Before and after the “Sign of the Kiwi”

Sign of the Kiwi, 1920
Front of the Sign of the Kiwi showing the motto. Circa 1920. [1]

“Jog on, jog on, the footpath way. And cheerily hent the stile, A merry heart goes all the way, Your sad tires in a mile.”
— “A Winter’s Tale,” Sheakespeare.

Such is the motto on the front of the picturesque rest-house on the Summit Road, near Dyer’s Pass.

Sign of the Kiwi
A car and excursionists in front of the Sign of the Kiwi, Dyers Pass, Summit Road, circa 1922. [2]
It was a lovely spring morning, with just enough wind to keep the air cool –  an ideal day for such an outing. The modern and useful tram had brought us up Cashmere Hills, past many charming villas with their varied colour and architecture, perched in the midst of those lovely gardens whose beauties M. O. Stoddart and other artists have made known throughout New Zealand.

We had found our party just the right size to pack into the vacant seats on the coach, and three good horses had brought us to the “Sign of the Kiwi,” as the rest-house is called. The quaint lines above the doorway brought to the memory of some days not long distant, when there was no coach on the hills, and tales of climbs, walking parties, and picnics were passed round just as mayhap our grandmothers had talked as they travelled in the old English stage coaches in the bygone days. Surely it was only their just due that our thoughts and speech should travel further back than our own petty little experiences, and we should picture these old Canterbury pilgrims who had, with aching and undaunted hearts, tramped on foot, carrying all their little possessions over the hills from the harbour to the plains, and by their energy secured for the present generation all the advantages they enjoy. A smile, too, went round our party as we heard of the crinoline ponies specially trained to carry the fair wearers of the hoop to church, market, or junketing over the hill tracks and newlymade roads.

Sign of the Bell Bird
The Sign of the Bellbird (Kennedy’s Bush Tearooms) was built by Harry Ell in 1914 as a tearooms and caretaker’s cottage at Kennedys Bush. It was designed by S. Hurst Seager. [3]
While our tongues slackened not, our eyes, too, were busy, and surely few fairer scenes could greet the eye of traveller than the panoramas which lay around us as we travelled along from the rest-house to Kennedy’s Bush. Behind us spread the plains, stretching from the ocean at New Brighton and Sumner to the mountains in the west, and the city and suburbs of Christchurch, with the Cathedral spire rising up through the grey mist which carpeted the city. On the further side, like a blue ribbon across the plain, ran the Waimakariri River, and beyond, a glimpse of the Kaikouras, their heads lost m the clouds.

On our right were the fertile Canterbury Plains, with homesteads and townships, and the beginnings of rivers, such as the Avon and the Heathcote, all watched over and protected by those snowcapped giants, the Southern Alps, standing shoulder to shoulder from north to south.

Sign of the Bellbird, Kennedy's Bush. Image: Photographs, letters and memorabilia of a professional photographer / Sydney Benjamin Taylor. Source: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 3, IMG0025
Sign of the Bellbird, Kennedy’s Bush, circa 1925. [4]
On our left, sometimes hidden by the knolls and hilltops round which we were winding, but ever and anon surprising us by reappearing m greater expanse, was seen first a peep of Lyttelton Harbour, then Charteris Bay, then Governor’s Bay, and finally the whole great expanse of Lyttelton Harbour, blue and sparkling, guarded from tempests by the Port Hills, and the high lands of Banks Peninsula. What a haven of rest it must have been to the wearied voyager of the fifties, after his six months at the mercy of wind and waves! At the mouth of the harbour and beyond the peninsula we got a glimpse of the surf of the restless ocean on the skyline.

Ever in front of us as we drove, the road ascended or dipped, as it stretched its marvellous way over or round the crest of some peak.

The clear hill air from time to time scented with the sweet odour from the flowering wild currant bushes which grew here and there, refreshed us after the dust of the city. After such a feast for the eye and refreshment for the mind, we were still a happy-hearted party when we left the coach and entered the rest-house at Kennedy’s Bush. We were a hungry party, too, and did full justice to the morning tea and lunch which our hostesses had ordered for us, and also to the fruit and nuts with which they afterwards plied us as we waited for the return coach.

Some walked a mile or two further on, tempted by that winding road which stretched ahead playing hide and seek round crag and knoll, seeming to say, like the fairies of our youth, “Come with me and I will show you greater treasures.” These said on their return that the promise was not a vain one, for grander and grander grew the marvellous pictures on either side as one went on. Others rested on the steps of the hostel, content to look at the icy crowns of Mount Cook and her sisters as they glistened m the sunlight on the far horizon, or to watch a charming little sketch of a dip m the hillside, with some fairy-like trees in the foreground, as it grew beneath the busy fingers of our artist.

Tram, Cashmere Hills, 1919
A tram heads over Cashmere Hills, 1919. [5]
All too soon the horses were ready to start one more, and we were back in the coach ready to watch again each exquisite little picture of Dame Nature as we passed. Perhaps some of us wished that the spring equinox had not passed, and we might have had to carry away with us a memory of that grandest picture of all in Nature’s sketchbook – a sunset on the mountains.

In the tram once more, flower lovers amongst us were busy picking out their favourites in the gardens as we passed. Of these, “Kiss me by Moonlight,” seemed to be most readily recognised, either because of its quaint name, bringing back, like “London Pride,” memories of sweet old gardens of our youth, or perhaps other memories more tender still wrapped away in our hearts like the lavender scented old lace in our boxes.

Once more under the shadow of the Cathedral Tower in the heart of the busy city, we had the most modern of afternoon teas in the most up-to-date tea-rooms, with the noise and bustle of our twentieth century civilisation on every side. What contrast in fifty years – not one lifetime –  between the arduous beginnings of those early settlers and the marvellous developments of our days. What a tale those sentinel hills and grey Cathedral tower could together tell of Nature’s secrets and the ways of men. Greatly are we privileged who can in such a short space be transported by our utilitarian magicians to the abode of Dame Nature’s fairies, from the clamour of the city.

Note. — The above sketch of a delightful outing is dedicated to our kind hostesses, the Canterbury Trained Nurses’ Association, by the delegates to the Triennial Conference. [6]


  1. Source: Harry Ell papers. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0028.
  2. Source: Harry Ell papers. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 4, IMG0011.
  3. Source: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0083.
  4. Image: Photographs, letters and memorabilia of a professional photographer / Sydney Benjamin Taylor. Source: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 3, IMG0025.
  5. Source: The Weekly Press, 8 Jan. 1919, p. 24. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 7, IMG0033.
  6. Source: Before and after the “Sign of the Kiwi”. Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, Volume XIII, Issue 1, January 1920, Page 13



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