The old homestead at “Stonyhurst”, a sheep station and stud farm on the north coast of Canterbury: Picturing Canterbury

The old homestead at “Stonyhurst”, a sheep station and stud farm on the north coast of Canterbury [ca. 1898]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0067.
The old homestead at “Stonyhurst”, a sheep station and stud farm on the north coast of Canterbury [ca. 1898].

This station belonged to Sir George Clifford (1813-1893) who took up the run of nearly 60,000 acres in December 1850. He named it after Stonyhurst College, the school he had attended in Lancashire, England. He was succeeded by his son Sir George Hugh Clifford (1847-1930) who managed his estates and also took a keen interest in sheep breeding and horse racing. See also Early New Zealand Families and Canterbury Country Houses.

Do you have any photographs of former Canterbury homesteads? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

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

A Feast of Francis – An hour with Francis Spufford

Book event blog posts have a formula: introducing the author, setting the scene and then a chronological or thematic account of the literary chit-chat. But I’m feeling rebellious, so no entrée, no mains and straight to dessert. What is Francis Spufford going to serve up next on the fiction front?

Francis Spufford
Francis Spufford at The Piano. Wednesday 7 March 2018. Flickr WORD7March2018-IMG_6594

He is currently working on a new novel (hurrah!) set in South London and starting in the year 1944 when a German V2 rocket fell on a branch of Woolworths in New Cross killing 168 people. Each chapter is set in a different year, so far he has got to 1949, and the volume and diversity of research has been hugely challenging. To date he has had to get his head around the intricacies of lino printing, 1970s reel-to-reel technology, what working on a suicide prevention helpline would be like, Nazi skinheads and being a female backing singer in Los Angeles in 1979…whew!

Back on book blog script – Francis Spufford is a non-fiction writer who has moved into novel writing to great acclaim, winning both the Costa Book Award for first novel and the Ondaatje prize. He appeared as part of New Zealand Festival Writers & Readers in association with the WORD Christchurch. Chris Moore was in the interviewer chair at The Piano and the audience was well-dressed and largely mature female in makeup.

Asked about his late-in-life move into fiction, Francis Spufford replied that as an academic teaching creative writing, at Goldsmiths University of London, he felt ashamed giving advice and guidance on writing fiction without have dipped his own pen in the fiction ink.

He set himself an ambitious agenda for his first novel as he wanted to include: “a duel, a rooftop chase, a trial scene, a love story, bone-crunching violence, rude sex, a mystery and jokes” plus set it in the 18th Century New York and with at least a nod and a wink towards the language and style of the new 18th Century novel. “A mass of incompatible pleasures now but quite in keeping with the period” where “serious intentions and low pleasures could be stuck in together”. It did involve compromise and became essentially a 21st Century novel in an 18th Century manner but one which allows the reader to feel a sense of time travel but without the style being too verbally off-putting.

Francis Spufford and Chris Moore
Francis Spufford and Chris Moore at The Piano. Flickr WORD7March2018-IMG_6587

He included lots of authentic 18th Century slang. Eric Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English in particular delivered an abundance of “wonderful, elaborately gross stuff”.

Setting the novel in historic New York was also important to him as he was drawn to the satisfying reversal of the city past and present:

  • The sheer tininess of the place then — some 7,000 people — versus the densely populated urban craziness of today.
  • The fact old New York was parochial versus its current cosmopolitan outlook.
  • That it was pious, Protestant, and ethnically limited compared with today’s predominantly secular and ethnically complex society.

Mr Smith, the mysterious central character, is a city-slicker — a London sophisticate travelling to the small and provincial New York “a Jane Austen sized village”. This New York is highly politicised and on surface level patriotically Royalist but the reader is aware that change is coming and that British influence is waning.

Francis Spufford was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about early US history, his retention of information researched some time ago but instantly recalled was enviable! He drew parallels between early New York and the US today saying “paranoia about tyranny has featured throughout its history” but he also lamented the topicality of his novel. He hadn’t anticipated Donald Trump and the focus on modern America’s paranoia and darkness.

Francis Spufford also spoke about his Christian faith and the process of writing Unapologetic — his response to Dawkins’ God Delusion. His aim he said “was to write a book that wouldn’t convert but would make belief recognisable to the reader” that faith was not “superstition or madness but meeting some human need”. He was anxious about creating a backlash as he wrote it not as “a good-tempered argument between faith and atheism” but in a more pugnacious attempt to show “that religion didn’t belong in a zoo of weird things but was a human norm”.

