“One of the biggest and most destructive fires experienced in the city in recent years took place last night, when the big block of buildings known as the Canterbury Hall, comprising His Majesty’s Theatre, the Alexandra and Victoria Halls, the offices of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association, the offices of the Canterbury Industrial Association, and suites of offices used for other purposes, were practically totally destroyed by fire.” (Press, 12 Nov 1917)
A little after 8.30pm on 11 November 1917, clouds of smoke were noticed by passers-by coming from the roof of His Majesty’s Theatre in Manchester Street. Hugh Crawford, caretaker of His Majesty’s, lived on site with his wife and daughter. Crawford had been at home that evening but it was his wife, returning home after being out visiting, that alerted him to the sound of cracking. On opening a door to the theatre they saw the stage was on fire.
Within minutes, the Central Fire Brigade Station had been notified, and by 8.45pm the brigade were on the scene. The fire, thought to have started in the dress circle, was intense. After a portion of the roof collapsed, the fire moved to the auditorium, and through the windows the big pipes of the city organ could be seen burning fiercely.
By 9.40pm the fire had spread to the front of the building and the meeting rooms of the Canterbury A & P Association. Mr Pemberton, Secretary to the Association, who had been alerted early to the fire, had managed to save the books from the safe but the Association would lose its library, memorabilia and portraits of past presidents in the flames.
After this the fire steadily mounted, and by 11 pm the whole of the Canterbury Hall block was gutted.
Canterbury Hall (also known as the Agricultural and Industrial hall) was owned by the Canterbury Hall Company, a group that included the Canterbury A & P Association and the Canterbury Industrial Association and was erected in 1900. William Albert Paxton Clarkson and Robert Anderson Ballantyne, architects, had designed the building, while Rennie and Pearce were responsible for its construction.
The hall hosted a number of events and receptions during its lifetime but its main event was the Jubilee Exhibition which opened in the hall in November 1900. By 1906 it was divided into three halls – the main hall was His Majesty’s Theatre, while the hall on the ground floor became Alexandra Hall, and the top floor hall was Victoria Hall. The building also housed the City’s Organ, purchased for the International Exhibition held in Hagley Park in 1906.
Over the years, the Canterbury Hall Company tried to sell the building to the City Council, but each time the proposal to purchase was defeated in a public vote of ratepayers.
Hayward’s Pictures used the hall for several years as a theatre, but in early 1917 after the last failure to secure the Council as a purchaser, a 10 year lease was taken out by Fuller Vaudeville Proprietary to run it as a vaudeville theatre.
When the hall, valued at £21,000, was lost to fire in November 1917, only the Manchester Street façade was left standing.
In 1918, plans were made between Fullers and the Canterbury Hall Company to rebuild a new theatre on the site – but these plans must have fallen through, as the empty shell of the old building stood on the Manchester Street site for another two years before Christchurch City Council bought it for the site of their new municipal offices.
Find out more about the history of the building and the fire:
Far back on the Left Bank, there is a secret quarter.
A warren of quiet streets sandwiched between boulevards where little traffic moves. On a corner stands a building with a turquoise door – Number 37
Set over a hot summer in a shabby corner of Paris we are introduced to the residents of Number 37. Heat is central to the novel and it is what binds the stories together – from a city tense with heat and boiling tensions over nationality and immigration, to feverish dreams, and the languid and stifling air of the apartment block.
A debut novel from Fran Cooper this book is character driven, and if you don’t like or at least empathise with them then maybe this won’t be the book for you. Some I liked better than others and for some the more I knew about them the less they interested me. But others have stuck in my memory.
This novel is really a series of vignettes about the neighbours loosely coupled by the building they share and the city they live in. Sometimes their lives overlap and sometimes they are oblivious to the lives of others around them.
Through Edward we are introduced to the building. Edward has come to Paris to escape his own grief and an offer of an attic room by his friend Emilie brings him to Number 37 and the world of Frederique and her bookshop, Anaïs and Paul, Chantal and Cesar, Madame Marin and her beige husband, Isabell Duval, Monsieur Lalande, Amina and Ahmed, and the homeless man, Josef, who watches all the comings and goings at Number 37.
These Dividing Walls depicts a microcosm of society and features a cast of troubled characters – those living with grief, or looking for escape from it, night-time keyboard warriors, misguided ‘everymen’, and those lost in their own lives. “This is not the Paris you know” but maybe you may recognise these same characters living in your own community.
It is difficult not to reveal one’s age when discussing anything you may have read or watched in your childhood but I loved watching the Famous Five on TV.
