Posts Tagged ‘Avon Loop’

Our Cottage is sited close to the Ōtākaro/Avon River, near the Barbadoes Street Bridge, where the tidal waters of the estuary meet the fresh waters of the river.  The area has special significance for both Māori and Pākehā, because it was the site of the pā of Tautahi for whom Otautahi/Christchurch is named.

Just across the river is the area now known as Cambridge Green.  The water which flows there from Te Wai Pure o Tautahi, the ceremonial waters of Tautahi (St Mary’s Stream) into the river was used to bless the marriage of Tautahi to Riki Te Auru, a Waitaha princess.  This marriage consolidated the bonds between the families of Kaiapoi and Port Levy.  The water is still used by Māori for ceremonial purposes.

Across the road is The Bricks cairn which marks where the Deans brothers landed in 1843 because their boats, which were shipping bricks for their Riccarton homestead, couldn’t go any further.  The brothers unloaded their bricks and proceeded by canoe to what was to become their home at Riccarton.  Some of those bricks are now incorporated into the cairn that marks the spot.  This whole area was the focus of early Pakeha settlement, and it is where trade and commerce commenced in Christchurch when Māori brought supplies of potatoes to the first Pākehā settlers.  The allocation of land sections was worked out from here, and the first commercial buildings were around this site.  In 1851 there were four cottages in this area which formed the first Pakeha settlement on the plains.

The Bricks cairn

Inner city Christchurch was carefully planned with the streets in a grid pattern.  The Avon Loop was originally part of the Town Reserve, set aside for a botanic garden, with an area in the north for the cemetery.  The soil within the Loop proved to be unsuitable for a botanic garden and this was moved over to Hagley Park.  William Wilson known as Cabbage, who became the first Mayor of Christchurch in 1867, then established a plant nursery where he sold the settlers such essentials as privet, gorse, and broom.  He owned 18 hectares from the present Avon Loop right down to Ferry Road.  In 1863 the Cottage land was conveyed by Superintendent Moorhouse to lawyer Thomas Papprill, and in 1864 Papprill sold to Wyatt Travers. In 1872 it was sold to Steere, and after this a certificate of title was issued to Arthur Appleby.

In 1877 Appleby sold it to George Levitt Binning, a City Council Labourer.  (Binning’s wife Ann (Hannah, nee Southwick) was buried 6 May 1897 at Linwood, aged 56 years.  Her residence then was given as 186 Barbadoes Street North.  George Levitt was buried 4 November 1898, aged 64.)   This led us to believe that the Cottage may have been built in 1878, but in 2019 a History Librarian showed me a picture dated 1877 which shows our cottage.

At first it would have been just the two front rooms, and was probably constructed from a kitset, selected from a catalogue, and shipped from Australia.  In 1858 a Christchurch builder advertised “Prefabricated houses of four rooms, ₤20, and ₤2 to erect.  Ours, being only two rooms, would have been cheaper.  An article in “Press” 15 July 1989 suggested that although the dwelling referred to in this advertisement was an unusually cheap example of its type, the portable, prefabricated house was commonly the property of the more affluent immigrant.  The construction is conventional with mixed foundations of concrete pile and stone, timber floors, light timber frame, weatherboard exterior cladding and a galvanized corrugated steel roof.

In 1893 it was transferred from Binning to his daughter Jane Eliza Goodwin, wife of George Elliott Goodwin, Clerk, “for her separate use”. (Jane Eliza was born 7 May 1867, baptized 10 June 1867.  She married George Goodwin, 6 February 1890, at Oxford Terrace Baptist Church.  He was born in London U.K. and aged 20 when he married).  It’s intriguing to wonder why Binning might think his daughter would have separate use for a house.

We found an antique birthday card inside one of the walls.  The back is inscribed: To my dear son George Elliott Goodwin from his loving mother on his 20 birthday.  May joy and . . . . (indecipherable).   With love always.

