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).


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.


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.

Apr 26, 2009

Cathedral Square Tourist Kiosk

Virtually unchanged in layout for more than a century, Christchurch's Cathedral Square underwent redevelopment as a reduced-traffic plaza in 1973. The following year saw the Commonwealth Games staged in the city and a tourist kiosk (above Left) became a familar counterpoint to the nearby and still extant police kiosk in the square.

The tourist kiosk went on to become the forerunner of what is now known as the Christchurch i-Site in the former Post Office of 1879. In 1999 the plaza was remodelled with more durable Granite replacing the red tiles. Shortly thereafter the old kiosk was removed and now survives in a suburban Bromley builder's yard.

Apr 25, 2009

Podcast: the last proconsuls and the ending of the British Empire

From Mountbatten to Patten: the last proconsuls and the ending of the British Empire

After the Second World War, the role of governors in Britain's overseas territories changed.

In this 51 minute podcast from the UK National Archives Tony Stockwell examines the colourful personalities and mixed fortunes of these proconsuls, and argues that, in spite of their declining power and authority, they performed a key role in managing the imperial threat.

Photo: Brigadier Sir Bernard Fergusson, last British Proconsul of New Zealand 1962-1967. Both of his grandfathers and his father were also Governors General of New Zealand. His son George is currently the British High Commissioner at Wellington.

Apr 24, 2009

New Christchurch Air Terminal

The Adelaide designed $110 million airport terminal begins to take shape at Harewood. The island's largest construction project is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

Photo credits: top; Rodd Taylor, bottom; dexigner.com

Apr 23, 2009

Curator's Choice

This is an humourous Christchurch postcard dating from circa 1937, an era when the city was still in the waning clutches of the Prohibitionists and the Social Purity League. The wowsers were increasingly becoming the butt of humour from the more liberaly minded locals, as the quaintly class-conscious subject indicates.

The lower part of the image is a flap, behind which is a folding sequence of twelve Christchurch streetscapes by Arthur Bendigo Hurst (1880-1964), which can be dated to the early Spring of 1936.

From his Broma Studio at Napier, the former Nelson photographer and founding President of the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography, regularly undertook commissions for the Tanner Brothers of Wellington, publisher's of the postcard. But Hurst is probably best remembered for his images of the 1931 Napier earthquake devastation.

Apr 22, 2009

1887 Bicycle Race

As the restoration and geo-tagging of the ten thousandth vintage streetscape looms, the four dimensional model of Christchurch is acquiring a degree of accuracy, which now allows for the positive identification of virtually all historic images of the city.

The above photograph was taken just before seven o'clock on the morning of Monday, the 26th of September 1887 by Alfred Ernest Preece (1863-1946), who lived close to the lower Riccarton Road location. It comes from the collection of the Canterbury Museum (ref 10959).

The extant Standish and Preece photographic studio was situated at 218 High Street in that era. A regular photographer of cycling events, Preece was probably also the proprietor of the A. E. Preece Cyclists' Exchange in the second A1 Hotel building on the corner of Cashel and Colombo Streets.

The photograph shows the nine contestants at the start of the Pioneer Bicycle Club's fifty mile (80 Km) bicycle race from Christchurch to Leeston and back. The race was won by Richard Bargrove of Waverley Street, New Brighton, who started from scratch and completed the race in 3 hours and 35 minutes. Beating the record by 8 minutes, Bargrove finished 20 minutes before the field.

Seen to the Right at the beginning of Riccarton Road in this easterly view is the Riccarton Hotel. The once famed hostelry stood on the southern corner of Riccarton Road and Deans Avenue at the Riccarton roundabout until 2006.

Dating from 1851, when it was known as The Traveller's Rest, subsequently as the Plough Inn when reconstructed in 1865 and then as the Riccarton Hotel, followed by Nancy’s Hotel until its last ignominous incarnation as the Fat Lady's Arms.

An early favourite with the horse racing fraternity, the hotel's eastern facade (below) faced Hagley Park opposite the finish line of the Canterbury Jockey Club's original racecourse.

