David Welch – Port to Plains; Over and Under the Port Hills, the Story of the Lyttelton Railway Tunnel

The Lyttelton rail tunnel officially opened on 9 December 1867. The trip through the hill secion took less than seven minutes. This was New Zealand’s first rail tunnel, and for many years it was also the country’s longest. The Lyttelton rail tunnel was the first in the world that was driven through the side of an extinct volcano.

I recently attended David Welch’s Heritage Week talk about his upcoming book: Port to Plains; Over and Under the Port Hills, the Story of the Lyttelton Railway Tunnel.

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Entrance to a tunnel on the Christchurch railway [ca. 1868] CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0029
No dry reading here! David loves a good social history so has concentrated on the real characters in the saga of constructing a tunnel through a volcanic caldera. In his talk he brought to life well-known early pioneer names such as Fitzgerald, Moorhouse, and Dobson in snippets of stories included in the book.

I for one am really looking forward to its publication. Place a hold on Port to Plains; Over and Under the Port Hills, the Story of the Lyttelton Railway Tunnel and we will let you know when a copy arrives for you to read.

Find out more:

From tiny seeds… The origins of The Great Library Seed Swap

So what’s the deal with all this seed swapping that’s propagating across our libraries? Well, it’s been growing quietly for a while, and I was there when it all began…

It all started just after the February 2011 earthquake, as so many other interesting projects did. When my usual library (the Central Library) was closed, I was reassigned along with my colleagues – first to emergency response related duties, and then to help out at other suburban libraries as they reopened and experienced increased patronage.

So, I found myself on a bus to Lyttelton! On my first day my new colleague Lizzie greeted me with “So you’re the person who gets all the new garden books on hold before me!” From that welcome followed many hours of gardening talk; through aftershocks, closures, and long Friday afternoon desk shifts (often involving customers in the discussion).

A bit before spring of 2011 Lizzie uttered the fateful words “Hey, we could do a seed swap!” and The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap was born. It has been brightening up our early spring days at Lyttelton ever since. Our swap has includes seeds and seedlings (and even baby fruit and native trees on occasion) and we have the Lyttelton Community Gardens on board too.

I left the libraries for four years, but couldn’t stay away and was delighted to discover on my return that not only had The Great Lyttelton Library Seed Swap thrived, but it had put out runners to Akaroa and Hornby Libraries – and this year, with the help and enthusiasm of Remy at Spreydon Library, it’s popping up at Spreydon and South libraries too! Check out the times and dates for your nearest seed swap now.

Jo
Lyttelton Library

Opening of the Harbour Light Theatre

The queue had started long before the official opening at 8pm and while they waited the crowd was entertained by musical selections from the Lyttelton Marine Band. The Deputy Mayor, J.T. Morton, started the official proceedings, apologising for the absence of the Mayor, Mr Radcliffe, who had been unable to be present due to illness. Mr O.T.J Alpers on behalf of the directors, spoke next, remarking on moving pictures being a great source of education, especially in war-time.

And then the films began rolling…a wild life film, followed by a humorous study entitled “When in Rome” and then the main attraction, a drama, “The Deep Purple”.

Harbour Light Cinema, 1980s
Harbour Light Cinema, circa 1980s. © Jae Renaut.

So began the life of the Harbour Lights Picture Theatre when it was officially opened on 20th March 1917.

Situated at 24 London Street it was built in 1916, reputedly designed by John and Maurice Guthrie. Arthur William Lane had purchased the land in June 1916, transferring the title to Lyttelton Pictures Ltd in September. Mr Lane would be the theatre’s first manager.

Two storeys high, with a mezzanine floor, the theatre could seat 550 people in both stalls and circle. Initially just films were screened but in 1920 the building was extended and a stage erected to accommodate theatre performances, the first one “The N.Z. Diggers” opening on the 4th December. The theatre was now able to be used for performances, concerts, public talks and other social events as well as screening films.

