Before Tūranga – The Lyttelton Times

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

Next to Cathedral Chambers/Hobbs’ Corner was the home of the Lyttelton Times and the Star.

The Lyttelton Times originally set up in Lyttelton with the printing press that arrived on the Charlotte Jane, one of the ‘first four ships’. They published their first paper 26 days after the printing press arrived in 1851 and the run continued till 1935. For a taste of the Times, we have digitised the first issue, 11 January 1851, for you to read online. Marvel at the adds for bullocks and unbroken fillies for sale and wonder at the plea by John Robert Godley, on behalf of the Canterbury Association, who were in desperate need of pickaxes and shovels.

While the headquarters started out in Lyttelton, the newspaper had an agency in Christchurch that sat around about the middle of Tūranga now. Here it is in 1859, facing Gloucester Street.

The Lyttelton Times agency showing the Gloucester Street frontage [ca. 1859]
The Lyttelton Times agency showing the Gloucester Street frontage [1859]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0041
The Lyttelton Times moved its headquarters to Christchurch in 1863, after their two-storey wooden building was finished in 1862. Here’s what it looked like, if you were peering through the trees on the Square in 1863:

The Lyttelton Times office showing the frontage to Cathedral Square. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0040

Come out from the trees and this is what it looked like, still facing the square:

Image: A black and white photos of the Lyttelton Times' premises [ca. 1885]
The Lyttelton Times’ old premises [ca. 1885]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0063
In the photo above, taken in 1885, you can see the flagstaff that was used to signal to the people of Christchurch when ships arrived in the port over the hills. If you knew the code, you could be in the Square and know that a brig was arriving from the North by the blue flag that would be waving at the head of the mast. Very handy if you knew which ship brought in the mail! It was an important spot in Christchurch for staying connected with the outside world.

On the right side of the photo is Warner’s hotel (where the Novotel is now) whose guests would complain about the noise of the printing press lasting long into the night (this wing of Warner’s was eventually demolished and replaced with a theatre (The Liberty, later The Savoy), the building intended to act as a buffer for sound and vibration. In later years the situation would be reversed. Following the demolition of the theatre, vacant space between the buildings became a beer garden for Warner’s hotel and bar, while the Times building by then had been converted to backpackers’ accommodation. Band performances and music in the beer garden were required to stop at a reasonable hour in order not to disturb the sleep of the guests in rooms next door. Later still, this wing of the building would be reinstated, and is now the only part of Warner’s that remains.

On the left in the above image is Cathedral Chambers. The taller building behind the Lyttelton Times was still part of the Lyttelton Times premises, which was added in 1884. While it looks fairly drab from behind, it’s pretty spectacular facing Gloucester Street. Here’s the handsome frontage (134-140 Gloucester St) in 1884:

Image: Black and white photo of the Lyttelton Times office showing the Gloucester Street frontage [1884]
The Lyttelton Times office showing the Gloucester Street frontage. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0039
Somewhat confusingly the building was home to 3 newspapers (the titles of which can be seen engraved into the front of the building): The Lyttelton Times, The Canterbury Times (a weekly started in 1865), and The Star (an evening paper started in 1868). All 3 papers were produced by the Lyttelton Times Company, and for different audiences and purposes.

You could also head down to the Lyttelton Times building to get things printed, just like you can do in Tūranga. We too can boast a large assortment of plain and fancy types, just like Ward and Reeves, the printers who worked from Lyttelton Times Office building.

Image: An advertisement from 1871 for War and Reeves printing, showing many different fonts
Star, Issue 883, 27 March 1871

Well the Lyttelton Times, they kept a-changing, and by 1903 had grown into the majestic beast below, with an addition designed by the Luttrell Brothers on the Cathedral Square side becoming the first building in New Zealand to adopt the Chicago skyscraper style. It was also known as ‘gingerbread style’ or even ‘streaky bacon style’. You can see why looking at the colour pictures of it – it does have a kind of foody look to it. With Oamaru stone facings on a Post Chalmers bluestone base, it was the tallest building on the Square at the time it was built. Here’s the new building decorating its corner of the square in 1904, a black and white photograph from our collection and a pen and ink watercolour by Raymond Morris:

The Lyttelton Times’ new premises, 1903. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0062
Raymond Morris’s painting, ‘Lyttelton Times Building (1906) Identifier: qsr-object:214465, Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0.

The Lyttelton Times changed its name to the Christchurch Times in 1929, then stopped publishing in 1935 because the competition was too great. When it ended, it was the oldest newspaper in the country. The building was still used for newspapers though – New Zealand Newspapers Ltd, formerly the Lyttelton Times Company, kept publishing the evening Star-Sun, which had started as the Star in 1868. In 1958 the Star-Sun moved out of this building to a new location in Kilmore Street, and changed its name to the Christchurch Star.

