Before Tūranga – The Coachman Inn

The fourth in a series of posts that looks at the history of the central Christchurch sites on which your new library, Tūranga, has been built.

If you were standing in front of the spot now taken up by Tūranga’s Goods Entrance on Gloucester Street on the evening of 36 November 1872 you would have been looking across at a paddock which was, at that time, playing host to a circus.

Even with all the post-demo, gravel-strewn sections in central Christchurch today, it’s still strange to think of Gloucester Street as “paddocky”. But indeed it was, during this part of its history.

Gloucester Street looking paddocky, 6 April 1864, photograph by Alfred Charles Barker. Accession number 1949.148.771, CC BY-NC 4.0

A hotel then known as The Criterion had been built in such a paddock 9 years earlier in 1863 by someone named B. Jones. Not much is known about the first proprietor of The Criterion but more is known about their successor – by July 1864 The Criterion Hotel was under the management of local hotelier John “Jack” Coker.

Page 1 Advertisements Column 5, Lyttelton Times, Volume XXII, Issue 1261, 9 July 1864

Coker by this time had already declared his first (of several) bankruptcies, and had started a hotel on Cathedral Square which would later become Warner’s. He cut quite the figure about town, dressing in close-fitting suits, “top boots” and carrying a hunting crop, and would be involved with several landmark hotels in Christchurch, including, naturally, Coker’s Hotel on Manchester Street. Coker’s tenure didn’t last long. By 1866 the Criterion was in the hands of a Sgt. John Edward Darby.

The Criterion would have a run of landlords through to the turn of the century, with none lasting more that a few years (Darby fell into coma after a drunken and impromptu New Year’s Eve boxing match at Coker’s Music Hall and died a few days later in January 1867, having lost The Criterion several months earlier). Another landlord (and former police officer) Robert Wallace would move on from The Criterion only to die 5 years later from injuries sustained during a wrestling match, in 1888. It seems 19th century hotel-keeping appealed to a risk-taking sort of gent.

In 1892 William Burnip, an experienced hotelier, took over The Criterion renaming it, somewhat unimaginatively, “The New Criterion”. By 1902 the state of the two-storey wooden building was such that a continuation of the license (due for renewal in June) would only be granted if building plans for a new premises were submitted in March of that year.

Criterion Hotel, Gloucester Street, Christchurch [1902] This building was condemned by the Licensing Committee in 1902 and rebuilt. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0025
In early February of that year Burnip and his wife woke to find the hotel storeroom ablaze. No lives were lost but the hotel was gutted. The total insurance on the building and furniture was £1350, over $240,000 in today’s money. Whether there was a connection is anyone’s guess, but some papers in their coverage of the fire seem to have placed both sets of facts together in a pointed way that suggests the question was being asked, though not directly.

The new New Criterion rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The foundation stone for the new building was laid on 2 September 1902. The rebuilt Criterion was in stone and brick in a “Renaissance Revival” style and was built by W. H. Bowen. It was designed by Joseph Clarke Maddison, a prominent Christchurch architect who designed several hotels in the city including Warner’s Hotel, The Clarendon, and further east the Lancaster Park Hotel. One of his best known designs is the Government Buildings in Cathedral Square.

New Criterion Hotel, Gloucester Street, Christchurch, with a band standing outside. Ref: PAColl-5471-003. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22798264

Bowen had presented Burnip with a silver trowel by way of commemoration at the laying of the foundation stone but he may have wished it were a silver spoon instead. Due to the insurance company disputing the extent of the fire damage Burnip would receive less than half the insured amount and by 1904 he was no longer the sole licensee, having taken on Messrs Fox and Samson as partners. By 1906 he had passed the splendid new Criterion on to other hands. And that’s when the real fun started.

A couple by the name of Green took on the New Criterion and would go on to scandalise Christchurch.

Jessie Green was the daughter of Tuapeka hotelkeeper Daniel Bannatyne and had earlier run the Douglas Hotel in Dunedin with her first husband Frank Guinness who passed away in 1895. With second husband John George Green she took over the running of the New Criterion and by the following year their conduct had become a scandal that was reported up and down the country.

The New Zealand International Exhibition of 1906-1907 took place in Hagley Park and brought a great many visitors to the city (2 million people visited the Exhibition, though the population of New Zealand was only 1 million at the time). Perhaps it was this influx of visitors, some of whom may have been more inclined to “cut loose” while away from home, that encouraged Mrs Green in her “questionable” management of the hotel bar and staff.