Over the years the Harbour Lights went through a number of changes including building damage when the clay bank at the rear of the theatre collapsed into the stage extension in 1925. The main building escaped unscathed so film screenings continued but the stage was out of action for some time. Talking pictures arrived in April 1930, and attendance at the theatre continued to be a regular social activity for the townspeople. In the 1940s the theatre was advertised for sale or lease but ownership only changed in the 1960s when Lang Masters took over running the cinema and again in 1972 when Leo Quinlivan took over the building and after a major refurbishment reopened it as a theatre. In 1980 it was once again a cinema when Frederick E. Read, a film librarian, took over ownership.

The 1980s saw a squash court added, the auditorium stripped, the building turned into a restaurant, and then a night club. By 1992 it had evolved into a licensed entertainment and function venue and it continued to operate as such until the earthquake in February 2011.

In April 2011 the Harbour Light Theatre was demolished.

Further information

 

The Lyttelton Report: the old, the new, and the canine

It’s all go portside at the moment, as we at Lyttelton Library watch the repairs proceeding apace from our temporary perch up the hill in the Recreation Centre’s Trinity Hall on Winchester Street. The in-progress library now has a dashing white coat of paint (goodbye pink!), lovely new double-glazed windows, and a smart new resident outside…

Hector and Lyttelton LibraryThis gorgeous bronze sled dog, nicknamed Hector, was sculpted by Mark Whyte and stands guard by what will be our new customer entrance. He’s looking towards Quail Island, where his real-life predecessors were housed and trained. Hector is there to recognise and celebrate Lyttelton’s contribution to exploration in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and he symbolises the courage, commitment and comradeship of all those involved. (He’s also a hit with local kids and tourists – it seems the thing to do is have your selfie taken with Hector wearing your sunglasses!)

Meanwhile, inside the library, the new spaces are starting to take shape. Here are a few shots of the work in progress:

Looking at the new children's area (old entrance on London Street).
Looking at the new children’s area (old entrance on London Street).
Looking at the new entrance on the corner of London and Canterbury Streets.
Looking at the new entrance on the corner of London and Canterbury Streets.
Main library space with newly opened up porthole view over the harbour.
Main library space with newly opened up porthole view over the harbour.

We’re enjoying our current sojourn in sunny Trinity Hall (particularly with Jenny the giraffe watching over everything) and looking forward to next year, when we’ll be back in the heart of things (and the Saturday market) again!

Lyttelton Library is due to reopen in March 2017.

Lyttelton Library's temporary home, watched over by Jenny the giraffe.
Lyttelton Library’s temporary home, watched over by Jenny the giraffe.

More information

Jo,
Lyttelton Library

October Photo Hunt: Unloading diggers for Christchurch rebuild, 29 October 2011

Unloading diggers for Christchurch rebuild, 29 October 2011.
Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Jane Rodgers. Unloading-diggers-for-Christchurch-rebuild-29-October-2011 CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0NZ

Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008.  The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.

Enter the 2016 hunt online or at your local library.

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

Photo Hunt October: Open Day, 1955

Open day, 1955.
Highly commended entry in the 2012 Photo Hunt. File ref: RM-2012-PH-101; CC-BY-NC-ND-3.0 NZ

United States Navy Icebreaker Open Day at Lyttelton in 1955.  As the 2016 Antarctic season opens, this is a reminder of the length of the association between Christchurch and the U.S. Antarctic progamme.

Highly commended entry in the 2012 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt.  The judges commented that This colourful and action-packed shot shows the strong and enduring connection between Christchurch people and those heading down to the Antarctic.”

Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008. The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.

Enter the 2016 hunt online or at your local library.

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

Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights 2016

The Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights is an annual event of lights, music and fun celebrating the Lyttelton community, Matariki, the Māori New Year and the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

The Festival runs over nine days from 18 to 27 June, and this year incorporates the Alliance Française Christchurch Musical Festival on opening night. The programme features a street party (the dress up theme is ‘Futuristic’), a masquerade ball, music, waiata, food and wine, live poetry performances, storytelling, and, of course, fireworks.

Festival of Lights

Highlights of the 2016 programme of events [2319 KB PDF] include:

Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights flyerSaturday 18 June

  • Matariki Celebration 10am – 1pm, Albion Square: Cultural performances and music.
  • Puppets at the Port St Saviour’s Church at Holy Trinity, 10am – 2:30pm: Including favourites Liz Weir, and Natural Magic
  • Grand opening cabaret, Lyttelton Arts Factory, 7.30pm (already sold out)
  • Alliance Française Christchurch Music Festival

Continue reading

Lyttelton Library is moving and you can help!

