King Edward Barracks construction begins – This week in history 10-16 July

The Foundation stone for the King Edward Barracks was laid on the 13th of July 1905 by the Right Hon. R.J. Seddon, Premier and Defence Minister, though construction had already started.

King Edward Barracks, corner of Cashel and Montreal Streets, Christchurch, 1905, CCL PhotoCD 7, IMG0067

The official ceremony narrowly missed being delayed as there had been an accident with the Foundation Stone: a special saw had been required for the inscription in the particularly hard stone, and the saw broke. The job then had to be completed by the masons by hand, dulling several more of their tools in the process.

King Edward Barracks Foundation Stone by Sepia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License. KeteChristchurch P1180490

It amazingly only took 25 days to complete the building on the corner of Cashel and Montreal Streets. To accomplish this remarkable feat, workmen worked after dark by gaslight, and it was remarked upon on the day in the Star newspaper:

The apparent apathy with which the authorities long seemed to treat Christchurch’s need of a habitable drillshed has been followed by a display of building energy which easily surpasses anything ever seen in the city.

The contractors and architects were Luttrell Brothers of Christchurch. Utilising an innovative design, of which Alfred Luttrell claimed there were only two existing examples in England, it would cover a large space for little money. The drillshed was designed as a large arched building and to be fire proof, unlike its predecessor which burnt down in 1903.

Constructed of 21 iron girders that weighed 6 tons each and enabled the building to be 36.5m x 91m and 12m tall with no obstructive structural columns. A brick mobilisation store, gun store and officers rooms were also built on the site.

Building the King Edward Barracks, Christchurch, 1905, CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0084

As well as being the site for military activities such as holding drills for soldiers, hearing court-martials, demonstrations for cadets, assembling military areoplanes and giving gas mask training, it was also used for civic occasions and to host all sorts of entertainment. These included a World’s Fair, flower shows, car shows, circuses, pet shows, poultry shows, and training sessions for the All Blacks. These types of events were often illustrated in the newspapers, and some can be accessed through Paperspast.


The riverside site was an important food gathering area for Māori and was associated with the New Zealand Army from 1864. The army left the site in 1993 and Ngai Tahu Property purchased the Barracks site and the buildings were removed in 1997. The site is currently under going post-earthquake commercial redevelopment.

48 Hereford Street, Christchurch by KeteCCL is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License. KeteChristchurch kgP1060549.

More Christchurch history

To see more of what happened this week in the past, visit our Christchurch Chronology.

Something for the coffee table

CoverBitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper and Arsenic in the Victorian House by Lucinda Hawksley

This is the sort of book that you can just meander through, looking at the pretty pictures and picking up a bit of information here and there –  exactly my sort of non-fiction!

Arsenic is of course a poison, prevalent in whodunnits. What I didn’t realise was that it is also a wonderful enhancer of colour, and was used extensively in wallpaper.  Not only were these papers poisonous to those unfortunate enough to work in the factories that produced them, but a gas was produced when they became damp. This was not an unusual situation when many houses had little heating and cold damp conditions.

A lovely – if slightly chilling – book to flick through with fascinating anecdotes, luscious illustrations of the wallpapers and stories that flesh out the history of arsenic and its victims.

CoverGreat Houses Modern Aristocrats by James Reginato

This is another wonderful book to dip into. The author is a writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, and I really enjoyed the way he brings the homes – and the people in them – to life.

We are introduced to Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma who sits in the chair with a steady, suspicious and steely gaze, while her sister (standing) describes her older sister as “the personification of the stiff upper lip”.  Patricia apparently has more titles than any woman in England and Queen Elizabeth reportedly gets a bit flustered in her company:

She was Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry for thirty-three years, until she retired in 2004.  “When I turned eighty, I said, ‘for goodness sake, I can’t drive a tank any longer'” she explains.

Many of these homes are impossibly expensive to keep up. Some have been turned into variations of a Disney theme park, but many of the occupants have developed clever and surprisingly interesting ways of making a bob or two.

