Winter Sports in Canterbury: Ice Skating

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.

Colonial pastime

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.

http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/heritage/photos/collection22/02358.asp
Ice at Lake Ida [ca. 1953]. File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02358.
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.

http://ketechristchurch.peoplesnetworknz.info/site/images/show/23068-at-lake-ida-for-an-ice-skating-get-together#.WTCyHOuGPcs
At Lake Ida for an ice-skating get together by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

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

Skating In North Hagley Park by Kete Site Admin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

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?

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Harold Parsons, Horse and Cart: Picturing Canterbury

Harold Parsons, Horse and Cart, 1915. Kete Christchurch. PH14-AlTu-harold_parsons_-_horse_and_cart. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Alan Turner. CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

Harold Parsons in suit with three children. Child on Harold’s knee is Basil Turner (later general manager of Turners Office Products, Colombo & Tuam St), others unknown.

Location: St Martins, Christchurch.

Date: circa 1915

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any further information about this photo? If so, please share it with us by leaving a comment.

Old Accommodation House: Picturing Canterbury

Old accommodation house. Kete Christchurch. Pearce_family_photos_21. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0 NZ.

Old accommodation house, location unknown, date unknown but probably in the 1930s to 1950s.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any further information about this photo? If so, please share it with us by leaving a comment.

Boot Repair Shop: Picturing Canterbury

Boot repair shop. Kete Christchurch. Boot-Repair-Shop-. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0 NZ.

Boot repair shop. Location unknown, but could be near the railway as there is a tank in the background. Somewhere around Waltham / Opawa, 1920s.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any further information about this photo? If so, please share it with us by leaving a comment.

Train crash: Picturing Canterbury

Train crash. Kete Christchurch. PH14-197. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Jan Orr. CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0 NZ.

Train crash. Date unknown.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any further information about this photo? If so, please share it with us by leaving a comment.

Cafe Continental, Sumner, N.Z.: Picturing Canterbury

Cafe Continental, Sumner, N.Z. Kete Christchurch. CCL-Beaumont-014A. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0 NZ.

Postcard. Gold Medal Series, No.211.

Date: 1900s.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Maude Chisnall, aged 16: Picturing Canterbury

Maude Chisnall, aged 16. Kete Christchurch. PH16-019. Entry in the 2016 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Jill Hodgkinson. CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

Maude Chisnall. Photo taken by Standish & Preece. High Street, Christchurch.

Date: c.1902

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Worcester Street Bridge: Picturing Canterbury

Worcester Street Bridge. Kete Christchurch. PH14-313b. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Dulcie Innes, CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Gas Mask: Picturing Canterbury

Gas mask. Kete Christchurch. Pearce_family_photos_06.jpg. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt, CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

One of the Pearce family wearing a WWI gas mask at the Pearce family home on Aikmans Road, Merivale, about 1919.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Christchurch Photo Hunt 2016 – The winners

Hidden histories – Our stories unearthed. This was the theme of this year’s heritage photo competition.

We received some outstanding entries – images of street scenes, family occasions, old buildings and homes, and Cantabrians living everyday life. Submitted photographs covered a range of eras from the 19th century all the way up to post-quake Christchurch. These are now available for all to enjoy as part of Kete Christchurch.

The Judges, local photographer Doc Ross and Tim Veling Senior Lecturer in Photography at the School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, have chosen the winners in three categories ‘Your People – How we lived’, ‘Places – Your landmarks in time’ and an overall winner. They also selected several entries as Highly commended. The prize for overall winner is a Samsung tablet. The People and Places winners each receive a Kobo eReader.

Library staff from the Digital Content team also selected two Staff Pick winners.

Both judges, in selecting the winners, reflected on the poignancy that older photos of Christchurch now carry, as Doc Ross explains, “Looking through the photographs and knowing from first-hand experience that the city has to a great degree disappeared the photographs were a pleasing reminder that whilst a physical city may change the social city always remains. Looking at a series of photographs like those entered into the competition reminds us how important documenting society and our personal history is. As is the case now in Christchurch with much of the city gone it is only retrospectively that we realise this.”