George Goodwin’s birthday card

I wonder why his daughter Jane
was left a house for her domain

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A regular voluntary task for me has always been to pick up litter on the street near my home or when I’m out walking.  Yesterday I saw several pieces of rubbish near the river, bu I ignored them.

Even though I could have washed my hands as soon as I got home I felt wary of touching anything that had been touched by someone else.  At least there are likely to be fewer takeaway wrappers around from now on.  I also saw and ignored a couple of condom packets.  Apparently sex workers are still plying their trade near the river.  I suspect they’re unlikely to apply for the Government’s wage subsidy, and perhaps not eligible anyway.   The Aids Foundation has warned people against engaging in casual or anonymous sex during the lockdown, but for some workers this is their only income.

This afternoon we’ve been out for essential supplies – Ziggy’s special dental diet.  The vet was out of stock when Stephen went on Monday.  Yesterday they phoned to say they’d had a delivery.  I paid by visa and received instructions.  We parked outside and phoned to say we were there.  A staff member in mask and gloves brought the bag to the back porch, and once she’d gone inside I collected it.  At least Ziggy now has his lockdown rations.

There was very little traffic around, but many people out in twos and threes enjoying the warm weather.

The litter will lie uncollected
to touch strange things is not expected

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Today, the ninth anniversary of the major Christchurch earthquake, I was privileged to again lead an informal commemoration beside the river.  We were pleased that so many local people came.  I’m not sure of the number – at least 40.  Several told me how much they appreciate the opportunity to remember in this way.  Always a poignant occasion, I felt emotional during the two minute silence, and when I tossed a flower into the river while the piper played Abide with me.  I suspect the emotion will always be there on this date.  There’s a woman currently doing a study that suggests there have been changes in the brains of those who experienced the earthquakes.

Afterwards everyone was invited to a barbecue lunch at the Community Cottage.  Rain had been forecast for the middle of the day, but the sun shone, and we sat in the shade of a large gazebo enjoying live music.  The rain, much needed and very welcome, started to fall in the late afternoon.

Later as I sat doing the daily Code Cracker I realised that the first word was seismic, and the word earthquake also featured.  Good to have this oblique extra acknowledgement of the day.

Years ago when I was a Brown Owl 22 February was celebrated as Thinking Day because it was the birthday of both Lord and Lady Baden Powell.  I asked a current Scout leader whether this is still so and he told me they now call 22 February Founders’ Day – not sure whether they still use the day as an occasion to think, but in Christchurch we certainly do.

On this our special day of days
our memories come in different ways

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I read a feature in the Press
a Southern Spotlight piece, no less
about a Maori tourist scheme
with waka travelling down the stream
the part that made me say aha!
the plan to build a Maori Pa
on land where hotel used to be
across the road just close by me
I thought that it would be so good
to have these neighbours in the hood
imagine living here among
a group who speak the Maori tongue
a chance to practise what I learn
this seemed to be a lucky turn.
I wanted details so I wrote
to ask about the Pa and boat
alas the answer when it came
just did not fit my dreamed-of frame
the idea had been simply floated
but proved impractical, they noted
the story that I read that day
was not quite what they meant to say
I guess that thus we must concede
you can’t believe all that you read!


Not a Pa site

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Weather this morning was perfect for our Avon Loop Heritage Walk which I had the privilege of leading.  Whenever I plan an outdoor public event the weather is good, and I sometimes wonder when/if the weather goddess will desert me.  21 people gathered at The Bricks at 10am.  Last week I had been disturbed to find the cairn had been boxed over, so I asked Otakaro if they would please put a sign to indicate what it was, and they obligingly did so.

Ruth at The (boxed) Bricks

When I first planned the walk my intention was to follow the south side of the river round Oxford Terrace, but a few weeks ago Otakaro announced they were going to start work on the riverbank enhancement and they closed off Oxford Terrace with metal fences.  To accommodate our walk the project manager arranged for us to have access to the Red Zone area and he accompanied us along that part.