The Honourable Garech Browne of Luggala in Ireland has been a champion of Irish music, forming Claddagh Records and sponsoring the Chieftains.  The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava specialises in prize cows and artisanal yoghurt. When asked what supermarket she would prefer stocked the yoghurt she replied that she “hadn’t a clue” because she had never been to a supermarket!

Even the cover intrigues me, a young aristocratic couple and their son – mother and son perched on top of an ornate ladder (as you do) and the young father leaning nonchalantly, dressed in what looks like his grandfather’s military jacket, surrounded by old books and paintings.  All very otherwordly.

Podcast – Resources in the city with FESTA

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses issues around the use of resources in the Christchurch urban environment including –

  • resourcefulness
  • reuse / recycling / upcycling
  • people power
  • architecture and people
  • using waste materials in architecture

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Jessica Halliday, Founder of FESTA, Juliet Arnott of Rekindle, and Jos de Krieger of Superuse Studios in Rotterdam.

Transcript of the audio file

Websites mentioned in the show

Find out more in our collection

Cover of Building with secondhand stuff Cover of Junkyard science Cover of Outsmart waste Cover of Guerilla furniture design Cover of Economies of recycling Cover of Recycled home Cover of Tiny houses built with recycled materials

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

Imagining a different Christchurch – Jessica Halliday and FESTA 2016

FESTA is a “biennial weekend celebration of urban creativity” and one of the coolest events on Ōtautahi’s calendar. It is on this Labour weekend, kicking off with the SuperWOW disco at the Dance-o-mat on Friday 21 October, and ending with PechaKucha on Monday 24 October at 7.30pm. The unmissable big event is Lean Means on Saturday 22 October.

I had a chat to FESTA’s director Jessica Halliday to get a flavour of FESTA 2016.

What is FESTA?

Jessica Halliday

It is about creating a collective positive experience for the people of Christchurch and visitors.

FESTA helps people reconnect to the central city, to rebuild that severed relationship. A big street party is a positive experience, and connects them with places that are regenerating. It catalyses changes in architecture and design. The collective making of a big project like this is a microcosm of the cooperative way we can work together.

What’s on at FESTA 2016

Lean Means is on Saturday 22 October, and is the biggest event of FESTA with 10,000 to 15,000 people expected. There will be 18 projects to experience. The tallest is around 6 metres and most are about 4 metres. Some will be integrated into existing structures.

There is a full programme of events with a lot of workshops, speakers, and a symposium on the resuse of materials (organised by Rekindle working with Objectspace), and a session with artist Hannah Beehre on drawing Christchurch architecture. Events for kids include creative junk and mutant monster workshops.

If you want to experience a Human Library, Talking Books and Freerange Press bring together a collection of passionate experts on a range of topics including the state of the city,music, and brewing beer. You can book a twenty-minute, one-on-one conversation with a human talking book.

Utilising waste streams – Sustainability, Re-use

Jos de Krieger of Superuse Studios in Rotterdam is a specialist in urban installations and interventions and the creative director of FESTA 2016. He developed the concept, visited, and gave lectures and design workshops, and also met with New Zealand and Australian studios. The idea is to get a brief and a budget, then look for waste materials in the vicinity to be reused. Using such materials requires a lot of research.

The materials for Lean Means are lightweight – plastics, cardboard, bottles, post-consumer plastic bags and are local to the studios. The pavilion for the Ōtākaro Orchard is made of hundreds of metres of frost cloth from the Big Barn in Sydney – it can come over easily on the plane with the students as it’s so light.

Re-use is part of what FESTA is now. Students were re-using stuff anyway, with one of 2014’s projects using plastic bottle rejects on their way to China for recycling. They went on to be recycled after appearing at FESTA CityUps.

FESTA closes the loop with connections back to sustainability all the way through. Cassels will be there, and they are working on cleaning up the Heathcote, and Punky Brewster have a focus on reducing water in beer sales. There will be a second hand market with upcycled things for sale.

We are trying as best as we can to make it consistent.

