The Majestic House Opened – 1st March 1930

The north eastern corner of Lichfield and Manchester Streets has had quite a life.

During the 1850’s, William ‘Cabbage’ Wilson (remembered in the naming of Wilsons Road) ran his market garden there. Wilson was quite a presence – 6 feet tall and weighing in at 18 stone. He was a man of immense energy and always walked at a fast pace, keeping one hand on his hat and the other motioning to others to make room for him.  He became known as ‘Cabbage’ Wilson because of his hat which was made of Cabbage Tree leaves – a gift by the local Maori.

He became Christchurch’s first mayor in 1868. It took him a few years to get any interest in his Lichfield/Manchester plot, but in 1870 a wooden two story general store – Hubbard, Hall and Co – was built. Upstairs was where the Commercial Union Insurance Co operated.

Next, in 1930, the Majestic Theatre opened – the first steel framed building in the city. Pictured here (taken from High Street) is the theatre under construction in 1929. The upper floors were used by the Department of Labour. It boasted of being the biggest cinema in Christchurch at the time and had hearing aid attachments for those hard of hearing. It was also in 1930 that the Diamond Jubilee Clock Tower was moved from Manchester Street to its current site on Victoria Street.

A bad fire ripped through the place in 1946 and it was fully restored. During the 1960’s, like other cinemas around the country, television was causing a dip on the ticket sales so the Majestic became a venue for live music acts, playing host to bands like ‘The Beatles’ and ‘The Kinks’.

The theatre closed in 1970 and became ‘Moby Dick’s Nite Spot’. Another fire in 1976 closed that down and up until the earthquakes, it was the home of the City New Life Church.

Under great protest and tension, the Majestic House was demolished (2014) so Lichfield Street could be widened during the city’s rebuild. For a city that has lost so many heritage buildings – this loss of a repairable city icon has been viewed by many as a crime.

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