Before Tūranga – Hobbs’ Corner

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

Exterior, Tūranga
The southwest corner of Tūranga and Cathedral Square entrance. 18 September 2018. Flickr File reference: New-Central-2018-09-18-029. Photo by Pam Carmichael Photography.

Today you can enter Tūranga via a door on Cathedral Square but in 1851 this was part of Town Section 704.

Christchurch, Canterbury compiled from data supplied to City Council and District Drainage Board ; T.S. Lambert, delt. Date: 1877
Town Section 704 (at top). Section of map Christchurch, Canterbury compiled from data supplied to City Council and District Drainage Board ; T.S. Lambert, delt.
(1877) CCL File Reference: ATLMAPS ATL-Acc-3158

Purchased from the Canterbury Association by a Mr Read, he then sold the section to John Bilton, school teacher. In 1856 John Bilton leased a retail space in his two-storey weatherboard building to William Hobbs.

Hobbs’ Building

William Hobbs, master tailor, arrived in Canterbury in 1855 from Hambleden in Buckinghamshire. Hobbs initially intended to start afresh in a new industry but soon realised that there was great demand for locally made clothing, and loot to be made.

William wasted no time setting up his business and cannily painted “Hobbs & Sons” prominently on the top floor.

Ad Star 2
Page 1 Advertisements Column 4, Star, Issue 715, 7 September 1870

He took over the full building lease in the mid-1860s and the building became known as Hobbs’s Building and later as Hobbs’s Corner. His sons Fred and William were both involved in the business, although Fred had civic and political aspirations too. In 1874 he became the eighth mayor of Christchurch and held office for two terms. Newspaper reports show Fred was particularly passionate about drains…

The Hobbs partnership was dissolved in August 1872 and Fred, in a Press advertisement, sincerely thanked “the very liberal patronage bestowed on the late firm during the past sixteen years”.

On Sunday 10 June 1883, fire, a constant danger in weatherboard colonial Christchurch, broke out on the corner of Gloucester and Colombo. Alerted by early morning revellers, the Chester Street Brigade speedily attended and focused their attention on stopping the fire from spreading to the Central, Criterion and Commercial hotels, The Lyttelton Times, Lennon’s Oyster Saloon (sounds like quite the place!) and Gaiety Theatre.

Through the sterling efforts of the fire brigade the hotels were saved but the corner block with Hobbs’ Building was gutted with only the outer walls left standing. The businesses destroyed by the fire included those of a draper, a fruiterer, a hairdresser, and the rooms of the YMCA. The greatest tragedy of the fire, to this librarian, was the loss of the Association’s library and much of the stock of one Mr Fountain Barber, bookseller, whose premises were on the Colombo St/Cathedral Square corner (where Tūranga’s magazine collection now sits ).

Cathedral Chambers

With 40 years left on the lease Fred Hobbs, William having retired, immediately proposed a new building, and plans for a new three-storey building were hastily acquired. Designed by Messrs Armson, Collins and Lloyd, the lavish description in the Press highlighted the building’s dimensions, construction materials and most importantly the provision of “fire-places and lavatory accommodation”!

The foundation stone for the new building was laid by Fred Hobbs in February 1884 with a projected construction cost in today’s money of $2,212,249.80. The building hosted 9 shops, a variety of office suites, space for a gentleman’s club and a large meeting room.

The rooms of Cathedral Chambers would come to be used by groups as varied as the Christchurch Metaphysical Club,  the Canterbury Women’s Institute, and the Atalanta Cycling Club – not to mention once hosting a concert for “the largest gathering of footballers ever seen in Christchurch” (by 1890 standards, that is). The numerous businesses to operate from the building included estate agents and dentists but also the “Central Pork Shop” which in an an 1888 advertisement boasted  a “large and commodious cellar…fitted up in first-class style”. Fancy.

MA_I341388_TePapa_Cathedral-Square-Christchurch_full
The swanky new Cathedral Chambers with Warner’s Hotel to the right and James Wallace’s Central Hotel to the left. Image Reference Burton Brothers Studio Te Papa C.011553

Cathedral Chambers was built with bricks from the St Martin’s brickwork, Oamaru stone and with blue stone piers, the effect of the contrasting red brick and pale stone was of “the gingerbread order of architecture”. A handsome veranda of iron and glass ran around the ground floor.

Under the headline of City Improvements, the Press praised Fred’s audacity in building such a handsome and substantial building during “the present period of depression”. Sensibly, special precautions against fire were included with water filled roof tanks and hydrants fitted around the building.

Interestingly, despite the completely new building and new name, “Hobbs’ Building” seems to have stuck in people’s minds and it continued to be referred to by this name for many years.

Lack of care taken

A small enclosed tower on the roof of the building contained rooms for a caretaker and was sadly the scene of two tragic accidents involving their offspring.

