As the sun set on the era of the Provincial Government, Christchurch – like most of the country’s main cities – must have felt a sudden vacuum as the Christchurch City Council settled itself into its new role. Christchurch that we know today was in 1876, just a land mass with pockets of population, only joined by the odd road so boroughs were soon formed.
Sydenham was one of these, electing its own mayor – George Booth – and councillors. As councillor Charles Allison suggested the name of Sydenham, it was to become Christchurch’s largest borough at that time. St Albans was a close second.
The name of Sydenham came from Councillor Allison’s childhood memory of ‘The Sydenham House’, a crockery/china shop that had been run and owned by Charles Prince from 1859 to 1867. It had been located on Colombo Street, a mile south from the intersection with the South Belt (Moorhouse Ave).
1903 was the year when many of these boroughs came under the care of the Christchurch City Council and became a part of greater Christchurch. Sydenham’s day was the 1st March and as a suburb; it had a lot to offer Christchurch. One of it gems was its Fire House. It sat proudly beside Sydenham Park – Christchurch’s first A & P grounds – on Colombo Street and although I don’t have a date for when it was built, it was around 100 years old when the building itself was demolished and became a part of our history.
It was 1860 when Christchurch got its first volunteer brigade and they fought the early fires of the city with a manual fire pump. The first station was built in Market Square but the first permanently manned station did not happen until 1868. Ten years later, in a Fire Station built on Lichfield Street; the United Fire Brigades of New Zealand was formed. Sometime after 1876, the Sydenham Fire House was built.
Along with not being able to find out the year it was built, the year it stopped being a Fire Station is also a mystery. But my memory of it started in the 1980’s thanks to my older sister, Nicola. Actually thanks to my sister, I came to know some of the night spots of the 80’s as she would go clubbing…I remember her getting dolled up to meet friends at Warners in Cathedral Square and also the Fire House…the old Fire Station in Sydenham! It was now a Nightclub!!! As my father would often drop Nicola off in town, and as the annoying younger sibling, I would go along for the ride and am sure glad I did, I can still see these places in my memory.
I have found comments posted by old Fire House employees who speak of the night spot fondly. Although what when on behind the bar and in the toilets was not for the fainted hearted apparently. But there is no real information about the history of the place but by 1990, it was demolished. Today, a small hub of boring shops sit but to my delight, the name has remained, as you can see 😉
*photo of Firehouse Shopping Centre taken by Annette Bulovic*
*image of Sydenham Park and Fire House courtesy of http://christchurchcitylibraries.com*
* Aerial of Sydenham park and Fire House courtesy of Alexander Turnball Library – Sydenham, Christchurch, circa 1914. Photograph taken by Steffano Francis Webb. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/1-005377-G