22 Cholmondeley Avenue, Opawa, CHRISTCHURCH

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In 1858 the 50 acres of Rural Section 157 at Opawa was granted to Arthur and Frederick Denton, and divided between the pair two years later. Arthur sold his share in 1863 to Joshua Strange Williams, who was acting on behalf of Joshua Williams QC of London. The following year, the Williams' sold 11 acres to William Reeves for £612. William Reeves (1823-91) was a businessman and politician who came to New Zealand in 1857, and rose to prominence as managing director and editor of the Lyttelton Times, a Christchurch newspaper that he had turned by the 1880s into 'the country's leading advocate of liberal political ideas'. In his capacity as a leading newspaper man, Reeves founded and served as first chairman of the United Press Association. Politically Reeves filled various local offices, and served both in the House of Representatives and the Legislative Council, where he demonstrated particular interest in educational issues. After purchasing his new Opawa property, Reeves raised £1,800 in mortgages, and commissioned the prominent architectural practise of Mountfort and Bury to design a house he was to call Risingholme, after the slight rise on which it was built. Principal designer Benjamin Mountfort was preoccupied during this period with the design and building of the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, and thus relied on partner Maxwell Bury to carry out the on-going work of the practice. Risingholme displays elements considered characteristic of the design of Bury, such as the fussy forms and forty-five degree roof pitch. Large by contemporary Christchurch standards, the timber house cost £1,392. Reeves also developed the extensive grounds from this time. Maxwell Bury (1825-1912) was born in Nottinghamshire and trained as an engineer at an ironworks near Derby. After a period as an engineer officer in the merchant service, Bury married in 1853 and emigrated to Melbourne the following year. After a few months the couple moved on to Nelson where Bury set up as an engineer and land agent. Whilst in the province he designed several buildings, including the Nelson Provincial Government Buildings. Bury was actively involved in the Anglican Church in Nelson, and after he moved to Christchurch in 1863, this involvement continued. It was unsurprising therefore that he gained the commission to design the first stone Anglican church in the city, St John the Baptist in Latimer Square (1864, Cat. II). The partnership with Benjamin Mountfort commenced in July 1864 and lasted for twenty months, during which time several churches were designed - including St James, Cust and St Josephs, Lyttelton (both Category II). The relationship ceased in March 1866 when the Bury family returned to England. Bury had returned alone to Nelson by 1870, where he resumed his architectural career. In 1877 he won the competition for the University of Otago and Professorial Houses (all Category I), and subsequently moved to Dunedin. Architectural jobs were scarce however, and Bury moved between Dunedin, Christchurch and Nelson until c1890 when he settled in Sydney. In 1908 he returned to England, where he died in 1912. Risingholme was the Reeves family home for twenty-six years, and was thus the childhood home of William's famous eldest son; the politician, poet and historian William Pember Reeves (1857-1932). Like his father, William Pember came to prominence as editor of the Lyttelton Times and the Canterbury Times. Raised on liberal politics at his father's knee, Reeves entered parliament in 1887, and soon became principal intellectual and ideologist of what would be the Liberal Party. With the ascendancy to power of the Liberals under John Ballance in 1891, he became Minister of Education and Justice. In 1892 he was also appointed Minister of Labour. In this role he secured the passage of the Industrial Arbitration and Conciliation Act (1894), which provided for compulsory arbitration in industrial disputes. This landmark legislation directed industrial relations in New Zealand for 79 years. Reeves was also responsible for other significant labour legislation, such as the Factories Act and the Shops and Shop Assistants Act (both also 1894), which together gave New Zealand the most extensive system of labour regulations in the world. In 1896 he left for England to become New Zealand's Agent General, the position that was later to become that of High Commissioner. He was successful in this role, but resigned under pressure from the new Ward administration in 1908. Reeves then became a director of the National Bank of New Zealand, and the director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Whilst in London he wrote The Land of the Long White Cloud - Ao Tea Roa (1898), which became the standard liberal history of New Zealand until the 1950s. On the death of William Reeves Snr. in 1891, the family discovered that he was heavily in debt. This necessitated the sale of Risingholme, which was bought jointly by brothers Leonard and George Harper, and Thomas Maude. Leonard, a barrister, and George were sons of J. C. Harper, the first bishop of the Christchurch diocese. Leonard's law firm, Harper and Co, infamously collapsed in 1892 due to financial mismanagement. He fled to Europe to escape his creditors, but was eventually traced to Germany in 1895 and