Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Co. Ltd was formed in August 1916, and purchased land for a flying field 3 months later. The Company was chaired by Sir Henry Wigram, who had tried to have a state-backed flying school established and when that attempt failed, decided – along with his fellow directors – to establish their own. By the end of December that year, 40 pupils had enrolled to learn to fly.
The first flight was made by instructor Cecil M. Hill (pictured at left) on 7 May 1917, and by 1919, 182 pilots had been trained.
In 1923 the government decided to take over the company and run the airbase under a military umbrella: in June the base was officially handed over and renamed Wigram Aerodrome. Sir Henry Wigram continued his support: donating £2500 to the Government for the purchase of an aeroplane – a Gloster Glebe fighter – and gifted a further 81 acres of land in 1932.
Over the years the Wigram Aerodrome has been part of not just local, but national history as well:
The Museum opened on 1 April 1987, and the Base itself closed to commercial air traffic in March 2009. The final Wigram Air Show was held the previous month.
He was a carpenter, a sportsman – a boxer – went to Christchurch Normal School (local boy), his photos show a nice face, and he wasn’t married. Just an ordinary kiwi bloke, maybe. But he did extraordinary things.
Henry Nicholas enlisted in February 1916 with the 1st Canterbury Battalion, and landed in France in September 1916. With his Regiment was involved in fighting at The Somme, Messines and Polderhoek, (Belgium).
It was from the action at Polderhoek on 3 December 1917 that he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty… exceptional valour and coolness”. He destroyed an enemy strongpoint that was inflicting heavy casualties and overpowered a sixteen-man enemy garrison, capturing four wounded prisoners and an enemy machine-gun.
While on leave in England in mid-1918 he was invested by the King, the first solder in his regiment to be awarded the V.C., and he returned to France in September 1918, promoted to sergeant.
The Regiment had the duty of holding the town of Beaudignies, near Le Quesnoy. A skirmish on 23rd October with a German patrol cost Nicholas his life, and earned him the Military Medal.
“Woo-hoo,” I said to my friend “Armageddon’s happening 11th and 12th March, yayee!”
Inexplicably she looked worried, “But I’m not ready for the end of the world yet!”
Ooh, we are obviously talking about two different events – the one I want to go to is the Armageddon Entertainment Expo which is happening in Christchurch at the Horncastle Arena, costs $15 to get in (or $6 for children aged 5-12 years), and involves lots of fun, not the one talked about in the Book of Revelations…
The Guest list shows some great people will be there:
Ivana Baquero, whose credits include The Shannara Chronicles, which is available from your library both on DVD and print: the first in the series is Sword of Shannara
If you like trees then Hagley Park probably rates as one of your favourite “Go-To” places, just as it is mine. With 164 hectares to wonder around in, and 5000 trees in Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens there is always something new to see and enjoy, regardless of the weather, and it’s never crowded despite the 1 million plus annual visitors. On a sunny afternoon it can be very restful just to sit and watch the people go past ….
One of the best sights in Canterbury is when the blossom trees on Harper Avenue burst into flower – roll on Spring! The daffodils! Then there’s the Heritage Rose Garden (which I finally found near the hospital) as well as the main rose garden which is a joy to nose and eye alike. And don’t forget the conservatories – they’ve been repaired and re-opened for a while now, so if you haven’t ventured into Cuningham House (or the other four Houses) post-quake, then it really is time to take a wonder through.
With KidsFest and the school holidays upon us, the Botanic Gardens are running a Planet Gnome promotion – the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre will give you a passport and all you need to know to join in.
Botanic D’Lights on 3-7 August for the second year running – I didn’t go last year, and kicked myself for it, because it sounded amazing, and so much fun. The event listingdescribes it as:
this five-night winter spectacle engages NZ’s leading lighting artists, designers and creative thinkers. When darkness falls, you’ll explore an illuminated pathway which turns the Gardens’ vast collection of plants and grand conservatories into a glittering winter wonderland. All to the beat of exciting soundscapes and special performances.
