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.

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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.

The Cashmere Caverns

Imagine a concrete lined room, hazy with cigarette smoke and lit only by a few shaded lamps which hang from the ceiling. In the centre, women in uniform surround a large table, atop of which a map of the Canterbury region is spread. Occasionally one of the women might adjust her headset and then, using a stick similar those wielded by croupiers at gambling tables, move a marker into a new position on the map. From a gallery above, officers look down in silent concentration. A runner enters the room and wordlessly passes a note to one of the officers. Then, from over the radio, a frantic voice breaks the tense atmosphere.

“Godley Battery has fallen. Japanese troops have taken Lyttelton.”

Defence of the South Island

Christchurch. 1942.

For many nights the residents of the hillside suburb of Cashmere had been woken by the sound of blasting accompanied by ground tremors. The war was in its third year and New Zealand was under the threat of an invasion from the Empire of Japan. Throughout most of 1942 black out practices had become a common occurrence in Christchurch. Those living on the hill simply assumed that the military was conducting yet another clandestine operation.

The New Zealand military already had a presence in Cashmere. In July of that year the Government had commandeered Cashmere House, the property of John Frederick Cracroft Wilson, to act as Combined Headquarters Southern Command.

Wilson family house, Cashmere House, exterior, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-004979-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22772645

Built in 1909 to designs by Samuel Hurst Seager, Cashmere House was set in a depression atop the Cashmere Hills. Reached via a long driveway which wound its way up the hill, the house overlooked an expanse of trees, lawns and gardens. Within, the house contained more than thirty rooms, enough to accommodate the different departments of the Air Force, Navy and Army that were required to oversee the defence of the South Island. Yet while it provided adequate office space, a civilian house was not designed to withstand the threat of aerial bombardment, nor was a house of that size likely to remain unnoticed by any invading troops.

In preparation for its war with Germany, Britain had established subterranean control stations so that the nation’s defence could be coordinated during aerial bombardments by the Luftwaffe. Anticipating the Japanese invasion, Southern Command adopted the same approach. No sooner had the military taken over Cashmere House than it started the construction of what was intended to be a secret, underground command bunker.

Construction begins

To the northeast of the house two separate adits (passage tunnels) were dug into the hillside. Throughout the excavation, the soil and rock was taken via a purpose built rail and disposed of in a nearby valley. Initially proceeding southward, the adits then curved westward, so as to offer protection against external explosions. From there the adits opened into a large U shaped chamber which had been excavated from the bedrock.

Entrance to Cracroft caverns, Cashmere by SueC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

Pre-stressed concrete ribs, constructed at a Public Works Department factory at the Birches near McLean’s Island, were used to brace the chamber. To set them in place a specially designed machine was manufactured at a workshop in Temuka. It was not necessary to set all the ribs in place, only those that were needed to stabilise the caverns. As a result most of the walls remained natural rock

Example of concrete ribs used to frame the chambers. Archway and Tunnel Interior, Cracroft Caverns by CCCArch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

A communications tunnel, intended only for the use of officers, was built to connect the chambers to Cashmere House. The tunnel was accessed from the basement in the house and descended on a slight gradient to the chambers. A ventilation shaft set at the midway point in the tunnel provided fresh air to the chambers. 

Stairs accessed from the inside of Cashmere House. Stairs down into the Cracroft Caverns by CCCArch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

Grand designs

Initial plans drawn up by the Public Works Department show the extent of the military’s aspirations. The plans show that the northern wing of the chamber was to house an office and separate rooms for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, along with a telephone exchange and cypher room. The southern chamber wing was to house another cypher room and a room for teleprinters. The two wings were connected by a western chamber and a further corridor.

Inside Cracroft Caverns by CCCArch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

The western chamber was intended to consist of two levels. The northern end would be the combined operations room. The southern end was the plotting room. Ladders would provide access to the upper floor. There, a gallery would allow observers to watch the movement of air force units being co-ordinated on the plotting table. It was proposed that the bunker would also contain kitchens, bedrooms and toilet facilities.

Work on the chambers continued until April 1943 when the war in the Pacific turned against the Japanese and the threat of an invasion was no longer considered a possibility.

Fire and concealment

By the end of 1944 the Army and Navy services had already vacated Cashmere House, leaving only the Air Force to occupy it. In November, plans were arranged for the Air Force to hand the building and its grounds back to the trustees of the Sir J.C. Wilson estate by the start of December. Yet before this could take place, on 12 November 1944 at 11:40pm, the building caught on fire. Although the fire was eventually brought under control, by 2am much of the building had been lost. The cause of the fire was never discovered.