Restored detail from the National Museum of New Zealand's circa 1905 photograph

Apr 21, 2009

George Lyttelton 1817-1876

On this day, the 21st of April in 1876, George William Lyttelton committed suicide by throwing himself over the first floor balustrade of his house at 18 Park Crescent, overlooking London's Regents Park.

Subsequently sharing collateral descent with Diana, Princess of Wales and the Jazz musician Humphrey Lyttelton, the 4th Baron Lyttelton was not the first of his kin to be described as suffering from gloomy delusions and unsatisfying wild, pompous fancies.

Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, founding chairman of the short lived Canterbury Association (1848-1852), brother-in-law of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and property speculator, George Lyttelton purchased 2,400 acres of land at Lyttelton, Christchurch, Geraldine and in the Selwyn county, which by 1882 was worth $9.427 million to his heir in today's money (his uncle, the 4th Earl Spencer, also bought 700 acres of land in the Christchurch district).

Apr 18, 2009

Maurice Conly, Artist


At the end of a 3,488 kilometre flight from Christchurch, NZ7005, a 1969 Lockheed C-130H Hercules aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's No.40 Squadron unloads passengers and supplies at the Williams Field on the Ross Ice Shelf in McMurdo Sound in early 1974.

Seen above in original livery, but subsequently painted out in shades of camouflauge green and now in a monochrome gun-metal grey, the 40 year old aircraft is still in service with the RNZAF.

No work of a local artist would be more familiar to New Zealanders than that of the relatively unknown Maurice Conly.

For 54 years Wing Commander Robert Maurice Conly (1920-1995) was the last Royal New Zealand Air Force Official Artist. But beyond his stamp designs for New Zealand, Tokelau, the Ross Dependency, Niue and the Cook Islands, Conly's New Zealand twenty cent and one dollar coin designs are familiar to all Kiwis.

Dunedin born and trained, Conly was based at Christchurch when he returned to Antarctica in 1974 as an Antarctic Arts Fellow under the Artists to Antarctica Programme.

Commissioned to paint three large dioramas of wildlife studies for the Antarctic wing of the Canterbury Museum in 1977, he published Ice on my Palette in the same year. The coffee table sized book includes 27 sketches and 26 colour plates, with text by the Dunedin author Neville Peat, then an information officer with the Antarctic Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

One of the joys of the last town before Antarctica is the weekend Flea markets, not the trendy version on the city's outskirt at Riccarton, but the smaller, lesser known markets dotted around the inner suburbs. Signed by the authors, a copy of Ice on my Palette (from which the top illustration comes) was recently found in the Linwood Market at approximately a fifty-sixth of its international market value.

Apr 17, 2009

Early Christchurch Electric Vehicles

The diasporical and widely appreciated The New Zealand Journal has recently featured a short post entitled Christchurch City Council Belt-Tightening?, in which it's wondered if there might be any advantage to the Council ordering up from storage its electric truck fleet from the early 1920s, which could have the advantage of enabling the Council to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The post includes this Alexander Turnbull Library image by The Press newspaper photographer Samuel Heath Head.


By 1915 the Council's Municipal Electricity Department in Armagh Street was charging car batteries overnight, when cheaper off-peak rates were offered between 10 pm and 7 am. The two 100 Kilowatt generators were driven by a pair of steam engines powered by the Council's refuse destructor. In 1921, at the peak of their popularity, the M.E.D. was charging the batteries of 51 vehicles, of which 40 were privately owned, with the other 11 belonging to the Council. The City Council's Municipal Electricity Department even offered hire-purchase agreements to assist companies and individuals to purchase electric vehicles.


In this elevated westerly view of Bealey Avenue near the Carlton Mill Bridge can be seen the city's entire fleet of electric vehicles. The photograph can be dated to 1926 by the construction of the extent Fleming House at the corner of Park Terrace (Left).

Above: photographed on Park Terrace is the circa 1922 American Walker electric lorry of Wardell Brothers, the Cashel Street Grocers. To the Left is the extant 1915 Summers house. Below: also at the same location is the electric lorry of Sharpe Brothers, aerated water and cordial manufacturers. Both of these photographs were also taken by Samuel Heath Head.