This was a bookishly warm and entertaining hour and if you haven’t read Francis Spufford,  pull finger and get on with it!


More about Francis Spufford


Harry Giles: Doer of Things (WORD Christchurch event, Tues 13 March 7.30pm at Space Academy)

I must admit to some trepidation about reporting on a Poetry Reading. How does one describe a Poetry Reading to those that weren’t there? Even one by a flamboyant Scottish poet who has travelled halfway across the world.

Harry Josephine Giles originally came from the Orkney Islands but they did not elaborate from which island other than to tell us that their island had 700 people and six churches of various denominations. Obviously, a small island northeast of Scotland was never going to contain nor satisfy a restless, creative spirit like Harry’s so they headed for the big city and now reside in Edinburgh.

I vacillated on whether I should take notes, but I thought that would be a buzz kill when I was trying to listen and enjoy the poetry in the moment.

Harry started off reading some poems in English and then went on to read some in Scots. If you want to see what Scots poetry looks like, check out Whit tae write nou?

I profess ignorance and I have no excuse since I am descended from Scots, but I was unaware that three languages were spoken in Scotland as Harry enlightened us. I knew they spoke English (the language of their colonisers) and Scots Gaelic (related to the other Celtic dialects of Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany), but I hadn’t considered Scots as a separate language. I’d thought of it as a variation of English. But Harry put us straight, explaining that Scots has those Norse origins that English shares.

Harry kindly read their Scots versions of poems then followed with the English translation, so to speak.

Although tired after their whirlwind tour of Aotearoa (nine gigs in seven days in New Plymouth and Wellington), Harry gave an energetic performance. It was easy to see that Harry works in the performance and theatre arenas because they enlivened their poetry with modulations of their voice and gestures. Harry has a beguiling shyness that peeps out from time to time.

Harry read a small series of poems in which they had engendered their fears and anxieties through the persona of a female military drone. You can hear some of the sequence on Soundcloud.

Harry was introduced by Ray Shipley who is a Christchurch-based poet, comedian, youth worker and founder of the Faultline Poetry Collective. Ray made an able MC and general crowd-exciter, but Harry had the audience engaged from their first poem and many of us were sad to bid Harry farewell after only an hour and a half.

More Harry Giles

Vale, Peter Temple (& Jack Irish)

It’s always a sad day when you hear of the death of someone whose work you have appreciated over the years. For me, this time, it’s Peter Temple; Australian crime author who died from cancer at his home in Ballarat on the 8th of March, 2018 at the age of 71.

Peter Temple was born in South Africa but immigrated in 1977 due to his anti-apartheid political stance. He moved to Germany at first and then two years later he arrived in Australia and began on his journey to becoming one of Australia’s great writers – and it was lucky for Australia!


He’s most famous for his books featuring Jack Irish; the loveable, roguish lawyer/drinker/debt-collector who likes a flutter on the nags and to prop up the bar at his local Fitzroy watering hole. The character of Jack Irish and the excellent use of language to convey the very matter-of-fact communications of the Australian working class male made these books a tremendous success and highly influential in the Australian crime writing genre. The books are entwined with plot twists and intrigue, corruption and politics, are very well paced, and perfectly capture the social nuances of Australian life. As do the television series that they have been turned into, featuring a who’s who of Australian acting and Guy Pearce as the main man Jack Irish. The producers really nailed the casting, the style, feel, and sense of place and the books really were celebrated in this particular telly treatment!

There are four books in the Jack Irish series, all worth reading but begin with Bad Debts. The tv series is available on DVD and to stream on Lightbox.

Peter Temple’s other books also saw critical acclaim. In 2010 he landed Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin Award, for his novel Truth – sequel to The Broken Shore. For a crime writer to win the Miles Franklin was quite a coup and his acceptance speech was trademark self-deprecation and wry humour, inviting the judging panel to “…take the flack for giving the Miles Franklin to a crime writer”. His third book in this new series has not been presented to his editor as yet, but perhaps sometime on the future another Australian literary great will take the final steps and finish the story and we will see the results. Possibly a posthumous award to go with his Miles Franklin, his five Ned Kelly Awards, and his Duncan Lawrie Dagger!?

For now I suggest we kick back, appreciate the fact that our region has produced another great writer, and for fans I suggest a nostalgic re-read.

Or if you’ve never tried his books before, get stuck in, mate!

Vale, Peter Temple.