I was an Enid Blyton reader during my childhood but my oeuvre during my younger years had been more along the lines of the Magic Faraway Tree and the dubiously titled “Mr Pink Whistle Interferes.” So whenever I picture the Famous Five they will always be the TV versions.
As I got older mystery and adventure books drew me in and I started reading the Five’s adventures plus I also discovered Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew…who doesn’t love a story with secret passageways, torches, penknives, trapdoors, panelling that moved to reveal hiding places, treasure maps, spooky castles and adults whose dastardly plans were foiled by children (and a dog) – clearly I was an Agatha Christie reader in development.
The Famous Five were brothers Julian and Dick, their sister Anne, cousin George (Georgina) and Timmy her dog. They seemed to never age – which was sort of true as Blyton hadn’t planned on writing so many (she planned 6 but wrote 21) – and so Five seem to go into a time vortex and remain perpetually pre-teens! Either that or they never went to school and are on never-ending school holidays!
I imagine everyone had a favourite in the group. Julian was the self-assured older brother, while Dick was the more laid-back and famished second child, and the youngest sibling was Anne (who always seemed to be turning her ankle). But it was cousin George that I think most readers probably wanted to be – mainly because Timmy was her dog!
As a grown-up you realise that all was not well in Blyton land – she had a troubled personal life – and her books can seem anachronistic and politically incorrect in 21st century terms. But her books still endure today and are still heavily read by children (and adults). She was extraordinarily prolific and wrote hundreds of books for children of all ages – including Noddy, The Secret Seven, Mallory Towers and St Clare’s school stories, and the aforementioned Magic Faraway Tree books.
But it is the Five that are perennial favourites with lots of readers.
I suspect it has a lot to do with children getting the upper hand on adults, and the endless eating – ice cream, scones, sticky buns and cakes, hard bolied eggs, apple pies, etc.
In fact I’m off to have a cup of tea and a slice of ginger cake now…
Everything old is new again. Or so it would seem with lots of things getting a 21st century revival including sustainability, reducing food-waste, hand-made, and foraging wild foods (not that any of these things had ever really gone away).
So maybe now is the time to grab your aprons and revisit some recipes from the past.
Early last century The Press published a column with the delightful title Women’s Corner – where all matters for insertion were to be sent to the Lady Editor for consideration. While other pages of the newspaper were filled with stories of the War this column provided readers with news of weddings, who’s wearing what, who is visiting whom in the district, some news and anecdotes from overseas, and sometimes a recipe of the day.
And what recipes they are, a seemingly never ending array of pies, puddings, fritters and rissoles! Light on instruction – I think everyone just knew how to make pastry – the recipes offered us such delights as Orange Roly-Poly, Banana Pie, Rice and Meat Rissoles, and Russian Pie.
On the cooking radar around this time of year in 1917 were Baked cheese and potato cake, apple fritters, cheese pudding, Rabbit and Macaroni pie, date pudding and this recipe.
I’m not sure how easy it will be to source the ‘pollard’ – a byproduct of flour milling – or what else I could use it for since the only other pollard based recipe I came across was ‘Phosphorized Pollard for Poisoning Rabbits’ from the Bay of Plenty Times.
If you don’t find any of these 1917 recipes tempting you can find other culinary delights from New Zealand in our catalogue including Ladies, a plate.
In June 1917, the new tea house at the summit of Dyer’s Pass was officially opened.
“The new house at Dyer’s Pass, now half an hour’s walk from the tram terminus, appears destined to be known just as the Rest House, although in some quarters it is called the Toll House. It is a tea house unique in New Zealand.” (Star, 9 June 1917)
The building, designed by Samuel Hurst Seager, was described in the Star as “An inviting flight of red stone steps leads to the entrance, an open porch, with big plate-glass windows at each end. Across the porch is a deep jarrah beam, bearing the quaint carved inscription:-”
Jog on, jog on, the footpath way,
And merrily hent the stile-a,
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a
The Sign of the Kiwi, as it would later be known, was the third of four rest-houses that had been envisaged by Harry Ell as part of the Summit Road Scenic Reserve scheme. Unlike the other rest-houses, the Sign of the Kiwi, was planned to include a toll-house with the collected tolls going towards the construction of the remainder of the road. The Kiwi also provided tearooms, which Harry’s wife, Ada, took over managing in 1920. The collection of tolls and the management of the tearoom attracted some controversy and Harry would often write to the local papers letting his feelings be known about this subject.
