Christchurch: A Chronology to 1989

Events in May

May 1, 1975
Canterbury University completes its move from city to Ilam campus.
May 2, 1872
New St Michael’s Anglican Church opens.
May 3, 1851
George Gould opens shop in Christchurch. The business eventually became part of Pyne Gould Guinness and Co.
May 3, 1865
First Catholic school opens in a small cottage in Lichfield Street.
May 3, 1985
6,000 Christchurch citizens rally against the All Black tour of South Africa.
May 4, 1858
Last of the town reserves sold.
May 4, 1932
Christchurch Tramway strike. One of the bitterest in the city’s history, it lasted 16 days. There were many injuries and arrests among the strikers. The tram sheds were barricaded with barbed wire, and trams were fitted with wire mesh screens over their windows to ward off attacks.
May 4, 1981
New southern arterial (Brougham Street to Curletts Road) opens.
May 5, 1863
Christchurch Gas Company formed.
May 5, 1970
Visit by Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau.
May 6, 1939
New Municipal Electricity Department building opens.
May 7, 1917
Canterbury Aviation Company makes first flights from Sockburn Aerodrome, New Zealand’s first airport.
May 8, 1885
Strike in boot factories.
May 8, 1945
V.E. (Victory in Europe) day celebrations.
May 8, 1975
New Zealand’s first mini roundabout in operation at the corner of Riccarton Road and Deans Avenue.
May 8, 1981
Go-ahead given for National Sports Training Centre at Q.E.II Park.
May 8, 1987
Sir Neil Isaac, founder of Peacock Springs Conservation Park dies.
May 9, 1915
Christchurch tennis star (4 times Wimbledon champion) Captain A. F. Wilding killed in action in Belgium.
May 10, 1975
Ms Vicki Buck becomes the city’s (and New Zealand’s) youngest ever City Councillor at 19.
May 11, 1891
Sumner Borough formed.
May 11, 1908
Colosseum becomes the city’s first picture theatre. The building was claimed to have the largest wooden span in New Zealand. It had previously been a skating rink, a boot factory and a cab stand. See also 1932.
May 12, 1980
Visit by Mr Li Xiannian, Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China.
May 13-15, 1920
Visit of Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII).
May 14-15, 1886
Flooding in city centre.
May 14, 1868
"Lyttelton Times" publishes evening paper, the "Star".
May 14, 1907
Fire seriously damages the Antigua Street boatsheds.
May 14, 1908
Municipal tepid baths in Manchester Street open. It was described as "the finest indoor swimming pool in Australasia".
May 14, 1947
Mabel Howard (Sydenham) becomes Minister of Health, the country’s first woman Cabinet Minister.
May 16, 1904
Motor bus service to Timaru begins.
May 16, 1975
Opening of Four Avenues, New Zealand’s first State alternative education school.
May 18, 1881
Christchurch Boys High School (designed by W.B. Armson) opens in Worcester Street. The school moved to the present Straven Road site in 1926, and the old building is now part of the Arts Centre.
May 18, 1940
Harewood Airport officially opens. It was soon to be taken over by the RNZAF for the duration of the war.
May 19, 1910
Halleys Comet visible by telescope in night sky. Prophesies of doom and superstition abounded while the comet was visible.
May 19, 1945
Severe flooding throughout city.
May 20, 1861
Gold discovered in Gabriels Gully, Otago. As with other discoveries, the ensuing gold rush depleted the city of its more adventurous young men.
May 21, 1865
First news telegram sent over the new line from Bluff to Christchurch.
May 21, 1866
City Council abandons the vital city drainage scheme because of its financial state. A huge shipment of pipes which had just arrived from England had to be sold off. This guaranteed Christchurch’s reputation as New Zealand’s most polluted and unhealthy city for another 20 years. It is interesting to compare the transport cost of these pipes from Glasgow to Lyttelton - £882 - with the cost from Lyttelton by lighter and cart to Christchurch - £400!
May 22-25, 1988
Snow falls in Central City for first time in 10 years .
May 22, 1868
William Rolleston becomes the fourth (and last) Superintendent of Canterbury. The 4 superintendents have been remembered in the names of the city’s "four avenues", previously called the Town Belts.