New view for tukutuku

Kaokao (variation 2), currently on loan to Christchurch Art Gallery

If you happen to visit the Christchurch Art Gallery in the next few months you’ll see a piece of Christchurch City Libraries on display.

Ten of the library’s tukutuku panels are on temporary loan as part of an exhibition put together by assistant curator Nathan Pohio called ‘Moroki‘. This word refers to something with an ongoing nature and expresses continuity. In this instance the focus is on historic and contemporary Māori artworks that offer insight into the relationships between Māori art and architecture, and is part of a wider exhibition highlighting 19th and 20th century New Zealand art currently on display at the art gallery.

This is not the first time the tukutuku panels have had a temporary change of home.

Created in 2001 as part of a community art project led by Ngā Puna Waihanga, 19 tukutuku panels were installed in Ngā Pounamu Māori, the Māori resource area on the 2nd floor of the Central Library in 2002. 

After the library building was damaged in the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes the panels were removed and eventually distributed to a number of libraries around the network. The tukutuku panels currently on loan to the art gallery were previously housed at the Linwood and Aranui libraries. When Tūranga, the new central library building currently under construction in Cathedral Square, opens the tukutuku panels will again be brought together and displayed with the Māori collection.

Tukutuku panels
Tukutuku panels on display in Ngā Pounamu Māori, Central Library, 26 July 2002. Flickr CE-Refurb-MaoriPanels

The ten tukutuku panels currently on display at the art gallery sit across from paintings of Māori architecture and carvings, and the colours, shapes and designs on the panels really have an opportunity to shine when placed alongside other artworks.

If you want to know more about how, why and by whom the library’s tukutuku panels were created check out our Puāwaitanga o te Ringa – Fruits of our busy hands resource for photos of the panels along with explanations of the different designs and their meanings.

Have your say on the Long Term Plan 2018-28

Every three years, the Christchurch City Council reviews their 10-year plan. It is your chance to share your views on how best to manage the infrastructure and services that make Christchurch work.

You can read the Long Term Plan documents online. If you want to read the paper copies, libraries and service desks have them available.

Find out more:

Have we got the priorities right? Newsline

Tutor available 24/7 –

Have you started studying this year and are feeling a little out of your depth? or do you want something to help you be at the top of your game. We have just the thing for you – a tutor available 24/7. has tutors for heaps of courses – to either help you with your studies, or try a course before you buy. Check out these great study starters to set you off on the right foot. All you need to get started is a library card and password/PIN.

 Learning Speed Reading

Learn how to read faster. Improve your reading speed and comprehension with these proven speed-reading techniques. Speed-reading is a skill everyone can benefit from, and this course provides proven techniques to improve how much information you absorb and how fast you absorb it.

 Learning Study Skills

Get tips for improving your reading speed and memory, creating detailed notes and preparing for tests. The information in this course is appropriate for all levels of learners, from school  to university students and full-time members of the workforce. Start watching now—you’ll never approach studying the same way again.

 Information Literacy

Information literacy is the ability to discover and use various types of information. It’s an essential skill for navigating the information age. Learn about strategies for finding information – from a library, archive, database or the internet – and the ethics of using what you find. This one is definitely one to trust – the tutor is a Librarian!

 Improving your Memory

Improve your memory with these memorization techniques. It explains the best methods for different situations, like remembering names, important dates, passwords, to-do lists, quotes, and more. These techniques will prove invaluable, whether you’re memorizing facts for a test at school, points for a work presentation, or trivia to impress your friends.

 Learning Algebra: Pre Algebra

Pre-algebra is the first step in high school math, forming the building blocks that lead to geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. This course will help you master the basics: from addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to new types of numbers (integers and negative numbers) and concepts such as the order of operations and distribution.

What are they reading? New Zealand Opera’s Tosca

Opera has a reputation as a rather fancy, “highbrow” sort of pastime… but what do opera singers, conductors and directors read for fun (when it’s not all arias and librettos)? We asked the cast and crew of New Zealand Opera’s Tosca for some reading recommendations. Here’s what they’re enjoying:

Jacqueline Coats (Assistant Director)

I am reading Moonglow by American author, Michael Chabon, whose title jumped off the library shelf at me as I am obsessed with all things lunar at the moment (research for another opera production I am working on).  I was then sold by the author’s note – “In preparing this memoir, I have stuck to facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it”.  Who could resist that?!  And three-quarters of the way through, it has more than lived up to its promise.

