It’s just before 3pm on a late summer day in 1914. Prolific Christchurch photographer, Steffano Webb is setting up his camera equipment inside the gents’ hairdressing saloon of well known Cathedral Square tobacconist, Frederick Woodward, the proprietor of Woodward & Co. The shop has been cleaned top to bottom; the floor swept clean so that not one loose hair can be seen. The mirrors have been polished and a myriad of bottled potions and lotions can be clearly seen on display.
The brentwood chairs and leather bench seat are empty of waiting customers. No coats hang on the coat stand, no hats are on the hooks, and the newspaper sits idle on the corner waiting table.
The proprietor and his assistant stand poised at the door, as if ready to welcome an influx of gentlemen customers for a 6d shave or shampoo, with the added treat of a 1/- face or head massage. Atomisers, brushes, tweezers, razors, electric hair driers and a massage devise are at the ready beside the basins and saloon chairs.
The Capstan Tobacco calendar on the wall in the waiting area suggests the month is April, (if the proprietor has not been tardy and left the months unchanged), the first of the month falling on a Wednesday. This would date the image above to the first quarter of 1914, which ties in with Woodward & Co having just moved into the Dominion Buildings – a newsly built example of pre-war progress in the inner city.
The new century signalled a change in commercial prosperity for Christchurch. The Dominion buildings were one of many new multi-storied buildings that changed the commercial landscape of Christchurch, and signalled the demise of many of the remaining wooden buildings that dated back to the early settlement days of the Canterbury pilgrims.
The Dominion Buildings replaced the modest wooden buildings that for decades had overlooked Cathedral Square. In their later years, this collection of small, mixed styled buildings housed the businesses of land agents Dearsley and Lane, and Loasby Bros., and coat merchants Westport-Cardiff Coal Company. These two buildings, plus the two storey predecessor which Woodward & Co had occupied, with the ‘Underskirt Specialist’, Mrs Rose Tompkins occupying the apartments above, was owned by the late Mr Isaac Luck, a builder and the former lesser known partner of architect, Benjamin Mountford.
Woodward’s held prime corner position at 207 Colombo Street. It was an important landmark on the north western corner of Colombo Street and Cathedral Square, which had previously been known as ‘Heywood’s corner’. The business of J. M. Heywood and Co. Ltd. had occupied this corner for some two decades, possibly more. In mid 1908, they moved their customhouse, forwarding agents and general carriers business to another new ‘city improvement‘. This one was on the corner of Tuam and Manchester Streets, near the Clock Tower. 
“A glance at the history of the firm will be interesting at this juncture. Established at Lyttelton in 1851 by the late Mr J. M Heywood, the firm is the oldest established in Canterbury, if not in the Dominion. Through delivery from Lyttelton to the warehouses in Christchurch was initiated in the very early days, goods being conveyed by lighter to the estuary, and from thence carted to the city. On the completion of the railway to Ferrymead, the staff at the time employed by Mr Heywood transferred in a body to the railway goods department, and formed the nucleus of the present railway goods staff. Although the firm were not the first contractors for the delivery of goods from the railway station, they purchased the interest of the contractors, and for a great number of years did the work; at present they are the contractors for the delivery of parcels and perishable goods from the railway goods sheds. The firm employ over seventy persons, and eighty horses are used in the business.” 
“In 1860, Mr. Heywood erected the wharf on Ferry Road and ran the steamer “Planet,” and other small craft for the conveyance of goods and merchandise between Lyttelton and Christchurch. After the opening of the Lyttelton-Christchurch railway this property was rendered useless, and in 1879 the firm obtained the railway cartage contract for the delivery of goods in Christchurch and suburbs, which it successfully held for some seventeen years. The firm has established direct agents not only throughout New Zealand, but also agents and correspondents in all parts of the world… Good storage accommodation is provided at their goods-shed in Sydenham, as also in their stores at the Cathedral Square premises, on the upper floor of which there are convenient sample-rooms.” 
The old building lease had been auctioned in October, 1911, and was bought by well known Christchurch business man, George Gould, for £850. The existing building became the property of the new Lessee, as a set-off against the loss of rent whilst re-building.