So looking forward to it! Note to self: bring hat, coat, gloves, torch and cash for hot drinks and food as well as the gold coin donation for the Children’s Garden renewal project. See you there!
Without your dedicated work over many years, the residents and tourists in Christchurch wouldn’t have the wonderful reserves of the Port Hills to walk, cycle and play in.
Henry George Ell was a husband, father, soldier, stationer, politician, prohibitionist, conservationist, and was the driving force behind the establishment of the reserves on the Port Hills, and the building of the Summit Road. By the time of his death in 1934, some 500 acres of reserves had been created, with the help of his “Ell’s Angels”. His Summit Road scheme was a very important employer in the time of the Depression, although he himself was a known as a tough taskmaster.
His vision was to have a series of resthouses along the Summit Road for use and enjoyment of people walking – hence the Sign of the Takahe (built last, and finished in 1949 after his death), Sign of the Bellbird, Sign of the Kiwi and Sign of the Packhorse. The resthouses were designed by Samuel Hurst Seager.
Along with his work on the Port Hills, Harry Ell served as a Christchurch City Councillor (1903, 1917-19), and a Member Parliament (1899-1919) where he worked to improve schooling, the banking system, access to Old Age Pensions, and was instrumental in the passing of the Scenery Preservation Act. He is really remembered for his work as conservationist: he wanted to preserve forests to conserve soil and water, and create reserves and afforestation programmes to ensure adequate timber supplies and to provide better training for scientific foresters.
My family and I moved to Christchurch at the beginning of 2009, and one of the first things we did – as you do – was go to the library and sign up for a membership. The staff probably cringed when they saw the five of us arrive, but they were so nice and helpful and friendly, it was amazing.
We had gone into Central Library because the concept of more than one library in a town was a bit unknown to us, and after we collected our cards we set off exploring…
Did you know there was a WHOLE ROOM just for children? An aisle of science fiction? (Our favourite) young adults had it’s own space! There were heaps of CDs and DVDs. And magazines. There was even an upstairs with a whole floor of non-fiction… It was bliss.
Well, we all know that the Central library built in 1982, is no more. And like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new library will be built on Cathedral Square. Hey, that could be a good name for it: The Christchurch Phoenix, what do you think?
So what other milestones has the library seen in it’s 157 years:
26 May 1859 opens as the Mechanics Institute library, based in the Town Hall. Membership was for paying members only, and the subscription was set at one guinea per annum or seven shillings and sixpence per quarter
In 1863, the library moved to a new wooden building on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street.
Canterbury College took over the running of then named Canterbury Public Library in February 1874.
In 1920 a travelling library service to country areas was begun: boxes of books, which were changed quarterly, were sent to places like Darfield, Mayfield, Culverden and Hinds
Uncle Jack (Librarian Ernest Bell) and Aunt Edna (Edna Pearce) created a children’s radio show on 3YA in the 1920s, broadcasting stories, plays, poems and songs
In 1948 ownership of the Library was handed over to the Christchurch City Council (after decades of wrangling, in true Christchurch fashion!)
1952 – finally – free borrowing introduced
1975 first computerised lending system introduced
2 February 1982 the Governor-General, Hon. Sir David Beattie officially opened the new Public Library building on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace. Warren and Mahoney were the architects and C. S. Luney Ltd was the principal contractor for the building
1989 Christchurch City Libraries starts Australasia’s first public library online catalogue
Grand Slam Results 11-time major champion and 4-time finalist
Bronze Medal in Men’s Indoor Singles at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games
Member of the Australasian Davis Cup Team 1905-1909, 1914
Member of the Australasian Championship Davis Cup Team 1907-1909, 1914
In 1913, while dominating Wimbledon, Wilding won world titles on clay (World Hard Court Championships), grass (World Lawn Tennis Championships) and wood (World Covered Court Championship).
