Worcester Chambers

69 Worcester Street, Christchurch

  • Worcester Chambers. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Ondrej Jaura. Taken By: Ondrej Jaura. Date: 2/01/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1950 Date Entered 26th November 1981

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 2 DP 6773 (CT CB415/82), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Worcester Chambers thereon.

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 6773 (CT CB415/82), Canterbury Land District

Summaryopen/close

Constructed in 1928, the Worcester Chambers building at 69 Worcester Street, Christchurch, has historical and social significance as a purpose built commercial college and architectural significance for its Georgian Revival design by nationally renowned architect Cecil Wood.

A form of shorthand phonography had been invented in the 1830s by Isaac Pitman and in the nineteenth century internationally recognised training and certification was developed. Around the same time, the ‘writing machine’ known as the typewriter became mass produced in the late 1870s and the apparatus was soon in common use in New Zealand. Following international examples, commercial schools teaching shorthand, typewriting, bookkeeping and related subjects were established throughout New Zealand. By the late nineteenth century, Christchurch had at least two. In 1893 Miss Annie M Carr opened a school of shorthand and typewriting, considered ‘a new channel for the utilisation of female labour’, in Lichfield Street. Carr then went into partnership with her acclaimed ex-pupil, Henry Digby, in 1898. By 1901 Miss E E Digby, was part of the teaching team and by 1905 she was joined by Miss M D Digby at their High Street premises. In December 1924 Henry William Lockyer Digby and Miss Maude Donald Digby became tenants in common for the property at 69 Worcester Street and their new commercial school building was constructed.

Designed by leading inter-war architect, Cecil Wood, Worcester Chambers is a two-storeyed Georgian Revival style building. Its hipped roof is clad in slate facing the street, while the rear of the building is roofed with corrugated steel. The Worcester Street façade is near symmetrical, with a door and three multi-paned sash windows on the ground floor and four evenly spaced sash windows at first floor level. The red brick is contrasted by cream coloured cement quoins, window surrounds with cement keystones and door architraves. Above the quoins and cornice is a pair of decorative urns. The east, west and north elevations the fenestration is more varied and comparatively plainer.

In 1950 the property passed out of the Digby ownership and it has had a number of commercial owners since that time. It is likely that the building was named Worcester Chambers in the 1980s. Since 1995 it is well known for its use as an English language school for international students. Alterations were carried out to the building in 1958, including a substantial addition to the rear, to the design of Miles Warren. Alterations for internal office fit-outs were carried out in 1963, 1981, 1987, 1995-6, 2001 and 2006. After the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-11, a chimney on the east wall was partially dismantled and capped at roof height.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wood, Cecil Walter

Born in Christchurch, Wood (1878-1947) was articled to the local architect Frederick Strouts between 1894 and 1899. He worked for a short time as a draughtsman with the firm Clarkson and Ballantyne before travelling to England in 1901. Here Wood was exposed to a high quality of architectural design in the Edwardian Free Style, and was employed by two leading Edwardian architects Robert Weir Shultz and Leonard Stokes.

In 1907 Wood returned to New Zealand to take up partnership with Samuel Hurst Seager. The partnership lasted for only one year for Wood set up his own practice in 1908. The years 1908-1915 were dominated by domestic commissions, but it was also during this time that he began his association with Christ's College, which included such commissions as Hare Memorial Library (1915), the Memorial Dining Hall (1923-5), Jacob's House (1931) and Open Air Classrooms (1932). During the 1920s Wood's practice began to expand and a Georgian influence can be seen in such works as Weston House Park Terrace (1923-4) and Bishopscourt (1926-7).

A short lived partnership in 1927 with R S D Harman allowed Wood to travel to the United States while another in 1937 with Paul Pascoe allowed him to travel to England, Europe and the United States without neglecting his practice. During this second trip he made preparations for the design of St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Wellington, which was erected after his death.

During his life Wood had made a substantial contribution to the architecture of Christchurch, having an enthusiasm for both European and American styles.

Neil McGillivray

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1924 - 1925

Addition
1958 -
Addition to the north

Modification
1963 -
Internal alterations

Modification
1981 -
Internal alterations

Modification
-
Internal alterations

Modification
2001 -
1995

Modification
2006 -
1995

Completion Date

26th January 2017

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Information Sources

Helms, 1996

Ruth M. Helms, 'The architecture of Cecil Wood', PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, 1996

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.