Photo credits:

1926 electric vehicle fleet; Municipal Electricity Department archive, Orion New Zealand Ltd

Sharpe Brothers lorry; Alexander Turnbull Library, reference number: 1/1-011062-G

Wardell Brothers lorry; Alexander Turnbull Library, reference number: 1/1-007411-G

Apr 16, 2009

House Price Comparisons

Christchurch most expensive house is reputed to be a $12 million McMansion by the Dudley Stream in suburban Shirley. But if you thought that local real estate values were still over valued in the current recession, then take a look at this terraced London number.

Situated in snooty Belgrave Square, with 12 bedrooms, 20ft ceilings, an indoor swimming pool in the basement, a gym and a home theatre, the house has been recently renovated by its Lebanese owner. It's just been sold for the equivelant of $258,370,000 Godzonian spondulicks.

Apr 14, 2009

1906 Christchurch Panorama


Photographed from the southern tower of the New Zealand Exhibition building is this easterly 1906 panorama of Christcurch. Restored from three photographs, across the foreground is Park Terrace.

1. The house to the extreme Left was constructed by George Braund Woodman in 1858. Originally a carpenter, Woodman (1826-1890) became a partner in the road contracting enterprise of Woodman & Wright, using much of the profit to make pastoral investments in the Ellesmere district.

Woodman was also the first Publican of the Devonshire Arms Hotel, original home of Latimer Square's Christchurch Club. Dating from 1852, the Devonshire Arms on the south-east corner of Durham and Peterborough Streets was rebuilt in 1876 as Barrett's Family Hotel to the design of the renowned William Barnett Armson. Subsequently renamed the Gladstone Hotel, it was one of the city’s oldest hostelries, being demolished in 2005 to make way for an office building. Parts of the 1876 structure have been incorporated in the new building.

2. Set in spacious grounds to its Right, at the corner of Kilmore Street, is the much enlarged Macfarlan house of 1864.

3. The dwelling on the opposite corner is yet to be identified, but above it is Cranmer Square and on the sky line can be seen the tall chimney of the Christchurch City Council's 1903 refuse destructor near to the corner of Manchester and Armagh Streets. The incinerator not only generated the city's first electricty supply (with a pair of 100 Kilowatt generators driven by two steam engines), but also heated the adjacent 1908-1947 swimming baths in Manchester Street.

4. To the centre foregound, at the northern corner of Park Terrace and Chester Street, is the Reginald Cobb house of 1871. Cobb was a partner with Henry Sawtell in Cobb, Sawtell and Company, general, wine and spirit merchants and agents for the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency. In 1916 it would become Helen Connon Hall, a hostel for 70 university students until 1974. Sold by the University of Canterbury to the 1881 Cathedral Grammar School and renamed Chester Hall, it was demolished in 2001. The site is now occupied by the relocated 1886 St Saviour’s church from Lyttleton.

5. On the other corner of Chester Street is the 1880 home of the Reverend William Henry Elton (1845-1914), Cathedral Precentor. Elton's house was later purchased by the Church Property Trustees to become the Cathedral Grammar School. It was demolished in September 1985.

6. Next to it is the much smaller Sanders house, built in 1880 and demolished 1977.

7. To the far Right, at the corner of Rolleston Avenue and Armagh Street is the extant 1867 house built for the lawyer George Harper, fourth son of the city's first Bishop. It has been owned by the nearby Christ's College since 1918.

New Christchurch Civic Centre

Designed and built in 1974 by the Ministry of Works, the seven storey former Christchurch Mail Centre at 53-59 Hereford Street West, is now owned by Ngai Tahu Property Ltd. The building is shown under construction to the Left in the above aerial photograph.

To be leased for $8.2 million a year by the Christchurch City Council, the building is currently undergoing a $105 million refit, which will include a five metre extension to the Worcester Boulevard façade (above), three partial mezzanine floors and the installation of a $3.3 million electricity generation, heating and cooling plant, which will be fed by a biogas pipeline from the landfill and wastewater treatment facilty at Burwood.

