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