NZ travel – Christchurch – An overview

Posted by jerry on November 7th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Travel

The heart of Christchurch is the Anglican cathedral of ChristChurch. The cultural life of the city revolves around the Cathedral Square. The square is dominated by the Gothic-style cathedral designed by renowned English Gothic architect George Gilbert Scott and adapted by local architect Benjamin Mountford, and built between 1864 (foundation stone) and 1904 (completion). The cathedral was part of the central concept of Christchurch. The cathedral has just completed its biggest restoration in its 126 year history.

Christchurch cathedral NZ

The story begins back in 1848 when a pro-colonization group called the Canterbury Association was established by Edward Gibbon Wakefield (of Adelaide fame) and John Robert Godley. The Canterbury Association decided to found a new settlement in New Zealand, built around a central cathedral and college along the lines of Christ college in Oxford. And the first four ships carrying about 750 pilgrims of the Canterbury Association arrived in Lyttelton harbour in December 1850. The ships were: the Randolph, the Cressy, Sir George Seymour and the Charlotte Jane.

Mountford had a huge influence on Victorian Christchurch and there are a number of Gothic-style buildings that show his influence, including the original Council Chambers, the museum and the old University (now the Arts Centre) built between 1876 and 1923. The Christchurch Arts Centre is a particularly fine example.

Christchurch NZ

The Arts centre is well supported with over 40 specialty shops galleries and working studios. There is an arts market every weekend and it’s also worth visiting Rutherford’s Den – site of Earnest Rutherford’s early experiments which led to his theory of the atom. This is in the clock tower (built 1870) and is right opposite a boutique cafe.

Christchurch NZ

And before you leave the Arts Centre, be sure to check out the Juggler statue – please leave a comment or drop me an email if you know the title and artist who produced this sculpture)

Juggler/jester statue Christchurch NZ

As you head back along Worcester Street across the bridge there is a statue of John Falcon Scott (of the Antarctic) sculpted from Carrara marble by his wife Kathleen in 1917. It bears the inscription of his last message:

I do not regret this journey, which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past.

Christchurch NZ

Opposite is another neo-gothic building, the old municipal chambers now Our City O-Tautahi – a civic exhibition space.

Christchurch NZ

The Christchurch Art Gallery is a stunning building unmatched by the rather conservative hang of its contents. The early material contains few landscapes – surprising given how the landscape has so shaped the place, instead there are a large number of English-style interiors, very few portraits of Maoris and the contemporary material is largely European-influenced ‘International Style’ – suggesting a strong tendency towards cultural cringe. But there are some good specialist exhibitions, including an Antarctic one, and regular floor talks and events are scheduled.

Christchurch NZ

In the Cathedral Square, past the street performers and market, it’s worth checking out the information centre in this building – the people are really helpful and go out of their way to help you find out stuff about the city (but we managed to foil them with the writers walk, but more on that later). It also has a Starbucks on the corner and a fairly expensive Indian restaurant inside.

Christchurch NZ

And the 18 metre high Chalice sculpture, by artist Neil Dawson (2001) commemorates the Millenium and the 150th anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury. It dominates Cathedral square and its cone shape inversely mirrors the the Cathedral spire.

Christchurch NZ

Is this a massive Spring Sale? No, just a well-resourced central library with a highly knowledgeable staff and excellent NZ and reference collection, free computer and internet access and free wifi. In fact all the arts and cultural institutions seemed well-resourced and as a consequence were well utilised by the local population and visitors alike.

Christchurch NZ

But for some people, the alienation of modernist architecture can be so expressive…

Christchurch, NZ

More soon


NZ – Christchurch museum

Posted by jerry on November 1st, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Motorcycling, Travel

NZ Canterbury Musuem, Christchurch

NZ Canterbury musem

This is a good regional museum – well equipped and laid out. The collection is arranged chronologically from the first peoples – Iwi tawhito- whenua hou (Ancient peoples – new lands) covering first settlment artifacts, including stone axxes and adzes and a form of bow drill. There was an interesting note that there s little evidence of tribal warfare until the Moa (flightless bird) was hunted to extinction, with the speculation that resource pressures brought competition and conflict.

Decorative arts from early European settlement are well represented with glass and ceramics and furniture and costumes.

‘Christchurch Street’ – a recreated Victorian period street makes for a good immersive experience of life in the Victorian times.

But perhaps the most fascinating and unique exhibition is that devoted to Antarctic exploration. I was particularly taken by the steampunk looking dome used at Hallett Station. The dome was made from fibreglass and assembled in place by US Navy Seabees in 1957. The dome has a tongue and groove wooden floor and was assembled using brass bolts to ensure that there were no magnetic components. It was used as a weather observation post and housed a sensitive variograph which recorded tiny changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. The observatory was kept free of magnetic contamination by ensuring that it contained no metal furniture or other items.


