Open air classrooms opened at Fendalton Primary School – This week in history 24-30 July

The first open air classroom at Fendalton Primary School was officially opened on the 26th of July 1924 by Mr E.H. Andrews, a member of the Canterbury Education Board. Professor Shelley, who was Professor of Education at Canterbury College, also gave an opening address encouraging the school and committee to continue the project.

By the 1920s most parents were being guided by the Plunket Society to realise the benefits of fresh-air and sunlight for their children and the Christchurch Open-Air League had been able to persuade the Canterbury Education Board to build some open-air classrooms. The most common type was like this one at Fendalton School, Christchurch, where on sunny days, sliding doors allowed one whole wall to be opened to allow in fresh air and sunshine. Each pupil had a desk and chair which could be carried outside in fine weather. The porch on the right-hand side of the photograph served as a cloakroom and shelter-shed
A classroom at Fendalton Open-Air School, Clyde Road, Christchurch, 1928, CCL PhotoCD 7, IMG0025

This first open air classroom was viewed as an experiment in the new educational philosophy that fresh air, good ventilation and sunlight encouraged good health for the students, as well as providing space for exercise.

The classroom was designed by the Headmaster Mr A.R. Blank, M.B.E. and Dr R.B. Phillipps, the Canterbury Schools’ medical officer, along with the architects Ellis and Hall. A new architecture for classrooms was developed to cater to the new philosophy and the Fendalton examples allowed the whole side of a building to be opened up. Using wood as an adaptable building material, rather than brick, was seen as important for this new architecture to enable adaption of the buildings over time to incorporate developing ideas in educational theory.

Photograph of an open air classroom, Fendalton School, Christchurch, taken circa 1924 by an unidentified photographer. Primary school children sit in rows at their desks, facing a teacher and a blackboard.
Creator unknown : Photograph of an open air classroom, Fendalton School, Christchurch. Ref: PAColl-8863. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/23185726

Mr Blank and Dr Phillipps’ belief in the ideals of the Open Air movement was so high that they guaranteed half of the £400 cost from their own pockets, and secured the other half from Christchurch Rotary Club. By opening day £170 had been raised from the public and no money was requested from the Government or Education Board for the experiment. The Department of Education was reported as being skeptical of the potential benefits of this new educational philosophy, but Mr Andrews stated in his opening speech that the Education Board had been misrepresented as being opposed.

Through the 1920s, three additional open air classrooms were built at the Fendalton Primary School. The school was often visited as an example of how open air classrooms could operate including by Dr Truby King, the Department of Education and the British Medical Association.

The Open Air Schools League was established to continue to champion the cause, and they put out a booklet The New Zealand Open-Air School in 1928 using Fendalton as the example of what can be achieved.

If you have any images you would like to contribute to a community repository of Christchurch, please visit Kete Christchurch.

More Christchurch history

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

This week in Christchurch history (4 to 10 January)

5 January 1940
First echelon of Canterbury troops for World War II leave Lyttelton on “Dunera” and “Sobieski”.

6 January 1851
The first school (which became Christ’s College) opens in Lyttelton.

Chart of Banks’ Peninsula. 1850
Chart of Banks’ Peninsula. 1850, CCLMaps 440870. View enlargable version (with Zoomify).

7 January 1844
First European child (Jeannie Manson) born at Riccarton.

8 January 1979
First women bus drivers on Transport Board buses.

10 January 1830
“Antarctic” (Captain Morrell) anchors in Lyttelton Harbour, which he names Cook’s Harbour.

10 January 1867
European birds introduced on “Matoaka” to Lyttelton. Species include pheasants, partridges, blackbirds, thrushes, linnets, skylarks, chaffinches, and starlings. The destruction of native insect eating birds by hunting and fire had caused disastrous crop infestations in Canterbury.

10 January 1887
Tramway to New Brighton completed.

A double-decker horse tram crossing the original Seaview Road bridge on the way to Christchurch [ca. 1900]
A double-decker horse tram crossing the original Seaview Road bridge on the way to Christchurch [ca. 1900], CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02319
More January events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (28 December to 3 January)

28 December 1912
First New Zealand croquet championships held in City.

30 December 1988
Water restrictions in force for first time in City’s history as water tables dropped to record low levels.

31 December 1984
“Kiwi House” opened at Orana Park (first chick born in captivity in South Island, November 1989).

Cover of Nimrod by Beau Riffenburgh1 January 1862
New Zealand’s first rowing regatta held on Lyttelton Harbour.

1 January 1908
Shackleton expedition sails for Antarctica in “Nimrod”. A crowd estimated as high as 50,000 watched the departure – probably the largest in Lyttelton’s history.

2 January 1896
Australasian Amateur Athletic and Cycling Championships held at Lancaster Park.

Ten mile championship of New Zealand [Jan. 1896]
Ten mile championship of New Zealand [Jan. 1896], at Lancaster Park, CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0057
3 January 1883
Graving dock in Lyttelton Harbour officially opens.

