Historical Significance or Value
Red House has historical significance. It has a long history of mixed use as both a home and professional or business premises, including a lengthy association with the Cranmer Bridge Club. Built as an addition to mid nineteenth century brick premises, the Red House is part of the story of development on the site and, more broadly, of early Pākehā settlement in central Christchurch. The property’s history of use, first as architect’s offices by owner, Samuel Hurst Seager, and subsequently associated with consulting rooms of various medical practitioners for some 60 years, demonstrates the common practice of operating a business within the same grounds as one’s own residence. Numerous patients – especially parents and their children – regularly visited doctors’ rooms at the property (via the timber waiting room and into the surgery in the brick part of the house) for check-ups and treatment and this reflects patterns of history of medical practice in New Zealand. The use of the Red House by the Cranmer Bridge Club for nearly 50 years, from the mid 1960s, reflects the importance of Bridge as a socially appropriate past-time. Red House is part of the story of the drastic events and unprecedented rapid change due to the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
Red House has aesthetic significance. Its visual appearance, including red ochre colour scheme, elicits an emotional response as a recognisable small timber building, with a distinctive façade sitting hard up on the footpath and located on a prominent corner across from the historic open space of Cranmer Square. There would have been a real sense of loss that would have occurred if this distinctive timber building had been lost when its adjoining earlier brick building was destroyed in the quakes.
Architectural Significance or Value
Red House has outstanding architectural significance. The building is a local icon for its architectural form, proportion, scale, use of materials, including its deep red ochre colour. Its architect, Samuel Hurst Seager, was one of the earliest New Zealand architects to seek to design houses with a New Zealand character, and his timber addition to this Armagh Street property is an important step in this direction. The porch Seager designed for the south façade of this timber building refers directly to architectural features used in Benjamin Mountfort's timber 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.
Cultural Significance or Value
The Red House has cultural significance. The Cranmer Bridge Club formed in 1959 to allow its members to play the popular card game, Bridge. Played throughout the world, Bridge has been played socially throughout New Zealand since Pākehā settlement. Regular contests are held between Bridge clubs throughout the country. The Cranmer Bridge Club identity and traditions are closely associated with the Red House, as it was the base for its activities for nearly 50 years. The building itself is still frequently referred to as ‘The Cranmer Bridge Club’ building, even though the club sold the property after the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The club itself is still known as the Cranmer Bridge Club even though its premises are now in Papanui rather than beside Cranmer Square.
Social Significance or Value
Red House has social significance. It represents a ‘way of life’ for the sixty years it was associated with doctors’ consulting rooms and many would have visited it in this capacity. Subsequently, for almost half a century, it served as part of the Cranmer Bridge Club complex where people gathered to play the social card game of Bridge. People created bonds in this place, helping people to connect with one another. Following the 2011 earthquakes and demolition of the earlier brick portion of the property, the redevelopment of the site was show-cased on the television programme, Grand Designs New Zealand. This highlighted how the new owners agonised about how to come up with a preferred outcome of a new build that would not overwhelm the surviving timber Red House. The programme and related media articles increased a wider public interest in the place.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place. It was assessed against all the criteria, and found to qualify under the following: a, b, e and g.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
Red House reflects an important development in the history of architecture in New Zealand. Its construction in 1899 marks the beginning of architect Samuel Hurst Seager’s exploration of designing a specifically New Zealand house, using best architectural principles. His tribute to colonial architect, Benjamin Mountfort, through the building’s distinctive triple-arch motif as the entrance porch is derived from the arcade of Mountfort’s Christchurch Club in Latimer Square built forty years earlier. This is considered likely to be the first self-conscious reference by a New Zealand architect to a work belonging to the history of architecture in New Zealand rather than overseas. The building is close to its original form, layout and design and retains the distinctive ochre paint scheme which gives the place its name.
The use of the Red House by medical practitioners reflects the common nineteenth and early- to mid-twentieth century practice of a doctor’s family residence doubling as a surgery or consulting rooms.
The functioning of the building as part of the Cranmer Bridge Club rooms for nearly 50 years reflects the social history of Bridge as a popular past-time. The cessation of that use due to the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and the subsequent demolition of the quake-damaged early brick building, reflects the natural disaster as a recent key event in New Zealand’s history.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The Red House is directly associated with two well-known Christchurch architects, Samuel Hurst Seager and J. J. Collins. Seager’s design represents a pivotal point in New Zealand’s architectural history and he utilised this timber building, which was an addition to his existing brick residence, as his architectural studio. Collins owned the building briefly and sold to runholder Leopold Acland (who later wrote a highly regarded series about high country runs). From circa 1902 the property was leased to a series of medical professionals. Dr Douglas Anderson purchased the property in 1921, using part of the brick building as his surgery, accessed via the timber building, with a waiting room the north-west corner timber building.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Red House is held in high regard and has special associations with members of the community. It is a heritage survivor where many other heritage buildings around Cranmer Square were lost following the Canterbury Earthquakes. Many, mostly now elderly, residents know the building from its time associated with medical rooms or the bridge club. Because of its prominent corner location, sitting hard up against the footpath on the Armagh Street side, it is also a feature of the streetscape appreciated by many passers-by.
(g) The technical accomplishment, value, or design of the place
The Red House is significant for its technical accomplishment in design. It retains a high degree of authenticity and demonstrates the development of a New Zealand style of architecture. The Armagh Street façade, with its triple-arch entrance porch modelled on Benjamin Mountfort’s Christchurch Club in Latimer Square, is acclaimed by experts for its contribution to New Zealand’s architectural history.
