Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Minson & Co. Hardware Store, Christchurch, early 1900s

Minson's Hardware & China store at 220 Colombo Street, February 1911. Stephano Webb, photo. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Interior of Minson's store in 1898 showing the vast array of household wares on sale - dinner sets, bedroom washing sets, lamps, trunks and much more. Christchurch City Libraries image.

This blogger remembers Minson's as the terror of a small boy confronted with a sea of fine china displays that he was told not to touch for fear of dropping & breaking something. Small bull in a china shop, indeed.

For a bit more background on the history of Minson's pop over to the Canterbury Heritage blog's entry on the store.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Train Into Town - The Christchurch - Lyttelton Railway Line, early 1900s

Train About to Depart Lyttelton Railway Station for Christchurch, circa 1916.

Before Annie could do any shopping (see previous post), she had to catch a train to Christchurch. In the early 1900s, the quickest, most direct means available was the railway.

The early founders had realised that development of Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains required fast, easy, and economic transport between Christchurch and the Port of Lyttelton. Unfortunately, volcanic activity millions of years before had imposed the Port Hills in between. In a feat of geologic survey and engineering success, the Lyttelton railway tunnel was opened to passenger traffic on 9 December 1867, just some 17 or so years since first European settlement.

Steam locomotive at entrance to Lyttelton tunnel running under the Port Hills, connecting the port with Christchurch. Photo : Albert Percy Godber. Alexander Turnbull Library

In the early 1900s, the alternative to rail was a long, uncomfortable journey over the Port Hills by horse & wagon by the Sumner Road thence in to Christchurch, subject to the elements - dusty & windy in the summer; cold, wet and muddy in the winter.

The car had barely made an entry in the early 1900s, was temperamental, exacerbated by hill work, and still exposed one to the elements. The Lyttelton road tunnel would not open until 27 February 1964 at which time it superceded the rail journey as fastest & most comfortable route.

In the age of steam, however, the rail trip through the tunnel brought with it the "delights" of coal smoke from the smoke stack if unwary passengers had failed to close windows before the train entered the tunnel. Electrification of the line in 1929 eliminated this unpleasant and hazardous experience.

Arrival at Christchurch Railway Station, circa 1910. Alexander Turnbull Library

The Christchurch Railway Station, seen from Moorhouse Ave, early 1900s.

From the Christchurch Railway Station, Annie and her fellow passengers could set out on foot via Manchester or Colombo Street towards Cashel & High Streets, the shopping precinct of Christchurch in the early 1900s. For now, they could also get there by horse-drawn tram, soon to be replaced by electric ones. For the well-heeled or those in a hurry, a Hansom cab (as pictured above) could get them there at a trot.

The city's streets were not yet paved so dust in a Canterbury nor'wester or mud and puddles on a wet day were part of the challenge in navigating the city streets.

Approaching Lyttelton tunnel at Heathcote on the homeward journey, circa 1910.

Home on the afternoon train, Annie's mind no doubt turned to preparing tea and putting her feet up later in the evening, as brown paper parcels tied with string sat in the overhead rack and a tired child or two fidgeted or grizzled beside her.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where Would Annie Shop?

A few years ago I acquired a collection of vintage New Zealand postcards, some 250 in number. While I had bought them for the views shown, sorting through them it dawned upon me that the vast majority of them were written by a woman named Annie to her younger brother Henry in the United States.

Written between 1901 and 1927, they record some of the life and times of Annie, an American woman, who married a New Zealand ship's engineer in 1901 and settled in New Zealand until his death in 1926. Widowed and without means of support she returned to her hometown of Akron, Ohio where she lived out the rest of her life until she died in 1969.

Tracing Annie's story behind the cards has led me subsequently down many paths, filling in details here and there as to the larger picture of Annie's life & times, something more than the equivalent of a text message or telegraph-length missive contained on small rectangular piece of cardboard could reveal.

One of those paths has involved asking "where would Annie shop?" when she refers in her postcard messages to having gone into Christchurch on the train from Lyttelton where she lived on various errands to shop.

Trying to answer that question has prompted the following series of posts on shopping in Christchurch at the turn of the twentieth century.