Headline from NZ Truth, Issue 118, 21 September 1907

Rumours had been circulating for months about the “going ons” at the hotel and in September 1907 the Christchurch Licensing Committee heard evidence from a succession of barmaids – evidence that prompted the New Zealand Truth to speculate in its headline “LOW DOWN BROTHEL OR PUBLIC HOUSE“. The New Zealand Herald’s coverage was positively low-key by comparison preferring to distill the story to its main, eye-catching components with the simple declaration, “GIRLS AND CHAMPAGNE“.

Mrs Green, it would seem, employed more barmaids than was usual (seven or eight at a time!) and encouraged them to be “shouted” champagne by the customers. This of course lead to better takings, but also in some circumstances, the female staff were getting drunk and “retiring” to their rooms where they would also receive “visitors”. What went on behind closed doors nobody was indelicate enough to say outright but there was a strong suggestion of “indecency”.

As always the New Zealand Truth is a treasure trove of descriptive language about the whole affair, saying of the landlady,

…it would appear that Mrs Green, wife of the licensee, John George Green, is very partial to customers who plank down the boodle and shout fizz.

And of her husband, who seemed not to have much involvement in the running of the hotel, that he must either have been blind or “a consummate ass who shouldn’t have charge of a fruit-barrow”.

Unsurprisingly the Licensing Committee did not renew the Greens’ license and six months later they moved to Tauranga. In addition, all the barmaids (whether there was any suggestion they had participated in the “champagne shouting” or not) were fired, Blenheim native Henry Macartney became the proprietor, and the hotel was re-named The Dominion. When Macartney too moved on in 1908, the Marlborough Express was at pains to point out that “under his control the Dominion Hotel ranked as one of the best conducted in the city”, such was the need to distance an upstanding publican from the Criterion scandal.

Still, a hotel is a hotel and The Dominion had its share of dramas too, such as fires and burglaries. And in 1930 some alterations were made to the building by Francis Willis (architect).

In 1980 it was refurbished and reopened as The Coachman Inn, the name possibly a nod to Bruce & Coes, a passenger and parcel service, who in the 1860s had their stables and booking office next door. Later the upstairs bar would become a separate establishment operating as The Loft and specialising in Irish music (in the 1990s changing hands and becoming The Finbar), while downstairs the restaurant would be known as Excalibur’s Theatre Restaurant featuring players like local theatre legend Elizabeth Moody.

144 Gloucester Street ,Coachman Inn by Kete Site Admin is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ License

In the mid-1990s the Coachman was threatened with demolition but would eventually be acquired by Christchurch City Council due to the building’s heritage values, and would later become a protected building.

At the time of the earthquakes, the Coachman Inn operated as backpacker accommodation and was home, on its ground floor, to Fuji Japanese Restaurant.

Following the Boxing Day 2010 aftershock, the building was red-stickered, partly because a section of the parapet on the Britten building (105 Worcester St) had collapsed causing damage. The remaining piece of it was also a fall hazard. Part of the parapet of the Coachman had also collapsed on top of the roof of a smaller building at 146 Gloucester Street where The Press had its circulation and marketing teams. The Coachman was close to reopening when the 22 February 2011 quake damaged it beyond repair. It was demolished in July 2011.

Further reading

Before Tūranga – The Masonic Hotel and Montague’s Corner

The first in a series of posts that looks at the history of the central Christchurch sites on which your new library, Tūranga, has been built.

Tūranga from Colombo St
Tūranga, as viewed from Colombo St near Armagh St intersection, 10 October 2018, File reference: TU-2018-10-10-DSC03935

Imagine you are peeking through Tūranga’s ground floor window on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo, possibly drooling over all the yummies in Foundation Café… insert TIMEY WIMEY STUFF…

You are now back in 1855 on the very same spot and are again drooling, this time over all the yummies in Gee & Co.’s bakery and confectionery.

Thomas Gee was a biscuit maker from Lambeth who arrived in 1851. He quickly established a business in Lyttelton selling “bride cakes, jellies, blanc-manges, patties…and ginger beer”and later a shop on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo. In 1855 the Christchurch store was transferred to his son-in-law William Stringer who continued to sell baked goods but also diversified into booze. He applied for a license to sell wine and beer in 1857 and by 1860 his business was known as Stringer’s Hotel.

Colombo Street, Christchurch, looking south towards the Cathedral [ca. 1930]
Colombo Street, Christchurch, looking south, with Wells’ Hotel visible to the left of the Cathedral [ca. 1930] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0041
In 1860 Stringer’s Hotel license was passed to George Henry Tribe who renamed the premises the Central Hotel.