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture
CityUps, FESTA 2014, Flickr 2014-10-25-IMG_3049

Art and architecture

CreativeNZ funding has enabled three artists from three different disciplines to be involved: Juliet Arnott of Rekindle, artist Julia Morison and movement artist Julia Harvie.

Julia Morison has been integrated into a team from Massey University, School of Design at the College of Creative Arts. Her philosophy is that art shouldn’t be a “brooch pinned on at the end”, and that artists should be involved in informing the development of projects.

Moving artist Julia Harvie will suspending herself of the COCA gallery gantry and weave herself a nest from coppiced hazel shoots. The performance teases out ideas of making a city that nurtures children, and what parents can do to influence the creation of that environment.

Juliet Arnott is a strategic advisor to FESTA and is involved in the The Zero Waste Village of Resourcefulness:

Skilled craftspeople undertake high quality crafts that are zero waste in nature in a village of temporary shelters. These structures are designed and fabricated from waste materials by Ara students …

These three artists will appear at CoCAcabana on Friday night.

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture
CityUps, FESTA 2014, Flickr 2014-10-25-IMG_3154

Why FESTA?

Experience a re-imagined Christchurch. Imagine a different Christchurch and present it as an experience, instead of a city made of renders.

What it could be, as well as what it is.

FESTA information

How you can help Lean Means

Help FESTA transform Christchurch by supporting Lean Means, and share in a positive reimagining of the city – full of lights, colours and people. This Labour Weekend, we will transform central Christchurch with a large-scale reimagined city called Lean Means, live for one night only, free and open to all, on Saturday 22 October.

FESTA 2014 – CityUps

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture

FESTA 2013 – Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Tales - FESTA

FESTA 2012 – LuxCity

Luxcity

Libraries and reading

As a kid, Jessica went every week to Hornby Library. Her main preoccupations were:

Reading, running around the farm, reading.

CoverShe enjoys Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge stories and is a keen fan of British comedy, especially panel shows like “Have I got news for you” and “Would I lie to you”.

McLeans Mansion

McLeans Mansion is front page news in today’s copy of The Press (7 July 2016). This slightly spooky architectural jewel (also known as Holly Lea) has an interesting history:

The Mansion was a departure from the accustomed work of the architects, England Brothers, and it was an unusual design among Christchurch’s large homes — when built it was reputed to be the largest wooden residence in New Zealand. The most remarkable thing about the Mansion is surely that it was built for a 78 year-old bachelor and that it was used as a private residence for only 13 years.

McLeans Mansion, 387 Manchester Street, Christchurch ca. 1900
McLeans Mansion, 387 Manchester Street, Christchurch ca. 1900 CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02343

In 1899, 78-year old bachelor and former Waikakahi runholder, Allan McLean (1822-1907), employed Robert West England (1863-1908) as architect for a Jacobean-style, three-storeyed wooden house of 53 rooms. It was completed in 1900 and McLean named it Holly Lea. At 23,000 square feet, it was probably the largest wooden residence in New Zealand. It was used as a private home for only 13 years. Over the years it has been a home (until 1955) for genteel women down on their luck, unable to be accommodated with women of a lower socio-economic background as it was felt the two groups would not get on; a dental nurses’ hostel; a Salvation Army rest home; leased for a time by the St Vincent de Paul Society. In 2005 it became the home of Academy New Zealand, Christchurch, a private training establishment offering entry level vocational training.

George LeBrun up ladder at McLean's Mansion. Kete Christchurch PH14-SaSe-George_LeBrun_up_ladder_at_McLean_Institute_building_Manchester_St_ChCh.jpg
George LeBrun up ladder at McLean’s Mansion. Kete Christchurch PH14-SaSe-George_LeBrun_up_ladder_at_McLean_Institute_building_Manchester_St_ChCh.jpg

More McLeans reading

Government Life building in Cathedral Square – opened 17 July 1964

On 17 July 1964 the Government Life Building opened in Cathedral Square. One of my favourite photos in our entire collection is this one of its construction –Workers on top of Government Life. For me, it is the Ōtautahi version of the famous Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam).

