Bell’s Baths

In 1884, the Lyttelton Harbour Board was approached about building bathing sheds close to Cave Rock. Even though this board said no to the idea, the Sumner Town Board continued to look into the possibility. After deciding that the eastern end of The Esplanade was best, 11 acres of shoreline was put aside.

A year later and with no obvious connection to the Sumner Town Board’s project, Christchurch confectioner Samuel Lee Bell, who lived in Sumner took on his own ambitious project.

In the shadow and shelter of Whitewash Heads – Scarborough Hill (pictured during the 1920’s) – Samuel enclosed within wooden piles a portion of the sea along with a breakwater.

Here for a small fee, beach lovers could bathe in the sea without worrying about scary sea creatures or strong tides. For a time, this part of beach was also known as Bell’s Harbour.

Samuel first appears in Christchurch’s history as far back as 1867. It seemed he leased a business on Colombo Street called ‘The Chop House’. At this time, he was living across the road from the BNZ bank and was awoken around 3.30am. A fire had broken out and by the time Samuel and his son John had made it back to the Chop House, the smoke was so thick that they couldn’t even see the nearby buildings. Luckily for Samuel, he was covered by insurance.

Samuel was next in the papers in 1872 when he was caught up in a land dispute. From other advertisements involving his name, he seemed to purchase and sell land as a wee side business.

In 1881, Samuel sadly placed a funeral notice for one of his sons, Samuel, who was to be buried in Addington Cemetery. It appears that both John and Samuel (Junior) worked alongside their father in most of his enterprises.

Samuel died in 1890.

*Image courtesy of the*

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