By 1872 mine genial host was Edward Hiorns. Edward originally hailed from Warwickshire and arrived in Christchurch during the 1860s, marrying Amelia Heighton in August 1868. He was heavily involved in the community both as a member of the Christchurch City Council, and later the Linwood Borough Council, and as a Freemason. He must have found the hotel trade financially advantageous as he was able to buy Linwood House, a very fine residence built in 1857 for Joseph Brittan.

In August 1897 architect Joseph C Maddison was retained by Edward Hiorns to draw up a plan for a new section to the Central Hotel. In brick and stucco the new hotel had 30 rooms, and two shops on the ground floor one of which had frontage on both Colombo and Gloucester. The main entrance was on Gloucester Street with a private and public bar on the ground floor, dining room overlooking Colombo Street on the first floor and bedrooms and bathrooms, with hot and cold water and showers, on the second.

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand in 1903 had a delightful puff-piece where the hotel was described as an “ornament to the street architecture of Christchurch” and as being “furnished throughout with luxury and excellent taste.”

Masonic Hotel 3
Page 2 Advertisements Column 3, Press, Volume LV, Issue 10182, 1 November 1898

The hotel was renamed The Masonic and the license was transferred to William James, then E. Carroll.

The Masonic Hotel was the scene of a “Strange Death” in 1912. Loyal Stawell Cherry (yes, that was his name) fell 6 feet from his bedroom window to a recess while feverish with influenza. His cries alerted staff who returned him to bed and sent for medical assistance but the Hobart-native died 30 minutes later.

Montague's Corner Masonic Hotel
Montague’s Corner, Colombo and Gloucester Streets, Christchurch looking towards Cathedral Square. Webb, Steffano, 1880-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-005316-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22479010

One of the most memorable businesses to lease shop space in the rebuilt Masonic Hotel was Montague’s Corner. Owned by the exotically named Israel Montague, Montague’s Corner sold fancy goods and toys. Fancy goods, I’m reliably informed are “items (as novelties, accessories, or notions) that are primarily ornamental or designed to appeal to taste or fancy rather than essential” but I’m sure the major draw was the underground toy cave.

Ad from 1909
Page 9 Advertisements Column 4, Star, issue 9715, 4 December 1909

Bankrupted back in the 1880s when he owned his own fancy goods business in Strange’s Building, Israel then spent 22 years at the D.I.C. (Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand Ltd) before opening up again on his own in August 1906.

Israel fell foul of the law several times for breaching the Shop and Offices Act by staying open outside the prescribed hours but hey, fancy goods don’t sell themselves!

Israel died in 1936 and is buried in the Jewish cemetery at Linwood. His wife Ada, daughter of  Simeon Isaacs, former President of  the Jewish Congregation of Dunedin, had predeceased him by many years.

J R Mckenzie
Page 3 Advertisements Column 2, Press, Volume LX, Issue 18010, 29 February 1924

Montague’s Toy Cave and fancy goods was replaced by J R McKenzie’s. Modelled on America’s five and dime stores, John Robert Hugh McKenzie eventually owned over 70 stores throughout New Zealand and employed over 1800 staff. John McKenzie was also well known in horsey circles owning Roydon Lodge Stud on Yaldhurst Road. Throughout his lifetime McKenzie gave generously to charities and was actively involved in Rotary. he later set up the J R McKenzie Youth Education Fund and the J R McKenzie Trust, both of which still operate today.

Wells masonic
Looking south down Colombo Street through Cathedral Square from the corner of Gloucester and Colombo Street, Christchurch, with J R McKenzie signage visible on Wells’ Hotel building [ca. 1925]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0009
The Masonic Hotel went through several modifications and licensees. Alfred William Wells and his wife Eva owned and ran the Masonic for many years. Alfred died in 1961 leaving Eva a generous annuity and the rest of his estate including the freehold of the Masonic in trust for up to 21 years. The Church of England bought the hotel, and on Saturday 12th of September 1981 the Masonic Hotel closed its doors for the last time and was shortly after demolished.

Construction started on a new seven storey building in early 1982. Completed in November 1982 it included a basement car park, offices and ground floor retail.

A variety of businesses populated this space over the years most recently an internet café and Mum’s 24 café and restaurant with its awesome replica/fake food displays.

Office building, corner of Gloucester and Colombo, October 2011
The intersection of Colombo and Gloucester Streets looking south-east by BeckerFraserPhotos, 15 October 2011. Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0

And so, we end up back where we started, peering in at a café window.

