Do you remember the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch? I do. I was on holidays and watched John Walker setting records on the track, while next door in the same complex, the Canadians and the Australians collected medals in the pool. My husband and his brother were in Christchurch and when they could, they caught the bus to Cathedral Square so they could get autographs from the athletes.
Years later, I moved to Christchurch. I never ran on the athletics track, but I did go swimming in the pool. I think I set a record for the slowest lap. I didn’t mind too much. I just enjoyed swimming in the pool where records were set all those years ago.
The park was damaged beyond repair in the 22nd February 2011 earthquake. For a long time, the site was a collection of broken buildings and long grass.
One day I drove by, and noticed some activity. Construction vehicles were unloading gravel and the site was being cleared. Finally, good news – the site was going to become the new location for Avonside Girls High School and Shirley Boys’ High School. Two lovely new schools in our neighbourhood. That’s just part of it. A new Sport and Recreational facility and a re-built Christchurch School of Gymnastics are also planned.
On Sunday, 25th March, there was an open day, where we had the opportunity to meet with council recreation staff and school staff. The buildings are still under construction, so we couldn’t go inside, but we walked around the damaged golf course and tried to remember how it was and dream of new uses of the space. The golf course was a lot bigger than I remembered, and in places it had become quite swampy. It was amazing how quickly the course had gone wild.
Richard Greenaway is an Information Librarian with an interest in the history of East Christchurch. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. Here he explores the reserves early residents of New Brighton could enjoy. These reserves were gazetted in the time of the Canterbury Provincial Council, 1853-76.
No. 224 – Spit Reserve
This is the reserve on the New Brighton side at the mouth of the Estuary. It was set aside for the purposes of a lighthouse which was never built.
Many ships were wrecked on the Sumner Bar. For, example, the Irish lawyer and later judge, Henry Barnes Gresson (1815-1901), lost his substantial legal library which he had brought from the Old Country.
No. 1616 – Thomson Park
This is the land on the eastern side of Rawhiti Domain. In 1896 the New Brighton people petitioned for the establishment of a borough council so that they could take over this wilderness. The borough council was established in 1897.
People wanted to sell it off for housing. An act went through Parliament during World War I to try to bring this about. In his 29 April 1922 Star reminiscences, ‘Old New Brighton’, George Thomas Hawker described it as ‘New Brighton’s menace’.
Part of the land was made into a children’s playground during the Depression. This work was carried out under the leadership of Thomas Edward Thomson (1877-1942) and the place was named ‘Thomson’s Park’. In the Christchurch City Council’s Reserves Department reports, there is a scathing indictment of the work of these amateurs.
No. 1579 – South Brighton Domain, Pleasant Point and Rawhiti Domain
This includes the South Brighton Domain, Pleasant Point and the western side of Rawhiti Domain. It also included land in North New Brighton where night soil and food waste was dumped. This last piece of land was eventually sold for housing and the money used so that the city council might be able to purchase the New Brighton Trotting Club land which became Queen Elizabeth II Park.
‘Harold Logan’ was a famous pacer. He won the New Zealand Trotting Cup in the 1930s. He was owned by Ernest Hinds but raced in the colours of Hinds’ step-daughter, Effie Hinds. The horse was kept in the South Brighton Domain and one small boy shouted excitedly to his parents: “Look, Harold Logan’s eating our grass”. Christchurch City Libraries holds, in its archives, the Harold Logan papers, newspaper articles and photographs relating to the famed horse and its career.
Pleasant Point developed as a picnic spot in the 1920s when New Brighton baker, Harry Nelson Hawker (1868-1947), plied his big launch, Nautilus, for hire on the Avon river from the Seaview Road bridge to Pleasant Point. The launch was built in Auckland and has been retired there.
In the Depression, men were employed by the Christchurch City Council and New Brighton Borough Council (and paid by the Government) so that much of the domain could become a golf course. In October 1934, the local authorities went as a deputation to the Ministry of Unemployment in Wellington. The local bodies wanted the unemployed to be excused from going to a ‘slave camp’ on the Ashley River.
On 15 October, the Mayor reported on the insensitive attitude of Bromley, deputy chairman of the board, and the free hand allowed him by his political master, the Right Hon. J. G. Coates …. The civil servant spoke of the ‘golden golf course’, because of the huge amount of public money which had been spent creating the course.