“The vendors offered a lease for a term of fifty years as from July 1, 1912, with the conditions that the present two-storey wooden building must be removed before July 1, 1913, and that a new brick or stone building of not less than two storeys and costing not less than £10,000 should be erected on the site by July 1, 1914. Provision was also made in the lease that the new building must be constructed to allow of the erection of a third storey at a later date if necessary. ” 
In mid 1912, tenants cleared out to new premises. Mrs Tompkins, the underskirt specialist, packed up her dressmaking accoutrements and moved to new premises in Cashel Street opposite Ballantynes. Frederick Woodward gathered together his combs, brushes and various tins of tobacco, and relocated temporarily to the corner of Armagh and Colombo streets. Just over twelve months later, during the last quarter of 1913, he was back again, along with a host of other businesses, moving into the brand new ‘Dominion Buildings‘. 
New tenants included C. L. Kater, the ‘High Class Ladies and Gentlemen’s Tailor’; Mrs Rolleston, the Parisian trained ladies’ hairdresser who specialised in ‘hair and complexion’ and ‘superfluous hair’ removal; the exotic sounding Mme Prendergast whose ‘specialities’ were gowns for the Races, exquisite hand-made lingerie frocks, feather boas and stoles, dainty parasols and lingerie.
On the first floor the professionals moved in: – solicitors, surveyors, dental surgeons and an ear, nose and throat specialist. The Church Missionery Depot, offering books on missionary travel, with 10% off for Clergy and Sunday Schools; and the National Peace Council of NZ, an anti-militarist league, providing legal advise for those whose sympathies lay away from war, also took up occupancy.
Woodward’s stood opposite ‘Broadway’s Corner‘, on the other side of Colombo street. This corner was named after a well known refreshment room, confectionery and pastry business operated by brothers, William and Edward Broadway. ‘Broadway’s’ occupied the ground floor on the corner of ‘Hobb’s Building’.
On the other side of the Dominion Buildings was the Grand Theatre. Opened on 2nd June, 1913, the ‘Grand Picture Theatre‘ in Cathedral Square was very much a grand new ‘city improvement’. It brought Christchurch cinema goers the latest “scenic, dramatic, topical, industrial and comedy subjects… from prominent film-makers in London, America and the Continent.” Furnishings include upholstered tip-up seats, and the latest in heating and ventilation. 
A new tenant, located immediately next to Woodward’s, was Roland Bennett, Watchmaker and Jeweller. He worked previously for Albert Gundersen, a Norwegian born and trained watchmaker and jeweller who was also the NZ Vice-Consul for Norway. Bennett specialised in repairing watches, clocks and jewellery. A framed advertisement hangs on the wall of Woodward’s saloon, above the clock. Like many small business owners of a certain age, Roland would soon be called upon to abandon his business in order to serve the Empire in the coming war years. He enlisted in February 1917, in the expectation that he could arrange for his business to be kept on but had been unsuccessful by the time he was called up in May. He was granted a month’s leave to do so.
Even though barbers worked long hours and ‘as a whole were not well paid’, business was generally good for Frederick Woodward. Whilst rents and the cost of living had increased, and others in business had raised their prices, the hairdressers in Christchurch had kept their prices the same for a period of fourteen years. 
Frederick had followed in his father’s’ foot steps. Charles Woodward was a ‘Hairdresser, Tobacconist, Perfumer, and Fancy Goods Seller’ in Wiltshire, England. His success had not always reflected that of his son’s; he had appeared before the Bath Court in 1889, as a bankrupt.
Frederick had worked as a Commission Agent in England, and brought his wife and small daughter out to New Zealand in February, 1894. (The Woodward family travelled as second saloon passengers, on board the steamer R.M.S. Kaikoura in February 1894, when daughter Elsie was about four years old. His wife’s sister, Eliza Radford, had also come to Christchurch.) He wasted no time setting up in business in their new home town. Woodward bought the stock-in-trade of Mr J. H. Alston, Hairdresser and Tobacconist, and Frederick immediately went to work at 66 Colombo Street, cutting hair for 6d, shaving for 3d, and shampooing 6d – or all three for 1s. He also cut childrens’ hair for 3d – except on Saturday!
Frederick and his family quickly became involved in community life. He was a active sports man, enjoying hockey and swimming. He was treasurer of the Sydenham Hockey Club for seven years, and a competitive swimmer in the Sydenham Amateur Swimming Club.
