Blackheath Place

71-81 Durham Street South, Sydenham, Christchurch

  • Blackheath Place. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Date: 26/07/2013.
  • Blackheath Place. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Date: 26/07/2013.
  • Blackheath Place. Building detail. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Date: 26/07/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1829 Date Entered 10th September 2004

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes: The northern portion of the building containing six former dwellings generally described as 71-81 Durham Street, Christchurch, its fittings and fixtures, and the land on CTs CB35B/225 and CB 35B/228.

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lots 1 and 4 DP 59063 (CTs CB35B/225, CB35B/228), Canterbury Land District

Summaryopen/close

The brick terrace house was emblematic of Victorian Britain, produced in vast numbers to house a burgeoning urban population. Today it is still the most significant element of the British urban environment.

In 1869 bricklayer Frank Hathaway Hitchings (1843-1920), his wife, and two children emigrated from Blackheath in London to Christchurch. Initially renting in Montreal St, by 1876 Hitchings had purchased a block in Durham St where he built a brick house at no. 63. When his family expanded (he eventually had eight children), he built a bigger four-bedroom brick house at 69 Durham St. Hitchings then filled the gap between the two houses by building nos. 65 and 67. This block of terrace houses he called 'Blackheath Place'. Then in 1886 Hitchings built the more elaborate nos. 71, 73, and 75. These three houses were joined to the original terrace by an upstairs bedroom and archway giving access to the large backyard. Nos. 77, 79 and 81 were erected to the north soon after under Frank's supervision, by son Richard as part of his brick-laying apprenticeship. (Note the change in the roofline between the two pair of three dwellings which marks the group built by Richard, photo p.8.) Hitching's sons eventually joined their father as bricklayers.

Although Hitching's ten houses were of good quality, it is thought that the Sydenham Borough Council did not consider terraced housing to be appropriate in New Zealand. Believing that immigrants should have the opportunity to live in individual homes on separate plots of land, local authorities tended to discourage this sort of housing. Consequently few terraces were built in Christchurch. The well-built houses of Blackheath however appear to have been popular with tenants, who enjoyed the communal spirit that such close living engendered.

All but three of the Blackheath houses remained in the Hitchings family until 1983, when they were put on the market. By this time much of Sydenham had changed from working class suburb to a commercial and industrial area. The whole of Blackheath was purchased in 1984 by property developer Gerald Cresswell, who, with architect Robert Jamieson converted nos.71-81 for use as commercial premises. Each house was converted into a suite of three offices and a showroom. As many original features as possible were retained, particularly with regard to the street facades. Nos 77-81 are considered to be particularly original. However, the rear service area of each house has been demolished and rebuilt. The older block at nos. 63-69 was completely demolished in 1985 and replicated in similar form, with an extension onto Wordsworth St. The original brick and wrought iron fence was also removed.

In 1991 a further L-shaped wing was built in a complementary style on adjoining land. Chimneys were rebuilt on the 1886 block in 1995.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Historical significance for its association with the Hitchings family for over a century.

Blackheath Place has architectural significance as an example of English-style working class terrace housing in New Zealand.

Social significance as a nostalgic recreation of the physical environment of a British town in a colonial context.

(a) reflects the desire of British immigrants to recreate 'Home' in their new country

(g) is, in design and construction, an authentic example of English-style working class housing;

(j) is a unique feature of domestic architecture in Christchurch, and rare in New Zealand;

(k) is, despite its isolated position, widely seen as an important contributor to the English character of Christchurch.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Hitchings, Richard

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This block consists of the six brick English-style working class terrace houses, built in two stages, and originally constituting the northern portion of a row of ten. The street fa├žade of each house displays the bricklayer's art, with a decorative bay window, arched entrance porch and moulded brick corbels under the eaves. Internally, although most rooms have been opened up, some character features remain. These include plaster ceiling roses, banisters, and doors. The service rooms at the rear have been rebuilt in a new but sympathetic form.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1886 -

Modification
1984 -
Renovations.

Modification
1995 -
Rebuilding of chimneys.

Construction Details

Double brick and corrugated iron.

Completion Date

7th October 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Christchurch City Council

Christchurch City Council

Heritage Unit File

Christchurch Press

19/6/65, 6/11/65, 20/3/82, 5/12/84.

Christchurch Star

Christchurch Star

6/11/85

Wilson, nd

P Wilson, Blackheath Place: From Terrace Houses to Office Complex [restoration competition entry]

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

NZHPT Field Record Form; NZHPT File 12009-421

Other Information

A fully referernced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.