The Reserves of New Brighton

Camera flashes at the annual gala at Wainoni Park on January 24. [24 Jan. 1914] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0019
Camera flashes at the annual gala at Wainoni Park on January 24. [24 Jan. 1914] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0019
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 reserves early residents of New Brighton could enjoy. These reserves were gazetted in the time of the Canterbury Provincial Council, 1853-76.

No. 224 – Spit Reserve

This is the reserve on the New Brighton side at the mouth of the Estuary. It was set aside for the purposes of a lighthouse which was never built.

Many ships were wrecked on the Sumner Bar. For, example, the Irish lawyer and later judge, Henry Barnes Gresson (1815-1901), lost his substantial legal library which he had brought from the Old Country.

No. 1616 – Thomson Park

This is the land on the eastern side of Rawhiti Domain. In 1896 the New Brighton people petitioned for the establishment of a borough council so that they could take over this wilderness. The borough council was established in 1897.

People wanted to sell it off for housing. An act went through Parliament during World War I to try to bring this about. In his 29 April 1922 Star reminiscences, ‘Old New Brighton’, George Thomas Hawker described it as ‘New Brighton’s menace’.

Part of the land was made into a children’s playground during the Depression. This work was carried out under the leadership of Thomas Edward Thomson (1877-1942) and the place was named ‘Thomson’s Park’. In the Christchurch City Council’s Reserves Department reports, there is a scathing indictment of the work of these amateurs.

The first golf match held at Rawhiti Domain [1952] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02332
The first golf match held at Rawhiti Domain [1952] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02332

No. 1579 – South Brighton Domain, Pleasant Point and Rawhiti Domain

This includes the South Brighton Domain, Pleasant Point and the western side of Rawhiti Domain. It also included land in North New Brighton where night soil and food waste was dumped. This last piece of land was eventually sold for housing and the money used so that the city council might be able to purchase the New Brighton Trotting Club land which became Queen Elizabeth II Park.

‘Harold Logan’ was a famous pacer. He won the New Zealand Trotting Cup in the 1930s. He was owned by Ernest Hinds but raced in the colours of Hinds’ step-daughter, Effie Hinds. The horse was kept in the South Brighton Domain and one small boy shouted excitedly to his parents: “Look, Harold Logan’s eating our grass”. Christchurch City Libraries holds, in its archives, the Harold Logan papers, newspaper articles and photographs relating to the famed horse and its career.

The Nautilus on the Avon-Heathcote Estuary in the 1920s [ca. 1920] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img00080
The Nautilus on the Avon-Heathcote Estuary in the 1920s [ca. 1920] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img00080
Pleasant Point developed as a picnic spot in the 1920s when New Brighton baker, Harry Nelson Hawker (1868-1947),  plied his big launch, Nautilus, for hire on the Avon river from the Seaview Road bridge to Pleasant Point. The launch was built in Auckland and has been retired there.

In the Depression, men were employed by the Christchurch City Council and New Brighton Borough Council (and paid by the Government) so that much of the domain could become a golf course. In October 1934, the local authorities went as a deputation to the Ministry of Unemployment in Wellington. The local bodies wanted the unemployed to be excused from going to a ‘slave camp’ on the Ashley River.

On 15 October, the Mayor reported on the insensitive attitude of Bromley, deputy chairman of the board, and the free hand allowed him by his political master, the Right Hon. J. G. Coates …. The civil servant spoke of the ‘golden golf course’, because of the huge amount of public money which had been spent creating the course.

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.


House and garden: Picturing Canterbury

House and garden, 1950s. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ. Kete Christchurch.

“I have read all your books” – A farewell to PTerry

I met Sir PTerry the same year I met my future husband. It was 1985 and I was 18 years old. I have, it seems, spent my entire adult life with him. Which may explain why I am very thankful that I have today off, and am sitting in a darkened room and erratically weeping-while-laughing.

I’m not sure I can do justice to the man – there are people all over the world who write much more betterer than me, and who cared just as passionately about him. You can (and should) read all of these things on the interwebs. You also can (and should) read all of his books. All I can do is say, thank you – you made me laugh, and cry, and fall in love, and feel brave, and learn things, and re-evaluate the way I thought about things, and champion books that (at least in those early days) no-one else thought were worth a damn. I almost preferred it that way – I think I didn’t want to have to share, and it felt so very special when I met those few others who felt the same.

When you came to Christchurch and I got to ACTUALLY meet you, you were every bit as scary and amazing and inspiring as I’d hoped you would be.

I fell in love with Vimes. I wanted to be like Granny Weatherwax (but always knew I was probably a lot more like Agnes Nitt). I adore the Patrician (One Man One Vote). We temporarily borrowed a cat called Greebo. I will ALWAYS want to own a dragon called Errol.

I have read all of your books; even the slightly less-outstanding very early ones (and those ones by you and Mr Baxter that I didn’t like so much but read anyway, because YOU’d written them). I’ve read them on planes and trains and boats, and in the garden and the lounge and in bed and at work. I’ve read them out loud to my family, and to my friends, and occasionally to random strangers.

