Christchurch: A Chronology to 1989

Events in December

December 1, 1863
Opening of the Ferrymead to Moorhouse Avenue railway, New Zealand’s first public steam railway. (The gauge was 5ft 3ins.)
December 1, 1871
First rose show.
December 1, 1873
Westland becomes a separate province. It had already become a separate county on January 1 1868.
December 1, 1889
First New Zealand-built locomotive completed at Addington railway workshops.
December 1, 1949
Sidney G. (later Sir Sidney) Holland (Fendalton) becomes Prime Minister.
December 1, 1950
Kerrs Reach cutting on the Avon River completed.
December 1, 1975
Rolleston satellite town project scrapped.
December 1, 1987
Visit by King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium.
December 1, 1988
125th anniversary of the opening of New Zealand's first steam passenger railway from Christchurch to Ferrymead. (Commemorated Labour Weekend with a steam train cavalcade. See 1863)
December 2, 1854
Canterbury Jockey Club formed (the first in New Zealand).
December 2, 1866
Moa bones discovered at Glenmark. The international sale and exchange of these helped Haast, the Canterbury Museum’s first Director, to finance the new museum.
December 2, 1960
Rehua meeting house opens, the first new meeting house in the South Island for over 100 years.
December 3, 1867
Canterbury Museum (New Zealand’s first) opened to public in an upstairs room in the Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings The collection had been assembled by Julius (later Sir Julius) Von Haast. See 1872
December 3, 1924
Children’s Library opens in Hereford Street.
December 3, 1972
First jumbo jet lands at airport.
December 5, 1881
Earthquake damages Cathedral spire.
December 5, 1987
Rev Margaret Wood elected the first female Archdeacon in the Christchurch Anglican Diocese.
December 6, 1983
16 year old Christchurch student David Tan completes B.Sc Honours degree at Canterbury University to become New Zealand’s youngest ever university graduate.
December 7, 1883
Second Industrial Exhibition opens.
December 8, 1843
Greenwood brothers (James and Joseph) settle at Purau, Lyttelton Harbour.
December 9, 1867
Lyttelton railway tunnel opens, the first in the world to be drilled through a volcano rim. It was New Zealand’s first tunnel, and at the time was described as one of the longest in the world, yet had been planned and financed by this tiny colonial settlement whose population was just over 9000, (6,647 in Christchurch and 2,510 in Lyttelton.)
December 10, 1981
Government announces its intention to preserve the Chief Post Office in Cathedral Square.
December 10, 1989
Sunday trading begins in Christchurch.
December 11, 1979
Completion of airport international arrivals terminal, stage 1 (arrival hall).
December 12, 1849
New Zealand Company agrees to reserve two and a half million acres as a site for the Canterbury settlement.
December 12, 1941
Slit trenches dug in Hagley Park and in Cranmer and Latimer Squares.
December 13, 1942
Premiere in Christchurch of "Landfall in Unknown Seas" by Douglas Lilburn and Allen Curnow.
December 14, 1907
First Plunket Shield cricket match at Lancaster Park. (Auckland defeated Canterbury.)
December 15, 1848
Captain Joseph Thomas, William Fox, and surveyors Cass and Torlesse arrive at the site of Lyttelton in the “Fly”. Thomas names the harbour “Port Victoria”. He and his party had been sent by the Canterbury Association to choose a site for the new colony and make the necessary preparations for the arrival of settlers in 1850.
December 15, 1945
Railway line to Picton completed.
December 15, 1965
Roll on/roll off loading facility in use at Lyttelton Harbour.
December 16-17, 1956
Visit by Duke of Edinburgh.
December 16, 1850
“Charlotte Jane” and “Randolph” arrive at Lyttelton.
December 16, 1851
Anniversary celebrations in Hagley Park. First organised sport, including horse races, athletics and a cricket match.
December 16, 1852
Anniversary celebrations include the first horticultural exhibition.
December 16, 1864
Foundation stone laid for Christchurch Cathedral. The weather was atrocious.
December 16, 1869
Anniversary celebrated by the first "boneshaker" bicycle race - from Latimer Square to the railway station and back.
December 16, 1872
First Interprovincial Exhibition opens.
December 16, 1905
Christchurch’s Bob Deans scores "the try that wasn’t" in Wales on the first All Black tour of the United Kingdom. The All Blacks "lost" only this game 3-0. Deans died of pneumonia in 1908, aged 24.
December 16, 1942
Construction of Sign of the Takahe taken over by City.
December 16, 1944
Reconstructed cob cottage at Ferrymead officially opens.
December 16, 1950
Harewood Airport becomes New Zealand’s first International Airport - 100 years to the day from the arrival of the first Canterbury Association settlers.
December 16, 1984
John Walker becomes the first person to run a sub four minute mile in Canterbury. He broke the record at QEII Park. February 1985, Walker broke the world record for highest number of sub four minute miles.
December 17, 1850
“Sir George Seymour” arrives.
December 17, 1935
City Council decides to buy 230 hectares of land at Harewood for a city airport. The purchase was strongly criticised in many quarters as excessively large, but subsequent history has more than vindicated the decision.
December 17, 1979
City Council approves Neighbourhood Committee scheme.
December 18, 1929
Arrest of 2 armed youths who are responsible for dozens of cases of serious arson (and a near murder) in the previous 6 months.
