early years of World War 2.

A wide selection of society shopped at Browne and Heaton: housewives, doctors, lawyers, immigrant ... and once a week Lady Wigram's chauffeur would call to pick up a standing order for freshly ground coffee. Now wholesalers in Tuam Street, Browne and Heaton still serve regular customers of many years.
By Peter McLauchlan, Press, 25 November 1995.

Canterbury Heritage said...

Many thanks for the additional information, which has been added to the article as an addendum.

edwardothegreat said...

Wow,
I work in Cashel St and have walked past this site many times, little did I know! I will be walking past ALOT slower next time, how fascinating, it's these kinds of post that make me love this site, keep up the good work, ever thought of working this info into a book?