It’s good to know that Tūranga’s café and Lego play area (not exactly a “toy cave” but close enough) are just an extension of a long history of businesses and institutions that have brought life and activity to this particular corner of the central city.

Next week: Hobbs’ Corner

Further reading

Beth El Synagogue and the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation

A decision had been made.

It was time for Hyam Edward Nathan to give up his seat.

The members of Christchurch’s Jewish community, who arrived at the New Year service on 13 September 1882, knew to expect trouble when they saw that Nathan was already sitting in his self-appointed seat, B29.

The issue of Nathan assigning himself this seat had been raised at a recent meeting of the officers of the synagogue. Nathan, who had been present at the meeting, challenged the others to force him to give up his seat.

The seating of the synagogue, which opened only a year earlier, had been allocated by subscription, with the prime seats in sections A and B costing 3 shillings and 2 shillings a week. Seating in the C section was not allotted, due to the low number of applicants, and despite the free seating available, Nathan had taken it upon himself to sit in the lowest ranking seat of section B. Yet his free occupation of B29 had not gone unnoticed. Since 13 September was a holiday, it was important for the proper seat allocation to be followed, as B29 had been assigned to another member of the congregation.

Charles Louisson, the synagogue treasuer, took it upon himself to deal with the stubborn Nathan. After the ordinary services had finished, he approached Nathan and quietly pointed out that the seat had been reserved. Nathan was then ordered to vacate the seat by Maurice Harris, the synagogue president. Realising the matter would not be so easily settled, Constable Costin was summoned but upon arriving the policeman refused to become involved. Nathan then boldly stated he would not leave unless he was carried out. In response, Harris grabbed Nathan by the collar and with the assistance of Louisson, removed him from the seat and from the synagogue altogether.

Nathan would later take the matter to court, alleging that Harris and Louisson had assaulted him. However, the judge ruled in favour of the latter, showing that as they were officers of the synagogue, and since Nathan had no legal right to the seat, he had been in the wrong.

Beth El Synagogue, Christchurch [1906]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 4, IMG0008

The Canterbury Hebrew Congregation

The founding a Jewish congregation in Christchurch, the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation, was first initiated in 1864, following a meeting held on 12 January at the High Street offices of auctioneer, Louis Edward Nathan (not to be confused with Hyam). Attending was Hyam Marks, Maurice Harris, E. Phillips, Marcus Sandstein, David Davis, Henry Moss, and S.M. Solomon. Gifted a plot of land on Gloucester Street by the government, the congregation built its first synagogue in 1864. To ensure the orthodoxy of their practice, traditional ritual items were sourced from various locations including a shofar (horn), ketubah (prenuptial agreement), and a mezuzah (prayers affixed to a door) from Melbourne, a Sefer Torah (scroll of Jewish law) from London, a lulav (enclosed date palm fronds) and matzah (unleavened bread) from Sydney, and an ethrog (citrus fruit) from the Holy Land.

While there were around thirty five prominent Jewish families in Christchurch at this time, many would soon depart for the West Coast to open businesses on the goldfields.

With the conclusion of the gold rush in 1870, many of these families returned to Christchurch. While majority of the early Jewish settlers in Christchurch were English Jews or Jews from Europe, they would soon appoint Isaac Zachariah, a Sephardic Jew from Baghdad, as their rabbi. Trained in Jerusalem, Zachariah had also served the Sassoon family in Bombay, India as a shohet (ritual butcher). After his time in India, he settled in Ballarat, Australia, before relocating to the Hokitika goldfields.

The wedding of Mr L P Hayman of Sydney to Mrs Lillie Marks, third daughter of Mr Maurice Harris of Christchurch at Beth El Synagogue, Gloucester Street, Christchurch [15 Oct. 1901]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 15, IMG0087
Due to his eclectic background, Zachariah could speak not only Hebrew but Arabic, Hindi, and forms of Aramaic. He was often called upon to translate at court trials involving individuals who spoke the languages in which he was fluent. Despite adhering firmly to his own customs and traditional forms of dress, Zachariah was tolerant of other faiths, and often engaged with members of the Anglican community. He also oversaw the establishment of the Christchurch branch of the Anglo-Jewish Association, an organisation dedicated to promoting the rights of Jewish people in regions outside of the British Empire.

Although a traditionalist, Zachariah possessed a rebellious streak, and often clashed with the congregation’s presiding committee. He was known for disregarding their orders, and in one case, he pre-emptively foiled their plans to export frozen kosher meat by writing to the Chief Rabbi in England to receive confirmation that frozen meat could not be considered kosher.

