In 1856, 12 gentlemen farmers founded The Christchurch Club. Referred to as ‘The Club’ at first, it started its life in a leased building in Durham Street. Benjamin Mountfort drew up a design for a clubhouse which resulted in the building of their pre-earthquake location at 154 Worchester Street in 1863 – some of the property facing Latimer Square.
Designed to be a gentleman’s town retreat, it catered to those members who farmed rurally. While they were dealing with their business in town, attending the races or the A & P Show, they had a place of luxury to stay. With strictly no women or children allowed, the families of the members would usually stay at The Occidental which was once situated a block over on Hereford Street. In its latter years, The Occidental served as a backpackers and was demolished in 2010.
Additions were made in 1863 by Benjamin Mountfort and 1874 and 1985 also saw further extensions and restoration. It was badly damaged in the 2010/2011 earthquakes and is currently closed. Sadly, about 75% of the clubhouse had to be taken down and oddly enough it is the original Benjamin Mountfort section that has survived. Plans are underway for its re-opening.
As Canterbury grew and developed into more than just a farming region, there was discontent amongst the members of The Christchurch Club. There were now bankers, accountants, lawyers and politicians that had nothing in common with the farming based club members.
In 1872 – in a break away move – The Canterbury Club was founded and opened with 151 members. Land was needed to build their clubhouse so a ballot was organized and Dr. J.S Turnbull’s town section on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Worchester Street was selected. Designs were soon drawn up by Fredrick Stout and the ‘most commodious and handsome building’ was opened. It housed the following:
* Dining Room
* Stranger’s Room
* Smoking Room
* Billiard Room
* Reading Room
* Small Meeting rooms or offices
Only the best was expected – the bedroom sheets and blankets bought from Ballantynes. Lunch was served every day at 1pm (Pheasant and Wild Pigeon was on the menu during hunting season) and on a good day, no fewer than 30 members would attend.
By 1879, the club had grown to 179 members. It remained a male domain until 1894 when women were allowed, by invitation, to afternoon tea on the first Tuesday of the month.
In 2004 there were talks about the two rival clubs becoming one again but in the true nature of tradition, they decided to stay separate.
The Canterbury Club was damaged and closed due to the 2010/2011 earthquakes however a complete restoration has been completed and the club reopened in 2012.
*Photos taken by Annette Bulovic*