Tim Veling also found much that was recognisable in the submitted photos – “…looking through the entries of the Photo Hunt competition I saw aspects of myself reflected back at me. The photographs submitted depicted people I didn’t know personally and places I might not have had the privilege of seeing with my own eyes, but they all looked familiar. I guess it was a moment of recognition that we are all shaped by the culture and community that surrounds us. In a broad sense, we are all family.”

Winners

Overall winner

Entry by Isabel Tweedy – Victoria Square by Night, 1959.

Victoria Square by Night, 1959
Victoria Square by Night, 1959 by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

Judge’s comments: “…photographically it was well seen and composed, an aesthetically pleasing picture to look at, but when seen now many years later it becomes a stark reminder of what we once had and perhaps also an indicator of where we can go. Seeing what is now vacant land as it once was, vibrant and life filled, that will eventually be a convention centre, should remind us how important the decisions we make now are. Obviously this was not in the mind of the photographer at the time but this is the ongoing often unrecognised power of the photograph.” Doc Ross

“…I couldn’t help but think of how much has changed in Christchurch since the quakes; what is still changing and the public backlash against a proposed redevelopment of the square gardens and convention centre.” Tim Veling

Places

Entry by Jill Hodgkinson, Holt family Home, 48 Horotane Valley.

Holt family home, 48 Horotane Valley
Holt family Home, 48 Horotane Valley. by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

Judges’ comment: “photographs of the Holt Family Home…had me dreaming of summers spent by the pool in my original home of Blenheim, sunbathing and family trips to the beach. As I write this now in the middle of November, rain is pelting down outside and not even a good cup of coffee could warm me up, but looking at these photographs I see some hope for a magical shift in the weather.” Tim Veling

People

Name withheld, Decorated bikes (1962-1963)

Decorated bikes
Decorated Bikes by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

Judges’ comment: “The photograph of children dressed up in costume on the way to a school play – lace curtains carefully tied up in the window behind them – made me think about my own childhood dressing up with my mother and our performing in school plays together.” Tim Veling

Highly Commended

Name withheld, On Sumner Beach.

On Sumner beach, 1940s
On Sumner Beach by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

Judges’ comment: “A young, newly wed soldier and wife standing on a beach had me thinking about the extraordinary sacrifices ordinary men and women made for the sake of our freedoms, and how these sacrifices continued to shape people’s lives, long after people returned home from war to loved ones and family – the physical gap between the couple is almost painful to look at in this regard.” Tim Veling

Entries by Isabel Tweedy, Looking south along Colombo Street, 1957, and Looking North along Colombo Street, 1957.

Looking south along Colombo Street, 1957
Looking south along Colombo Street, 1957 by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License
Looking North along Colombo Street, 1957
Looking North along Colombo Street, 1957 by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

Judges’ comment: “The views looking South and North from the Christ Church Cathedral lookout resonated with me for several reasons. For one, each view depicts a Christchurch that I never knew (I moved here in 1991, age 11,) but also because it is a taken from a vantage point that no longer exists, but that rests in the consciousness of all who appreciate Christchurch’s architectural heritage and spiritual heart.”

Entry by Teresa Connor, Surf champs, New Brighton, 1970s.

Surf champs, New Brighton, 1970s
Surf champs, New Brighton, 1970s by Kete Site Admin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

Staff Picks

Staff comments: “There were so many great photographs to choose from this year and we all had our favourites – because the photograph evoked memories of places no longer here, or memories of childhood, or showed people at work and play – great photographs of people on trips, at the beach, at the speedway, sunbathers, good friends, lost homes, family visits, bands and parades.

Our team chose the following images as our Staff Picks because they capture a glimpse of industrial Christchurch in the post war era, and Christchurch was a manufacturing city.”

Name withheld, Beadweld Engineering, 20 Welles Street [1951]

Beadweld Engineering, 20 Welles Street
Beadweld Engineering, 20 Welles Street by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

Name withheld, Soldering a Vanguard [1949]

Soldering a Vanguard
Soldering a Vanguard by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

There are many excellent photos with associated stories –  explore the full range of this year’s entries.