The dome was recovered from the base in 2004 when the Station was closed and the base site cleaned up.

Another interesting exhibit was Ivan Mauger’s 1970 winning speedway motorcycle. He had won the 1968 and 1969 World speedway championships, and undertook a US tour, during which an American industrialist told him that if he won the championship a record third time running he would gold plate the motorcycle. After the 1970 win, the bike was shipped to the US where it was dismantled and every component was gold plated over the succeeding 18 months at a cost of US$500,000 – even the pistons and valves are gold plated. But otherwise the bike is in exactly the condition in which it fininished the last race – so in theory at least it is a fully functional motorcycle.

Ivan Mauger gold bike

That bike can be seen today in Canterbury museum as a piece of motorcycling history.

World’s oldest car sells for US$3.5m

Posted by jerry on September 3rd, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Steam, Technology

Picture yourself behind the tiller of a record breaking racing car – 123 years old and still capable of 60 kilometres per hour. This deDion-Bouton et Trepardoux recently went up for auction and sold for US$3,520,000. It’s quite a catch and it runs quietly on steam. The car was built in 1884

DeDion-Bouton et Trepardoux 1884

DeDion-Bouton et Trepardoux 1884 (photos from Gooding & Co)

You can see a video of the car in action here.

DeDion-Bouton et Trepardoux 1884

The downdraft chimney is not unlike the 1889 Serpollet-Peugeot which suggests that the earlier car influenced the later Serpollet design.

Serpollet steam tricar (photo – Everard 2006)


The Arts of Islam Exhibition – Art Gallery of NSW

Posted by jerry on July 15th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal

The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney has an exhibition of Islamic art treasures from the collection of Nasser D. Khalili in the UK – one of the largest private collections of Islamic art.

I was enthralled within minutes of entering the exhibition with three things catching my eye – in addition to the large planispheric astrolabe displayed with all the parts separated so you could see the exquisite engraving. The three things were: part two of a thirty part Qur’an (koran) from the 9th century AD in which the text block observes the proportions of the Golden Section, discovered by Pythgoras and reintroduced to Renaissance Italy. But Islamic mathematicians were well aware of the Golden Section, and there is evidence of its use throughout the Islamic world long before the Italian renaissance. The second was an 11th century part of a Qur’an which has disc motifs inserted at key passages in the test, which reference other passages – a form of 11th century hyperlinking.

And the third was an illustration of Noah’s ark under construction, in which most of the woodworking handcraft skills are illustrated – frame saws used to slab timber, planes used to smooth, a bow drill for hole drilling and so on all in wonderful detail.

I could go on about the decorated glassware and delicately carved caskets, but suffice to say it is well worth the entrance fee – we rarely get to see European private collections, and especially those put together with a connoisseur’s eye as well as this one.

The exhibition is on until late September


Arkwright’s textile machines

Posted by jerry on June 20th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Technology

They may look basic, but these machines helped bring about a revolution – the Industrial Revolution no less! These were the machines that Ned Ludd – founder of the Luddites movement protested so violently against. He realised that by mechanising certain processes, there would be massive social upheaval as people were replaced by machines. You can see these examples for yourself at London’s Science Museum in South Kensington.

Arkwright spinning machine

Richard Arkwright developed these innovations (not inventions – they had precursors) into a system between 1765 and 1775 – about the time Capt James Cook was checking out the transit of venus and checking out the east coast of Australia. The system came to be known as the textile mill or factory.

This concept arose from his appreciation that the manufacture of cotton yarn was a series of discrete operations that could be carried out by special purpose machines, brought together in one place and driven from a single power source, such as a water mill, or later, a steam engine. Before this time, most textiles were produced individually in cottage industries by spinners and weavers. The production of cotton lagged way behind that of wool or linen.

But there were impacts. The factory system brought England to the forefront of textile manufacturing in the nineteenth century, but it also brought about the collapse of the of the Indian cotton industry – while demand for raw cotton sustained the slave economy in the USA.

Carding machine
According to the museum info cards the carding machine disentangles, loosens and straightens the cotton fibres. The fibres are fed between two drums which are covered with leather ‘cards’ embedded with bent wire teeth. A third drum strips off the fibres in a continuous sheet which is then lifted off to form a ‘sliver’.

carding machine

Lantern drawing frame
The sliver is then passed to the lantern frame where it is elongated and narrowed, while being twisted to that it becomes strong enough to handle. The sliver is then called a ‘roving’ or ‘slubbing’ (hence the term ‘slub linen’).

Lantern drawing frame

Four spool and eight spool spinning machines
The four spool machine closely resembles the design Arkwright patented in 1769. Both machines spin yarnfrom teh cotton rovings produced by the drawing frame.

The later eight-spooled machine effectively doubled output. Both were powered by water wheels.
spinning machine

The eight-spool machine was effectively two four-spool machines joined together.

Arkwright spinning machine