With reconstruction (below) designed by the Architect Ian Athfield and scheduled for completion in mid 2010, the former New Zealand Post building will accommodate the Council's 1,116 staff.

Reputed as suitable for housing the Council for the next hundred years, the re-inforced concrete building is strong enough to support two further floors should more space be required. The Civic Centre will have a public café and a walkway from which the populace will be able to see into the council chamber.

With an allocation of $200,000, the Council is negotiatiing to acquire a large work of art depicting a feather for the building's foyer and another for the debating chamber.

Artistic licence showing the proposed main entrance from Worcester Boulevard would appear to indicate a somewhat shorter building.

Apr 13, 2009

Exploding Mythology at Dusk

Almost worthy of a chocolate box lid or even a postcard is this westerly view of Cathedral Square upon a recent early evening. The bod on the pedestal is a long deceased property speculator and middle class snob, who is recorded as having referred to the locals as the cattle. The statue was donated anonymously and the dubious inscription Founder of Canterbury added somewhat later.

"Old Jack" Godley (1814-1861), a founding member and second Lyttelton based Agent of the Canterbury Association, preferred the social life of Wellington, but still managed to make a fortune out of cronyism and conflict of interest in the local real estate market.

The Irishman tired of the colony after only a couple of years and set himself up in some splendour in the exclusive London suburb of Fitzrovia. The 1810 Grade II listed former home of Godleys is now the St George Hotel.

Apr 12, 2009

The Christchurch Morgue

There are no known specific photographs of the city morgue, but it does appear in sufficient elevated views of the area as to enable us to purvey the following diversion for assorted Goths and sundry others enjoying a proclivity to the taphophilic

The city's first purpose built morgue stood on the southeast corner of Manchester and Armagh Streets, where the 1939 Art Deco Municipal Electricity Department building now stands. It's successor, which probably dated from 1873, was accessed by a long cast-iron fenced and gated service lane on Montreal Street, which ran between the Canterbury Militia's parade ground on Cashel Street and the Hereford Street Police Station's 1865 accommodation barracks and stables.

Having something of the appearance of a small chapel and built of brick on a north-south axis, with a wooden shingle roof, there was a tall ornamented chimney on the northern wall, which faced Hereford Street. In what was a somewhat less appealing situation than the city's more salubrious locales, a porticoed entrance on the eastern wall faced the Police Station Lockup.

The morgue probably consisted of four rooms; a waiting room, post mortem room, a coroner's room and a special room for the reception of bodies. The coroner's and post mortem rooms would possibly have been connected by a glazed sliding door, which, in the case of a body being in an advanced state of decompositon, could be kept closed, and yet allow a jury be in a position to view the cadaver. With concrete floors and a plentiful water supply from the adjacent tank stand, the rooms for the reception of bodies and post mortems could be flushed out whenever required.

By 1907 the morgue's location had become the back garden of the Police Matron's residence and it could be likely that from about that time it was superseded by the morgue at the Christchurch Public Hospital. In 1970 the old morgue was designated as a garage on a survey map compiled before the demolitions on what had become the site of a large assortment of buildings, both big and small.

Since 1974 the whole site has been a car park for the central Police Station and the adjoining site of the 1905 King Edward Barracks has been a public car park since 1996. With the current redevelopment of the former Post Office sorting centre on Hereford Street as the new headquarters for the Christchurch City Council, it could be hoped that both car parks might be combined to form a piazza worthy of the reconstructed building that will face them.

Photo: a circa 1955 view, with the roof of the morgue to the foreground and the 1909 Police Sergeant's House, facing Hereford Street, in the background (and the extant 1930 St Elmo Courts in the distance).

Apr 11, 2009

The Christchurch Bicycle Band

We've recently provided further identification information concerning a pair of photographs of the Christchurch Bicycle Band for the U.S. based The New Zealand Journal. A copy of the first is included in the online collection of the Christchurch Libraries and of the second in the online collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library.