The Post Office tower is dwarfed in this view, taken from the top of the Government Life Insurance building in the Square.  [Mar. 1963] CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0059
The Post Office tower is dwarfed in this view, taken from the top of the Government Life Insurance building in the Square. [Mar. 1963] CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0059

That iconic clock has been a landmark of the central city – when it was turned off lots of us missed looking up to see the time (and the temperature).

Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2
Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2

In the 1965 photo above, you can see it is 1:52pm.

Christchurch Cathedral Junction and Woodwards Corner, Kete Christchurch Christchurch Cathedral Junction and Woodwards Corner, 1965. Kete Christchurch

Post earthquakes, Mike Hewson’s artwork Government Life Suspension reflected the building back for us.

Government life art by Mike Hewson. Tuesday 22 January 2013. Flickr: CCL-2013-01-22-IMG_2308
Government life art by Mike Hewson. Tuesday 22 January 2013. Flickr: CCL-2013-01-22-IMG_2308

The Government Life building was demolished in 2014.

Government Life building. Wednesday 18 June 2014. Flickr: 2014-06-17-IMG_0287
Government Life building. Wednesday 18 June 2014. Flickr: 2014-06-17-IMG_0287

Government Life demolition
Government Life demolition. Thursday 16 October 2014. Flickr 2014-10-16-IMG_2635

See more:

Labour weekend is FESTA time

FESTA – The Festival of Transitional Architecture – takes place over Labour Weekend. Remember LuxCity in 2012, and Canterbury Tales in 2013? If you went, you’ll be dead set keen to experience FESTA again.
Luxcity Canterbury Tales - FESTA Luxcity
This year’s big event is CityUps:

Over 250 students from CPIT, Unitec and The University of Auckland transform two blocks of Christchurch’s central city with towering, physical installations to create their vision of a future Christchurch. Beneath these outrageous designs are buzzing urban spaces where pop-up cafes, performance spaces, an all-ages-youth venue, a night market, dance hall, community bike workshop and bike light disco, bars, street games and much more operate.

There is a plethora of other events on too – including this library one:

Book Out and Read In, Sun 26 Oct 11am-1pm

Come along to Julia Morison’s wonderful Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers, on the corner of Colombo St and Gloucester St.  Get a book out from the mobile library or from the nearby Central Library Peterborough – or bring your own. Read amongst the trees of this sculptural installation. Bring your lunch and enjoy a quiet inner-city experience. Read in, chill out.

Here’s me giving the Tree Houses a test read (I’m reading Once in A Lifetime: City-building After Disaster in Christchurch).

Reading at Tree houses for swamp dwellers, Gloucester Street

Other picks:

  • Jelloucity Come and create a colourful, glowing city that is supposed to shake and wobble.
  • Poetica project #5, ‘Emerge’ is a calligraphic, three-dimensional line of poetry by Irish poet William Yeats floating in the Avon. Readings and artist-led liquid poetry workshops accompany the installation. You can write your own liquid poetic message – brushes and water are provided.
  • Picture Palace Parade Charlie Gates, cinephile and senior Press reporter, leads a group on an immersive tour of the old cinema sites of Cathedral Square – a walk through history. This is followed by an outdoor screening of a classic movie.
  • Super WOW disco

See the full programme on the FESTA site.

Government Life building in Cathedral Square – opened 50 years ago today

On 17 July 1964 the Government Life Building opened in Cathedral Square. One of my favourite photos in our entire collection is this one of its construction. workers on top of Government Life. It is the Ōtautahi version of the famous Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam).

The Post Office tower is dwarfed in this view, taken from the top of the Government Life Insurance building in the Square.  [Mar. 1963] CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0059
The Post Office tower is dwarfed in this view, taken from the top of the Government Life Insurance building in the Square. [Mar. 1963] CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0059
That iconic clock has been a landmark of the central city – when it was turned off lots of us missed looking up to see the time (and the temperature).

Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2
Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2

In the 1965 photo above, you can see it is 1:52pm.