More December and January events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (21 to 27 December)

21 December 1877
New Christchurch railway station opens.

Christchurch railway station [1878]
Christchurch railway station [1878], CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0028
22 December 1885
Statue of William Moorhouse unveiled in the Botanic Gardens.

23 December 1876
Lyttelton time-ball station in operation. Its time signals to shipping were superseded by radio signals in 1934.

24 December 1864
First gas street lights.

24 December 1953
4 Christchurch victims among 151 dead in Tangiwai railway disaster.

25 December 1864
Durham Street Methodist Church opens – the City’s first stone church.

26 December 1863
Opening of the Royal Princess Theatre, the city’s first true theatre. It had been the Canterbury Music Hall.

26 December 1870
First rowing regatta on the Avon. This photo shows a 1921 regatta.

Regatta Day on the Avon [ca. 1921]
Regatta Day on the Avon [ca. 1921], PhotoCD 12, IMG0030
26 December 1879
Serious Catholic/Protestant riot in Manchester Street.

27 December 1850
“Cressy” arrives. These 4 ships brought a total of 773 settlers. Although Cantabrians like to commemorate these “first four ships”, there were actually 8 chartered vessels which brought 1500 Canterbury Association settlers in the first few months. By the following December, 19 ships had brought over 3000 settlers.

Port Lyttelton, showing the first four ships and emigrants landing from the Cressy, December 28th 1850 [28 Dec. 1850]
Port Lyttelton, showing the first four ships and emigrants landing from the Cressy, December 28th 1850 [28 Dec. 1850], CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0017
More December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (14 to 20 December)

15 December 1848
Captain Joseph Thomas, William Fox, and surveyors Cass and Torlesse arrive at the site of Lyttelton in the “Fly”. Thomas names the harbour “Port Victoria”. He and his party had been sent by the Canterbury Association to choose a site for the new colony and make the necessary preparations for the arrival of settlers in 1850.

Ad on Papers Past
Advertisement of the laying of the Chief Corner Stone of the Cathedral, Lyttelton Times, 10 December 1864, Page 6

16 December 1850
“Charlotte Jane” and “Randolph” arrive at Lyttelton.

16 December 1851
Anniversary celebrations in Hagley Park. First organised sport, including horse races, athletics and a cricket match.

16 December 1864
150 years ago the foundation stone was laid for ChristChurch Cathedral. The weather was atrocious.

17 December 1850
“Sir George Seymour” arrives.

17 December 1935
City Council decides to buy 230 hectares of land at Harewood for a city airport. The purchase was strongly criticised in many quarters as excessively large, but subsequent history has more than vindicated the decision.

20 December 1955
First Antarctic flights by USN Operation Deep Freeze from Christchurch. Browse our page on Antarctica and its Christchurch connections.

More December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (7 to 13 December)

8 December 1843
Greenwood brothers (James and Joseph) settle at Purau, Lyttelton Harbour.

9 December 1867
Lyttelton railway tunnel was the first in the world to be drilled through a volcano rim. It was New Zealand’s first tunnel, and at the time was described as one of the longest in the world, yet had been planned and financed by this tiny colonial settlement whose population was just over 9000, (6,647 in Christchurch and 2,510 in Lyttelton.)

Geological sections of Lyttelton and Christchurch railway tunnel [by Julius von Haast].
Geological sections of Lyttelton and Christchurch railway tunnel [by Julius von Haast], [ca. 1875], CCL ATLMAPS ATL-Acc-3741
10 December 1989
Sunday trading begins in Christchurch.

11 December 1979
Completion of airport international arrivals terminal, stage 1 (arrival hall).

Cover of Douglas Lilburn12 December 1849
New Zealand Company agrees to reserve two and a half million acres as a site for the Canterbury settlement.

13 December 1942
Premiere in Christchurch of Landfall in Unknown Seas by Douglas Lilburn and Allen Curnow.

More December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (30 November to 6 December)

1 December 1863
Opening of the Ferrymead to Moorhouse Avenue railway, New Zealand’s first public steam railway. (The gauge was 5ft 3ins.)

1 December 1949
Sidney G. (later Sir Sidney) Holland (Fendalton) becomes Prime Minister.

1 December 1950
Kerrs Reach cutting on the Avon River completed.

1 December 1975
Rolleston satellite town project scrapped.

2 December 1866
Moa bones discovered at Glenmark. The international sale and exchange of these helped Haast, the Canterbury Museum’s first Director, to finance the new museum.

