Christchurch’s First Stone House Built – 1863

As Christopher Calvert was known as a stubborn eccentric, maybe no one was surprised when he designed his own home, he insisted that it be built from stone. This had never been done in Christchurch for a private residence before! It would have been the sweet sound of music in the ears of the stone masons of Canterbury who found their work dried up due to the earthquake fear that gripped the region. The Christchurch of the 1860’s was built in timber as this proved to be safer against the quakes that occasionally shook the area.

Christopher Calvert arrived in Lyttelton in February 1851 aboard the Canterbury Association’s fifth ship, the Castle Eden. A lawyer by trade, he continued in his profession and spent his working life as a barrister in Christchurch’s Supreme Court.

At first, settling down in Governor’s Bay, he built a home there which he named ‘Rosemary Cottage’, after the new born daughter of Bishop Selwyn. Upon chatting with the local Maori, he learned that the Maori name for Governor’s Bay was ‘Ohinetahi’ (meaning ‘one daughter’), and he promptly renamed his property to the native name.

In 1863, Calvert decided to build on his land at Oxford Terrace, near the corner of Chester Street. This fine, grand stone house became known as ‘The Holly’s’ (it was always misspelled) due to the holly hedge that acted as a fence around the property. It is believed that this was the first holly planted in Christchurch. Just like ‘Ohinetahi’, ‘The Holly’s’ was soon sold and Calvert disappeared into history. ‘The Holly’s was then knocked down by its second owner.

‘Ohinetahi’ is still a residence in Governor’s Bay and was just recently in the news (2014) as the current owner has decided to open up the property to the public.

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