View 1958: This is taken from a clay bank, looking down over the Sumner Gasworks on the corner of Wakefield Ave and Truro Street, Sumner. We lived in the stoker’s old home showing at the top left of the GasHolder ( which is still there today). Probably a rare view of the Gasworks which really doesnt seem to have had many photos taken of, apart from by our family who lived there about 45 years. The accompanying photo of my painting ( with the much smaller Gasholder ) is of the opposite view from our front door area.
View 2010: Triggered by the Sept 4 2010 Quake, I painted this watercolour of the Sumner Gasworks, which was situated on the corner of Wakefield Ave and Truro Street. My Dad, Roy Bradley, was a stoker there for 23 years from 1937 and stoked the last retort on Mon 20th Feb 1961. The Stokehouse was Demolished in 1970.
This is the View I lived with for 20 years. Is from our old home, the Stoker’s house next door. Painted mainly from memory with the help of a pencil sketch of my dad’s, and the background of a photo of family member. I’ve painted the Gas Holder much smaller than it was (artistic licence) as you will see in the other photo.
The painting view was just painted in 2010 but from sketches, old photo and memory. It is not how the Gasworks looked in 2010 as it was closed in 1960 and gone with-in a year or 2. I’d say the view I painted could be also dated as 1958 ( but painted 50 years later).
Date: 1958, 2010
Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Margaret Norwood.
Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.
“My great grandfather and his wife arrived in New Zealand November 1859 on the Zealandia. Parents told me John Hepworth did a good deed for a Māori chief and was presented with a Huia feather. The feather was in the possession of my father’s older brother .. in about 1940 … [but] the … family can no longer find the feather. I believe but am unable to confirm that the European man with the hat on in the photo is my G[reat] Grandfather.” – John Hepworth, Christchurch, 2010.
Date unknown but probably late nineteenth century.
Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.
The train was already late when it arrived at Arthur’s Pass on the morning of 30 July 1933.
On board were members of three different tramping clubs, including those of the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and the Canterbury College University Tramping Club. Undeterred by the bad weather which had already set in, a disorganised mass of nearly forty individuals with no real leadership set out to climb Avalanche Peak. By the time they reached the snowline only twenty members remained, the others having already turned back. Although visibility was by now greatly reduced, they pushed on into the falling snow and driving wind. At the forefront were two experienced climbers, Andrew Anderson and William Brough. When they were nearly two hundred feet from the summit the mountain finally lived up to its name.
An avalanche crashed down the slope, knocking them over and scattering equipment. After checking to see if anyone was missing, the rest of the party decided to turn back, leaving Anderson and Brough to summit on their own. They were successful and managed to safely descend to the village at Arthur’s Pass. There they joined the rest of the club members in boarding the return train to Christchurch.
It wasn’t until the train had left the station that people finally realised that Samuel Edgar Russell, a university student, was missing. Some club members disembarked at Springfield station and caught a ride on a truck back to Arthur’s Pass where they began to organise a search. Teams of climbers scoured the mountain over the next few days, but it wasn’t until August 6 that Russell’s body was found buried by the avalanche. His tragic death served to highlight the dangers that awaited those who ventured into Canterbury’s mountains, regardless of how well equipped and experienced one might be.
Kā Tiritiri-o-te-Moana, the Southern Alps.
The earliest account of mountaineering in Canterbury is attributed to a Ngāti Wairangi woman, Raureka, and her slave companion, Kapakeha. In 1700, after a disagreement with her community, they crossed the Southern Alps at a point which today is known as Noti Raureka-Browning Pass. Their chance encounter with a party of Ngāi Tahu led to the establishment of the pounamu trade between the east and west coast tribes. The increase in this trade prompted the discovery of further mountain passes. Sustained by a sparse diet of dried berries, eels and weka, the explorers journeyed into these remote heights did so with only flax ropes and sandals as a means of overcoming the inhospitable terrain.
Following the European settlement of Canterbury, surveyors such as Arthur Dobson, often accompanied by Māori guides, followed these pre-established routes into the Southern Alps to map the terrain for the local government. Despite these initial forays, it wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that mountaineering came to be considered a recreational activity. This was largely due to the efforts of Cantabrians such as George Edward Mannering and Arthur Paul Harper. Not wishing to see the peaks of the Southern Alps conquered by foreigners, they set about developing a New Zealand tradition of mountaineering which they disseminated through works such as Mannering’s With Axe and Rope in the New Zealand Alps(1891).