escorted back to Christchurch to face trial. It was probably as a consequence of these escapades that Risingholme was conveyed by the Supreme Court to mortgager the Union Bank of Australia in 1894. The bank subsequently sold the property to Eliza White in 1896. Eliza White (1841-1909) was the wealthy widow of successful merchant Alfred Joseph White, who had established a popular high quality furnishing store on the High/Tuam Street corner in the 1860s. By the turn of the century, A. J. White's employed 80 people in the shop and adjacent furniture factory. After Alfred's death in 1895, Eliza continued to run the business herself. Devoutly Catholic, she donated large sums to good causes, including the building of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (1905, Category I). Although she had extensive property interests, it is possible that Eliza lived at Risingholme, as she is recorded as living at Opawa through the period. After her death Eliza left an estate worth £70,000, £40,000 of which was left to be administered by a charitable trust. Risingholme itself passed in 1910 to her daughters Maud, Rose and Beatrice, her solicitor Henry Loughnan and her accountant Arthur Read (or Reed). The following year the house was bought by Cashel Street draper William Burns. Burns was declared bankrupt in 1918, and the official assignee sold the house to Mary Anderson. Mary Anderson was the wife of Frederick William Anderson (d 1944), a son of John Anderson, founder of the once nationally prominent engineering firm, Andersons'. Frederick was trained as an engineer at workshops in Britain and the US, and joined the family company on his return in 1889. Although older brothers John and Andrew headed up the business, Frederick was responsible from the mid 1890s for operations at the firm's Lyttelton workshop, the centre of its extensive contracting business. He also served as a director of the company from 1903-43. Frederick and Mary retained Risingholme for twenty-four years, extensively altering its west and south elevations in 1919 at a cost of £860. The major feature added at this time was the distinctive deep two-level porch projecting from the western elevation. Daughter Margaret (1902-97) was art mistress at Rangi Ruru Girls' School, and Ngaio Marsh, Evelyn Page and Olivia Spencer Bower were all family friends. After Margaret married Austrian-born plant geneticist Dr Otto Frankel in 1939, a portion of the Risingholme estate was subdivided in 1940 for the couple to build a new home. This house (9 Ford Road), designed by noted New Zealand/Austrian architect Ernst Plishke, is a Category II Historic Place. After Mary Anderson's death in 1942, Risingholme was transmitted to trustee of the Anderson estate Albert Freeman. The following year the property was sold to the Christchurch City Council for £3,000. This purchase was funded by John (later Sir John) McKenzie, the managing director of the extensive McKenzies department store chain, and a noted philanthropist. By the time of his death McKenzie was one of New Zealand's wealthiest men, and had contributed more than £1million to charity. Risingholme was gifted to the city for 'the health, amusement and instruction of the public' . Local residents petitioned the council for the house to become a community centre for Opawa and surrounding suburbs. The Risingholme Community Centre opened in 1944 as one of the first community centres in the country, and quickly became known for the quality and diversity of its programmes. These included pottery classes conducted by artist Doris Lusk. Some alterations were carried out by architect G. T. Lucas to adapt the building for its new use. These included the installation of bi-fold doors to fully enclose the ground floor of the deep western porch, and the extension of the south-western corner to provide for a new director's office. Today the house is still well utilised as a community facility, supplemented by two halls on the eastern side of the property. The roof was replaced in 1992. In 1998 alterations were carried out by architect Tim Field to reconfigure the custodian's flat. A new meeting room was constructed from the former kitchen and two other rooms on the ground floor, whilst a new kitchen and bathroom were inserted on the first floor. These alterations necessitated the removal of some internal walls, the insertion of new walls, and the removal of a fireplace and chimney dating from the 1919 alterations. During early 2005 extensive repairs were carried out prior to painting.

Risingholme, Christchurch | Melanie Lovell-Smith | 01/02/2002 | Heritage New Zealand
Risingholme, Christchurch | Melanie Lovell-Smith | 01/02/2002 | Heritage New Zealand
Risingholme, Christchurch | Melanie Lovell-Smith | 01/02/2002 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 2


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 2005

Date of Effect

6th June 2005

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the house, its fixtures and fittings, and the land on RT7D/524. (Note the Risingholme reserve boundary indicated on aerial photo, page 10 of registration report.) Only the house itself is included in the registration; other buildings and structures are excluded.

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 3482, Lot 2 DP 26076, Pt Lots 3 and 6-7 DP 3482 (RT CB7D/524), Canterbury Land District

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