The ‘dashing’ sportsman
Tennis had been a sport for ‘wealthy gentlemen’, but Anthony Wilding helped it gain greater popularity through his dedication to training and fitness. Former world heavyweight boxing champion Bob
Fitzsimmons – another New Zealander – advised him on his fitness regime so that he ran two or three times a week, skipped, and went for brisk walks, as well as playing tennis. He was much fitter than his opponents, and neither smoked nor drank alcohol (which was unusual for the time).
Described as ‘dashing’ Tony Wilding had the female spectators swooning because of his ‘manly brand of tennis’. He was reported as tall and fair, as well as ‘handsome, chivalrous and was always on the lookout for adventure’.
Wilding was born at Opawa on October 31, 1883, one of five children of Frederick and Julia Wilding. Frederick Wilding played cricket for New Zealand, was a good horseman, footballer, athlete and oarsman. Sporting interests were strongly encouraged at the family home, Fownhope, and Anthony’s sister Cora was also well-known in Christchurch circles as an artist and founder of the Sunlight League of New Zealand. Young Tony excelled at swimming, shooting, riding and cricket, but once he started at Cambridge University in 1902 he became a dedicated tennis player.
Wilding in Europe
Wilding qualified for the New Zealand bar, but didn’t work as a lawyer, preferring to motorcycle around Europe, playing in the great tennis tournaments of the Riviera, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, Sweden and Norway. Shortly before the first world war he became a pilot.
When war broke out the British-based Wilding joined the Royal Marines, rising to the rank of captain in the Armoured Car Division, where his pre-war experience of driving in Europe was valued. He was killed aged 31 during the Battle of Aubers Ridge at Neuve Chapelle in northern France, and is buried in Rue-des-Berceaux military cemetery at Pas-de-Calais, France.
It’s been a bit of a wait, but – fingers crossed ! – soon we will be able to stand on the Bridge of Remembrance again. Of course, the surrounds don’t quite look like the photo above anymore. The repairs, painstakingly carried out by SCIRT, to the Bridge and Arch were completed in September 2015, but access wasn’t restored as landscaping work as part of the Te Papa Ōtākāro/ Avon River Precinct project has been carried out on the Bridge and the Park of Remembrance.
“Changes include removing the walls at the western end of the Bridge and the construction of a grand staircase, a new ramp creating a processional connection to the Nicholas Statue, and paving which links with the river promenade and in-ground lighting to highlight the Triumphal Arch,” Ms Wagner, the Associate Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, the Associate Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister said late last year.
The repair work to the Bridge included replacing the original 4 metre piles with 27 metre ones, and reinforcing the historic arch with an 8.2 tonne beam. The work means that the arch, built from rock quarried in Tasmania, will rock rather than twist in any future earthquakes.
Looking at this photo makes me very grateful that I wasn’t born any earlier – these Victorian clothes look so hot, so uncomfortable, and as for those fussy caps! Ugh!
But what these women are wearing is about the least important part of the photograph – this is the first National Council of Women, meeting in Christchurch 13-18 April 1896. It was a world first – a national meeting of women who could vote in parliamentary elections.
Their aim was to ‘unite all organised Societies of Women for mutual counsel and co-operation, and in the attainment of justice and freedom for women, and for all that makes for the good of humanity’.
Many were veterans of the battle to gain women’s right to vote – Kate Sheppard (seated 5th from the left) – which was passed into law three years earlier, while others – such as Annie Schnackenberg (seated on Kate’s left) – were also involved in the temperance movement. Kate Sheppard was voted in as the first President of the Council.
Over the course of six days they passed a number of resolutions including:
the need for minimum wages
the conditions of divorce for man and women be made equal
the private ownership of large tracts of land, and these kept locked up by absentees, is a wrong inflicted on the people, and is detrimental to progress
the abolition of capital punishment
the continuation of the present system of free, compulsory, and secular education, and the expansion of technical education
that women be eligible to serve on all juries
a system of Old Age Pensions, or Annuities, should be established