Christchurch Cathedral Junction and Woodwards Corner, Kete Christchurch
Christchurch Cathedral Junction and Woodwards Corner, 1965. Kete Christchurch

Post earthquakes, Mike Hewson’s artwork Government Life Suspension reflected the building back for us.

Government life art by Mike Hewson. Tuesday 22 January 2013. Flickr: CCL-2013-01-22-IMG_2308
Government life art by Mike Hewson. Tuesday 22 January 2013. Flickr: CCL-2013-01-22-IMG_2308
Government Life building. Wednesday 18 June 2014. Flickr: 2014-06-17-IMG_0287
Government Life building. Wednesday 18 June 2014. Flickr: 2014-06-17-IMG_0287

The Government Life building is currently being demolished.
See more:

FESTA’s Canterbury Tales: Better living through puppetry

The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey ChaucerOf weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow

I know enough, at eventide and morrow.
The Merchant, The Canterbury Tales

In a figurative sense, shoulders play an important role in our lives, with most of us at one point or another providing a shoulder on which to cry, or to lean. In more than one instance I have shouldered the blame and the burden, not to mention given out my fair share of cold shoulders and, on rare occasions, I have been known to put my shoulder to the grind.

It is only recently that I have taken on the role of a literal shoulder, which I will be doing this Labour Weekend as part of FESTA, the Festival of Transitional Architecture, which runs from 25th-28th October. FESTA is entering into its second year of making life in earthquake-damaged Christchurch exciting and vibrant by showcasing a wide variety of creative projects, with last year’s launch attracting 30,000 people back into the heart of a broken city still finding its bearings.

2012’s LUXCITY wowed residents and visitors alike with its wondrous light installations, and the centrepiece for 2013 also looks set to set many jaws agape in amazement. In an appropriately-appropriated re-telling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, an epicly-sized representation of The Merchant, who will be controlled by nine puppeteers, flanked by a handful of less-epic-but-still-very-impressive friars, will lead an eye-popping procession through the city, beginning at the Bridge of Remembrance and finishing in the Square. And yours truly will be playing the role of The Merchant’s right shoulder, lest you thought my introduction was mere padding.

The details are far too delicious to divulge, but in my rehearsal with the Free Theatre team I have been getting to grips with the fine art of replicating lust, resignation, and frustration via the medium of a bamboo pole attached to a billowy shoulder, which ranks high in the list of sentences I never imagined I’d type.

Getting FESTA puppets ready Getting FESTA puppets ready Getting FESTA puppets ready

The Canterbury Tales procession will be in full swing on the evenings of Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October from 8:30pm onwards. We entreat you all to don your best carnival costumes, bring a tambourine or some maracas, and join in the festivities to help us cast off the recent years of weeping, wailing, and other sorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy the following:

Getting FESTA puppets ready

The future plans of the Christchurch Arts Centre

photo of the Christchurch Arts CentreOur blog has often commented on events at the Arts Centre as it was at the heart of much Christchurch cultural activity. Having it closed following the earthquakes was a huge blow to Christchurch people. Now it is being lovingly repaired and restored. Little milestones have started to appear – the old Registry building is now usable and the Arts festival Spiegel tent is currently pitched in the Market Square. You can follow the painstaking process on the the Arts Centre with their regular Tumblr postings.

Tiny treasures are uncovered, the stonework is repaired with beautiful creamy limestone blocks, heroic workmen literally scoop out tiny areas of foundation with buckets and shovels before they add steel reinforcing and so on. What we will get in the end is a lovely piece of Christchurch history that we can all enjoy again.

Many of us will have memories – maybe as a student when it was still Canterbury University, perhaps going to music or ballet classes, going to a movie or just hanging out – in a sunny quad, at the weekend market, over a coffee or a drink in a cafe and so on. One of my favourite memories is sitting on the grass in the Quad on a mild summer evening watching a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which starred the beautiful tree as the centrepiece of the staging. Magic. I’d love that to return.

Right now the Arts Centre trust is running a public consultation on its future plans. There is a draft vision and an online survey you can take. Why not help them formulate their plans – the centre was established for the citizens of Christchurch first and foremost.