2 December 1960
Rehua meeting house opens, the first new meeting house in the South Island for over 100 years.

Rehua Marae, St Albans, Christchurch. Saturday 28 June 2014
Rehua Marae, St Albans, Christchurch. Saturday 28 June 2014, Flickr, 2014-06-28-IMG_0501

3 December 1867
Canterbury Museum (New Zealand’s first) opened to public in an upstairs room in the Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings. The collection had been assembled by Julius (later Sir Julius) Von Haast.

Canterbury Museum and Rolleston statue [ca. 1900]
Canterbury Museum and Rolleston statue [ca. 1900], CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0042
3 December 1924
Children’s Library opens in Hereford Street.

5 December 1881
Earthquake damages Cathedral spire.

6 December 1983
16 year old Christchurch student David Tan completes B.Sc Honours degree at Canterbury University to become New Zealand’s youngest ever university graduate.

More November and December events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (23 to 29 November)

23 November 1988
Human remains dating back to pre-European Māori settlement found while excavating for YMCA building on the corner of Hereford Street and Rolleston Avenue. Area declared tapu for 24 hours until remains removed.

24 November 1881
St Albans Borough formed.

25 November 1940
“Holmwood”, en route from the Chathams to Lyttelton, sunk by German raiders. Passengers and crew were taken aboard the German ships, and eventually made their way home 2 months later.

25 November 1980
Totem Pole placed in new location at Christchurch Airport.

26 November 1857
Opening of the first building (long since demolished) on the present Christ’s College site. The school’s original planned site was in Cathedral Square, but the land had been exchanged for the present Hagley Park site to allow room for expansion.

26 November 1910
The ill-fated second Scott expedition leaves Lyttelton on the “Terra Nova”, bound for Antarctica.

26 November 1959
Memorial Avenue (a memorial to airmen killed in W.W.II) officially opens.

Memorial Avenue, Christchurch [ca. 1959]
Memorial Avenue, Christchurch [ca. 1959], CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0032
28 November 1893
Women vote for the first time in parliamentary elections.

28 November 1908
Work begins on the Summit Road, the first part of Harry Ell’s obsessional dream.

28 November 1964
Opening of Cashin Quay, Lyttelton Harbour. The engineering techniques used in reclaiming this area were unique in the world.

Cashin Quay under construction [ca. 1963]
Cashin Quay under construction [ca. 1963], CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0057
29 November 1901
Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s first Antarctic expedition arrives at Lyttelton in “Discovery”.

29 November 1978
Concert at Q.E.II Park by rock singer David Bowie.

More November events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (16 to 22 November)

16 November 1901
Earthquake (most severe at Cheviot) damages Cathedral spire again. After this third incident, the top of the spire was re-built in timber and metal instead of stone.

17 November 1895
Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) visits. He described Christchurch as a town where half the people rode bicycles and the other half were kept busy dodging them.

18 November 1947
Disastrous fire in Ballantynes Department store. 41 lives lost in New Zealand’s worst fire tragedy. The fire led to drastic revisions of fire safety codes throughout the country.

Aerial view of the gutted shell of the three-storied department building [20 Nov. 1947]
Aerial view of the gutted shell of the three-storied department building [20 Nov. 1947], CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0016
21 November 1865
Provincial Council buildings in Durham Street completed. The complex of buildings was architect B.W. Mountfort’s masterpiece. He had survived a professional disaster soon after arrival in New Zealand when his first building, a church in Lyttelton, had proved structurally unsound and had to be demolished.

Provincial Government Buildings, corner of Durham and Armagh Streets, Christchurch , [ca. 1885]
Provincial Government Buildings, corner of Durham and Armagh Streets, Christchurch , [ca. 1885], CCL PhotoCD 12, IMG0084
22 November 1986
Visit by Pope John Paul II (the first head of the Catholic Church to visit New Zealand).

22 November 1987
Trans Alpine express train, designed specifically for the tourist trade, begins its daily run from Christchurch to Greymouth.

More November events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

This week in Christchurch history (9 to 15 November)

9 November 1933
Mrs E. R. McCombs (Lyttelton) becomes the first woman MP in New Zealand.

10 November 1839
Captain William B. Rhodes lands 50 cattle at Akaroa.

11 November 1904
ChristChurch Cathedral completed. The architect was George Gilbert Scott.

11 November 1924
Bridge of Remembrance opens.

11 November 1929
Edmonds band rotunda opens.

Edmonds Band Rotunda, viewed from Oxford Terrace [ca. 1930]
Edmonds Band Rotunda, viewed from Oxford Terrace [ca. 1930], CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0072
12 November 1980
New Christchurch City Council Civic Offices (formerly Millers Department Store) officially open.

13 November 1849
Royal Charter granted for the incorporation of the Canterbury Association.

15 November 1851
White Hart Hotel (possibly the city’s first) in operation.

Proposed design for the White Hart Hotel, High Street, Christchurch [1902]
Proposed design for the White Hart Hotel, High Street, Christchurch [1902], CCL PhotoCD 6, IMG0074
More November events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.