Gala Day at Wainoni Park – 1909

There is great excitement in the households around Christchurch today. It’s the Labour Day holiday and many families are going to Wainoni Park for the opening of the season. Everyone has been looking forward to the visit ever since the advertisement for the Gala Day first appeared in the Star. At just one shilling for…

In Defense of the Christchurch Girl

According to the Press, feeble out of doors, useless in domestic duties, the Christchurch girl’s most deplorable feature is her absolute lack of brains and mental culture…

“Would to God I had never heard the name of New Zealand”

“To tell you is a great task, for I can assure you it is a most awful country,” wrote James Boot from Christchurch, New Zealand in letter to his parents in Nottingham, England in June, 1864. “Would to God I had never heard the name of New Zealand…

Julius von Haast and his Milkcan Seismometer

German born colonist, Sir Julius von Haast, was an explorer specialising in geology. Amongst his many achievements was the founding of the Canterbury Museum. Born Johann Franz von Haast in 1822, in Bonn, he studied geology and mineralogy before travelling throughout Europe and Russia, studying art and music. Sent out to New Zealand to scope…

1880s Christchurch – Dull and as Flat as a Kitchen Table

In 1886, an English woman who called herself ‘Hopeful’, wrote of her experiences after emigrating to Christchurch, New Zealand.  She berated the agents of shipping companies who painted New Zealand in glowing terms to attract more people to emigrate. Hopeful felt she had made a huge sacrifice by giving up all she had loved in…

A Victorian ‘Gent’ of Christchurch

By Helen Solomons Mortimer Cashman Corliss was a true Victorian patriarch, gentleman and government servant who lived in Christchurch for most of his adult life, contributing to the city’s development in communication. This ‘gent’ was my great grandfather, and was also the eldest son of Mortimer Corliss, a veteran of the New Zealand Wars and Hannah…

Domestic Maids and the Curse of the Bloody Handprint

This charming advertisement designed in 1913, was printed onto postcards and distributed at the New Zealand High Commission Office in London to attract young, single women to the colony. Irregardless of their limited education, the new colony desperately wanted more young women to fill domestic positions in hotels and private homes of prosperous immigrants. One…

Strange & Co. Building, corner of Lichfield and High Streets.

The magnificent, four storey Strange’s & Co Furniture Department Building was built in 1900 on the corner of Lichfield and High Streets, replacing a row of old dilapidated weatherboard shops dating back to the early days of Christchurch.  The Cyclopedia of New Zealand –  Canterbury Provincial Section of 1903, wrote that the new addition to…

Iconic Ice-cream Charlie, Cathedral Square

‘Ice Cream Charlie’ operated a well-known ice cream cart in Cathedral Square for much of the first half of the twentieth century. He was reknowned for his friendly nature and delicious ice cream which he sold for most of the year from his cart. This ‘snapshot’ of him striding through the Square was taken around…

Holly Lea – a Rich Man’s Folly?

An elderly man, dressed in a plum coloured suit and bow tie, stands gazing at his nearly completed home. It is September 1900, and this is no ordinary home, it is reputed to be the largest wooden residence in Australasia. This 23,000 square foot, fifty three room Jacobean inspired mansion stands on five acres bordering…

Mrs Merritt’s Boarding House

Drunkeness was a serious problem in Christchurch by the late 1870s.  It didn’t help that for a city of its size, there were 47 hotels and breweries as opposed to just 10 dentists and chemist shops. Several small churches organised abstinence societies but it wasn’t until the 1880s and ’90s that the temperance movement ramped up its fight against…