First in May 1907 a little girl called Dolly Ryder fell 30 feet through a skylight at Hobbs’ Building while chasing a cat. Incredibly she survived although there was concern she had sustained spinal damage. Dolly’s brush with death may have been a contributing factor in her later career of minor crime, aged 18 and 19 she was in trouble with the law for petty theft and absconding from a reformatory home. Go Dolly!

In 1929 Frank Otten, aged 19, was less lucky. Frank and his mother Blanche had gone up to the roof to check for damage after a chimney fire. Using an electric torch Frank crawled across the roof and mounted one of the parapets. He overbalanced and fell, striking the fire-escape several times, and landed in the concrete basement of the Masonic Hotel. Death was instantaneous.

Broadway Corner

Broadway afternoon tea rooms.PNG
Advertisement from A guide to Christchurch and Canterbury attractions, published in 1902 by P.A. Herman. Christchurch City Libraries CCL-83338-115

A variety of businesses operated from Hobbs’ Building now renamed Cathedral Chambers. One of the best known was the Broadway tearooms which operated from the first floor.

Run by William and Edward Broadway, confectioner and pastry chef respectively, the Cathedral Chambers area was informally called Broadway Corner for many years.

After Edward’s death the business name was changed to Beresford’s and it operated until 1974.

Capture
ANOTHER PICTURE OF THE CHRISTCHURCH ELECTRIC TRAMS—EXCAVATING ON THE NORTHERN SIDE OF CATHEDRAL SQUARE. Leslie Hinge Photo. New Zealand Mail, Issue 1718 1st of February 1905, Supplement

The arrival of electric trams caused chaos in the Square (plus ça change). Extensive excavating in 1905 created the double tracks necessary (note use of shovels and picks in the image below) for the tram lines.

The network officially opened on 5 June 1905 – a slightly over-excited Press article called it a day “writ large in letters of scarlet…an epoch marking day”.

When the first electric tram pulled in at the top of High Street, “a thronging human mass filled every inch of space from below the Bank, down Colombo Street, in front of the Cathedral, around the Post Office, and on every side in fact”.

The trams stopped close to Broadway Corner and there were frequent reports of tram, and later car accidents around this bustling spot.

Fred Hobbs died in 1920, his son continued the business but at another location.

CML Building

In April 1936 the building was acquired by The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd for the princely sum of $11,630, 215.50. The owner of the building by this time was Mr C G McKellar, and the new owners were expected to extensively re-model it to accommodate their growing staff.

CML Building 1993 Kete
The Square, looking North-East 1993. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Kete Christchurch

The Cathedral Chambers were demolished in 1974/1975 and the new Colonial Mutual Life (CML) building was constructed to a design by Christchurch architects Warren & Mahoney. The building later operated as the Camelot Hotel and offered assorted tourism related retail space at street level.

The CML building was demolished in 2015 to make way for Tūranga.

Back in the present, we welcome those who’d like to honour the spirit of William Hobbs, master tailor, by trying out our sewing and embroidery machines in Tūranga’s Production Studio, or book one of our rooms for hire for all your footballer concert/metaphysical club meeting needs.

Next week: The Lyttelton Times and The Star

Further reading

Cathedral Square on a tram excursion day to Sumner: Picturing Canterbury

Cathedral Square on a tram excursion day to Sumner [1900]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 4, IMG0097.
Cathedral Square on a tram excursion day to Sumner [1900].

The seaside suburb of Sumner was first connected to Christchurch city by tram in 1888.

Do you have any photographs of trams in Christchurch? 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.

The bridges of New Brighton

The Spit, New Brighton. [3 Dec. 1954] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02328
The Spit, New Brighton. [3 Dec. 1954] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02328
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 bridges early residents of Christchurch used to travel to New Brighton.

Dallington bridge

Built in 1883 by Henry Jekyll (1844-1913) and Henry Philip Hill (1845-1923). They owned Rural Section 183, at Dallington, to the north of the Avon River. The river was the western boundary of the property and the northern boundary was McBratneys Road. Jekyll and Hill planned to put a tramline through to New Brighton. Nothing came of the venture but the original Dallington bridge.

Bower bridge

Bower bridge, Wainoni Road, was opened by Sir John Cracroft Wilson in 1876. The present Bower bridge opened in 1942. In the 1920s and ‘30s the Inter-City bus service pioneered transport on Wainoni Road, across the Bower bridge and to North New Brighton and New Brighton. This was a private service, very popular, cheap and run on the smell of an oily rag. It was managed and owned by Walter Bussell (1887-1967) who had his headquarters on Bowhill Road. The bus company had been in competition with the Christchurch Tramway Board’s trams on the Pages Road route and there was what was called the ‘bus war’.  Trams and buses would try to beat each other to pick up the next passenger.

