The Beckenham Loop is a part of the Heathcote River that sits south of Fisher Ave and east of Colombo Street. It once was known as the intersection between three ancient Maori areas – Otautahi, Ihutai and Opawawaho.
Otautahi is now known as Governor’s Bay and means ‘The place of one daughter’. Over 300 years ago, the Ngai Tahu became the prominent iwi of Canterbury. Great Maori warrior Te Rakawhakaputa had successfully sacked all the Ngati Mamoe settlements around the Banks Peninsula and settled himself at the great Ngati Mamoe Pa at Rapaki – named after his waist mat that he had laid at the foot of the Pa to claim ownership over the region.
His son Manhiri settled at Governor’s Bay and fathered many sons but only had one daughter. This is where the name Otautahi comes from. The term Governor’s Bay is in memory of Governor George Grey who anchored his ship in that bay during 1850. He had traveled down from Wellington to greet the first Canterbury Association settlers off the First Four Ships.
Oddly enough, during the 1930’s, the general Maori term used for Christchurch was also Otautahi. Te Potiki Tautahi was an Ngai Tahu Chief who had settled with his people at Port Levy. His hunting parties would sail around the heads of Sumner and head up the Avon River from the Estuary. During one of these food gatherings, Te Potiki Tautahi died. He was buried in some nearby sand hills and the area became known as Otautahi – the place of Tautahi. His burial site was situated on the corner of Kilmore and Manchester Streets, where St Luke’s Anglican Church sat before it was demolished due to earthquake damage. His bones were discovered during the 1870’s.
Ihutai was a fishing spot along the coastline of New Brighton and Sumner. South Brighton was known as Te Ka o te Karoro and Maori ovens and eeling weirs were discovered in what looked to be a great fishing/cooking campsite. Sadly these weirs were removed during the 1920’s. This area is now Jellicoe Reserve.
Opawawaho which means ‘ Outpost’ was a small Ngai Tahu settlement and now the suburb of Opawa. Also the Maori name for the Heathcote River, Opawawaho had links with the great Nagi Tahu stronghold of Kaikai-a-waro – a great Pa that is remembered today in the naming of Kaiapoi.
The Fisher Brothers – Stephen and James – and Harriet, the wife of James arrived in Christchurch on the 16th December 1850 as passengers of the Charlotte Jane, the first of our First Four Ships. Between them they owned 200 acres; Stephen named his half Beckenham after their hometown. Fisher Ave and the suburb of Beckenham are named in memory of these two earlier farmers.
Around the time that Stephen and James would have been out ploughing their fields, the nearby Beckenham Loop had taken on a new life as the neighbourhood children used it as a swimming spot. Some also crafted homemade boats and rafts, using the flowing current to conduct races.
The next burst of new life to hit the area was the mass erection of Government funded housing. The naming of Seddon Street is a reminder of this connection – Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon was Prime Minister from 1893 till his death in 1906. He was a great advocate for the common working man with whom he felt most at home with.
Today, the loop is a part of the Christchurch City’s Special Amenity Area Scheme. Chosen to be preserved because of its distinctive character, even the trees are protected. Any new structures or homes must be designed in the same style as the surrounding homes. Among many other areas under this scheme is the Avon Loop, north of Kilmore Street and west of Fitzgerald Ave. The Avon Loop is home to Bangor and Rees Streets and a part of Oxford Terrace.
It will be interesting to see if these names vanish as I know the housing along the Avon Loop are in the red zone and quite unlivable. Will this historic term disappear along with its housing?