December 18, 1982
"Tolaga Bay" (53,784 tonnes) becomes the largest ship ever to dock at Lyttelton.
December 18, 1987
Stage 1 of Museum restoration approved.
December 20-21, 1915
Canterbury Battalion among the last to leave Gallipoli. The battalion suffered 385 dead during the campaign.
December 20, 1877
70 kilometres (44 miles) of railway line north to Amberley converted from broad to narrow gauge in a single day by 500 men - in time for the opening of the railway station the following day.
December 20, 1955
First Antarctic flights by USN Operation Deep Freeze from Christchurch.
December 21, 1877
New Christchurch railway station opens.
December 21, 1977
New Zealand’s first closed circuit central city television traffic control system in operation for City Council.
December 22, 1885
Statue of William Moorhouse unveiled in the Botanic Gardens.
December 23, 1876
Lyttelton time-ball station in operation. Its time signals to shipping were superseded by radio signals in 1934. See also 1978.
December 23, 1911
George Bolt flies a glider from the Port Hills.
December 23, 1974
State Insurance Company announces the purchase of Trinity Church, (designed by B.W.Mountfort, built 1874) and its conversion into the State Trinity Centre. The completed project was opened on November 22, 1975.
December 24, 1864
First gas street lights.
December 24, 1953
4 Christchurch victims among 151 dead in Tangiwai railway disaster.
December 25, 1864
Durham Street Methodist Church opens - the City’s first stone church.
December 25, 1891
Foundation stone laid for the "Temple of Truth" - but the sect was a fraud - see 1897.
December 26, 1863
Opening of the Royal Princess Theatre, the city’s first true theatre. It had been the Canterbury Music Hall, see 1861.
December 26, 1870
First rowing regatta on the Avon.
December 26, 1879
Serious Catholic/Protestant riot in Manchester Street.
December 26, 1905
Automobile Association holds a "Great Automobile Gymkhana" at Addington trotting grounds. 30 cars took part, and the programme included New Zealand’s first official car race.
December 27, 1850
“Cressy” arrives. These 4 ships brought a total of 773 settlers. Although Cantabrians like to commemorate these “first four ships”, there were actually 8 chartered vessels which brought 1500 Canterbury Association settlers in the first few months. By the following December, 19 ships had brought over 3000 settlers.
December 27, 1987
Rewi Alley dies in Peking, China. He left Christchurch for China in 1926.
December 28, 1912
First New Zealand croquet championships held in City.
December 30, 1978
Canterbury Orchestra disbanded. The demise of this professional orchestra ended 6 years of acrimonious dispute which profoundly disrupted the musical scene in Christchurch.
December 30, 1988
Water restrictions in force for first time in City's history as water tables dropped to record low levels.
December 31, 1984
"Kiwi House" opened at Orana Park (first chick born in captivity in South Island, November 1989).
December, 1849
Major Alfred Hornbrook’s grog shop (dignified by the name “Mitre Hotel”) operating in Lyttelton. (This was Canterbury’s first pub, and possibly the first commercial enterprise in the province.)
December, 1850
Anderson’s Forge established - the first industry in Canterbury. The business became Andersons Foundry.
December, 1852
Godley returns to England.
December, 1859
Canterbury Municipal Ordinance passed. However, it failed to receive the assent of the Governor of New Zealand. A revised ordinance succeeded in March 1861.
December, 1860
First town clock and tower arrives - in 147 packages. The clock and iron tower, commissioned by the Provincial Government, was not erected as originally planned. Presented to the City in 1876, it was eventually placed at the corner of High and Manchester Streets in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s jubilee. In 1930, it was moved to its present site in Victoria Street.
December, 1861
Provincial Superintendent petitioned by 227 householders to proclaim a municipal district.
December, 1863
First patients at Sunnyside Hospital.
December, 1864
Census population of Christchurch City (excluding Lyttelton) 6,438.
December, 1870
National railway gauge chosen as 3ft 6in. Existing 5ft 3in lines in Canterbury were subsequently re-laid in the new gauge. See 1877.
December, 1881
Canterbury Frozen Meat Company formed.
December, 1894
Internationally famous English climber E.A. Fitzgerald makes much publicised preparations in Christchurch to climb Mt Cook but is beaten by 3 young New Zealanders. Piqued, Fitzgerald refused to set foot on the mountain.
December, 1894
New Zealand Cricket Council formed in City.
December, 1917
Canterbury Exhibition Hall in Manchester Street burned out.
December, 1926
Rewi Alley leaves Christchurch to settle in China.
December, 1930
South Island’s first traffic lights installed at the intersection of Cashel and Colombo Streets.
December, 1950
Christchurch City centennial celebrations include an open air church service in Cathedral Square (over 30,000 people), and a procession watched by over 100,000. Visitors include the Archbishop of Canterbury.
December, 1952
Canterbury Childrens Theatre (founded by Neta Neale) gives first performance - "The Tinder Box".
December, 1954
Christchurch Regional Planning Authority formed.
December, 1968
Yaldhurst Transport Museum opens to public.
December, 1978
Restored time-ball station at Lyttelton opens to public.
December, 1979
Christchurch City Council rejects flouridation of the water supply.
December, 1983
Civic Theatre demolished.
December, 1985
Halleys Comet becomes visible in night sky. See 1910.
December, 1988
Scimitar horned oryx born at Orana Park by artificial insemination. First in world and claimed as a milestone in animal park management.