An electric tram crosses the New Brighton bridge with a barge moored underneath  [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0005
An electric tram crosses the New Brighton bridge with a barge moored underneath [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0005

Central Brighton bridge, Seaview Road

A route was put through by New Brighton Tramway Company. Opened in 1887 horse trams ran from Christchurch to New Brighton between 1887 and 1905, after which the Christchurch Tramway Board took over and electrified the line. The company’s line was later opened as a public road, Pages Road, named after tramway company director, Joshua Page (1826-1900).

One of the people in charge of the New Brighton Tramway Company was George McIntyre (1841-1934), a surveyor by occupation. He was Mayor of New Brighton when King Edward’s Well (outside the New Brighton Library) was unveiled in 1902.

The original Seaview Road bridge was a flat bridge. It was replaced at the beginning of 1930s by the present bridge. This was designed by H. F. Toogood, father of Selwyn Toogood.  You can see photos of the bridges in George W. Walsh’s New Brighton, a regional history, 1852-1970.

The modern Seaview Road bridge is a high bridge. The hump in the bridge is there because Richard Bedward Owen (1873-1948), tailor and conservationist, known as ‘River Bank Owen’, argued that boats could come ‘sailing with the tide’ to Christchurch. They never have. Read all about it in A bridge with some history.

Seaview Road, New Brighton [ca. 1920] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 12, IMG0006
Seaview Road, New Brighton [ca. 1920] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 12, IMG0006

South Brighton bridge, Bridge Street

Opened in 1927 it was the result of the work of New Brighton Borough councillor, Herbert Arundel Glasson (1866-1931). He lived in South Brighton and persuaded fellow residents that they should be a ‘special rating area’ and pay extra rates to the New Brighton Borough Council providing that a South Brighton bridge was built. A small wooden bridge was built. This meant that South Brighton residents could cross the river and get to town, saving the long journey up to Central Brighton. A new bridge was opened in 1981.

Estuary bridge

The Estuary Bridge has never been built. It has been proposed by various people over the years. See The Bridge that never was.

The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies. Read more blog posts about New Brighton history, including more from Richard.

Sources

How to get to New Brighton

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 way early residents of Christchurch travelled to New Brighton.

Road making on Tramline [later Pages] Road, near New Brighton  [1897] Dutch, F. W. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0066
Road making on Tramline [later Pages] Road, near New Brighton [1897] Dutch, F. W. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0066

New Brighton Road

The first route from Christchurch to New Brighton in European times was via FitzGerald Avenue (then the East Belt), and Shirley and New Brighton Road. Because it was the first route, it was sometimes called the ‘Old Brighton Road’. New Brighton Road dates from 1860s. This route avoided bridges.

A mishap to the Christchurch-New Brighton tram at Wainoni Park  [14 Dec. 1913] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0035
A mishap to the Christchurch-New Brighton tram at Wainoni Park [14 Dec. 1913] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0035

City and Suburban Tramway Company route

The City and Suburban tramway Company put through a tramline which started in town, went down Travis Road and towards the sea along what is now Bowhill Road. The line then went along the Esplanade (Marine Parade) to Central Brighton. The line was opened for traffic in 1894. The company went out of business and was taken over by the man who had built the line, John Brightling (1843-1928). Bowhill Road is named after Thomas Bowhill Thompkins (1837-82), a publican, who had land in the area. Stronger Christchurch uncovered some tram tracks from this line in 2012.

Seaview Road, New Brighton  [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0021
Seaview Road, New Brighton [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0021

Avon River

Richard Bedward Owen thought of the Avon as a route to Christchurch. Some small vessels trying to negotiate Sumner bar sank there and at the entrance to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.

Paddle steamers

These came down the Avon to New Brighton, mainly bringing picnickers. Notable among these was the Maid of the Avon. In 1866 the captain, John Mills, chopped down the Stanmore Road bridge because it was impeding a true-born Englishman’s right to pass along a navigable waterway. Another notable paddle steamer was the Brighton which was part of Joseph Harrop Hopkins’ attempt to boost New Brighton in 1872-75. He also had built the original New Brighton hotel, in Seaview Road (later Patterson’s and McCormack’s).

It was customary for the Christchurch fire brigade to hold an annual picnic. On 3 April 1874, members of the brigade celebrated the occasion by chartering the Brighton for an excursion to the beach. With their friends, and with Mr. Bunz’ popular band, they set off.  They enjoyed the races and games of cricket on the beach, as well as the luncheon provided at Mr. Hopkins’ hotel.

One of the brigadesmen, Richard Edward Green (1853-1938) wrote about this outing in the Star of 1928. Green recalled the chorus of one of the songs that firebrigadesman Samuels had sung at a party that day:

Ah – she has fairly broken my heart.

I wish I had never seen

that dark young girl with her hair in curl

that works at the sewing machine

The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies. Read more blog posts about New Brighton history, including more from Richard.

Sources