May 20, 2009

Newtown, Christchurch

A source of confusion to family historians are references to the Christchurch suburb of Newtown, often mistaken for the Wellington suburb of the same name.

Newtown was the original name for Sydenham. Although constituted as the Sydenham Borough in 1877, the original name was still in common use three years later.

A 126 acre residential subdivision dating from 1861, by 1885 the borough comprised 45 kilometres of formed streets and a population of 9,500. The later name appears to derive from the Sydenham Academy, listed in 1860 as the Tuam Street school of Charles Prince (public schools were not established in Christchurch until the 1870s - it was not deemed necessary to educate the children of the labouring classes in the first two decades of settlement).

The above photograph is a southerly view of Colombo Road, Newtown (subsequently to become an extension of Colombo Street). In the middle distance can be seen the extant 1877 Wesleyan Methodist church at the corner of Brougham Street. Below is an 1877 envelope adressed to the recipient at the Newtown Post Office, Christchurch.


A mud brick (cob) cottage built on the northern side of Brougham Street East in the year following the original 1861 subdivision. It was demolished after 1912, when the photograph was taken.


kuaka said...

Very cool!

That must be the earliest picture of Sydenham, er, Newtown, I've seen yet.

And I learn something new every day (a self-imposed requirement). Never knew of Newton, Chch. And there I was wandering around it for decades!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Early photos of Sydenham are quite rare; the oldest in the archive dates from 1873 and depicts the newly completed school (which Mr CH attended briefly before moving to the other end of the social spectrum at Elmwood Primary School - an interesting contrast).

Appended to the article is a later photo of a mud brick cottage built in Newtown shortly after the 1861 subdivision.

peterd500 said...

Wouldn't mind seeing a much bigger pic of the view down Colombo. When was it taken?

I am interested in what appears to be a building on Sydenham Park. Is it a sports pavilion or a grandstand for the A & P Assn? It looks like a grandstand facing west? It might help to date the photo.

The church in the pic was completed in 1878. The A & P Association definitely erected a public grandstand between the 1880 and 1881 metropolitan shows.
Press, Volume XXXVI, Issue 5047, 10 November 1881, p.2
.....The arrangements for the show this year differed somewhat from those of the preceding one, in that a very great deal more convenience was afforded, both to the public and to the officials upon whom devolved the work of carrying out the details. For the former a very commodious and comfortable grand stand was erected, from which, not only could a fine view of the leaping match— always popular with show visitors—be obtained, but all the prize animals scanned and noted. This latter was managed by a parade of horses, &o„ taking place in the afternoon. This is a great improvement, and the ground committee are to be congratulated upon their forethought in this matter. The other noticeable change for the better was the new office erected in the centre of the ground for the use of the secretary, committee, etc. This was very much wanted, as before it was almost impossible, owing to want of room, for the work of the show to be carried on with that smoothness and expedition was so noticeable yesterday. Round the office is a kind of balcony, from which a fine view of the grounds is obtainable.....

The Assn establised a new and bigger 33 acre ground at Addington (the one by Addington racecourse) which was first used in 1887 making the Sydenham ground surplus to requirements and needing to be sold to assist with financing the new ground.

The A & P Assn had a deal of trouble trying to sell the 14 acre Sydenham ground after 1887, and it didn't go through until 1894. Sydenham Borough baulked at the asking price of 6000 pounds, not wanting to be seen to be burdening their ratepayers with the cost of servicing such a big loan, and still baulked at the cost when the asking price was reduced to 4000 pounds. Calls for the govt to assist with the purchase fell on deaf ears. In the depressed conditions of the time no other buyers came forward and the stalemate contined for some years. In 1893 The Assn applied for a bill in parliament to be able to sell the ground as individual housing sections by lottery. The gambling nature of the bill was controversial but even so the bill passed its second reading. Sydenham was on the verge of losing forever the opportunity to gain a wonderful public facility in the heart of its domain.

That galvanised the Sydenham Borough into swiftly sending a party to Wellington for urgent talks with the govt to plead their case to have the govt buy it as a public ground for the borough. In the changed situation the Govt was sympathetic to Sydenham and the outcome was that Sydenham Borough raised a loan for 2000 pounds and the govt provided the other 2000 pounds of the purchase price. After the sale in 1894 it was named Sydenham Park by the Borough Council. Local sports clubs zeroed in on it after that.