St Albans Croquet Club, ca 1936: Picturing Canterbury

St Albans Croquet Club.
Original file name: BGu-2012-PH-071a.jpg. Kete Christchurch. Entry in the 2012 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ.

The Canterbury Croquet Association was formed on 3 August 1910, the first in New Zealand.   This is one of only two images we have of croquet in Kete Christchurch – we would welcome more.

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

Remembering Richard Pearse 1877 to 1953

My name is Richard William Pearse and today it will be 63 years since my death. You know me because I was one of the first people in the world to fly a powered aircraft. Some of you even believe that my flight preceded that of the Wright Brothers and you would be right, it did by several months.

Richard Pearse 80 cent stamp
Richard Pearse stamp, 1990. Image used by permission of New Zealand Post.

But many years ago I conceded quite publicly that by my own rigorous standards I hadn’t achieved controlled and sustained flight. It was quite a ride though when I did achieve take off and stayed in the air for over a hundred metres before ‘landing’ atop the large gorse hedge that bordered my property in Waitohi. My collarbone and I fared about as well as my plane did when I hit the hedge and we were both the worse for wear afterwards.

So while I could obviously get my plane in the air I needed to set about solving the problem of aerial navigation. Despite my work, this is where my well funded counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere had the advantage until finally as I wrote in the Evening Star on 10th May 1915;

…as aerial navigation was already an accomplished fact, I decided to give up the struggle, as it was useless to continue against men who had factories at their backs.

But other events would also define my life. In 1910 I became very ill with typhoid and spent three months in bed and a further six months convalescing. It was with particular significance that only a couple of years later Wilbur Wright died from the same illness. I moved to Milton, Otago not long afterwards to farm sheep and took my designs and aircraft with me but the landscape was unsuitable for trial flights. I put my efforts into inventing farm machinery instead.

Richard Pearse Patent Drawing1906
Richard Pearse’s Fantastic Flying Machine, drawing from Richard Pearse’s patent, July 1906 [patent number #21476], Archives New Zealand (CC BY-SA 2.0)
In 1917 I was conscripted into the army and was placed with the Otago Infantry Regiment. I am 40 years old and despite enjoying walking the hills around my home and playing golf and tennis; I am unprepared for the toll army training will take on me. It soon became apparent that the typhoid had left its mark and I was eventually found to be physically unfit for further military service and discharged. I was home by the end of 1918.

By 1921 wool prices were plummeting so I decided it was time to sell up and I relocated to Christchurch. Here I eventually purchased three houses, two of which I rented out and lived off the proceeds so that I could continue my work. I dreamed of a plane in every home, but this was not to be. As time passed and my work continued to reside in relative obscurity; I became unwell and lived out my years at Sunnyside Hospital. I died here on 29th July, 1953.

But in a strange twist of fate my work lives on and is celebrated today. The recognition that eluded me in my lifetime has been heaped upon me in death. My utility plane and my years of research were discovered at my Christchurch home and a dump in Waitohi with thanks largely to my champion George Bolt. A replica of my plane was constructed in the mid 1970s, it toured the country and is now on display at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology. They even tested it in a wind tunnel to see if it would fly. Unsurprisingly, it did.

Richard Pearse's Aeroplane No. 1 replica, MOTAT, Auckland, New Zealand, 5 April 2010 photo by Phillip Capper
Richard Pearse’s Aeroplane No. 1 replica, MOTAT, Auckland, New Zealand, 5 April 2010 photo by Phillip Capper (CC BY 2.0)

More information on Richard Pearse

Akaroa Ladies Hockey Team 1911: Picturing Canterbury

Akaroa Ladies Hockey. 1911.
Akaroa Ladies Hockey 1911. File Reference: Ladies_Hockey._1911.jpg CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ.

Both men’s & women’s hockey has a long tradition in Canterbury; there were seven Canterbury men in the NZ Men’s Hockey Team that won gold at the Montreal Olympics in July 1976.

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

Christchurch’s first Mayor – William ‘Cabbage’ Wilson

On the 10th June 2016 it will be 148 years since eight councillors unanimously elected the first Mayor of Christchurch. There have been 46 Christchurch mayors, but William ‘Cabbage’ Wilson was our first.

Photograph of a painting of William Barbour Wilson, first Mayor of Christchurch. Ref: PAColl-D-0542. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22726768
Photograph of a painting of William Barbour Wilson, first Mayor of Christchurch. Ref: PAColl-D-0542. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22726768

‘Oh dear’, I hear you say; what an unfortunate nickname to be saddled with. I couldn’t agree more. Now before your imagination takes flight…  the nickname was earned because of a hat made of cabbage tree leaves that he wore. It also served to differentiate him from two other prominent Christchurch William Wilsons – ‘Nabob’ and ‘Parson’.

But I digress. William Wilson had far more to be remembered for than just an unusual nickname, hats made of leaves and what was apparently a fabulous combover. He was a very prominent nurseryman and landowner in the central city as well as being quite active in the community and local politics;  which led to him being elected as Christchurch’s first Mayor.

However the higher you rise the further you have to fall. And this is what happened in spectacular style to William Wilson. It all began with his fraud conviction from the sneaky use of land that he was trustee for.  Hot on the heels of this scandal, his wife came forward to seek protection from his abuse as she feared for her life. Apparently he didn’t feel that he was in enough hot water so he tried to break into her house for which he was arrested.  His fall from grace was complete.

However, in an odd twist he did manage to get re-elected to council 10 years after his stint as Mayor and this caused an uproar among 5 of the sitting councillors who resigned in protest. Well, that won’t make you popular among your peers, will it? Big news at the time and thankfully he managed to perform his duties without further scandal; but his time in the world of politics was drawing to a close.

He did manage to claw back some respectability though for his ability to grow prize worthy vegetables of substantial size. Try to imagine a cauliflower that was over 3 feet in circumference and weighed 11 pounds! That’s nearly 5 kg of cauliflower – pass me the cheese sauce!

So with such a legacy to be remembered for, its little wonder that we don’t exactly celebrate the man and his achievements. Maybe it’s also a great shame that his bad behaviour has so overshadowed the good work that he achieved in his lifetime. Fortunately, we do still have daily reminders of what he did contribute to our city – even if we are unaware of it. Next time you are driving down Wilson’s Road past AMI Stadium spare a thought for our first Mayor as the street you are driving on was named for him. When you next admire the lovely old trees that grace the centre islands of Fitzgerald or Bealey Avenues or maybe the trees on the banks of the Avon River, don’t forget that William Wilson was Subcommittee Chairman for the landscaping of these areas. Finally, something beautiful and lasting to be remembered for.

More about William Wilson

Now that your interest is piqued about Christchurch mayors, see what some of them got up to in their lives:

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.