Jul 15, 2009

The Oldest Building in Canterbury

Richard Pollard's 1840 cottage photographed on its Cathedral Square site in 1862

Built in 1840 of Black Pine and Totara in Hagley Park (the site is indicated below by a yellow square), the Surveyor's cottage was relocated to the vicinity of Press Lane at Cathedral Square in 1852. By 1900 it had been moved again to the southern side of Moorhouse Avenue, near to the eastern corner of Grove Road. The cottage's subsequent fate is yet to be ascertained.

Here follows three articles from The Star newspaper relating to the early history of the cottage.

The Oldest Building in Canterbury - The Star, 12 September 1900

To settle what seems to be a somewhat vexed question, a representative of the Lyttelton Times yesterday made inquiries among a number of the Pilgrims with regard to the authenticity, or otherwise, of the statement that the building now being used as a residence on the South Belt, near the Southern Cross Hotel, was the earliest of the dwellings occupied by the dwellers on the plains.

The representative interviewed many persons, and, towards evening, met Mr Edmund Smart, who resides at 55 Cashel Street, Linwood, and who kindly gave him the particulars he was seeking. Mr Smart is the eldest son of a family of ten, who arrived with their parents (long since dead) in the ship Randolph, on December the 16th, 1850. Their father had been engaged in England as a farm servamt, but on arrival here found that no such employment was available. He and his family therefore entered into what occupations they could find. Edmund became an employee of Mr William Todd, a carrier and contractor, and carted the first half-ton of coal used by the late Mr John Anderson in his smithy in Cashel Street (now well known as the Canterbury Foundry), from the Christchurch Wharf at Woolston, to its destination. It may be mentioned that the half-ton cost Mr Anderson £4 10 shillings, and the carriage 12 shillings.

While engaged by Mr Todd, Mr Smart assisted in the removal of a building from Hagley Park into Christchuroh, and that building, it is claimed, has the honour of being the oldest of the buildings still standing, in the province of Canterbury.

It was a two-roomed dwelling-place, and was built in 1840 for Mr Pollard, who was engaged in surveying under the New Zealand Government, and who had taken up his quarters in Hagley Park on account of its proximity to what everyone then thought must in time become a centre of population.

From this hut, or shanty, all exploring parties started, and to it all returned. The timbers of which it was constructed had been cut from the Riccarton bush, now known as Deans', and consisted of black pine and totara. There was plenty of it available as Bob Kerr and Harry Royal, two runaway sailors, had occupied their spare time in cutting out the best timber they could lay their hands on without much trouble, till it became a drug on the market.

Mr Smart, when he arrived in 1850, and became attached to the contracting staff of Mr Todd, had, in the course of a year or so, to remove this building from its site in Hagley Park, just above the Townsend Falls, to a place where it was of more use.

Dr Chapman had by that time installed himself in practice in Christchurch, and, having purchased this two-roomed building, agreed with Mr Todd to remove it into a central position. This was done, E. Smart, J. Sales and W. Prebble assisting, and for some years it stood at the back of the old Gaiety Theatre, where it was used as a laundry for Warner's Hotel, and it is stated that the timbers in it were in as good, if not a better, condition than that of many buildings of a much more recent date.

It is known that Mr. Pollard was here in 1840, and that, before making a start on his survey, he fixed his headquarters in Hagley Park, and it was in 1852 that Mr Smart, in the employ of Mr Todd, assisted in the removal of the building and saw it re-erected for Dr Chapman, so that fully, ten years must have elapsed between the erection of this building and of the one imported and erected by the late Mr George Gould in Armagh Street.


Mr Edmund Smart, whose remarks have given rise to the discussion, on the question, of which is the oldest building in Canterbury, has been for several days invalided through an attack of blood poisoning. He has read with a good deal of interest the remarks of Mrs Deans and those appearing above the initials of "G. J. B." Neither of these, however, shake his opinion that Mr Pollard's two-roomed shanty, which he and others removad from Hagley Park in 1852, to the order of Dr Chapman, is the very first of all buildings erected in Canterbury now in existence.

It is urged that Mrs Deans herself admits that the first building erected on the Riccarton property was recently demolished, and that she will most be surprised to hear that a Mr Pollard, surveyor, worked on the Canterbury Plains as a surveyor in 1842.