Before moving his business into the newly built Dominion Buildings in 1914, Frederick took his family back for a visit to the ‘Old Country’, returning on board the Orvieto in May, 1913. The family had been in New Zealand almost twenty years, and it would have been a welcome opportunity to visit family and friends, some for the last time. 
F. W’s business success also enabled him to purchase a five seater Studebaker, in October 1915, from the Studebaker garage in Tuam Street. He was very proud of the car. In the summer of 1916, he packed it to capacity with friends and family, and set off on a tour around the South Island. Motoring around Mt Cook, he tested the machine’s limits through creeks, 6-8″ deep shingle and hills covered in loose sand – ground over which many cars would have to be pulled out of, or pushed up and over! He owned the vehicle for five years, then after an overhaul and a fresh coat of paint, he offered it for sale at £350 in first class order.
Despite his success, or because of it, F. W. was more than willing to contribute to those in need. It was an ethic that was also shared by his family, and would come to the fore over the coming war years.
From 1914 through 1918 the family and business gave continually to various funds: Subscriptions to the Huntly Disaster Relief Fund, the War Fund; Coal and Blanket Fund; Red Cross Fund; Canterbury Patriotic Fund; £1 monthly subscriptions and parcels of clothing for the Poor for Britain, and Belgium Relief Fund; pipes, tobacco and cigars for the Expeditionary Forces. The whole family contributed separately to a call from the Press to provide shilling plum puddings to each of the 5000 Canterbury soldiers fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula at Christmas time, 1915 and again in 1916, and the ‘Christmas Gifts for Canterbury Nurses’ fund in 1917.
The business also collected money in the saloon for the War Fund. But not all hairdressers were as civic minded. Sly grog and illegal bookmaking were crimes often linked to hairdressers. At the extreme end, were tonsorial artists like Walter Sadler, who used his business to carry out illegal and dangerous exploits which ended the life of at least one woman and endangered others.
F. W. did step outside the law on a couple of occasions. Once he was charged with watered his garden without first passing the water through a meter and was convicted for wasting the city’s water supply. 
Frederick and Louisa’s only child, daughter Elsie, had arrived in Christchurch as a child of four. She had been schooled in Christchurch, and when the First World War arrived, she became an ‘enthusiastic war-worker’, always ready to ‘help any patriotic efforts’. Just one month prior to the end of WWI, she married Trouper Herbert Milligan of the Veterinary Corp, at St Michael’s and All Angels. The bridal party were all returned servicemen and ‘war workers’. The 40 attending guests were entertained at the Woodward home on Lincoln Road, before the smartly dressed bride and her groom ‘left for the south’. 
Frederick and Louisa Woodward ended their days in Christchurch, [endnote Frederick Woodward died 26 July 1947, Louisa died 12 March 1934. Both are buried at Bromley Cemetery]and the north-western corner carried the Woodward name until well in to the 1970s.
- Steffano Webb Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref. No. 1/1-019479-G. View original record: http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22767618
- Steffano Webb Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref. No. 1/1-019479-G.
- Industries of New Zealand, illustrated, p. 147. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD 13, IMG0020.
- ‘Special Announcements’ Press, Volume LXIV, Issue 13301, 19 December 1908, Page 8.
- ‘City Improvements’ Press, Volume LXIV, Issue 13153, 27 June 1908, Page 10.
- The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Canterbury Provincial District) 1903.
- Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref. No. 1/1-008941-G.
- Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXI, Issue 8490, 4 October 1911, Page 2.
- Press, Volume LXVIII, Issue 14418, 27 July 1912, Page 1.
- New Zealand Tourism Dept. Source: Private Collection.
- Published: Canterbury times, 8 Oct. 1913, p. 44. Image: Christchurch City Libraries File Reference CCL PhotoCD6, IMG0057
- Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 14676, 27 May 1913, Page 10.
- Photographer Frederick George Radcliffe. Image: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R301
- Star , Issue 9143, 25 January 1908, Page 5.
- Image: Private Collection.
- “Personal Notes from London” Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 14675, 26 May 1913, Page 3.
- Photo by Kevin Hill. Source: Kete Christchurch.
- Magisterial Press, Volume LII, Issue 15488, 15 January 1916, Page 12.
- Weddings. Press, Volume LIV, Issue 16350, 23 October 1918, Page 2.