Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the country’s second-largest urban area. It lies one third of the way down the South Island’s east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula, which itself since 2006, lies within the formal limits of Christchurch.
The city was named by the Canterbury Association, which settled the surrounding province of Canterbury. The name of Christchurch was agreed on at the first meeting of the association on 27 March 1848.
Some early writers called the town Christ Church, but it was recorded as Christchurch in the minutes of the management committee of the association.
Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, making it officially the oldest established city in New Zealand.
Christchurch has a history of involvement in Antarctic exploration–both Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton used the port of Lyttelton as a departure point for expeditions and in the centre of the city there is a statue of Scott sculpted by his widow, Kathleen Scott.
Within the city, the Canterbury Museum preserves and exhibits many historic artefacts and stories of Antarctic exploration. Christchurch International Airport serves as the major base for the New Zealand, Italian and United States Antarctic programs.
At the city’s centre is Cathedral Square, surrounding the landmark Anglican cathedral, Christ Church. The area around this square and within the ‘four avenues’ of Christchurch (Bealey Avenue, Fitzgerald Avenue, Moorhouse Avenue and Deans Avenue is considered the central business district of the city.
Day in The Traditional City
It is easy to see why New Zealand’s second largest city was given the name ‘The Garden City’. From on board the Botanical Gardens Caterpillar, the park overflows with shades of green, scattered with paint box splashes of botanical blooms. English rose gardens are meticulously maintained, and sit opposite a stretch of native New Zealand fauna. The Botanical Gardens are only part of Hagley Park, which stretches for 164 hectares and is one of the largest urban parks in the world.
Although a cup of tea would perhaps be more fitting, a stop for a coffee and lunch at the Curator’s House is the ideal place to take a break while enjoying the surroundings. The house was built in 1920 for the curator of the gardens, and the Spanish menu is crafted with fruit and vegetables from the surrounding garden.
The green and white stripes of the heritage listed Antigua boat sheds are the starting point for a Punt down the Avon. Dapperly dressed in Victorian attire, the chivalrous guide helps you on board with a wobble and sway, before they perch expertly on the back of the boat, using the punt to glide it along the river. The ride takes you gently cruising along the Avon, and the view of the banks and park is the perfect setting for a truly relaxing and experience.
After returning to shore, it’s a short stroll back along Rolleston Ave past the historic Arts Centre. Badly damaged in the earthquakes, investors, sponsors and community donations mean the iconic collection of gothic architecture has been restored with a collection of new retailers and tenants, with a large selection opening in 2016.
One of the Christchurch Trams makes its way down Worchester Boulevard towards the museum. The guide is knowledgeable and informative, and the 17 stops along the route mean you can jump off and on and it takes your fancy, perfect for those new to the city. Although the face of Christchurch is currently evolving, the English heritage is still visible in the architecture.
The Spanish Mission style Architecture of New Regent Street prompts a jump off from the tram. Built in the 1920’s the street once had the accolade of ‘the most beautiful in New Zealand’. And you can see why. Boutique shopping, a collection of coffee shops and tucked away restaurants is the perfect location to spend an afternoon.
In an example of heritage restored, the Isaac Theatre Royal is the prime example of preservation and restoration. The beautiful theatre has been lovingly repaired with its original fixtures repaired, and replications made where necessary.
The day is finished at Harlequin Public House, a cosy and sophisticated dining experience in a beautifully restored old wooden villa. Local produce features heavily on Chef Jonny Schwass’ menu, which can be described as hearty bistro fare.
The Canterbury Museum was established in 1867 and has since grown in size to encompass New Zealand’s diverse natural and human heritage. The Museum has become a widely renowned and an internationally visited institution.
The museum has more than two million collection items and specialises in the stories of early Maori, European settlement and Antarctic exploration.
The museum sustained some damage to its facade during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, but remains structurally sound. An estimated 95% of the collections were unharmed.
The statue of William Rolleston, located at the front of the museum, toppled off its plinth during the quake.
Christchurch Arts Centre
The Christchurch Arts Centre is a hub for arts, crafts and entertainment in Christchurch. It is located in the neo-gothic former University of Canterbury buildings, the majority of which were designed by Benjamin Mountfort. It is listed as a Category I building by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
The Centre includes speciality shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, galleries, theatres and cinemas. There is also a weekend market and the Centre is the site of many festivals and special events.
The Anglican cathedral of Christchurch was built in the second half of the 19th century. It is located in the centre of the city, surrounded by Cathedral Square. It is the cathedral seat of the Bishop of Christchurch in the New Zealand tikanga of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
The cathedral has been damaged by earthquakes in 1881, 1888, 1901, 2010 and 2011. The 2011 Christchurch earthquake destroyed the spire and part of the tower on 22 February 2011, leaving only the lower half of the tower standing. The structure of the building was seriously damaged.
The Cathedral contains the throne and memorial to Bishop Harper – first Bishop of Christchurch and the second Primate of New Zealand – who laid the foundation stone of the cathedral in 1864 and preached at the consecration service in 1881.
In the west porch are stones from the Christ Church, Canterbury, Christchurch Priory, Tintern Abbey, Glastonbury Abbey, Herod’s Temple, St Paul’s Cathedral and Christ Church, Oxford.
The north wall includes a mural dado of inlaid marble and encaustic tiles, donated by the Cathedral Guild in 1885, which includes fylfot mofits. A memorial window above the mural was donated in memory of Sir Thomas Tancred, Bt.
Hagley Park is the largest urban open space (164.637 hectares) in Christchurch and was created in 1855 by the Provincial Government. According to the government’s decree at that time, Hagley Park is “reserved forever as a public park and shall be open for the recreation and enjoyment of the public.”
The park is characterised by its trees and broad open spaces and was named after the country estate of Lord Lyttelton, who became chairman of the Canterbury Association in March 1850.
Hagley Park has frequently been a site for gathering large crowds together: it served as the location for the Great Industrial Exposition of 1882 and the New Zealand International Exhibition in 1906–1907. In recent years, the park has hosted many visiting circuses and open-air concerts. The Ellerslie Flower Show has been held in North Hagley Park since 2008.
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