Midday on Manchester Street c.1905

It is midday on the busy intersection of Manchester, High and Lichfield Streets when this photograph was taken from the corner of Bedford Row c. 1904.

The street is full of activity as shoppers make their way down the busy pavements. Beneath the awning of John Hall & Co, a man carries a large brown paper package under his arm, striding across the street, having completed his business at John Hall and Co.

Christchurch was well served by general stores like John Hall and Co; many of them – large and small – competed for business within the city. Shoppers could buy all their grocery items, as well as glassware, enamelware, cutlery, tinware, brushware and silver-plated ware at John Hall & Co Limited. Delivery was free and cash discount coupons of 1s in the £1 were offered to attract continued custom.

Whilst large, the package the man carries is light – perhaps his lunch break errand entailed collecting the 3 1/2 yard long fancy lace curtain that his wife had ordered by cashing in her Crown Brand Tea Coupons, collected from packets of tea bought from Hall & Co. [2]

Crown Brand Coupon Tea
John Hall & Co advertisement for Crown Brand Coupon Tea. [3]
Coupons have long been a popular way to encourage customers to continue buying a brand, collecting enough to exchange for free goods and products. Crown Brand Teas and King brand baking powder, both sold at Hall & Co, employed this tactic which John Hall & Co used extensively in their advertising.

The street outside appears dusty, and horse manure left on the street will be run over by wagon wheels to add to the dust and dirt. The traffic includes a number of cyclists, hansom cabs, double decker trams and horses and wagons. Ugly large power poles and overhanging tram wires dominate the skyline, signalling the recent addition of electricity to the city.

An electric tram heads up the street behind the horse draw double decker, which has stopped at the Jubilee Clock Tower to take on new passengers. The City and Suburban line starts from the Jubilee Clock Tower. Passengers alight and climb the curved stairs to sit on the upper level of the tram. Several children, including a little girl in a wide white hat and a small boy in a sailor suit, sit on the top level which affords a better view above the dust and dirt of the street.

Acquaintances stop to chat outside Strange & Co. department store, where the window advertises suits made to measure. Others head off in the direction of the red brick building behind the clock tower which houses a post and telegraph office. Next door is a small wooden building with painted signage advertising a Warehouse and Grindery and W. R. Devereux Saddlery.

Murder and Fire at the Silver Grid

Alice Edith Newman
Alice Edith Newman, Whom Arthur John Wilson Roberts was accused of having murdered. [5]
Look down Manchester Street, in the direction of the Railway Station, and on the right in the distance a large sign on the side of a two story brick building advertises Burn’s Silver Grid Dining Room – this occupies the ground floor, with accommodation for boarders upstairs. The establishment would be the scene of two tragic events in the coming years. The murder of Alice Edith Newman, a ‘rather beautiful girl, of a dark Spanish type‘, who was employed as a domestic servant at the Silver Grid, happened in 1909. Arthur John Wilson Roberts was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death, but commuted to imprisonment for life at Lyttelton gaol. Roberts was supposedly a jealous admirer who was ‘epileptically insane‘ [4].

This would be followed in November 1917 by a terrible fire which would destroy the entire building, take the lives of the proprietor’s wife, a housemaid and several of the boarders, as well as cause terrible injuries to those who escaped. Christchurch was beset by a spate of fires during the later part of 1917 which lead to the belief ‘that an incendiary is at work.”[6]

The Jubilee Clock Tower

Jubilee Clock Tower
Jubilee Clock Tower circa 1906. [7]
As Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee drew near in 1897, plans were being put in place throughout the Dominion for suitable memorials.

The Mayor of Christchurch at this time, Mr W. H. Cooper, supported the idea of a municipal clock with a chime of bells. It was suggested it be erected either on the South Belt or in Latimer Square.

A number of funds were set up and subscriptions solicited from the people of Christchurch in support of their favoured project:

  1.  Enlarging the Jubilee Home for the Aged in Woolston;
  2.  Establishing the 5 acre Victoria Lake in Hagley Park;
  3. A £2000 improvement of the Cashmere Hills Domain, described by one newspaper correspondent as  a ‘rough piece of country on the Port Hills‘  which involved the ‘erection of a massive pavilion, built of stone‘;
  4. The erection of the long abandoned Clock Tower at a cost of £500.

The clock tower proved a popular project, with £100 in subscriptions raised in the first two days after the fund was announced.  A correspondent, reporting in the Clutha Leader, suggested this was because Christchurch people had seen and regretted the waste of such an ornate structure, which had ‘lain in the City Council rubbish yard ever since, a breeding place for sparrows and a haunt for vagrant rats.‘ It was described as ‘a very ornamental iron structure standing on a yard beside the river Avon.‘ The City Council Yards occupied the space opposite the Clarendon Hotel, where the Scott Memorial was later erected.

