The Gravenor Building, Corner Manchester & Hereford Streets

The Gravenor Building, Corner of Manchester and Tuam Street 1900 Source: CCL 1 photograph : b&w ; 16 x 21 cm, 0969 Photo CD 6, IMG0078 The Weekly Press, 14 Feb. 1900, p. 11
The Gravenor Building, Corner of Manchester and Tuam Street 1900 Source: CCL 1 photograph : b&w ; 16 x 21 cm, 0969 Photo CD 6, IMG0078 The Weekly Press, 14 Feb. 1900, p. 11.

The red brick, cream stone and plaster building on the corner of Manchester and Hereford Street,  proudly displays the architectural features becoming commonplace in the commercial confines of this Edwardian city. Completed in 1900, and ‘christened’ the Gravenor Building, its style is strongly influenced by the grand Venetian Gothic period.

After struggling in the early days, times in the city have become more prosperous and Christchurch residents take pride in its reputation as being one of New Zealand’s grandest architectural cities. This photograph, taken just a few weeks after its opening,  was published in “The Weekly Press”. The city’s residents reading this paper would have gained immense pleasure in seeing another this latest addition to its city’s increasing list of Edwardian architectural pieces.

This image captures a quiet moment in the city centre. Manchester and Hereford Streets were normally busy, suggesting that this photograph was taken on a Sunday morning when many people would be attending church. Two men pose in one of the two entrances, gazing directly at the photographer. Others stand casually outside the building – one on the street corner while the other poses on the verge of the pavement, reading a newspaper.

Further up the street, a lone woman carrying a bag, busily hurries away up the street.

A glimpse of the business day at the Canterbury Meat Work’s Office in Gravenor Building, Manchester Street, Christchurch.

The Interior of the Gravenor Building, 1900
The Interior of the Gravenor Building, 1900 Source: CCL One photograph, Black & White, 16 x 21 cm 0970 Photo CD 3, IMG0090 The Weekly Press, 14 Feb. 1900 p. 11

In the second photograph, we are witness to the daily business of the busy Canterbury Meat Works office located in the Gravenor Building. The scene is typical of any colonial Edwardian office, in any corner of the British Empire, at that time.

The clerks pose, diligently working away at ledgers on tall wooden desks, while in the background their managers stand in a line, somewhat apart and superior to their subordinates. An office supervisor strides passed the desks closely supervising the men as they tally up the export figures of frozen meat going to England.

At this time, the value of frozen meat was high and continuted to double due to rising prices, the quantity of meat transported increased by less than a quarter.  On the wall, we can just make out a picture of one of the company’s steamer ships which carried frozen meat to England in record time.

As the meat export market grew, Canterbury’s farming community prospered. Farmers were able to purchase new machinery for their farms which in turn,  boosted Christchurch’s engineering sector. Their wives were able to spend more time and money in the large department stores such as Ballantynes, Beaths and D.I.C.  In fact, these three stores prospered so well out of these years that each of them were able to build grand new premises during 1908-09.

Philip Hoare, stock and sharebroker – a tale of blue blood, bankruptcy and abandonment

The stock and sharebroker, Philip O’Bryen Hoare’s opened his office in the Gravenor Building at this time.  He regularly advertised in “The Christchurch Star” to drum up business.  He did not have a telephone by 1901,  but was able to be contacted by telegram by using his name, “Hoare”.

By September of this year, a slump in the share market saw Hoare facing bankruptcy.  Failed transactions with other sharebrokers and unpaid debts were to blame.  Amongst his creditors were gold dredging companies and the Lyttelton Times.  By February 1902, without objection from his creditor, he was able to be discharged.

Article on Hoares' divorce proceedings
Hoare’s Humbug. Source: NZ Truth , Issue 597, 25 November 1916, Page 6. Image: Papers Past.

Philip was born in 1871,  to Reverend James O’Bryen Dott Richard Hoare and Frances Eleanor Henderson. His father, James, was the son of a baronet, but due to his birth order, being part this aristocratic family meant he did not inherit the title, seat or land. Forced to find his own path in life, James studied at Canterbury in England to become a clergyman – a profession common to many in his position.

He and family emigrated to Christchurch around 1864 after accepting a position at the troubled parish of Avonside.  He also served as vicar at St. John’s and St Pauls and later broke away to form his own church.

His son, Philip married Florence Evans in Queenstown in 1896 and a year later, their son, Donovan O’Bryen Hoare was born.  The family moved to Christchurch in 1898, arriving on the Passenger Express ship whose list was reported in the Star, 30th Sept. 1898.  Philip became an accountant and  a “prominent spiritualist and card player”.  According to Florence,  he took to frequently staying out late at night “arriving home about the same time as the milk”. It wasn’t long before they parted company.

He provided Florence with £100 pounds a year in support. However his payment ceased in December, 1908 and Philip’s whereabouts were unknown to her.

Florence was forced to obtain work in order to support herself and Donovan, their ten year old son. It was not until November, 1916 that she successfully sued for divorce on the grounds of abandonment.

In 1917, their son, Donovan was eighteen and had been chosen to join thirty young New Zealand men on a three year officer training course with the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited (U.S.S.). The cadets sailed on the converted troopship, the S.S. Aparima, and after unloading troops,  were making their way down the coast of Dorset in South England, when their ship was torpedoed by a German submarine.  Over half its crew –  fifty six men including seventeen young cadets, were killed in the blast or drowned by their lifeboats being sucked down by the ship’s drag.

“Aft, there – the stern’s blown off, sir!”

“Oh Lord – the poor boys.” – was a comment made hearing of the loss.  The cadets’ sleeping quarters were located in the stern of the vessel where the torpedo struck.

“Up went the bows and down went the stern amidst a roar of rushing water.”

The loss of life was tragic, and the cadets families suffered more hardship in the process of compensation.  They young men were neither officers nor seaman so had received no pay although their risk was the same as their fellow seamen.  Some of the families lodged claims to the government. Florence wrote,

“.. I was looking forward to the expiry of his three years’ cadetship when my son and only child would make such progress in life as to enable him to make some money spent on his education and later on help to keep me from poverty in old age.”

Philip Hoare Ad
Advert placed by Philip Hoare in ‘Stead’s’ Magazine, August 21st, 1920

Prior to Philip’s disappearance, he had established “The School of New Thought” in 1905 in New Zealand.  It appears he moved to Sydney, Australia and set up as a specialist in mental and speech disorders, claiming he had an  M.B.I.M.Sc from the British Institute of Mental Science, London. He lectured in New South Wales and Queensland, and established  his second school, “The First School of New Thought and Mental Science” in Adelaide.  He later settled in Brisbane, living at 27 Gregory Terrace.

Whilst Philip’s career went from strength to strength as a self proclaimed “world-famous specialist” who travelled the southern hemisphere giving lectures and speeches and writing books on poetry, public speaking and parapsychology, Florence spent a less illustrious life.  She lived  in convents in Christchurch and Hamilton before moving to Auckland and working as a housekeeper, before her death in 1939.


  • They Received No Pay –  Officer Cadets of the Steamship Aparima by Phil Lascelles.
  • Ellesmere Guardian, Volume XXVII, Issue 2607, 9 November 1904, Page 3
  • NZ Truth , Issue 597, 25 November 1916, Page 6
  • The Brisbane Courier: Monday 3 November 1924 and Friday 30 September 1927
  • ‘The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal: The Mortimer-Percy’ By Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval Staff
  • Stead’s For Those Who Want To Know – July 10th, 1920

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