It is further stated that when the Dean Brothers arrived, and made, their home at Riccarton, they saw little or nothing of him, as he was more frequently engaged in his professional work on the Peninsula, but that, all the same, he made his headquarters in Hagley Park, and, having done so, engaged Robert Kerr and Harry Royal to make his home there.

Mr C. Hood-Williams distinctly recollects the building occupied by Mr Pollard, but being then only a lad of seven years of age, he cannot, of course, say what the age of the building might be. He was in the habit of passing backwards am forwards on his way to Christ's College, where Mr. Williams was one of the first four pupils.

Mr Smart, however, contends that from the evidences of the state of the building when he, James Sales and William Prebble removed it to its central position near Cathedral Square, it must have been erected some ten or twelve years previously. It was during the month, of September, 1852, that the building was removed...


Two old pioneers, who have grown grey-haired in the work of colonisation in Canterbury, accompanied Mr H. G. Ell and two reporters through Hagley Park this morning, and located interesting historical sites, and Mr Ell drove pegs into the ground so that the spots might be identified.

The pegs are marked with numbers, which will correspond with records, describing the incidents associated with them. The Hon C. C. Bowen, Speaker of the Legislative Council, and Mr C. Hood Williams, secretary to the Lyttelton Harbour Board, are the gentlemen who accompanied Mr Ell, and as the party strolled over the Park, which was an utter wilderness when they saw it first, over fifty years ago, they talked of times which have gone by.

The first peg was driven in on the site of the first bakery established in Christchurch. It was conducted by Mr Inwood, and the building was erected in January, 1851. The spot is on the bank of the Avon, as it sweeps round and runs close up to the Riccarton Road, which divides the North Park from the South Park, and the second site pegged off is where Mr Pollard's Raupo whare stood, about a hundred and fifty yards northward of the first peg...


kuaka said...

Oldest building in Canterbury or Christchurch? And pakeha building?

Surely whalers & farmers on Banks Peninsula, for example, built a few structures before 1840. And at Lyttelton?

And, sorry to get all PC on you, but surely whares at Akaroa and Kaiapoi, Kaikoura etc would count as even older buildings that were permanent structures? The jury might be out on Opawaho pa inside later Chch city limits since by its very name it was a seasonal outpost (waho) so perhaps didn't have permanent structures.

Mr CH's knowledge is greater on such matters than mine, so I'm prepared to yield on the matter. Just asking... Sorry to be a nitpicker.

Canterbury Heritage said...

The newspaper's claim should have read the oldest surviving European building in Canterbury, as the true distinction belongs to George Hempleman, who set up permanent residence when he bought 2,650 acres on the southern side of Banks Peninsula in March, 1837. But flimsy construction, the vagaries of tribal warfare and lack of documentary records probably helped to rule out possible Maori claims regarding earlier premanent dwellings. The whaler Captain L'Anglois bought 30,000 acres at Akaroa from the Maori in August, 1838, but European settlement there didn't commence until August, 1840.

An Opawaho Pa (or fortified village) inside the later Christchurch city limits, like the claim for Puari Pa within the environs of the cultural precinct, is not supported by either archaeological or documenatry evidence and should not be viewed as any more than a current fashion in politically correct folklore.

The Maori historian, interpreter and translator, the Reverend Canon James West Stack (1835 -1919) of Kaiapoi, collected the the legends and folklore of the pre-European Maori of Canterbury, publishing them as Traditional History of the South Island Maoris in The Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute in 1877. He wrote of the tidal reach of the Heathcote River being known to the Maori as Opawaho, with a seasonal fishing station occupying a site on the north bank near the mouth of the river. There appear to be no other references to Opawaho in early documents

Likewise the Maori name for Christchurch as being Otautahi may also be regarded as spurious. Stack recounts that Otaitahi (sic) was the name of a Ngai Tahu chief, whose grave was adjacent to a seasonal Raupo whare on the north bank of the Avon, close to an artesian spring beside where the Barbadoes Street bridge is now sited. John Deans wrote of it being in a derelict condition in mid 1842.

Subsequent documentary records of the geographical name of Otautahi commence from 1892, when chief Tairoa of Taumutu refers to the entire Canterbury district as Otautahi (his father had sold the South Island to a couple of Europeans for £500 in February, 1840) and the Maori name was still being applied to all of Canterbury in 1906.

Claim that Mr CH's knowledge being greater on such matters than yours is equally spurious. However, thanks to the joys of Information Science and exclusive access to a consequent application, said sleuth is able to readily extract historical information on a scale not previously possible.