Jul 8, 2009

Christchurch 1864: Oxford Terrace Streetscape Identified

Viewed from Cambridge Terrace, this is an extensive restoration of a remarkably accurate 1864 pencil sketch of Oxford Terrace between Worcester, Hereford and Cashel Streets. Below it is a similar view as it appears in 2009.

Lurking in the on-line archive of the Alexander Turnbull Library, it's described as "Bridge and houses, Avon River, Christchurch. 1870-1875?" By an unknown artist, the original is extensively annotated, probably indicating that it was intended to be a preliminary sketch for a painting.

This is one of a series of eight pencil sketches by the same unidentified artist. The subject matter, artistic style, architectural accuracy of the buildings and the graphological evaluation of the hand written annotations would tend to support an hypothesis that they could be the unattributed work of Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898).

To the foreground is the Worcester Street footbridge. Constructed in February, 1851, it was replaced in 1864 by a wider bridge for wheeled traffic.

To the far Left is the 1851 house of William Guise Brittan (1807–76), the Commissioner of Crown Lands. First premises in which the provincial government met, by the time of the sketch it formed the earliest part of Davis's Hotel. It would be much enlarged after 1864, the year after Rowland Robert Teape Davis (1807-1879) sold out to George Oram (1826-1876) and moved to Heathcote.

Davis's hostelry was renamed as the Lyttelton Hotel, when the above 1858 extension was built. Eventually joined to the former Brittan house by a substantial wing, the hotel was renamed as the Clarendon in 1868. Progressively demolished in 1903-4 it was replaced by a stone building, the facade of which survives below the 1987 Clarendon Tower. The height of the nearby tree and the residential development along Oxford Terrace towards Cashel Street confirm the ascribed date.

At the norther corner of Hereford Street is a commercial building, the earliest origins of which are yet to be ascertained. Occupied by many tenants, it's recorded as being the premises of a Fishmonger, Cabinetmaker, Tailor and Taxidermist at various times.

In Hereford Street can be seen the circa 1859 two storey townhouse of Riccarton farmer John Shand (1805-1874), Subsequently Solicitor's offices and now known as Shand's Emporium, it's the only building in the sketch to have survived.

On the southern corner of Hereford Street and Oxford Terrace is the August 1854 offices of Joseph Brittan's Canterbury Standard newspaper. The city's first evening paper, it ceased publication in 1860. Subsequently the Standard Hotel, the building was moved to Bealey Avenue in 1868.

Granted a 30 year lease in 1858 on what is still known as Mill Island is David Inwood's water-wheel powered grain Mill. A night shelter for the city's homeless from 1889, it was demolished in 1897.

The Alexander Turnbull Library reference:
Artist unknown :[Bridge and houses, Avon River, Christchurch. 1870-1875?]
Reference number: C-081-005
1 drawing(s). Pencil drawing, 240 x 410 mm.. Horizontal image.
Part of Artist unknown :[Eight pencil sketches of Christchurch buildings and the Avon River. 1870-1875?] (C-081-003/009)
Drawings and Prints Collection


gobeirne said...

Fantastic detective work - great stuff!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Thanks Greg, it's the sleuthery that's irresistible - there's also another seven Christchurch sketches by the same artist awaiting scrutiny...

Sarndra said...

Fabulous job Mr CH!!! Fascinating reading :-))) I can place Mill Island in my head even better now seeing that! [re Mary Kennedy]

keep up the good work!

Canterbury Heritage said...

Thanks Sarndra - much of this day was spent restoring the second in the series - should be completed tomorrow. They're quite a significant find.

Michael Child said...

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Canterbury Heritage said...

Thanks Michael and greetings from new Canterbury at the other end of the planet. There was a time when I was a regular visitor to Ramsgate and miss its picturesque qualities, but I'm still an avid bibliophile.

Odille Esmonde-Morgan said...

Thanks so much for that, I have been trying to find out about it to caption a Photo of it. Silly me didn't think to photograph tyhe info board when I was there!