Their efforts led to the formation of the New Zealand Alpine Club in 1891, the first meeting of which was held in Warner’s Hotel in Cathedral Square. The aim of the club was to teach the mountaineering methods that were practiced in the European Alps, gather geographical knowledge of New Zealand’s mountains, and establish routes. In December that year, Mannering led the first expedition to summit low peak on Mount Rolleston near Arthur’s Pass (however the mountain wasn’t successfully climbed until 1912).
The Headquarters of Mountaineering in Canterbury
In 1923 the Midland Railway line, which followed the old coach road from Christchurch to Greymouth, was officially opened. The mountains surrounding the village of Arthur’s Pass were now easily accessible to those trampers who, having tested themselves on the Port Hills, now wished to advance to more strenuous challenges. As such, the region soon became known as the “headquarters of mountaineering in Canterbury” and in 1925 the Canterbury Mountaineering Club was formed. However, the glory of climbing the highest peak in the region, Mount Murchison, had already been attained in 1913 by Charles Ward and Arthur Talbot.
Affordable train fares to Arthur’s Pass only served to attract further visitors to the settlement, with 20,000 people visiting in 1927. However, the sudden influx of visitors began to take its toll on the local environment. A common complaint was the habit of visitors to pick mountain flowers, often taking more than was necessary. In 1928, Guy Butler, who had opened the Arthur’s Pass Hostel in 1926, petitioned for the region to receive official protection. In 1929 the area was designated as a national park, the first in the South Island.
Since then the village has continued to draw visitors, both local and foreign, who use it as a base from which to venture forth into the surrounding mountains. While many are fortunate enough to make frequent return journeys, for others, such as Samuel Edgar Russell, the mountains can prove fatal.
The month of June 1918 started pleasantly enough for Canterbury. However, as the weeks progressed, the good weather soon gave way to frequent rain. By 27 June, snow had started to fall in the back country. Then, on the afternoon of Sunday 30 June, the temperature in Christchurch plummeted and the sky darkened. Snow fell on the city, but did not settle. Soon it was replaced by rain which continued to fall throughout the evening.
Further inland, the snow kept falling. As it steadily built up, the weight of it caused the chimneys and roofs of rural houses to collapse. Livestock which couldn’t find shelter were buried. Telegraph lines were bent. The railway lines became completely snowed under, with the West Coast train stuck at Waddington.
Canterbury was completely cut off from the rest of the country.
Throughout the day the power in Christchurch began to falter. Then, at 3.50pm, the south transmission line from the hydroelectric scheme at Lake Coleridge failed.
Monday 1 July
When the people of Christchurch awoke on Monday morning they found that the city was cut off from its main power supply. Throughout the night, attempts had been made to repair the south transmission line, but by 2.40am it had failed. This was followed at 6am, with power failures on the north transmission line.
The Tramway Board and the City Council municipal plants were able to supply a limited amount of power to the city, using coal provided by local coal merchants and the Railway Department. Yet the restricted amount caused the power to remain intermittent.
Lawrence Birks, the Public Works Department (PWD) Chief Electrical Engineer for Canterbury aimed to establish where the breaks had occurred on the north and south transmission lines, and began to organise for men to get through to the power house at Lake Coleridge.
Tuesday 2 July
The superintendent at the Lake Coleridge power house was Archibald George Rennie Blackwood. Realising that Christchurch was without power, he set out, with a couple of workers, using a dray drawn by two horses, hoping to find the location of the fault in the transmission lines. After an accident forced them to leave the dray behind, they continued on through the snow with the horses. Eventually they reached Snowden Hut, where they camped for the night.
Meanwhile, an attempt to establish communication with the rural township of Coalgate was made by PWD employee, Robert Allen. Setting out on foot from Darfield, he staggered through the snow and managed to reach his destination, exhausted.
Another attempt was also made by Harold and William Jones. Travelling in a motorcycle with a side car, they departed the Addington substation at midday and reached Hororata by 2pm. Despite being warned to turn back, they pushed on. As the evening approached, with the intention of reaching Snowdon, the brothers were overtaken by two PWD cars. One of the cars had been fitted with a snow plough, but was soon forced to turn back. The other contained another PWD employee, Boris Daniels.
