Cranmer Bridge Club

25 Armagh Street, Christchurch

  • Cranmer Bridge Club. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Francis Vallance. Taken By: Francis Vallance. Date: 1/09/2013.
  • Cranmer Bridge Club.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.
  • Cranmer Bridge Club.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3703 Date Entered 19th April 1990


Extent of List Entry

The brick house was demolished as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes. The single storeyed timber portion survives.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt TS 297 Chch City


The oldest section of this house was built in brick by Dugald Macfarlane (1790-1882) in 1864. Macfarlane arrived in Canterbury in 1851 on one of the 'first four ships', the 'George Seymour'. He initially took up a run, 'Ledard', of 10,000 acres and farmed there until ruined by scab in 1860. Macfarlane then sold the run and by 1864 was advertising a wine and spirit business from this Christchurch address. One of the unusual features of the house, the large cellar, is thought to relate to Macfarlane's business. Cellars were rare in Christchurch because of the city's high water table. Macfarlane sold the property in 1871 and it was owned by three others before Samuel Hurst Seager (1855-1933) purchased it in 1899.

Seager achieved renown as an architect, a town planner and as an internationally respected authority on the lighting of art galleries. He was the official architect for New Zealand battlefield memorials between 1920 and 1925. One of the earliest New Zealand architects to seek to design houses with a New Zealand character, his timber addition to this Armagh Street property is an important step in this direction. The porch Seager designed for the south façade of his addition refers directly to the entrance of Benjamin Mountfort's Christchurch Club of 1859. For the first time in New Zealand an architect made a direct reference to another colonial architect's design and it is therefore one of the first attempts to establish a New Zealand tradition of architecture. Seager was particularly interested in this idea and in a 1900 article he pointed out the lack of such a New Zealand tradition, citing the early wooden houses as 'The only works which are truly characteristic of colonial life...[which are] not by any means beautiful [but] are yet honest expressions of the wants of the settlers at that time'. In this article Seager also expresses his admiration for Mountfort's work.

Seager eventually moved into a house he designed in Clifton Terrace and he sold the Armagh Street property to J.J. Collins, another Christchurch architect. Subsequently the house was owned by L.G.D. Acland, the author of Early Canterbury Runs and then from 1921, by Doctor Douglas Anderson. Anderson remained in the house until 1964 and used the house as his residence and surgery. In 1924 Anderson built two sunrooms to the single storey section at the rear.

In 1964, a year after his retirement, Anderson sold the house to the Cranmer Bridge Club. This club had been in existence since 1959 and at the time it purchased the property it had 107 members. The Club turned the first-storey into a self-contained flat which they then rented out, thus providing security and some income for the property. Although the membership of the Club has decreased it still uses the premises today.

The brick portion of the house is significant as one of the early brick houses still standing in Christchurch. Seager's timber addition is particularly significant in the development of a European tradition of New Zealand architecture. The house was associated with a number of notable Cantabrians including Seager, Collins and Acland. The house has a long association as a doctor's residence for the people of Christchurch and has now been the headquarters of the Cranmer Bridge Club for more than quarter of a century.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Cranmer Club is one of the oldest houses in Christchurch and has been associated with several prominent citizens of their day. The first owner, Dugald Macfarlane was an eminent member of early Christchurch society, and arrived on one of the first four ships. The house is particularly associated with the eight year residence of Samuel Hurst Seager, one of the major figures in the history of New Zealand architecture, and designer of part of the building.

Other notable residents were J J Gillins, another important Christchurch architect, and the runholder and author, L G D Acland.


The oldest section of the house dating from 1864 is one of the earliest brick buildings erected in Christchurch. In style it is a good representative of the inner city houses of the period, only a few of which survive.

Samuel Hurst Seager's addition has even more importance. By borrowing elements of his design from Mountfort's Christchurch Club, Seager attempted to adapt the architectural principles of the past with contemporary design to create a distinctive New Zealand style. It is perhaps, the first time a

New Zealand architect looked to the work of another New Zealand architect for direct inspiration.


Standing on the south-west corner of Cranmer Square, with its Armagh Street frontage abutting the footpath, the Cranmer Club presents an eye-catching appearance. This is further enhanced by the building's traditional deep red colouring.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Seager, Samuel Hurst

Seager (1855-1933) studied at Canterbury College between 1880-82. He trained in Christchurch in the offices of Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898) and Alfred William Simpson before completing his qualifications in London in 1884. In 1885, shortly after his return to Christchurch, he won a competition for the design of the new Municipal Chambers, and this launched his career.