Dating from 1898, this north-easterly view was taken on the parade ground of the Canterbury Militia's Drill Hall, which was situated on the north side of Cashel Street West, between Cambridge Terrace and Montreal Streets. The early 1860s Hall, which could accomodate 2,500, was frequently used as a public venue, as was its 1905 replacement, the King Edward Barracks (demolished in 1996).

The building to the far Left, with the roof skylight, is the city morgue, behind the Hereford Street Police Station of 1873 (both demolished in 1974).


This is an elevated westerly view of Kilmore Street from the Victoria Street intersection, looking past Cranmer Square toward Hagley Park. It was taken through the upper floor window of John Mummery's Britannia Hotel, which would later become the photographic studio of the extant centenarian photographer Gladys Goodall.

Certainly taken before 1906, it can be dated with reasonabe probability to the early afternoon of Monday, the 25th of May, 1903. Queen Victoria's birthday fell upon a Sunday that year, but the event, which was celebrated as a public holiday named Empire Day, was held on the following day. The procession is proceeding to the celebrations in the newly renamed Victoria Square, where a Bronze statue of the Queen was unveiled.

Only the circa 1870 two storey building in the distance still exists; formerly a convenience store and then a school tuck shop, it stands at the corner of Cranmer Square opposite the former Normal School.

The Christchurch Bicycle Band

Equipped with bicycles from the Adam brother's Manchester Street Star Cycle Company, the band was formed in 1895 by the brothers Joshua and Frederick Painter.

On an outdoor occasion an unwary cyclist crossed their path. The band took evasive action, the lady fell off her bike, but the music continued uninterrupted. Apart from street parades, they also performed on the stage of the extant Opera House in Tuam Street until the Band's demise in 1915.

Received history indicates that the band claimed to be the only one of its type in the world. However, bicycle bands are recorded as having been popular since 1881 and continue to be so.

Apr 10, 2009

Christchurch Street Number Allocations

Subsequent to a reader enquiry concerning the location of an early house we're motivated to pontificate on a matter that's long been a source of confusion to local researchers.

Until about 1881 street numbers were not allocated to Christchurch buildings. Addresses listed in the electoral rolls for that year still used the 1849 allocation of Town Section numbers.

With the increasing subdivision of the original quarter acre sections, the old system ceased to be a practical option. A numbering system for East-West streets within the four avenues was then introduced with the lowest numbers beginning from their intersections with Town Belt East (now Fitzgerald Avenue).

However, by the turn of the century those streets had begun to extend eastwards into the suburb of Linwood and a new system of numbering was required. This was brought about by reversing the numbers so that the lowest began in the West at Rolleston Avenue, and in the case of Gloucester Street in particular, ran through to number 784 where that street terminated in what is now the suburb of Avonside.

Cashel Street appears to have been the first thoroughfare to have been renumbered in 1904, with for example, what had begun with the address of Town Section 855 becoming number 226 in the early 1880s and then 87 Cashel Street from 1904. Remarkably the original circa 1856 building on this site (below) survives, without recognition, in what is now part of the City Mall.

To add to a researcher's confusion not all numbers were re-allocated. Thus in the case of Worcester Street (which appears to have been the last to be renumbered in 1910), what had been 5 Worcester Street, which was the third house on the South side near to Fitzgerald Avenue, becoming number 278. But 5 Worcester Street was then allocated to the house on the Northern corner of Worcester Street and Rolleston Avenue, with the numbers 1 and 3 being inexplicably omitted.

We've yet to ascertain dates or patterns for the re-numbering of the North-South streets, but a database is underway to match Town Section, old and new numbers, however the idiosyncracies of the newer numbering system aren't making it an easy endeavour.




Photo credits

Detail from an 1878 photograph in the collection of the Christchurch Photographic Society.

Detail from a 1946 photograph in the collection of the Canterbury Museum.

Apr 9, 2009

Ti Kouka House circa 1865-2009

Situated adjacent to the central Christchurch Fire Station, Ti Kouka House succumbed to a second arson attack on the 21st of March, 2009.