The brothers soon found that the wheels of their motorcycle were hindered by the ruts left behind by the PWD car’s snow plough. After attempting to push the motorcycle, they were forced to discard it and continue on foot. Wading through three miles of deep snow, they finally reached Hororata at 10pm, where they were put up for the night.
Meanwhile Boris Daniels, after overtaking the two brothers in the PWD car, had reached Hororata at 6pm. A Russian, he had been loaned a pair of skis which had formerly belonged to Robert Falcon Scott. Setting out immediately, he reached Mount Hutt, where he rested, having been forbidden by Birks from continuing on through the night.
Wednesday 3 July
The next morning, with their clothes still damp, Harold and William Jones made the return journey back to their motorcycle. Since the ruts which had previously impeded them were now filled with frozen water, they were able to return to Hororata. However, upon arriving, they learned that Boris Daniels had already set off, with the likelihood of reaching Lake Coleridge.
Earlier that morning, Blackwood, the power house superintendent, and his men had also left Snowden Hut, reaching Point Hut by midday.
Having set out on his skis, Boris Daniels found himself confronted by a vast, white landscape. In many places the snow was three feet deep, allowing him to simply jump over any fences which normally would have been a barrier. Throughout his journey, he encountered sheep which, without any shelter, had become buried, the only sign that they were still alive being their noses poking through the snow. When he reached Brackendale Hut, he was met by two men on horses who had been trying to reach Lake Coleridge but to no avail. Continuing onwards, he finally encountered Blackwood and the team from the power house at the line’s highest point. Together, they returned to Brackendale Hut and spent the night in a nearby farm house.
From Christchurch, another attempt was made, with three PWD cars setting out in the morning and one in the afternoon. The last car contained G.F. Ferguson, the assistant engineer of the Lake Coleridge scheme, C.P. Agar, and two journalists. Upon reaching Hororata, they found that the other cars which had preceded them had been abandoned. Continuing on to Coalgate, the depth of the snow meant that they often had to get out and push the vehicle. Eventually they reached their destination where, after a meal, they ventured out into the frozen night on foot to examine the damaged lines.
Thursday 4 July
With only a sporadic amount of electricity to rely on, Christchurch had been brought to a near standstill. Factories were unable to operate effectively to meet production deadlines. Workers were sent home. The trams which were able to run did so with no lighting. Businesses whose trading hours normally extended into the evening were forced to close. When the automatic stoker of the Tramway plant failed, the workers resorted to manual hand stoking and using inferior coal, which caused a reduction in the pressure.
On Thursday morning, G.F. Ferguson, C.P. Agar. J. Reeves and R. Young set out from Coalgate for Lake Coleridge on horses. By midday they had reached the house of Mr and Mrs Gilmour, who insisted that the party stay for lunch. Afterwards, the group pushed on to Round Stables Hut. The plan was that, if the lake power house was still out of contact, they would then proceed with a nocturnal march across the frozen snow.
However, upon reaching Round Stables Hut, they managed to make contact with the power house, only to learn that another group, which had reached Hawkins Hut, had beaten them by mere minutes.
As the repair teams started to fix the transmission lines, they found that the weight of the snow had caused the poles to bend and break. Because the current couldn’t be turned on until it was certain that the damaged isolators had been replaced and that the repair gangs were clear of the lines, it wasn’t until 8pm that they could start testing the lines.
Friday 5 July
By 10pm Friday, power had finally been restored to Christchurch, allowing for communication with Wellington to be established via the West Coast. However, eighteen miles of telegraph line between Christchurch and Kaikoura still remained damaged. Smaller townships such as Waikari, Hawarden, Culverden and Waiau would remain isolated until 12 July.
Over the following days, life returned to normal for the people of Christchurch. Many may have rushed to purchase the Delco-Light electric generators from the Farmers store, which took advantage of the situation to advertise their stock. Yet for many, although they had experienced late trams, closed shops, and a lack of lighting, the loss of these conveniences was not as nearly as distressing as the absence of the news regarding the war in Europe.
At first glance there seems nothing remarkable about the swampy scrubland which lies in the shadow of Mount Harper on the northern banks of the Rangitata River. Separated from the valley road by the braided course of the river, it is easily bypassed by tourists, as they journey further inland to visit Mount Sunday, the filming location for Edoras in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is only when you closely examine the area using Google Maps satellite imaging that you notice an unusual circular patch of land. Long since overgrown, it shows signs of having been altered by human activity at some stage in its past.
