As a Management Committee member for the Canterbury Association, I’m sure Henry Le Cren felt a sense of achievement as he made his way down the jetty from the ‘Barbara Gordon” with all his worldly belongings. His cousin John Longden was with him – what an adventure to be in Canterbury, especially with the first four ships due later that year!
The cousins wasted no time. They set themselves up a merchant business right there in Lyttelton that also offered accommodation. They must have been doing very well as they looked in Christchurch for a town section to open another shop.
On the 1st August 1851, they purchased from the Land Office section 1049 – on Oxford Terrace with a lovely view of the Avon River. The section 1050, that was behind the cousins land, belonged to a surgeon by the name of Burrell Parkinson.
Henry stayed on at Lyttelton while John took care of the city store. It wouldn’t be until 1852 that the first building was erected. It was a simple pitched roof cottage. For some unknown reason, the cousins sell their section to W.T Harvey the same year, including the cottage on site for £115. History tells that George Rhodes of “The Levels’ – now the city of Timaru – had approached Henry about opening a store down south. Maybe the thought of what the Rhodes (‘The Levels’ was 75, 000 acres) would spend outweighed any profit from Christchurch.
W.T Harvey wasn’t to hold on the place for long either. He sold out to Dr. Thomas Fisher, who continued on to buy the sections around the cottage – 1048, 1050 and 1051 for £700. In 1865, the first meeting of the Canterbury Medical Society was held in the cottage, well established doctor’s rooms by that time. Beside the surgery was a red painted stable. Inside was the ambulance buggy – all ready for any emergency!
In 1866 Thomas sells two sections, 1050 and 1051 and a part of 1049 to Dr. J.W.S Coward for £1200. It is during this time that the second story extension is added. In 1903 section 1049 is sold to Dr. Benjamin Moorhouse, the brother of William Sefton Moorhouse who was Canterbury’s Superintendent twice. Benjamin sells up in 1908 to Emily M.Barrett. In 1952, she sells the place to the Pegasus Press. While a Printing Company, the front cottage was made into several offices. The company expands over both sections of 1049 and 1050. Having a few books in my library printed around 1950’s, concerning Canterbury turning 100, I now own some wonderful publications bearing the logo of this publishing press.
In 1990, the whole building went under a huge change – in spite of the outcry. It is now known as The Pegasus Arms – a popular restaurant and bar. A survivor of the 2010/2011 earthquakes, the place holds the honour of being the oldest city building.
The business of Longden and LeCren is still with us today. With business owners changing over the decades, many names have come and gone like Le Cren, Longden and Guinness but the main name these days is the Pyne Gould Corporation. A merger in October 2005 also produced the business of PPG Wrighton.
George Gould had opened the very first merchant store in 1851, located on Colombo Street, opposite of Market Place, now known as Victoria Square.
*Photo courtesy of Schwede66*