Beth El Synagogue

It was during Zachariah’s tenure that the new synagogue, Beth El, was built to replace the original wooden synagogue. Designed by Thomas Stoddart Lambert, the foundation stone was laid on 8 February 1881, whereupon it was sprinkled with corn, wine, oil and herbs. The synagogue was officially consecrated on 15 November 1881. Presided over by Zachariah, the ceremony was also attended by Anglican officials, some of whom had learned Hebrew from Zachariah.

Landau carriages arrive with the wedding party at Beth El Synagogue, Christchurch [1901] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 6, IMG0079
The committee’s relationship with Zachariah deteriorated until he was eventually forced to resign. In 1889 he was replaced by Adolf Treitel Chodowski. Originally from Posen in Prussia, Chodowski had studied in Berlin before being admitted to the Jews’ College in London. Despite his popularity, the congregation could not afford to maintain his salary and he was forced to take up another position in Brisbane in 1894. The committee’s inability to provide a professional rabbi in the years that followed the departure of Chodowski eventually led them to allow Zachariah to return to the position. He would continue to serve the Jewish community in Christchurch until his death in 1906. He was buried in the Jewish section of Linwood Cemetery.

The Beth El synagogue would remain an iconic feature of Gloucester Street until it was demolished in 1987. In the following year a new synagogue was consecrated at 406 Durham Street. Although it suffered damage in the Canterbury earthquakes, it was repaired and reopened in 2013, where it continues to offer services every Shabbat.

Find out more

Haere ra Central Library on Gloucester Street

The future plans for the central city mean the Central Library is going to be demolished; we are saying goodbye.

Christchurch City Libraries began in 1859 as a Mechanics Institute collection in temporary premises in the then Town Hall in High Street. In 1863 the library moved to a wooden building on the corner of Hereford Street and Cambridge Terrace. The wooden building was replaced with a handsome brick building in 1901 and this was the Central Library until 1982.

The 4th incarnation of the Central Library – located on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace – opened on 11 January 1982. Warren and Mahoney were the architects and C. S. Luney the principal contractor. Governor-General the Hon. Sir David Beattie officially opened the building on 2 February 1982.

Here are some of the keen first people to arrive.
Customers entering library

I started going to the Central Library in Gloucester Street when I moved to Christchurch in the 1990s. I would toddle in once a week for my supply of CDs and books. Later on I was stoked to get a job at Central. I’ve got many good memories of all sorts of things:  talking with customers on the Popular desk on the ground floor, the neat views over Gloucester Street to Cathedral Square, great friends, staffroom chats, oohing and ahhing over new books and CDs and DVDS, breastfeeding my daughter in the sick room, listening to NZ Music Month concerts and author talks. In Central you really did feel part of town’s action and bustle. Central Library staff and customers were (and are) an awesome bunch.

Cover of Canterbury Public LibraryThe riverside land the library stands on is required for the planned Convention Centre. A new Central Library is to be built on a site bordered by Gloucester Street, Colombo Street and Cathedral Square.

We’d love you to share your memories and comments at the bottom of this post

Until we are back again in a new Central Library, enjoy our temporary Centrals – Central Library Peterborough, Central Library Tuam (until it closes on 1 November) and the upcoming Central Library Manchester.

More about the Central Library

Photos

There are lots more photos of the Central Library on Flickr.
Demolition in progress on the site for the new Central LibraryThe new Central Library nearing completionCentral Library
Literature Arts and Music DepartmentBody Festival 2008.Zinefest 09
Gay Maher and Mary Flatman cut the cakeCentral LibraryCraig Smith at the Central LibraryCentral Library

Come and test out the new Gloucester Street Reading Room

Saturday 20 April is the opening date for New Regent Street. Our mobile van will be nearby from 10am to 4pm, giving you a primo opportunity to test out the new Reading Room.

This neat Transitional Reading Room parklet on Gloucester Street is adjacent to the proposed new Central Library site.

It is a Christchurch City Council initiative and the oversized furniture has been designed by F3.

Reading RoomReading RoomReading Room

Reading Room

More:

Need a drink with that aftershock? – Image of the week

Serving a customer at Maling & Co. Ltd, 86 Gloucester Street. Circa 1960.

Serving a customer at Maling & Co. Ltd, 86 Gloucester Street

Do you have photos of Christchurch? We love donations.

Also contact us if you have any further information on any of the images. Want to see more? You can browse our collection.