By January 1945 details of the caverns had been leaked to The Press. The resulting article was accompanied by photographs which showed not only the district engineer of the Public Works Department inspecting the interior of the chambers but also the machines used to construct them. As it was still wartime, the defence force refused to discuss the existence of the caverns and no further information was made public. The tunnels were sealed and the owner of the property bulldozed the entrances to discourage any members of the public from attempting to enter them.

Following the conclusion of the war in September 1945 the existence of the caverns soon faded from public memory. Sworn to secrecy, those who had assisted with the construction or who had served as guards at the Cashmere property never spoke openly about what lay hidden beneath the grounds of the former house. As generations passed, even incoming members of the military seem to have remained unaware that such a project had ever been undertaken.

Tunnel in Cracroft caverns by CCCArch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

A chance discovery

The caverns may have remained hidden from the public for longer were it not for the retirement of a nurse at Princess Margaret Hospital. In 1987, while attending a farewell function being held for his mother, TVNZ reporter Jeff Field was told of the caverns by the hospital gardener.

Intrigued, he visited the Ministry of Defence library where he found the aforementioned Press article. Since he was due to take up a new role, Jeff assigned the investigation to another reporter, Bill Cockram. Following the 1944 fire, a new house had been erected on the site of Cashmere House. Upon visiting the owner, Bill Cockram learned that the building was experiencing problems with drainage. As such, the owner was interested to discover what lay beneath his house and gave Bill permission to proceed with his investigation.

Given that the former grounds of Cashmere House had been redeveloped, the only sign that anything lay hidden beneath was the protruding end of a pipe which marked the location of the ventilation shaft. After breaking the seal with a jackhammer, Bill next contacted Tim Williams of the Canterbury Caving Group. Together, with fellow caver, Bud Chapman, a television crew, and the property owner, they abseiled down the ventilation shaft and entered the caverns.

It was the first time that anyone had done so since they were sealed.

The television crew filmed the experience and the resulting documentary was screened as part of The Mainland Touch. Bill Cockram’s discovery, coupled with the release of the documentary, led to renewed public interest in the caverns. In December 1987 the Heathcote County Council’s planning committee even considered listing the bunker as a historic place.

The university moves in

The University of Canterbury, however, already had a vision for the caverns. Initially their ring laser laboratory which measured variations in the earth’s rotation was set on the top floor of a building on the Ilam campus. Yet such a location meant that the experiments were constantly being disturbed by wind, heat, and the movement of people. After considering the military tunnels in Lyttelton and a seismological station at Gebbies Pass, it was eventually proposed to make use of the caverns.

So it was, for the first time since they were excavated from the earth, the caverns came to be formally occupied. Yet rather than being used to co-ordinate a desperate defence against an enemy invasion, the caverns became a temporary home for numerous PhD students and international scientists who joined together to perform research that might benefit humanity.

University of Canterbury ring laser laboratory. Inside the Cracroft Caverns, November 2002 by CCCArch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
Members of the public tour the caverns. Group on a guided tour of the Cracroft Caverns, 2002 by CCCArch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

In 1995 the Christchurch City Council took ownership of the caverns and in the following year the university installed the CII ring laser. The university continued to use the caverns as their laboratory, installing new equipment, and producing new results. Open days were also held for those members of the public who were curious.

Although they were built to withstand the impact of an enemy bombardment, the facility was rendered unsafe by the Canterbury Earthquakes. They have remained closed to the public ever since.

Find out more

Photo Hunt October: Clarendon Hotel at the time of the Royal Visit, 1953

Outside the Clarendon Hotel at the time of the Royal Visit, 1953
Entry in the 2015 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Yvonne Dixon. Kete Christchurch PH15-044.jpg, CC-BY-NC-SA NZ 3.0

Photo taken John Abernethy with colour-slide film and printed from a Kodak transparency. The former Avon Cinema is on the left and the Clarendon Hotel, where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh stayed, on the right on the corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace.

Date: 1953.

Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008.  The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.

Enter the 2016 hunt online or at your local library.

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

Photo Hunt October: A Hunting Party

A Hunting Party.
Entry in the Christchurch City Libraries 2010 Photo Hunt. Kete Christchurch HW10-S-CW-055. CC-BY NC-ND NZ 3.0

“Hunting party somewhere in NZ. Walter Scott Blaikie is standing on far left. Others unknown.”

Date: Between 1895 – 1910?

This image is available as a free postcard as part of our Christchurch Photo Hunt promotion.

Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008.  The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.

Enter the 2016 hunt online or at your local library.

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

Photo Hunt October: Group of Young Men by a Railway Hut

Group of Young Men by a Railway Hut.
Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Glyn Williams. Kete Christchurch PH14-098.jpg CC-BY-NC-SA NZ 3.0

Subjects unknown. Photo reproduced from a  glass negative.

Date: 1910s

Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008.  The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.

Enter the 2016 hunt online or at your local library.

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