Christchurch, New Zealand, revisited

Daily News (London, England), Monday, June 30, 1890; Issue 13801.

(From our correspondent.) Christchurch (N.Z.)

View down Colombo Street from Cathedral Square
View down Colombo Street from Cathedral Square, 1890. Source: Burton Bros. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0091.

Ten years ago I visited Christchurch for the first time, and recorded my impressions of the place in the columns of The Daily News. A decade means a good deal in the history of a colonial city, and it hardly surprises me to witness the strides made in this “City of the Plains.” And yet one is somewhat startled at the magnificent enterprise everywhere displayed. Ten years ago there was a want of finish everywhere apparent. It reminded one of Washington as I saw it a couple of decades back. Christchurch seemed a second “city of magnificent distances.” To-day, however, many of the gaps are filled up, and right royally are they filled! Superb buildings now face you in all directions – blocks of solid masonry worthy of London. Half a dozen banks are domiciled in white stone palaces that would do credit to Lombard-street, and as many insurance offices flaunt their prosperity in mansions suggestive of cent. per cent. profits. Quite a feature of this New Zealand city are the light artistic verandahs which cover in a large portion of the business street footways. Made of iron and glass they are almost an anticipation of what Edward Bellamy foreshadows for us in the 2000 A.D. The miles of well-formed streets with these light and tasteful verandahs constitute a promenade such as London with all its glory cannot supply.

Cathedral-Square-Chrischurch-1890s
Cathedral Square and the Steam Tram, circa 1890. Source: Haynes, W (Mrs), fl 1955; Photograph album of photographs taken by C Edwards. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library.

Of course this capital of the Church of England settlement of Canterbury is rich in ecclesiastical buildings. A score of solid churches, ranging from the ambitious cathedral downwards, attest the loyalty of the “Canterbury Pilgrims” to their mother Church. There is quite an air of ecclesiasticism about the whole city. The merchants are no less nobly housed than the banks and insurance offices, and the vast blocks in all directions and eloquent of business enterprise and success. From the centre of the city steam tramways run out into the country, and a most enjoyable ride it is past the suburban residences which line the various tramway routes. I rode out this afternoon some six miles to a seaside place called Sumner, and a more remarkable exhibition of Colonial progress I never before witnessed. Every one of the hundreds of houses seemed the abode of easy well-to-do people, and the beautiful gardens and orchards, which for the most part surrounded the residences, gave the panorama quite an Arcadian charm. Not the least significant of the many signs of progress observable are the meat-freezing works and the flourishing woollen manufactory. It is but fair that I should recognise in the flourishing and thoroughly English character of this Canterbury settlement what has, I doubt not, been a very potent factor in the case, namely, the high character of the original settlers. Some of England’s best sons and daughters formed the pioneers here, and they have left their mark on the whole province. The farms all round might be English or Scotch for the compactness of their homesteads and the excellence of their management. There is none of the too general slovenliness of Colonial farming here. Neatly-trimmed quickset hedges, ample out-buildings, well-built ricks, high-bred cattle, and fields with the culture of gardens, all attest a high standard and first-class agriculture.

As I write there is a great stir in ecclesiastical circles consequent on the consecration of the new bishop. A Victorian clergyman named Julius is about to receive the honour. The consecration has been somewhat delayed in consequence of a serious dispute between two senior bishops as to the vacant primacy. Bishop Hadfield, of Wellington, was duly elected, but through some legal informality his election was nullified. Then Bishop Suter, of Nelson, assumed the position by virtue of seniority. This led to violent mutual recrimination, and the Press, which usually troubles itself very little about religious matters, entered heartily into the quarrel. At length Bishop Suter was forced by public opinion to call a meeting of the Synod at Wellington, and submit his claims to a vote of that body. On Thursday last that vote went against him, and the Wellington bishop was reinstated in the coveted office.

Source: Daily News (London, England), Monday, June 30, 1890; Issue 13801.

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