Once all the newspapers had departed, the building was occupied by several different commercial tenants over the years, including The Record Joynt and the fondly remembered Atlantis Market, described by journalist Russell Brown as “a long-gone hippie emporium”. Before the 2011 earthquake, there was a Tandoori Palace restaurant on the ground floor and Base Backpackers above. On the Gloucester Street side, the ground floor was home to a number of restaurants including Samurai Bowl, O-cha Thai, and Le Pot Au Feu. By August that year the building would be demolished.

Lyttelton Times Building in 2008 by Lisa T, with the new portion of Warners Hotel under construction at right, via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

The connection of the site to Christchurch’s historical newspapers continues in Tūranga with our collection of back copies of local newspapers on microfilm, including the Lyttelton Times and the Star. Come and visit them on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2.

Next week: The Coachman Inn

Further reading

Te Reo Māori, niupepa, and Papers Past

The historians and whakapapa researchers among you may already be familiar with Papers Past, an impressive and still-growing online resource from the National library. This site makes digitised versions of Aotearoa newspapers, magazines and journals, letters and diaries, and parliamentary papers available online, for free.

Page one of Te Karere o Nui Tireni
Page one of Te Karere o Nui Tireni, 1 January 1842
VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1, via Papers Past.

The fascinating newspaper section (believe me, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit-hole of reading old articles and advertisements for hours!) contains a wide range of digitised New Zealand and Pacific newspapers from the 19th and 20th centuries, including an important collection of newspapers/niupepa in Te Reo Māori (or in English for a Māori readership).

Many of these became available in 2015, when the National Library added a collection of historic newspapers. This latest online collection was based on the digital Niupepa Collection developed and made available in 2000 by the New Zealand Digital Library Project, at the Department of Computer Science, University of Waikato. The original source material for this was ‘Niupepa 1842-1933’, a collection of niupepa filmed by the Alexander Turnbull Library in the late 1980s and made available on microfiche in the 1990s.

There were three main types of Māori niupepa published over this period; government sponsored, Māori initiated, and religious. To see the current list of what’s available in this collection, take a look at the list on the Papers Past ‘about’ page.

More information about the newspapers can be found in Rere Atu Taku Manu! Discovering History, Language & Politics in the Māori Language Newspapers, edited by Jennifer Curnow, Ngapare Hopa, and Jane McRae, available from our collection.

Find out more

Read all about it!

We have added two new online newspaper archives to our collection, The International Herald Tribune and The 17th and 18th Nichols Newspaper Collection. You can search them individually or alongside our other collections of newspaper archives using Gale Primary Sources. Use these resources at a library or enter your library card & password/PIN.

International Herald Tribune Historical Archive 1887-2013


The International Herald Tribune Historical Archive, 1887-2013 features the complete archive of the International Herald Tribune from its origins as the European edition of The New York Herald and later the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune. The archive ends with the last issue of the International Herald Tribune before its relaunch as the International New York Times. The International Herald Tribune Historical Archive, 1887-2013 charts the history of the 20th century from luxury travel and opulent entertainment, to international conflicts, the spread of American culture abroad and globalisation.

The 17th and 18th Century Nichols Newspaper Collection


The 17th and 18th Century Nichols Newspapers Collection features the newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets and broadsheets that form the Nichols newspaper collection held at the Bodleian library in Oxford, UK. All 296 volumes of bound material, covering the period 1672-1737 are presented in digitised format here.
This collection charts the history of the development of the press in England and provides invaluable insight into 17th-18th century England.

More newspapers information

Read all about it at the British Newspaper Archive

British-Newspaper-Archive-220pwAt the British Library, there are over 32 kilometres of shelving that contain bound volumes of newspapers and over 13 kilometres of newspaper microfilm. Until now, the only way to view these newspapers was to visit the British Library and of course it was not possible to search them – until now.

The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership with the British Library to begin digitising this huge collection and make it available to researchers including us here in Christchurch.

What can I search?

  • News Articles – read about national events, as well as issues of local and regional importance;
  • Family Notices – search for your family’s birth, marriage and death notices plus related announcements including engagements, anniversaries, birthdays and congratulations;
  • Letters – read letters to the editor illuminating contemporary debates, aspirations and anxieties;
  • Advertisements – these include classifieds, shipping notices and appointments;
  • Illustrations – see photographs, engravings, graphics, maps and editorial cartoons.

So how do I start?

Due to license restrictions you can only access this eResource inside your local library. You will also need to first create your own account using your email address and password once you enter. Once this is done, you can freely access all content and organise all your research with your personal notes and bookmarks. My advice? Explore and be ready to lose track of time!

For the history blobbers out there…

By my age you should know a few things about yourself. I know for example that I am a history buff and that I am lazy. My favourite place in the whole world is my couch with a good history book in one hand, a cup of tea in the other and a fat cat on my lap. Bliss.