In a week when the the local mainstream media reported on two suspicious fires; one at a convenience store and the other being a motor vehicle, no mention was made of the destruction of this historic house, which apparently occupied a potential redevelopment site. Quite possibly yet further evidence of seamless connections between journalism, business and politics.

Apr 8, 2009

Christchurch 7 April 2009

Another one bites the dust: a circa 1875-1880 villa in inner-city Kilmore Street in the process of demolition.

A velocopidist commuting to the city via the Avon River bank in the suburb of Richmond.

The Pennyfarthing is of recent vintage.


A century ago Christchurch, along with Amsterdam, ranked highest among the world's cycling cities and was also the hub of New Zealand's bicycle manufacturing industry. By the mid 1960s the increase in motorised traffic on the city's streets began to see a signficant rise in the injuries sustained by cyclists. An ambulance at the bottom of the cliff mentality saw the introduction of a legal requirment for all cyclists to wear safety helmets and the popularity of the bicycle went into decline. Not even the cycling fatalities sustained by a Christchurch City Councillor, New Zealand Police's most senior Traffic Officer and an internationally renowned cyclist in the last week of a two year world tour, has seen the introduction of enlightened policies and protection aimed at promoting cycling in Christchurch in particular or New Zealand in general.

However, and in spite of the foregoing, we're pleased to note that over the last five years the number of commuter cyclists in Christchurch has increased by 25%. We also applaud the somewhat belated proposal for a national cycleway, so widely popular in more developed countries (Britain's national cycleway recorded 475 million journeys in 2007).

And lest you should think that the foregoing is little more than the rant of a grizzled curmudgeon (you're probably right), it is written from a perspective of sixty years cycling the streets of Christchurch and far beyond (and upon the same Raleigh Roadster, with a camera and tripod in the pannier bag, since 1956).


World cycling champion Frederick Wood (1861-1935) of England comes a cropper at Lancaster Park in early 1888 in a seemingly posed photograph by Alfred Ernest Preece (1863-1946). Photo credit: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference: CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0072

Apr 7, 2009

Petrus van der Velden 1837-1913

Arriving from the Netherlands in 1890, and apart from five years at Sydney, the artist Petrus van der Velden lived in Christchurch until 1913.

Petrus and Sophia van der Velden in front of one of the two studios in the garden their house at the corner of Conference and Durham Streets, Christchurch, about 1893.

Left: the van der Velden house in 2009. Now much altered and converted into five flats, it would originally been of similar appear to its immediate neighbour (Right).

In spite of his 30 years of European experience as a professional artist his services were declined by the Canterbury College of Art. Accordingly, van der Velden received pupils for terms of thirteen lessons in two and a half hour sessions. He tutored some of Canterbury's most renowned artists, including Sydney Thompson and Raymond McIntyre.


During a visit to Auckland van der Velden contracted Bronchitis and died of heart failure on the 11th of November 1913. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Waikaraka cemetery three days later. The subsequent plaque (below) is of a somewhat later vintage.


In November 1963, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of van der Velden's death, one hundred of his paintings were exhibited at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery.

Championed by Vincent van Gogh, his paintings are exhibited in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, but it could be considered a sad reflection upon Christchurch culture that, although we would seem to have a predilection for erecting monuments to, and naming bridges and parks, etc. after politicians and commercial magnates, eminent artists so widely regarded as van der Velden go uncommemorated.


A photographic portrait of Petrus van der Velden taken on the 9th of July, 1896 by Francis Lawrence Jones of Dunedin (courtesy of Early Canterbury Photographers).

Further Reading
Rodney Wilson; Petrus van der Velden 1837-1913 Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

Rodney Wilson; Petrus van der Velden: The Marken and Otira Series Art New Zealand.
Photo Credits
van der Velden grave: Sarndra Lee of Auckland - sarndra.com

Portrait: Alexander Turnbull Library; S. P. Andrew Collection (PAColl-3739),
Picture reference: 1/1-014987; G.

Studio: Robert McDougall Art Gallery;
A concise History of Art in Canterbury 1850-2000, Christchurch, 2000.