Christ's College Hare Memorial Library

33 Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch

  • Christ's College Hare Memorial Library.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/02/2002.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/02/2002.
  • 'A view of the library at Christ's College, Christchurch', 1 March 1924. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image. Ref no.1/1-005186.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library. Taken By: Steffano Webb (1880?-1967).

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3278 Date Entered 27th June 1985


City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Res 25 Chch City

Location description

On west side of Christ's College quadrangle. Between Big School Library and School House.


Christ's College began in April 1851 as the Collegiate Grammar School, run from two rooms at the immigration barracks at Lyttelton. The Canterbury Association, the group formed in England to colonise Canterbury, had planned for such a school before its ships left England, stating that it was to be based on 'the great Grammar Schools of England'. Christ's College is now the oldest and one of the most prestigious private boys' school in New Zealand.

In 1852 Collegiate Grammar moved to Christchurch and by 1857 was established on its current grounds adjacent to Hagley Park. The buildings of the school were laid out around a quadrangle following the English tradition.

The Hare Memorial Library was a later addition to the school and was built to commemorate the Reverend F.A. Hare, (?-1912) who had been appointed chaplain at Christ's College in 1877 and served at the school for 35 years. He was headmaster from 1889-1893, and was acting headmaster when he died in 1912. The Old Boys Association decided to commemorate Hare's contribution to the school by erecting a library, and they had raised over £2,000 towards the project by July 1913. Construction started two years later.

The Hare Memorial Library was designed by the noted Christchurch-born architect Cecil Wood (1878-1947) and was the first of several buildings he designed for the college. It replaced a block of corrugated iron classrooms and was designed to harmonise with the earlier Gothic Revival buildings of the school. The library brought more colour and liveliness to the quadrangle through the use of red, grey and cream stone. Wood's design for the library incorporated various historicist forms such as the Tudor oriel window and chimneys, and the asymmetry and gargoyles associated with the Gothic Revival. Entrance to the building is through a low Tudor doorway under the oriel window. The library building is joined to the adjacent School House (1909) by an arched entranceway. As with Wood's later dining hall for the College, the carving in wood and stone was undertaken by Frederick Gurnsey, the noted Christchurch carver, who was also responsible for the carvings on the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch.

While the Old Boys' Association wished to have the library on the ground floor, Wood instead followed the common English practice of having the library on the first floor. The interior of the library is panelled half-way up the wall, and has Tudor half-timbering on the upper portion of the end walls. It contains a large stone fireplace with a Latin inscription dedicated to Hare carved in it. Initially the building also housed classrooms and rooms for both masters and prefects. By 1958 the library had become too small for the school's needs and became used as a music room. Since 1967 it has been used as one of the history classrooms, and contains a collection of photographs illustrating the school's history.

The Hare Memorial Library forms an important part of Christ's College historic quadrangle. It was designed to harmonise with the existing buildings, yet Wood's incorporation of elements of the Tudor style brought a new visual element to the quadrangle, while retaining links to the English origins and traditions of the school. The Library building commemorates a long-serving and much appreciated staff member. Construction of this building marks the first collaboration between Wood and Gurnsey, a combination which subsequently produced further remarkable buildings such as the memorial dining hall at Christ's College. The building's completion consolidated Wood's reputation as an architect, and allowed him to move from the domestic work which had previously dominated his practice.


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.

Gurnsey, Frederick George

Frederick George Gurnsey (1868 - 1953) was born in Wales. He was apprenticed to Harry Hems and Company, a leading ecclesiastical carving firm in Exeter, and worked for them once his apprenticeship was complete. Gurnsey visited New Zealand in 1904-1905 and returned in 1907 when he was appointed as an instructor at the Canterbury College School of Art in Christchurch. At the School of Art he taught carving, modelling, casting, enamelling and metalwork, and was the acting director of the school from September 1917 to April 1920. He resigned in 1923 to become a full-time carver.

Gurnsey executed thousands of carvings, in both wood and stone, for churches, civic buildings, public monuments and various private commissions. Some of his more prominent carvings include the reredos in the Christchurch cathedral, his work in the Chapel of St Michael and St George, the carvings on the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch (1924), those on the Massey Memorial in Wellington (1930), and those in the Church of the Good Shepherd at Tekapo.(1935). During the Depression Gurnsey diversified into making domestic furniture. He has been described as 'one of the greatest European carvers ever to have worked in New Zealand', although due to his personal modesty and the way in which carving falls somewhere between fine arts and craft, his achievements have, until recently, largely been unrecognised. Confident with carving in both wood and stone, Gurnsey was responsible for many beautiful works, particularly in the South Island.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1915 - 1915

Completion Date

12th September 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Hamilton, 1991

Don Hamilton, The Buildings of Christ's College 1850 - 1990, Christchurch, 1991


Hamilton, 1996

Don Hamilton, College!: A history of Christ's College, Christchurch, 1996

Helms, 1996

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

pp.117 - 121.

Other Information

Plans held at Christ's College

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.