The Lyttelton Library in London Street is relocating. It will close at 1pm Saturday 30 January and relocate to Trinity Hall, 25 Winchester Street. It will open at its new location Monday 15 February.

Earthquake repairs and strengthening and a full refurbishment will be carried out on the London Street building from February to November 2016.

You can help! Lighten the load of books to be moved from the London Street library site. Max out your library card by borrowing books, DVDs, magazines and CDs, then return your books to Trinity Hall.

Lyttelton Library

A small piece of Christchurch’s Antarctic heritage

Christchurch has many links with Antarctica, both modern and historic. This November sees the 105th anniversary of the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition sailing from Lyttelton. Led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and officially known as the British Antarctic Expedition, the expedition ended in disaster when the polar party perished on their way back from the South Pole, having discovered that Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian party had made it there before them.

Scott and his men had spent some time in Lyttelton and Christchurch before setting sail on the last leg of their sea voyage from the UK. Scott first came to the region in 1901 when he also used Lyttelton as last port of call on his way to Antarctica. This was the British National Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Discovery expedition.

A typescript letter signed by Robert Scott, thanking the City for the gift, from Mr. H. Greenbank, of a mounted horseshoe.
Letter, 15 Nov. 1910, from Robert Falcon Scott, CCL-Archive18-003

Our digital collection includes a couple of nice mementos of these two expeditions, which highlight the Christchurch connection. On both occasions the people of Christchurch gave a gift to the expedition – firstly some sheep and secondly a mounted horseshoe. Scott wrote thank you letters to the town clerk and these are now part of the library’s archives collection and have been digitised.

  • For everything you could ever want to know about Antarctica, take a look at the extensive links on our Antarctica web page.
  • Find out about the Antarctic Heritage Trust‘s quest to restore the historic Ross Island huts of Scott, Shackleton and others

Commemorating peaceful protest – Parihaka

Human beings. We can be a bit disappointing sometimes can’t we? We’re often very easily swayed by things that are bright and shiny rather than other more meaningful things.

FireworksTake for instance the event we usually commemorate on 5 November, Guy Fawkes Day. Four hundred years ago in England a group of people plotted to blow up the King and Parliament. The plot was foiled and Fawkes (among others) was caught , tried and executed.
And this would probably be no more than a barely remembered fact from high school history class if explosives weren’t involved. Because we love a bit of a fireworks display, we choose to remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.

Parihaka, a very different kind of protest, doesn’t get as much attention even though it’s far more recent and took place in our own country.

Parihaka by Josiah Martin, [ca 1880]
Parihaka by Josiah Martin, [ca 1880], Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Accession No. 1997/34/7
The Māori settlement of Parihaka, Taranaki was home to around 2000 people. In the wake of the Land Wars many Māori had become dispossessed as the Government of the time had undertaken “confiscations” of land. A movement to resist this acquisition and occupation of Māori land had grown, but rather than warfare, peaceful means were used to undermine Government “ownership” of disputed lands. Surveyor pegs were removed, fences were built, fields were ploughed.

By 1881 the Government determined that this peaceful but disruptive protest should come to an end, so on 5 November a militia and armed constabulary of 1500 men invaded the settlement of Parihaka. They were met without resistance. The settlement, and its surrounding crops were eventually destroyed. The leaders of the movement  Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi were sent south and jailed, as were a number of men, some of whom never returned.

So, in both cases the Government of the day is accused of injustice – one group chooses a violent protest, the other a peaceful one – but it’s the former that we commemorate. Hmmm. Interesting.

But should you want to pay tribute to the fearless, peaceful protestors of Parihaka you have the opportunity. Lyttelton Community House invite you to attend their Annual Parihaka Remembrance service. This will be held on Thursday, 5th November, 10am at the Lyttelton Rose Garden – (Former Gaol site). From there you are also invited to attend a second service that will be held at the memorial stone next to the church at Rapaki at 11am. Light refreshments will be served afterwards. Please phone Christine on 741-1427 if you require further information.

Or at the very least, you could spend Thursday humming this pop classic by Tim Finn.