Around the same time a story had circulated that the tower had been presented to the citizens of Christchurch by New Zealand’s G.O.M., Sir George Grey, when he was the Governor of the colony. The Clock Tower had originally been purchased by the Provincial Government, but became the property of the General Government when the provinces were abolished. Grey had done nothing more than consent to the City Council having a structure that formally belonged to Canterbury. The clock tower was originally designed for the Provincial Buildings but for some reason it was never properly erected there. Instead the ornamental superstructure, a fine piece of craftsmanship that had cost £850, was transferred to the sheds adjoining the Provincial Government Buildings.

The same story mentioned a middle aged gentleman who lived in Christchurch but had grown up in Coventry, and remembered watching the erection of the tower as a boy. His father supplied the portable forges which were used in its construction – and apparently were never paid for! Never the less he was happy to contribute his ‘guinea’ to the Clock Tower fund. [8]

By August, 1897, with £500 raised, the site for the Clock Tower had been chosen – “the triangular ground opposite Messrs Hubbard, Hall and Co’s premises” as shown in the photo, and the duty of the Council and Subscribers turned to the selection of the design for the base of the clock tower. Sealed designs were presented from a number of architectural firms, and on 20 August, 1897 ‘Victoria C’ was chosen as the winner, even though the design would cost £150 more than the money raised. The selection committee, representing the subscribers, believed that “the erection of the clock on a proper base and in a suitable position would not only be a great ornament to the city, but of great public utility” and resolved to recommend to the Council to vote the balance of the money required to complete the work if the architect could submit an approved tender within 10 per cent of the price named. The sealed envelopes were opened, and it was discovered that Messrs Strouts and Ballantyne were the architects whose design had been approved.

Tenders were then sought and approved for the construction of the base and its installation, the later of which went to the company of Messrs Haig & Co, who submitted the lowest price of £555. The Canterbury Industrial Association wanted ‘Colonial’ cement to be used in its construction and petitioned the City Surveyor to this effect, with the final decision being given to the architects. Portland cement was to come from the works of John Wilson & Co, in Warkworth, North Auckland, who supplied a guarantee that the product was as good as the imported version. [9]

At 3 o’clock on the afternoon of the December 9th, 1897, in one of his last duties as Mayor, Mr. W. H. Cooper laid the foundation stone, equipped with a silver trowel presented to him especially for the occasion.

With the stone work underway, work began early in the new year on dismantling the clock tower in the City Council yard. By April the tower was in position, surmounted by the newly gilded finial. Paintwork followed in May, with the iron work painted a “chocolate colour and a brick red, the latter tint being applied to those portions of the roofing which are made to resemble tiles.”

The Tower also consisted of clock and bells suspended horizontally in a massive oak frame, ‘which could be taken to pieces with the aid of an ordinary screw hammer‘. The clock had been built in 1860 by Messrs John Moore and Sons of Clerkenwell Close in London, and was returned to them for alterations and repairs in 1898. The large white dials of the new clock were five feet in diameter, with copper hour figures, minute divisions and hands, which were both enamelled black.

The five bells, made by John Warner and Sons, were hemispherical in shape and chimed in notes A, G, F, C and B flat. The first four made up what was known as the Westminster Chimes, while the B flat bell gave the hour. The sound of the bells was checked by the organist at Westminster Abbey, before they were shipped off to Moore and Sons, and the whole lot; bells, clock and frame, shipped back to Christchurch for erection. This precious cargo left London on September 1st, 1898 on board the Tokomaru, and was carefully unloaded at the Tower at noon on November 21, 1898 – having taken as long to come from Lyttelton to Christchurch as from Capetown to Lyttelton. [10]


  1. Main Image: A view of Manchester Street, Christchurch 1905 -1910 with horse drawn tram and cyclists. Source: National Digital Heritage Collection, National Library Photographer: Samuel Heath Head Ref: 1/1-009761-G I One Black & White.
  2. Star, Issue 8499, 16 December 1905, Page 6.
  3. New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXXIII, Issue 7, 16 February 1905, Page 4. Image: Papers Past
  4. Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXXVI, Issue 12601, 19 November 1909, Page 2.
  5. NZ Truth, 30 October 1909, Page 7. Image: Papers Past.
  6. Wanganui Chronicle, Volume LX, Issue 17142, 20 November 1917, Page 5.
  7. City of Christchurch Yearbook, 1906-7. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference Disc19/IMG0012.
  8. Clutha Leader, Volume XXIV, Issue 1201, 2 July 1897, Page 6.
  9. Colonial Cement, Star, Issue 5986, 27 September 1897, Page 3.Auckland Star, Volume XXIX, Issue 180, 2 August 1898, Page 8. Star , Issue 6340, 21 November 1898, Page 3. Star, Issue 6305, 27 September 1898, Page 1.

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