Knowlescourt, 274 Papanui Road, 4 March 2011, north facade: Picturing Canterbury

Knowlescourt, 274 Papanui Road, 4 March 2011. Kete Christchurch. Knowlescourt__274_Papanui_Road__4_March_2011___north_facade. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

The former house at 274 Papanui Road, known  as “Knowles Court” was built in 1910 for Christchurch solicitor, Thomas Gregory Russell and his wife Doris. It was designed in the Arts and Crafts architectural style by John James Collins of the firm Armson, Collins and Harman. The interior of the house was later converted into flats. Although a heritage listed building, having sustained damage during the Canterbury earthquakes, the house was demolished in 2011.

Do you have any photographs of 274 Papanui Road? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

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

Riverside Neo-Georgian: The Theosophical Society Hall

Late in the afternoon of 25 July 1926, a crowd gathered at 267 Cambridge Terrace to witness the dedication of a newly erected building. Built in the Neo-Georgian style of architecture, it evoked the image of a palatial dwelling rather than that of a religious institution. At exactly 4:43pm, a time chosen for being the supposed moment when the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, gave his first sermon at a deer park in Sanarth, India, a dedication stone was unveiled which read:

“This building is dedicated to the Glory of God and to the Service of Humanity.”

Yet the building was neither a Buddhist temple nor a church, but a purpose built hall for a new movement that had arisen in the late nineteenth century, the Theosophical Society.

The Theosophical Hall, Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch [1926]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0085.

The Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society was formed in New York in 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), a Russian immigrant, who claimed to have visited Tibet and made contact with a group of secret mystics known as the ‘Masters’. In all likelihood Blavatsky had never visited Tibet (however, her grandfather was the Russian government’s appointed guardian of the Kalmyk people, descendants of Oirat Mongols who had migrated to the Volga steppe of Russia in the seventeenth century and who followed Tibetan Buddhism). Blavatsky managed to convince Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), one of the founding members of the New York Confederacy of Spiritualists, as to the existence of the Masters and that she was the recipient of their doctrines. Together they worked to establish a movement of which the objectives were:

To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.

To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.

To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in humanity.

Unable to establish itself on Spiritualist credentials alone, the Theosophical Society soon rebranded itself by appropriating the doctrines of Hinduism and Buddhism. To further this connection with the ancient faiths of India, the society relocated its international headquarters to Adyar, India, in 1882.

Theosophy in Christchurch

Theosophy soon became known in New Zealand through publications and visiting lecturers. Eventually the first lodge was founded in Wellington in 1888, with an Auckland lodge following in 1892.

On 13 May 1894 a meeting was held at the house of William Denne Meers, a clothing manufacturer, with the purpose of forming a Christchurch branch of the Theosophical Society. As a result, the Christchurch lodge was officially established on 28 June 1894. Without any formal premises, the society initially met in rooms at the Opera House at 214 Tuam Street. In the years that followed, the lodge was visited by prominent overseas members, including social reformer Annie Besant (1847-1933) in October 1894 and Henry Steel Olcott in September 1897.

A month after the visit by Olcott, the lodge moved to what was then 130 Lichfield Street, opposite Bennett’s corner. In mid-1900, it relocated to Hobbs’ Buildings on the north side of Cathedral Square (the present site of Tūranga). By 1906, its meetings were held at 150 Worcester Street (opposite the Federal Club). Eventually, in 1910, the lodge took up residence in Manchester Chambers at 263 Manchester Street where it remained until the Cambridge Terrace hall was established.

Sure to Rise

Thomas J. Edmonds (1858-1932) was a successful Christchurch businessman who was most famous for his baking powder and the factory which produced it (now the site of the Edmonds Factory Garden). With his wealth, he contributed to the architecture of the city, with notable examples being the Band Rotunda on Cambridge Terrace and the Radiant Hall on Kilmore Street. Although he was not a member of the Theosophical Society, his daughter Beatrice often attended the society’s meetings. When the society began fundraising for a purpose built hall in 1925, Edmonds offered his financial assistance.

Cecil Wood

The building was designed by prominent architect, Cecil W. Wood (1878-1947) who, from 1922, took an interest in Georgian architecture (one of his notable works being the residence of the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Bishopscourt, on Park Terrace). The tender for its construction was awarded to the building firm D. Scott and Son.

While other Theosophical Society halls in New Zealand, such as Wellington (1918) and Auckland (1922) were designed in the Classical architectural style, Wood chose Neo-Georgian for the Christchurch lodge. Constructed from brick, and rectangular in form, the building’s sparse street front was enlivened by the use of multi-paned windows and quoins. Classical elements were still included in the form an entrance framed by a triangular pediment set atop two pillars.

Within, various rooms including a library, kitchen and chapel (for use by the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis) were accessed from a central hallway. At the rear of the building was the central lecture hall, which could seat up to 120 individuals (although it was originally intended to seat more). The second floor of the building eventually became the home of the Christchurch Lodge of Universal Co-masonry and the Esoteric Society.

Theosophical Hall, 267 Cambridge Terrace, 31 March 2011. Kete Christchurch. Theosophical_Hall__267_Cambridge_Terrace___31_March_2011____P3310167. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

The end

The Theosophical Society in Christchurch and the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis continued to use the hall until it was damaged in the 2011 Canterbury earthquake. Despite being a heritage listed building, it was subsequently demolished in 2012. Following the demolition of the hall, the Christchurch branch of the Theosophical Society now meets at the Canterbury Workers’ Educational Association building.

Demolition of the Theosophical Hall, 23 June 2012. Kete Christchurch. Demolition_of_the_Theosophical_Hall__23_June_2012__SAM_7293. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

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The Normal School, Cranmer Square, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

The Normal School, Cranmer Square, Christchurch [192-?0]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0010.
In Apr. 1873 the Canterbury Board of Education held a design competition for a projected normal school. The winner was S.C. Farr (1827-1918), a Christchurch architect, with a revised Gothic design. When the Normal School was completed in 1874 at a cost of £14,269, the Montreal Street wing measured 145 ft. and the Kilmore Street wing, 244 ft. The builder was Daniel Reese and William Brassington (b. 1840) the carver of the stone details.

In 1878 the Montreal Street wing was extended to provide a kindergarten on the ground floor and a training department on the first floor. The architect of the extension was Thomas Cane (1830-1905). In 1924-1925 the Teachers’ College students moved to a building on the corner of Montreal and Peterborough Streets. In 1954 the Normal School was transferred to Elmwood. The old school became the training centre for the Post-Primary Dept of Christchurch Teachers’ College. In 1970 they moved to Ilam and the building became subject to neglect, vandalism and decay. In Sept. 1981 it was sold to an investment company and between then and 1986 was converted to luxury apartments. The Board Room became a restaurant, Grimsby’s. The building was demolished following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.

Learn more about the architecture and history of the Normal School.

Do you have any photographs of the former Normal School building?  If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

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

Cashel Street, 14 December 2009: Picturing Canterbury

Cashel Street - 14 December 2009.
File Ref:Cashel_Street_-_14_December_2009__DSC08393.JPG. Kete Christchurch CC BY-NC-SA 3.00 NZ.

The City Mall was opened on August 7, 1982.  Also known as Cashel Mall, it was reinvented following the 2010/2011 earthquakes as Restart Mall with retail businesses housed in recycled shipping containers. This image shows it as it was prior to the earthquakes, bustling with people and a new sculpture by Neil Dawson, whose Chalice also features on the banners.

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