Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Historical walk/drive around part of Christchurch

I got the information for this from a cool little book called St. Albans, from swamp to suburbs put out by the NZ Federation of University Women, Canterbury Branch and we did this on a beautiful sunny winter's day with the kids - hence we tried to do the interesting stories they would enjoy.
1. The trip starts at the car park behind the Carlton hotel at the corner of Papanui Road and Bealey Avenue. This is a little bit of history about the building of the current suburb in this area. The land before that was swamp and while Maori would have used it as a rich food resource and a thoroughfare between different pa sites, this particular area didn't have settlements I don't think.
There were no roads and it really was quite different. Flax was ten feet high and there was dense bracken, very peaty soil and swamps! Settlers from England come in the 1850s and for 150 pounds they got a 50 acres of rural land - like in the St. Albans area and a quarter acre in the city - the other side of Bealey Avenue. They chose their blocks then had to build roads to get to their land. One of the first roads was Papanui Road because that brought in wood from Papanui Bush, so the settlers built their houses facing onto Papanui Road. To pay for the road a toll bar was put across the road but all the residents hated paying so instead they would go down Caledonian Road or Springfield Road but these roads were so bad it was said a horse could sink up to his abdomen in the mud! Today there are lots of streetlights but back then there was very few and if you wanted one on your street corner, you had to help pay for it. There was 18 streetlights in the whole area by 1885 and even then they didn't light them on moonlit nights and turned them off at 2am on other nights because they were so expensive to run.
2. The Carlton hotel on the corner was built in 1865 for farmers bringing in their stock to sell. Behind the hotel was sales yards to sell the stock. A guy called A. W. Money owned it but he didn't keep the hotel up to scratch and in 1882 the license board said he could only keep his license if he rebuilt it, he said yes but then didn't do it. He sold the hotel to the Wards Brewery in 1901 and they built the current building in 1906 for accommodation for visitors to the International Exhibition in Hagley Park in 1907. In 1907 A. W. Money was killed outside his former hotel when he stepped off a tram and broke his neck! Before you go onto the next stop, note the Avon River.

3. 150 Springfield Road - almost opposite Abberley Crescent. This home was for John and Susannah Green who arrived in New Zealand in 1850. They didn't have running water so they had to go and get it from the Avon River, down by the Carlton Bridge (past the Carlton Hotel) A long way to walk for water.

4. You can walk from here or drive - corner of Rutland Street and St. Albans Street. St Albans Street was put in by the Provincial Council because James Field complained that his land and others had no access to them. So the road was put in but it was often under water. He and others complained again but the provincial government said it wasn't their problem as people were subdividing their land so the landowners should provide and pay for the roads.

5. On Rutland Street Henry Forwood took up farming in 1890. He had been a banker in London but decided he wanted to try farming. He got a lot of books and set about setting up a model farm. He had dairying, pigs and chickens. He grew oats, carrots and potatoes. A reporter at the time said "Mr Forwood's farm is a very interesting one and will well repay a visit of inspection." Most of the farms in the area were dairy farms. Then as the land got more profitable they started growing more crops and plant nurseries. It was hard work though as the land had to be drained and some people didn't have enough money to make the drains so then they couldn't use their land. Once the land was drained, it sunk and then all the logs off old Kahiketea trees that had fallen into the swamp had to be removed and put in piles so the land could actually be used.

6. Shepherd Place off Trafalger Street, at the end is St. Albans School and English Park.
7. English Park used to be the site of the Philpotts Homestead. They were Methodists and a number of methodists settled in the St. Albans area. In 1853 the Reverend Kirk was on his way to some Methodists in Otago, when his boat put in for repairs in Lyttelton. Methodists in St. Albans walked to Lyttelton over the Bridal Path (you can see it in the distance over English Park) and brought him back making a path through the swamp to lead him along. He held a service in the Philpott's kitchen and ended up staying in Christchurch.
8. The methodists were very keen on education and ran day schools and educated ladies in the area also started teaching children from their homes. It was decided a school was needed and St. Albans school was opened in 1872. To pay for it a rate was put on the houses in the area. Children often didn't make it to school because they couldn't reach the school due to flooding or they were needed at home to work or they were sick with measles or scarlet fever or smallpox. One such epidemic shut the school from June 2 to July 17 1882. The school got its funding based on average attendance so if not many kids turned up, they would shut the school to try and keep the average up. School was supposed to be compulsory for 7-13 yr olds and they started to use the police to enforce this. Children had to attend school 50% of the time. A boy, James Hazell was taken to court for only going to school 11 times by May. But the case was thrown out because half the year hadn't passed yet. Interestingly the only secondary schools in the area are private ones.

9. Caledonian Road - corner of Holly Road. This has now been cleared and is selling for residential sections but this used to the Caledonian Hotel. Before that it was a general store called the Rising Sun owned by Mr Innes. He had a room on the side of the shop that he got a license to sell "refreshments" It was very popular as people could pretend they were just going shopping for bread and things but then go through into his room for drinks. One woman smashed the windows because she was so angry that her husband had been jailled because of the debt he had not repaid that was supposedly for potatoes.

10. On the way home you can look at the trees down the middle of Bealey Avenue. The trees between Springfield Road and Montreal Street were paid for by Gould, a man who had a very big house in the area. He thought it would be nice for people and he provided seats for people to sit on and admire the view. He asked the council to put fences around the trees to stop them being eaten by wandering stock. A bit different from today!

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.