Christchurch’s First Skyscraper Took New Zealand Title – 1906

In 1906, on the South East corner of Manchester and Hereford Streets, New Zealand’s tallest building was opened with grand ceremony. Designed by the Luttrell brothers, the seven storey structure was Christchurch’s first steel reinforced, commercial building; blending together the stately Edwardian design style with the worldly building flare of America. It was the New Zealand Express Company Building.

This successful country wide furniture dispatch business had been operating from a small office in Bedford Row with its other business locations spread out across the city. This new exciting project brought it all together under one roof – with two electric lifts to boot. At 112 feet in height – the Manchester Courts as it was later known – dominated the skyline for half a century, losing its title of Christchurch’s skyscraper due to the construction of the B.N.Z building in 1967.

Tragically, the Manchester Courts was to be one of Christchurch’s first quake victims. Badly damaged by the 4th September 2010 earthquake, grave concerns for public safety were raised because of the continuing after shocks. Despite the huge public outcry, the demolition was quickly started just a month later, the site completely cleared by the time of 22nd February 2011 earthquake.

*Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library – – Reference Number: 10×8-1739-G –

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  1. Noel Brettoner says:

    This particular building holds a personal fascination I would like to share:-
    W. H. Bowen was the builder of this magnificent edifice, as well as several other key Christchurch buildings. He also was involved in the refurbishment of the Cathedral.
    Robert James Jay (of Dunedin) came to Christchurch to take up the manager position of this purpose-built brand new New Zealand Express Co building.
    One of W. H. Bowen’s daughters (Ida Ellen Cox Bowen) married Robert James Jay. They had three sons & a daughter. That daughter (Daphne Ida Jay) was our mum.
    If anybody has contacts with either the Bowen Jay or Redpath families, I would love to be put i touch please.

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