The Project Manager met us at the fence

Approaching from a different angle made it harder to be sure just where certain homes had been, but we managed.  After walking along Bangor Street and Kilmore Street as far as Fitzgerald Avenue we finished at the Community Cottage where we offered people a cup of tea.  The walkers included several former residents of the Loop, and everyone seemed pleased to hear stories of the area.

Inside the Community Cottage

I devised a similar walk in 1992 to celebrate the Avon Loop Planning Association’s 20th anniversary.  That one concentrated on buildings, but most of them have gone now so today’s walk was more about history and stories.  My thanks to Sandra and Glenn who helped, and to Simone for the photos.  I hope we can repeat the walk when the new river path is opened early in 2020.

The past is always good to share
so people know just what went where

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A group of friends kindly agreed to try out the Avon Loop Heritage Walk I’ve recently researched and compiled.  We started at The Bricks  cairn where we found the inscription had become difficult to read.  I’ve since been there with hot water and a wire brush and it’s now much more legible.

The walk took us along the river and adjoining streets.  Sadly, few of the older buildings have survived the earthquakes and subsequent red-zoning, but some sites are still obvious and the group enjoyed hearing about the area’s history.

Riverview Lodge from the Bangor Street Pumphouse

This walk will feature as part of the Beca Christchurch Heritage Festival and I was glad to have the opportunity to test it with a group of friends.  I now need to tweak it in a few places.  If you’re interested, the walk will be on Saturday 19 October, at 10.30am, and it’s free.

Six friends were pleased to come and walk
and hear me practising my talk

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It was my privilege today to lead the Earthquake commemoration at The Bricks beside the Barbadoes Street Bridge.  It’s the third time I’ve done this, representing the Avon Loop Planning Association who host this annual event.  After a brief introduction, I sounded a gong for two minutes’ silence, then a piper played Abide with me while we threw our flowers into the river, remembering the changes the earthquakes brought into our lives, and thinking of our hopes for the future of our city.

Piper Gordon McAlpine

This area of the river has special significance for both Maori and Pakeha.  It was the site of the pa of Tautahi for whom Otautahi/Christchurch is named.  On the other side of the bridge is Te Wai Pure, a sacred stream which flows into the Avon, and which has been used by Maori for ritual purposes since Tautahi and his wife Riki were married there.

The Bricks cairn marks where the Deans brothers landed because their boats couldn’t go any further and this whole area was the focus of early Pakeha settlement.  It is also where the tidal waters of the estuary meet the fresh waters of the Avon, a fitting symbol of the bi-cultural heritage of the Avon Loop.

The effects of the earthquake eight years ago are still being felt by many of us, especially children as an article in today’s Press describes.  People who came to The Bricks appreciated the opportunity to be part of a low key commemoration and to come back to the Community Cottage afterwards for refreshments.

We can’t forget eight years ago
when all our lives were altered so


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There’s blossom out on the trees at the Fitzgerald Avenue end of Oxford Terrace.

I thought these were flowering cherries, but I’m told they are a form of flowering plum.

“There’s blossom in a pink array
and it’s not yet the shortest day.”

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Seal Seen

This baby seal is resting on a rock near to our cottage.

This is the first time I’ve seen a seal within the Avon Loop.  Perhaps the cold weather and rough seas have driven it inland?   Where are its parents, I wonder?  I understand it’s been in the area for a week now, and I hope it can find its way back out to sea.

“Today this is a city seal,
but should be by seashore, I feel.”

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A great jet of water pouring over the river and Oxford Terrace prompted me to investigate.

It turned out to be a Fire Brigade Training exercise.  They simply lift up the cover of a fire hydrant and plug into the water main.  The bright sunlight provided a rainbow in the water.

The firemen assured me they were kindly washing the road.  When I inquired what might happen to any car coming down Oxford Terrace from Hurley Street they demonstrated how they could change the direction of the water flow.  It’s good to know the brigade is prepared for all kinds of fires.

“I went across to see because
I wondered what the water was.”



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