I think my life would have been an emptier, colder place without you, Terry Pratchett. I probably wouldn’t have been a librarian, and I certainly wouldn’t have been a writer of small silly things.
You have made me a better person, and I can’t believe I have to carry on in a universe where you no longer are.
Cover of Going Postal Cover of The colour of magic Cover of Wintersmith Cover of The last hero

Haere ra Terry Pratchett

“I intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod, the latter because Thomas’s music could lift even an atheist a little bit closer to Heaven.
Oh, and since this is England, I had better add, ‘If wet, in the library.’

I woke up this morning and read Terry Pratchett had died.
Cover of Going Postal Cover of The colour of magic Cover of Wintersmith Cover of The last hero

I searched the catalogue, and found 189 things with him listed as author (he wrote more than 70 novels). And had a laugh at one of his famed creations – The Librarian, a wizard turned orang-utang “the only librarian who can rip off your arm with his leg.”

Haere ra Terry Pratchett, a great and magical writer, a great and magical human being.

It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.

The Road to Wigan Pier: George Orwell’s early 20th century musings

The Road to Wigan Pier is another one of those books which has helped me realize the privilege of living in this part of the world, at this point in history, replete with all the technological processes and improvements which make life (somewhat) faster, easier and less painful (think dentists in the early 20th century).

Before I read this book I was discontent due to my plethora of first world problems – the cell phone battery doesn’t last long enough. The ending of the TV series The Killing didn’t provide enough closure. Forgetting my multiple passwords during technological pursuits. Jesus or Mary didn’t appear in the foam of my soy, trim, decaf, extra foam latte …

But reading this non-fiction work by liberal visionary George Orwell got me sorted, and makes me think twice before I have a first world whinge.

Cover of George Orwell Cover of George Orwell Cover of The lost Orwell Cover of George Orwell

The Road to Wigan Pier is basically a very well-written investigative, political, ideological and sociological commentary into life in industrial Northern England during the 1930s.

It’s split into two parts.

First, Orwell manages to detail and depict the rugged (in)human experiences of the working classes who occupy the horrible jobs and houses of Lancashire and Yorkshire in the 1930s. He does this through injecting himself into their environment in an act of heroic, subjective journalism – he takes up lodgings in a cloistered, rank and damp boarding house overfilled with sickly, pallid humans of all ages. It is here he lodges with the unwashed Brooker family, who are basically landlords to a bundle of borderline broke people living in the unsanitary conditions provided by the Brookers. Orwell’s Dickensian caricature of the Brookers and their house is quite a laugh – “I have noticed that people who let lodgings almost always hate their lodgers”.

However, it becomes not that funny after he enters hellish, chugging coal mines where one works but can barely stand in the cramped cavities, and therefore, spends hours scuttering about in a back-breaking, pooh-stanced, squatting position. The hard work is mesmerizing and leads him to state “If there is one man to whom I myself feel inferior, its is a coal-miner”. For what reward? A life fraught with health issues subsequent to the soot…

It is an exercise in raw reportage as he notes his impressions of life, and the horror and squalour of it all through exposing himself directly (as an upper-middle class gent), getting intimate with the toils of everyday life in the working class slums in what was supposed to be enlightened, democratic and civilized England. And that’s the point, all this is contrasted against that which is never really detailed in the book, but that which the English and Orwell were familiar with – the lush lifestyles of the upper classes in England, and the fullfilling life which being upper class afforded them.

Cover of George Orwell Cover of Anima Farm  Cover of George Orwell Cover of George Orwell

The second part of the book is a little surprising (to me anyway), because Orwell enters into quite a zealous Socialist spiel. This ideological discussion challenges classist modern England – why should there be classes at all in a democratic environment? However, while being a blatantly biased and ardent presentation on the values of socialism, its important to keep in mind the context in which the piece was written, that is, a time when socialism and liberalism was under threat from the burgeoning support for fascism and totalitarianism in 1930s Europe (and of course Mother England).

But it is apologetic too, as Orwell also criticizes the English Socialist movement for being full of nut-case individuals:

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.”

Still a very intriguing journey into early 20th century socialist thought from one of England’s most celebrated and rational writers and reporters.

Lastly, what I found really interesting about this book is that Orwell discusses the nature of early 20th century progress and the “machine-civilization” which had emerged and preoccupied many thinkers of the time as mechanization and modernization was taking hold of society and changing jobs, gender roles, warfare and human economic and social interaction in general – will machines take all jobs? A 21st century echo anyone?

The machine has got to be accepted, but it is probably better to accept it rather as one accepts a drug – that is, grudgingly and suspiciously. Like a drug, the machine is useful, dangerous and habit-forming. The oftener one surrenders to it the tighter its grip becomes.

More on The Road to Wigan Pier

You can read The Road to Wigan Pier on Project Gutenberg Australia.

The road to Wigan Pier, 75 years on David Sharrock, The Observer, 20 February 2011

Russel Boyce’s The Road to Wigan Pier exhibition

In 1984, I was commissioned by the Impressions Gallery, Bradford; to undertake a project that reflected on the themes described by George Orwell in his book, ‘Road to Wigan Pier’.

Search the catalogue for George Orwell