A physical journey to the site, itself a difficult undertaking unless you are in possession of a boat or a 4WD, would offer more clues. There you would find the ruined remains of concrete culverts, causeways, bund walls, machinery, and buildings. These are the only reminders of a facility which, at one point, attracted up to 3,000 people in a single day; the Mount Harper ice rink.
Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, ice skating was already a well established pursuit for those who lived on the remote back country stations in the foothills of the Canterbury mountains. For early settlers in the nineteenth century, the winter months could be bleak and gloomy. One of the means of passing the time for those residing in the high country was ice skating. Newcomers to the region were told of lakes set further inland, which froze so hard during winter that a team of bullocks could be lead across the surface. Lake Ida, near Lake Coleridge, was one such popular destination for the sport.
In the 1860s, the owner of the Lake Coleridge run, Charles Harper, used to organise week long skating parties in which people from surrounding stations would be invited to participate. Each day the group would meet at his station and ride out to the Lake Ida, where they would enjoy a day of skating. In her account, Station Life in New Zealand, Mary Anne Barker, describes the setting of one such outing:
“On either hand rose up, shear from the water’s edge, a great, barren, shingly mountain; before us loomed a dark pine forest, whose black shadows crept up until they merged in the deep crevasses and fissures of the Snowy Range.”
Weekends in the mountains
Prior to the construction of the Mount Harper rink in 1931 and 1932, ice skating in Canterbury had largely been confined either to these high country residents (some of whom made their own private rinks), or members of winter sports clubs (in 1930 the Canterbury Winter Sports Club began construction of an ice skating rink and toboggan run on Mount Cheeseman at the foot of the Craigieburn Range).
Although it was a pastime which couldn’t be so easily undertaken by the average citizen of Christchurch, it was still popular enough for a local industry to arise. By 1934 Ice skates were being manufactured locally at the firm of P. and D. Duncan who used boots made in Christchurch by Duckworth, Turner and Company Limited. It was in this same year that a synthetic ice skating rink opened in Christchurch on Kilmore Street opposite the Caledonian Hall (it is possible that it was not feasible to operate, as by 1936 it appears to have become a roller skating rink).
That outdoor skating was a popular activity for the people of Christchurch can be seen by a 1937 article in The Press which estimated that up to 600 people left the city every winter weekend to find suitable locations for skating.
The Mount Harper ice rink
The Mount Harper rink was constructed by Wyndham Barker (1886-1958). The son of a Rangitata farmer, he developed a passion for ice skating while living abroad in Europe. Upon returning to Canterbury, it seems he had a desire to raise the profile of the sport in New Zealand. His rink would differ from other rinks in that it was the first purpose built public ice skating rink in Canterbury, and possibly the southern hemisphere.
The rink was set on land leased from Mount Possession Station, in a cold location which remained without sun between the months of May to August. After the first rink failed to prove satisfactory, another was constructed. The number of rinks expanded until there were at least eight (though not all were successful at forming ice). Buses would bring visitors all the way from Christchurch, and after crossing the Rangitata River on a punt, they would initially take in their surroundings from the warmth of the ‘skate shed’ (in reality more of a clubhouse and cafeteria) before venturing out onto the ice. There they could enjoy not only skating but tobogganing, curling, and ice yachting. Floodlights were also installed for those who were willing to brave the chill and skate at night.
Perhaps the most significant sport performed at the rink was ice hockey. In 1937 Barker established the Erewhon Cup, an ice hockey tournament which continues to this day.
The Mount Harper rink continued to provide the people of Canterbury with an array of winter sport activities until it was finally closed to the public in the 1950s. Left to fall into ruin, it is now located within the Hakatere Conservation Park and administered by the Department of Conservation.
Skating in the city
Despite the closure of the Mount Harper rink, the ice would soon come to Christchurch. When Victoria Lake in Hagley Park froze in 1945, it was followed by calls for a permanent artificial ice skating rink to be established in the city. In 1952 Centaurus ice rink opened at what is now 12 Centaurus Road, Cashmere. The rink operated until 1982 when it closed and was demolished. The location of the former rink became the site of Torvill and Dean Lane, which was named after British skaters, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who won a gold medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics for ice dancing.
In 1985 the Alpine Ice rink opened on Brougham Street. Today, the venue is the home of the ice hockey team, the Canterbury Red Devils (formed in 2005).
Do you have any images of ice skating in Canterbury or of the former ice skating rinks which you would like to contribute to Kete Christchurch?