SOL Square – South of Lichfield

Around the end of the last century, as one strolled south down Manchester Street – not far from the corner of Lichfield Street – a dark narrow lane would soon appear on your right. As much as you would fight it, your eyes couldn’t resist a quick glance into the dimness.There is nothing there, an empty rundown lane, not a soul in sight but still, you can just make out the clicking of horse hooves against the old pavings, the wheels of the wooden cart strapped to its hind quarters rattling away, bouncing along, carrying goods from a nearby warehouse out onto Manchester Street…the ghosts of so many years ago.

SOL Square – South of Lichfield – is quite a current term for Christchurch’s old warehouse district south-east of Cathedral Square. This district sits between Lichfield, Manchester and Tuam Streets.

The Lichfield Lanes as they are usually referred to include Lordship Lane, Poplar Lane and Struthers Lane with SOL Square as its hub.

Once the home of Mason, Struthers and Company – Hardware and Saddlery – (1874), The Lordships Larder/Hotel – once housed the Duncan Cotterill Law Firm – (1880), Lichfield Shirts – made clothing for the New Zealand soldiers during World One I (1916), Wellington Woollen Manufacturing Company (1919) and Bell Motors Works (1920) to name a few. By 1990 these warehouses, stores, workshops were unused and rundown.

With its abundance of old brick buildings, aged timber, narrow lanes and paved enclosed service yards, the character heritage block was just begging to be useful again. Business man Dave Henderson – now bankrupt – saw a group of buildings that no one seemed to know or care about anymore.

By 2004, he had set up apartments for both short and long term tenants. What followed was some of New Zealand’s leading restaurants, cafés, bars, nightclubs and fashion retailers filling every area of SOL Square – life flooded back into the district.

Before the earthquakes, it was matching Oxford Terrace’s ‘The Strip’ as the place to socialize on a Thursday/Friday/Saturday night.

It seems some of SOL Square may have beaten the odds against the earthquakes but the Lordships Pub was transferred from ‘make safe’ to the ‘demolish’ list just this past March (2012). So much can change in a Christchurch minute!

Christchurch’s Chief Surveyor Captain Joseph Thomas and his assistant surveyor Edward Jollie laid out the streets of Christchurch early 1850. They named Lichfield, Manchester and Tuam Streets – as they did with all the other original Christchurch streets – after Bishops and members of the Canterbury Association. Once the surveyor pegs were in the ground, the two men would look over the names they could choose from and basically went with what suited and felt right. Good on you lads!

*image courtesy of Te Ara*
Photograph by Neil Macbeth
‘City history and people’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

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