Marco Guidarini (Conductor)

At the moment I’m reading a fascinating book by a well known italian art historian and journalist Matilte Battistini, called “Simboli e Allegorie”, a fascinating journey through alchemy and magic in the history of art. It’s an extraordinary essay revealing an enormous amount of information concerning the symbols of artistic iconography through the centuries.

James Benjamin Rodgers (Spoletta)

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur by William Manchester. Only 30% of the way through but fascinating look at the man who exerted huge influence in the Pacific during WWII. Amazing to read about that time and the people that made key decisions in the armed defence of their nations.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Baron Scarpia)

I’m not actually reading anything in particular at the moment but a book that has always stayed with me is In the heart of the sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. The story of the loss of the whaling ship The Essex back in 1820. It was made into a movie which in no way did the full story justice in my opinion. An epic, true and unimaginable historical journey that I was gripped by. It was recommended to me and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.

Find out more

Happy Pride! Christchurch Pride Week – 15 to 24 March

It’s nearly Pride Week! Lasting a little bit longer than an actual week, starting Thursday 15 March, Pride Week is a celebration of sexuality- and gender-diverse folks in Ōtautahi, and it’ll feature allsorts, from parties to seminars, art shows to dog walking. The rainbow flag will fly at the Christchurch City Council Civic Offices from 15 to 25 March.

However, pride celebrations have pretty sombre beginnings. The first pride marches in the USA were protests against the mistreatment and discrimination of LGBT+ people by the police, public services, and the law. As rainbow communities have largely seen great leaps forward in these areas over the past 40-50 years, these pride events focus more and more on celebrating diverse identities – but it’s important to take a moment to remember that there is still a struggle; that people are still being discriminated against because of their sexuality or their gender identity, both close to home, and globally.

Find out more about Christchurch Pride:

Pride Picks

Here’s my top 3 pride events you should check out happening in Ōtautahi in the coming weeks:

QCanterbury Quiz Night

I have a slight bias towards this event because I’m the MC! But who doesn’t like a quiz??
Friday 23 March 7pm to 10pm, The Foundry, 90 Ilam Road

Art Show

Christchurch Pride has started with an Art Show for a few years now, and it’s always a good night, with lots of mingling and snacks! Plus there’s an opportunity to buy some new artwork and support local LGBT+ artists at the same time. Thursday 15 March 5pm to 8pm, Windsor Gallery, 386 St Asaph Street

Bingo Fundraiser

I’ve been along to this event in previous years, and it is ridiculous fun. With all proceeds going towards a local youth support group, and the chance to win some fabulous prizes, it’s well worth it…who knew bingo could be so much fun?! Tuesday 20 March 7pm to 10pm.  Sixty6 On Peterborough, Christchurch Casino

More Pride

If this is a topic you’d like to learn more about, the library has some great reading/viewing material! Here’s some of the things I’ve enjoyed recently:

CoverQueer: A Graphic History  Meg John Baker and Julie Scheele – A non-fiction graphic novel style book delving into the history and key milestones of LGBT+ rights, as well as an introduction to queer theory. Engaging and witty and fun to read!

CoverPride – a film with all your favourite British actors about an unlikely partnership between gay and lesbian activists and striking miners in Wales.

Milk – a beautiful and heartbreaking film about Harvey Milk, an openly gay politician and activist in San Francisco in the 70s.
CoverThe library has a book about Harvey – and an opera.

CoverTomboy Survival Guide – Ivan Coyote – Brilliant, funny, serious, adventurous stories about growing up in rural Canada and navigating gender and sexuality.

Read our blog posts about Ivan, and Look up Ivan on YouTube too! They’re an incredible live storyteller.

Of course, there’s a never ending list of books and films to read and watch that explore what it means to be sexuality- and gender-diverse from a range of different cultural perspectives – Why not introduce yourself to something new this Pride Week?

Regardless of your orientation or identity, pride is a time to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion – a good reminder to have a look at your workplaces and community spaces and check they are inclusive and welcoming environments; or educate yourself on some new language or ideas within the rainbow community; find out what is going on for rainbow communities in other parts of the world; and, most importantly, check in with LGBT+ people in your life and remind them that they are loved.

Happy Pride!


Victoria Square reopens – Friday 9 March 2018

Today Victoria Square has reopened. It has been closed for a year, having a revamp and repairs.

What’s new:

  • New pieces of art have been added including Ngā Whāriki Manaaki – Woven mats of welcome, and a Literary Trail (series of text sculptures).
  • The Bowker Fountain will be working again and will put on a water and light display.

Here’s what Victoria Square looked like this morning:

Find out more about Victoria Square