Richard Greenaway is an Information Librarian with an interest in the history of East Christchurch. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. Here he explores the way early residents of Christchurch travelled to New Brighton.
New Brighton Road
The first route from Christchurch to New Brighton in European times was via FitzGerald Avenue (then the East Belt), and Shirley and New Brighton Road. Because it was the first route, it was sometimes called the ‘Old Brighton Road’. New Brighton Road dates from 1860s. This route avoided bridges.
City and Suburban Tramway Company route
The City and Suburban tramway Company put through a tramline which started in town, went down Travis Road and towards the sea along what is now Bowhill Road. The line then went along the Esplanade (Marine Parade) to Central Brighton. The line was opened for traffic in 1894. The company went out of business and was taken over by the man who had built the line, John Brightling (1843-1928). Bowhill Road is named after Thomas Bowhill Thompkins (1837-82), a publican, who had land in the area. Stronger Christchurch uncovered some tram tracks from this line in 2012.
Richard Bedward Owen thought of the Avon as a route to Christchurch. Some small vessels trying to negotiate Sumner bar sank there and at the entrance to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.
These came down the Avon to New Brighton, mainly bringing picnickers. Notable among these was the Maid of the Avon. In 1866 the captain, John Mills, chopped down the Stanmore Road bridge because it was impeding a true-born Englishman’s right to pass along a navigable waterway. Another notable paddle steamer was the Brighton which was part of Joseph Harrop Hopkins’ attempt to boost New Brighton in 1872-75. He also had built the original New Brighton hotel, in Seaview Road (later Patterson’s and McCormack’s).
It was customary for the Christchurch fire brigade to hold an annual picnic. On 3 April 1874, members of the brigade celebrated the occasion by chartering the Brighton for an excursion to the beach. With their friends, and with Mr. Bunz’ popular band, they set off. They enjoyed the races and games of cricket on the beach, as well as the luncheon provided at Mr. Hopkins’ hotel.
One of the brigadesmen, Richard Edward Green (1853-1938) wrote about this outing in the Star of 1928. Green recalled the chorus of one of the songs that firebrigadesman Samuels had sung at a party that day:
Ah – she has fairly broken my heart.
I wish I had never seen
that dark young girl with her hair in curl
that works at the sewing machine
The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies. Read more blog posts about New Brighton history, including more from Richard.
- Advertisements Column 6, Star, 11 January 1913, Page 10 retrieved via Papers Past
- Heathcote County Meeting of Council, Press, 10 July 1926 Page 16 retrieved via Papers Past
- Avon Road Board minutes, Christchurch City Council archives
- ‘Rambler’ in Lyttelton times, 1868. The letter is reprinted in Richard Greenaway’s 1977 book, Burwood, All Saints’ church, 1877-1977. This was reprinted in 1999 as Burwood and All Saints’ church, 1877-1977.
- The Brighton Standard, 1936-39