Story: Canterbury places

Page 8 – Central Christchurch

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch on 22 February 2011 destroyed many buildings in the central city and caused 185 deaths. Many of the buildings had been weakened by the magnitude 7.3 earthquake that affected the city on 4 September 2010.

The Avon River

This river rises from springs in the western suburbs, winds through the city and north-eastern suburbs, and enters the estuary it shares with the Heathcote River. Christchurch was built on the first extensive area of dry land up the river.

The Avon’s Māori name was Ōtakaro, but it was later named after an Avon River in Ayrshire, home of the Deans brothers, settler farmers. The river banks, with neat lawns, gardens and trees, add to the city’s English character. Raupō, flax and rushes have been planted to evoke its original appearance.

A stretch at the Fitzgerald Avenue bridge was long used as a rowing course (now downstream at Kerr’s Reach). Recreational boating through the central city remains popular.

Victoria Square

Originally the Market Square, with a motley collection of buildings, Victoria Square became open green space at the time of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. It was renamed in 1903 when a statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled. After the present Town Hall opened on the square in 1972, stretches of adjacent streets were closed and the area landscaped. A hotel overlooks the historic bridge which once took Victoria Street across the Avon River, and there is a casino to the north-west.

Cathedral Square

Originally Ridley Square, this cross-shaped space in central Christchurch was, like Latimer and Cranmer squares, named after an Anglican martyr. Its Gothic Revival cathedral, designed by English architect George Gilbert Scott, was begun in 1864 and completed in 1904.

Monuments include a statue of John Robert Godley, founder of the Canterbury settlement, a First World War memorial by William Trethewey, and ‘Chalice’ (2001) by Neil Dawson.

Before 1974, roadways and trams converged on the square. It is now mainly a pedestrian area.

The Māori name for Christchurch

Christchurch takes its Māori name, Ōtautahi, from the of Tautahi, once situated on the banks of the Avon River. The pā (fortified village) was near where European settlers unloaded vessels that brought goods up the Avon.

High Street precinct

Commercial area just south of Cathedral Square, down High and Colombo streets and on four cross streets – Hereford, Cashel, Lichfield and Tuam. It contains many historic commercial and industrial buildings. Parts of High and Cashel streets became a pedestrian mall in 1982. A tram carries tourists through the area. Cashel Street near the Bridge of Remembrance (a First World War memorial) has a thriving bar district known as ‘The Strip’.

The cultural precinct

Area of Worcester Boulevard between Cathedral Square and the Canterbury Museum, designated a ‘cultural precinct’ in the early 2000s. The Gothic, grey-stone buildings formerly occupied by the University are now a flourishing arts centre. The new Christchurch City Art Gallery was opened on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street in 2003.

Hagley Park

Public park with playing fields and deciduous trees, named after the English estate of Lord Lyttelton, a Canterbury Association leader. The park is now divided by roads into three sections – Little Hagley (a woodland), and North and South Hagley. In South Hagley, one of the country’s oldest sporting buildings, an 1860s pavilion, stands by the cricket oval. In 1906–7 much of North Hagley Park was used for the New Zealand International Exhibition. In the 1960s a plan to build a motorway across North Hagley Park was bitterly opposed, and finally quashed.

The Christchurch Botanic Gardens lie within a loop of the Avon River that was designated a government domain (park). Some of its magnificent trees were planted in the 1860s and 1870s.

The four avenues

Major roads bordering the inner city. When first laid out, the city’s southern, eastern and northern sides were defined by wide streets, later renamed Moorhouse, Fitzgerald and Bealey avenues. Antigua Street north of the Avon River was renamed Rolleston Avenue. ‘Within the four avenues’ means the inner city.

How to cite this page:

John Wilson. 'Canterbury places - Central Christchurch', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12