In the 1940s the building was closed by the Department of Lands and Survey with responsibility for it being handed over to the Christchurch City Council after 1948. The building was then used as a custodian’s house and modified so that the only public access was to the porch. In 1989 the council began restoration of the Sign of the Kiwi to its original state and it was opened again as a refreshment and information centre.
The building was damaged in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake but after undergoing repairs it was reopened in January 2017.
Read more about the Sign of the Kiwi, Harry Ell and the Summit Road.
The queue had started long before the official opening at 8pm and while they waited the crowd was entertained by musical selections from the Lyttelton Marine Band. The Deputy Mayor, J.T. Morton, started the official proceedings, apologising for the absence of the Mayor, Mr Radcliffe, who had been unable to be present due to illness. Mr O.T.J Alpers on behalf of the directors, spoke next, remarking on moving pictures being a great source of education, especially in war-time.
And then the films began rolling…a wild life film, followed by a humorous study entitled “When in Rome” and then the main attraction, a drama, “The Deep Purple”.
So began the life of the Harbour Lights Picture Theatre when it was officially opened on 20th March 1917.
Situated at 24 London Street it was built in 1916, reputedly designed by John and Maurice Guthrie. Arthur William Lane had purchased the land in June 1916, transferring the title to Lyttelton Pictures Ltd in September. Mr Lane would be the theatre’s first manager.
Two storeys high, with a mezzanine floor, the theatre could seat 550 people in both stalls and circle. Initially just films were screened but in 1920 the building was extended and a stage erected to accommodate theatre performances, the first one “The N.Z. Diggers” opening on the 4th December. The theatre was now able to be used for performances, concerts, public talks and other social events as well as screening films.
Over the years the Harbour Lights went through a number of changes including building damage when the clay bank at the rear of the theatre collapsed into the stage extension in 1925. The main building escaped unscathed so film screenings continued but the stage was out of action for some time. Talking pictures arrived in April 1930, and attendance at the theatre continued to be a regular social activity for the townspeople. In the 1940s the theatre was advertised for sale or lease but ownership only changed in the 1960s when Lang Masters took over running the cinema and again in 1972 when Leo Quinlivan took over the building and after a major refurbishment reopened it as a theatre. In 1980 it was once again a cinema when Frederick E. Read, a film librarian, took over ownership.
The 1980s saw a squash court added, the auditorium stripped, the building turned into a restaurant, and then a night club. By 1992 it had evolved into a licensed entertainment and function venue and it continued to operate as such until the earthquake in February 2011.
In April 2011 the Harbour Light Theatre was demolished.
A hundred years ago, on 9 February 1917, two very different Antarctic stories were being celebrated in New Zealand.
In Christchurch on 9 February 1917 a statue to honour the Antarctic explorer Robert Scott was unveiled.
The Scott Memorial Statue stood on the corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace and had been commissioned by the Council in 1913. Sculpted by Scott’s widow Kathleen, the 3-tonne, 2.6 metre high white marble statue of Scott in polar dress stood on a plinth inscribed with words from Scott’s farewell message ‘I do not regret this journey which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another and meet death with as great fortitude as ever in the past.’ A bronze plaque records his name and those of his companions who died on the expedition to be the first to reach the South Pole.
Scott’s statue remained in place until it was thrown off its plinth and damaged during the 22nd February 2011 earthquake. The broken statue was removed and in January 2016 it was put on display again at Canterbury Museum’s special exhibition, Quake City. Today, on the centenary of its unveiling, restoration plans for the repair of the statue were announced.
Meanwhile in another part of New Zealand a group from a very different Antarctic expedition were being welcomed to Wellington. On 9 February 1917 the Aurora arrived in New Zealand after returning from a rescue mission of the Ross Sea party from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
This group had been tasked with laying a series of supply depots for the final part of Shackleton’s proposed route across Antarctica, with the Aurora used for transport and carrying supplies. While anchored at Cape Evans in May 1915 the Aurora became frozen into the shore ice and after a severe gale it broke its moorings and was carried out to sea attached to an ice-floe. This left a ten-man sledding team marooned ashore where they would remain for nearly two years. The Aurora eventually broke free from the ice but then had to sail to New Zealand for repairs.
In December 1916, after repairs, and under the command of Captain J.K. Davis, the Aurora returned to rescue those left behind, leaving Port Chalmers bound for McMurdo Sound. The Aurora arrived at Cape Evans on 10th January 1917, and found seven surviving members of the Ross Sea party. You can read news reports of the ship’s arrival on Papers Past.