An Extraordinary Accident

Excitement at Lyttelton The ordinary routine of running the express train on the No. 2 wharf at Lyttelton and transferring the passengers to the waiting ferry steamer was disturbed on the evening of the 26th March, 1907 by a startling incident at about a few minutes past six o’clock.   The Southern Express which arrives…

Quid non pro patria: Bridge of Remembrance, 1924

“The most historic bridge in Christchurch” The iconic stone arch which spans over Cashel Street bridge – linking Cambridge with Oxford Terrace is “a visible symbol” which expresses the gratitude and enshrines the memory of those from Canterbury who took part in the Great War 1914-1918.” [1] The idea for a bridge was first suggested by a lady in…

John Peacock and his Controversial Fountain

A Tale of Convicts, Ship Wrecks, Strange Family Relations and a £500 Bequest. Before the Canterbury Settlement was inaugurated, a young Australian lad landed at Port Cooper in the company of his father. It was 1844, and 17 year old John Thomas Peacock had arrived from Sydney on board his father’s brig ‘Guide‘, an ageing…

A Poor Joke! A Premonition of What Was Yet to Come.

This photographically produced postcard of Christchurch’s Provincial Government buildings, appearing twisted and warped, was a semi-humorous card sent out at Christmas after the Murchison earthquake in 1929. Titled “The Camera doesn’t lie”,  it was the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mr J. L. Martin’s idea of a joke, from him and his staff who occupied the Canterbury Provincial Buildings…

Human Bones Under the Public Library

A large collection of human bones were uncovered on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street during the 1850s. They belonged to the early Waitaha inhabitants (1000 – 1500 AD) who had buried their dead in their ‘urupa’ (cemetery) on this site. Although the land was ‘tapu’ (sacred), the colonial surveyors were not put off…

Quakes Haunt Christchurch Since Settlement Began

The underlying geological issues hidden beneath Christchurch’s swampy plains meant that the city’s founders and their surveyors who chose this site for their planned city, knew nothing of the dangers. The tranquil flat expanses provided no clues to the benign faults which shook the province with more than just an alarming regularity. Between 1869 –…

Steam and Speed, Christchurch’s Railway Station in 1878

Tiny British-made locomotive engines first began chugging between Ferrymead’s Wharf on the estuary and the city on December 1st, 1863. This was New Zealand’s first public railway line, offering the early settlers an easier way to haul their luggage and furniture as well as providing an efficient transport system across the seven kilometres to Christchurch’s…

The Tepid Bath, Manchester Street, 1908

For nearly forty years, the Municipal Tepid Baths provided the Christchurch public with heated swimming facilities from 1908 – 1947. The site on Manchester Street was formerly occupied by James Troup’s Crown Iron Works but when the city council took over the site, the original building was demolished and the site cleared. The council commissioned Henry St. Aubyn Murray (1886-1943)…

Dead Bodies Stored in Hotel Cellars

Before Christchurch had a morgue, the gruesome task of storing a dead body was left to Christchurch’s public hotels. On practical terms, they had the space to hold a coroner’s inquest and the basement cellars to keep the bodies cool. For two years, c. 1858-60, there was a public morgue at the Lyttelton Gaol which…

Refugee and Philanthropist – Hyman Marks and the Christchurch Hospital, 1897

In Christchurch Hospital’s busy, twenty first century entrance foyer, patients, staff and visitors hurry past a distinguished man immortalised in bronze. These days, many do not have time to stop and acknowledge the Victorian gentleman’s likeness which was sculpted by William Trethewey (1892-1956) between 1920-30. However in the last decade of the nineteenth century, this man…