May 22, 1989
First significant rainfall in 22 months breaks drought in Canterbury.
May 23, 1861
Fire destroys brewery and shops in Cashel Street.
May 23, 1960
Tsunami (tidal wave) causes water level range of nearly 6 metres in 2 hours at Lyttelton.
May 23, 1968
Visit by Duke of Edinburgh.
May 24, 1940
Centennial music festival presents 10 days of music to large audiences. This was the New Zealand Centennial. For Christchurch Centennial see 1950.
May 25, 1861
“Christchurch Press” appears. The first editor was ex-Superintendent James FitzGerald, a bitter opponent of the proposed Lyttelton-Christchurch railway tunnel. He and supporters began the paper to air their views.
May 25, 1903
Statue of Queen Victoria unveiled in Market Square, and the area is renamed Victoria Square.
May 25, 1966
Steering committe set up to plan Ferrymead Historic Park.
May 25, 1969
First pair of one-way streets (Lichfield and St Asaph Streets) in operation. With traffic signals eventually controlled by a computer, this was the beginning of New Zealand’s first area traffic control scheme.
May 26, 1859
Public Library begins as the Mechanics Institute in Town Hall.
May 26, 1906
Statue of William Rolleston (outside the Canterbury Museum) unveiled.
May 27, 1949
New Zealand’s first commercial aerial topdressing on Banks Peninsula.
May 27, 1986
Court Theatre’s 15th anniversary celebrated with two week season of Steven Sondheim’s play "Sweeney Todd" in James Hay Theatre.
May 28, 1840
Major Bunbury on HMS “Herald” visits Akaroa collecting signatures of Maori chiefs for the Treaty of Waitangi.
May 28, 1866
George Dobson (brother of Arthur Dudley Dobson) murdered by the Burgess and Kelly gang in the Southern Alps. The gang mistook him for a gold courier.
May 28, 1955
First parking meters installed.
May 28, 1983
Visit of Professor Zhu Xuanren, Vice Governor, Gansu Province China.
May 29, 1886
First trotting meeting held at Lancaster Park.
May 29, 1926
New Zealand’s first sports broadcast - a rugby match from Lancaster Park. Commentator Allan Allardyce was soon to pioneer broadcasts of racing, cricket and hockey for station 3YA. He also gave live coverage of Kingsford-Smith’s landing at Wigram in 1928.
May 29, 1967
Opening of the new Bank of New Zealand building in Cathedral Square.
May 30, 1866
Moorhouse elected as Provincial Superintendent - his second term of office.
May 30, 1874
First rugby match played.
May 30, 1890
Richmond joins City.
May 30, 1912
First netball match in City.
May, 1830
First skirmish between the invading North Island Ngati Toa (led by Te Rauparaha) and the Ngai Tahu at Kaiapohia. Te Rauparaha plans revenge after 8 of his chiefs are killed.
May, 1845
Gebbie and Manson families establish their own farms. William Tod and family settle with Deans.
May, 1851
Ferrymead ferry service begins.
May, 1877
The Normal School (designed by Samuel Farr, and opened in April 1876) becomes New Zealand’s first teachers training college.
May, 1883
Woolston (now Skellerup Woolston) Brass Band formed.
May, 1905
Royal Exchange building (now the Regent Theatre) opens. The building boasted the city’s first passenger lift.
May, 1906
Hon. Sir John Hall, first Council Chairman (see 1862) and former Premier of New Zealand, recalled to be Mayor in Exhibition year.
May, 1915
First electric street lights in operation.
May, 1917
Mrs A. Wells becomes Christchurch’s first woman City Councillor.
May, 1926
Vertical aerial photos taken of the complete city area for the City Council. This was probably the country’s first aerial mapping.
May, 1938
Robert M. Macfarlane (knighted in 1975) becomes Mayor until his departure for overseas service in 1941. Longtime Councillor and MP (Speaker of the House from 1958 to 1960) he served again as Mayor from 1950 to 1958.
May, 1942
Air raid shelters dug in Cathedral Square.
May, 1952
New Zealand’s first television signals transmitted from experimental station ZL3XT at Canterbury University.