A recent discovery of mine that appeals is a little goldmine called Gale Newsvault. While sitting in your long johns at home you can enter a few keywords and search across four hundred years of history in one go. Where else can you see the original reports on Jack the Ripper (Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003) or articles making fun of George Michael’s tan (Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2004)?

db-GaleNewsvault-CKEY708421In the 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection I can read eye-witness accounts of the voyages to New Zealand and the Boyd massacre or find out what personal attributes one needs to be a lady’s maid in 19th Century British Library Newspapers. Do I have a good character they all want to know? I am pretty sure I do, so I would never have attended the cock-fighting advertised in the Stanford Mercury in the Kings Arm’s on November 8th 1793.

You could easily lose hours cross searching 13 historical newspaper and magazine archives on Gale Newsvault. Which I have every intention of doing this weekend…

A rollickin’ good yarn

Cover of The Fair FightAfter reading two bleak stories I needed a complete change. For this reason I chose an historical first novel by Anna Freeman titled The Fair Fight. It turned out to be a rollickin’ good yarn from beginning to end.

When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to another time and place. I want true characters that I can commit to and stories I can believe in. I want real voices and language that evokes the period of the time. I was lucky as Anna Freeman skilfully and naturally blends these elements to create a story that comes alive.

From the first pages I was immersed in 18th century Bristol where pugilists, brothels, brawling and gambling rule the day. I enjoyed discovering and absorbing new/old words like “mollies”, “pugs”, “cullies”, and “swells”.

Three of the main characters, Ruth, Charlotte and George, are the storytellers with each voice adding suspense and vibrancy to the drama. This is a well realised and oftentimes brutal tale.

elizabeth stokesBy the end I wanted to know more about women and boxing during these times so turned to the 17th – 18th Century Burney Collection of Historical Newspapers available from the library.

I found an advertisement from Oct 1st, 1726, about a Mary Welch and Elizabeth Stokes. They talk up their fighting skills to excite readers and announce they will “mount at Four” and “fight in cloth Jackets, short Petticoats coming just below the Knee, Holland Drawers, white Stockings, and Pumps”. Cor blimey!

A fascinating account that all started with historical fiction.

Papers Past – now with more Christchurch

Papers Past is a New Zealand taonga . This collection of digitised newspapers is an invaluable resource for students, historians, writers, researchers and anyone who wants to timetravel. Some recent additions will be of particular interest for Christchurch.

The Press now includes the years 1921 to 1928. Coverage is now from 25 May 1861 to 29 December 1928 (20192 issues)

The Star now covers issues from 1910 to 1914. The coverage is now from 4 May 1868 to 31 December 1914 (14589 issues)

Newly added is The Sun 6 February 1914 – 31 December 1915 (595 issues)

In 1912, Edward C Huie resigned from editorship of the Press Company’s Evening News in Christchurch, frustrated that the proprietors were not interested in the young Australian’s ideas about livelier journalism and layout. The Evening News’ primary role was to carry news and advertisements too late for that day’s Press. The 36-year-old Huie announced shortly afterwards his intention to launch a third evening paper, a competitor to the Evening News and the Lyttelton Times’ Star.

Here is an article on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, in The Star of 29 June 1914:

Untitled-1

History never repeats … or does it? Explore our history resources

History Reference CenterPrince Charles has created a storm by being heard to draw comparisons between Putin and Hitler. Certainly Hitler started by annexing  a few territories whom Germany had historical links to, much like Putin did with Crimea. The question Prince Charles asks is will Putin stop there, because Hitler didn’t.

Tim Finn may tell himself history never repeats before he goes to sleep, but many others would disagree and say history is cyclic. If you are a bit of a history buff, then we have so many great online resources for you to help form your own opinions. Here are a few:

For even more historical resources check out the Source. All you need to a gateway of information and glorious interactivity is your library card number and password/PIN.

Time travel with Picture Post Archive

Picture Post was an iconic British newspaper published from 1938-1957. At its peak 80% of the British public were reading it. Why? Well, a large part of this was its pioneering use of photojournalism. No longer were pictures just portraits of the great and good,  but they reflected the stories of those on the street in all their joys and worries. There was a lot to worry about with this newspaper covering the stormy years leading up to World War II to the first decade of the Cold War.

It is positively fascinating to see the prevailing attitudes and the discussions of everyday Britain in this time period. The Picture Post  Archive contains fully searchable reproductions of every issue of this newspaper for you to explore.

This archive is a goldmine for historians or anyone with an inch of curiosity in their bones. You can access this from home or at any community library with your  library card and password / PIN. I encourage you to have a read and fall into a world preparing for and enduring war and facing the nuclear age with bravery and humour.