Seager achieved renown for his domestic architecture. He was one of the earliest New Zealand architects to move away from historical styles and seek design with a New Zealand character. The Sign of the Kiwi, Christchurch (1917) illustrates this aspect of his work. He is also known for his larger Arts and Crafts style houses such as Daresbury, Christchurch (1899).

Between 1893 and 1903 Seager taught architecture and design at the Canterbury University College School of Art. He was a pioneer in town planning, having a particular interest in the "garden city" concept. Some of these ideas were expressed in a group of houses designed as a unified and landscaped precinct on Sumner Spur (1902-14). He became an authority on the lighting of art galleries. After World War I he was appointed by the Imperial War Graves Commission to design war memorials in Gallipoli, Belgium and France. In New Zealand he designed the Massey Memorial, Point Halswell, Wellington (1925).

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative


The house's first owner was Dugald Macfarlane (1790-1882), who migrated to Canterbury with his second wife and their six children on the 'George Seymour', one of the settlement's first four ships. After trying his hand at farming, he established a wine merchant's business in this house, complete with its spacious cellar, which he built on a quarter acre section at the south west corner of Cranmer Square. By September 1864, Macfarlane was advertising his wine and spirit cellars here.

The property was sold in 1871 to Isaac Parker and passed through two further owners before its purchase by Samuel Hurst Seager in July 1899.

Seager was currently teaching at the University's School of Art as well as practising as an architect. It was while he was living in this house that he conceived the idea of establishing a type of 'garden suburb' on a spur of land which he purchased at Sumner.

He built a house for himself there, and in 1907 moved out, selling the house to J.J. Collins, another significant Christchurch architect. Four years later it was sold to L.G.D. Acland and in 1921 again sold to Dr C M Anderson, a general medical practitioner. He lived here with his family until 1964, when he sold it to the Cranmer Bridge Club the year after his retirement. The Club has carefully maintained their historic premises since that date.

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the paper was considered by the Board.


Unknown for the earliest part of the building.

Additions: 1899:- Samuel Hurst SEAGER (1855-1933)


The original cottage of 1864 is a typical example of the domestic architecture of the period in style and planning. The use of brick, however, was very rare for a time when nearly all buildings were of wood. The main two-storeyed section was contained under a pitched roof, sloping down at the rear to a single storey. The house contained eight rooms when first built. There was a central entrance and hall, flanked by the two principal rooms leading to a kitchen and two further small rooms at the back. The upper storey probably contained three bedrooms. An unusual feature was the large cellar beneath the two-storeyed front section of the building. Brick additions of 1924, which added a second storey to the rear, modified the original form which can still be clearly discerned in the brickwork. There is no longer any evidence of the stylistic treatment of the facade.

Seager's single storey timber addition of 1900 represents part of his attempt to develop a New Zealand architectural tradition within a broad Arts and Crafts framework. The flat, windowless facade fronting Armagh Street is embellished by wooden battens attached to the weatherboards, creating the impression of an arcade on either side of the central recessed porch. The porch borrows from the design of the Christchurch Club arcade (1859) by B W Mountfort. It features a triple arched screen, the central arch flanked by two smaller arches in an adaptation of the Palladian window motif. It also has an elegant wrought iron gate. The gables at each end were decorated with diagonal battens (now lost on the western side) and a finial. Inside, the extension provided a spacious entrance hall and two further rooms. These rooms feature coved ceilings and large bay windows in the gable ends of the blocks.


1924 - Brick extension at rear to enlarge second storey.

Some internal modifications in 1920s, including lowering of hall ceiling.

[The brick house was demolished in 2011 as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes. The single storeyed timber portion survives.]

Notable Features

The porch and carefully detailed wrought iron gate.

The coved ceilings of the two front rooms.

Finely crafted detailing of timber and metal fittings.

Construction Dates

1864 -

Original Construction
1864 -

1899 -
Samuel Hurst Seager - timber addition

Some internal modifications in 1920s, including lowering of hall ceiling.

1924 -
Brick extension at rear to enlarge second storey.

Construction Details

The original house, and 1924 additions, brick with timber lintels and window frames.

1900 addition, timber framed with weatherboard cladding. Corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

23rd August 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Acland, 1975

L.G.D. Acland, The Early Canterbury Runs, 4th ed., Christchurch, 1975

Architectural Heritage of Christchurch

Architectural Heritage of Christchurch

4 Cranmer Club, Christchurch, 1985

Art New Zealand

Art New Zealand

Ian J Lochhead. 'The Architectural Art of Samuel Hurst Seager', No 44, Spring, 1987

Christchurch City Council

Christchurch City Council

No 4, Cranmer Club, Christchurch City Council, 1985

Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects

Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects

Samuel Hurst Seager, 'Architectural Art in New Zealand', 7, 19, 29 Sept 1900, pp.481- 491

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.