Summary of Significance or Values
The Red House is of outstanding significance for the recognised part it plays in the history of New Zealand architecture. The Samuel Hurst Seager building has aesthetic and architectural significance, being an important link in the development of a New Zealand style. It has high historical and social significance for its connection with a number of notable Canterbury individuals, including well-known architects and medical professionals. It has cultural significance for its close links with the Cranmer Bridge Club for nearly fifty years.
Early History of Christchurch
Christchurch and the wider area have a long history of Māori occupation. The vast network of wetlands and plains of Kā Pakihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha (Canterbury Plains) is inherently important to the history of its early occupation. The area was rich in food from the forest and waterways. Major awa (river) such as the Rakahuri (Ashley), Waimakariri, Pūharakekenui (Styx) and Rakaia were supplied from the mountain fed aquifers of Kā Tiritiri o te Moana (Southern Alps). Other spring-fed waterways such as the Ōtakaro (Avon) meandered throughout the landscape. The rivers teemed with tuna, kōkopu, kanakana and īnaka; the wetlands were a good supply of wading birds and fibres for weaving, food and medicine; with the forest supplying kererū, kokopa, tūī and other fauna as well as building materials. Ara tawhito (travelling routes) crossed over the landscape providing annual and seasonal pathways up and down and across the plains and in some cases skirting or traversing the swamps. Permanent pā sites and temporary kainga were located within and around the Plains as Ngāi Tahu established and used the mahinga kai sites where they gathered and utilised natural resources from the network of springs, waterways, wetlands, grasslands and lowland podocarp forests that abounded along the rivers and estuaries.
Most of the Canterbury region was purchased from Ngāi Tahu by the Crown in 1848. The Canterbury Association oversaw the systematic European settlement of Canterbury and surveyed the town of Christchurch and rural sections outside of the town boundary.
The land on the corner Cranmer Square and Armagh Street had been granted to Trustees of the Canterbury Association in May 1858. In mid 1864 the section (Town Section No. 297) was purchased from the Church Property Trustees by early Canterbury settler, Dugald Macfarlane. He had a brick house with a cellar built there and by the end of 1864 was advertising a wine and spirit business from this address.
Macfarlane sold the property in 1871 and it was owned by three others before well-known local architect, Samuel Hurst Seager (1855-1933), purchased it in 1899. Seager added a timber wing on the property’s Armagh Street frontage where he based his practice. The deep red ochre of the property has been attributed to Seager, and this was a colour he used extensively on his seaside, garden suburb development, The Spur (1902 to 1914), in Sumner. The central porch Seager designed for the south façade of his timber addition makes a direct reference to features of the Christchurch Club of 1859, designed by Seager’s architectural mentor, Benjamin Mountfort.
Seager ran his architectural practice from the building for three years from September 1899 until September 1902. The property on the corner of Armagh Street and Cranmer Square was then leased to a series of medical professionals as consulting rooms. One of the lessees was mental health specialist, Dr Levinge, formerly a superintendent of Sunnyside Asylum. It seems that Seager and his wife Hester (nee Connon) may have lived in the house proper until around 1905 when they moved to live permanently at the No. 1 Bungalow he had erected in 1902 as part of his development at The Spur in Sumner. In 1907 Seager had sold the property to noted fellow architect John (J. J.) Collins, of the partnership Collins and Harman, but it is not clear if Collins actually lived there. In 1911 he sold it to soldier and runholder Leopold (L .G. D.) Acland. Later on, in 1930, Acland published the major historical reference work, Early Canterbury Runs.
In 1921 Acland sold to the property to Dr Douglas Anderson, who operated his general practice, specialising in obstetrics and paediatrics, at the property for over 40 years. Dr Anderson and his family occupied the property, both the brick portion, to which he made some additions, and the timber Hurst Seager addition. It was a very busy place, with lots of coming and going with family, visitors and patients. When Anderson retired in 1963, the property was purchased by the Cranmer Bridge Club. The Club used the majority of the building (both brick and timber parts) as their rooms but leased the first floor as a separate flat. The Cranmer Bridge Club had formed in 1959 for its members to play, socially, the popular international card game called Bridge and, from 1964 the club occupied the building at 25 Armagh Street for nearly half a century.
The building was still the home of the Cranmer Bridge Club until the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, when the brick portion of the building partially collapsed in February 2011 and was subsequently demolished. The damaged brick building was recorded by archaeologists during the demolition in August 2011. The property was sold in 2012 to professional photographers, Johannes van Kan and Jo Grams.
The new owners have taken considerable care to build, in 2016 to 2018, a replacement residence that does not detract from the adjoining 1899 timber Red House. At the same time, careful repair and conservation of the timber Red House has been taking place. The five year project of replacing the brick building demolished in the quakes, while retaining and restoring the timber Red House, was the subject of a Grand Designs New Zealand television programme which screened in 2018. As it had always been in the past, the timber Red House is integrated with the main two storeyed part of the residence and its central hallway is the key entrance to the whole building. The smaller porch at the north-west side of the building is used as access for private guests who are able to hire out the western bedroom and the former waiting room functions as the guests’ private kitchen. The new owners have called the historic timber building the ‘Red House’, reclaiming a name the property was sometimes known by in the twentieth century, and their new addition is the ‘Grey House’.
The Cranmer Bridge Club continues to operate as a club under that name, even though it is now at Papanui Road and no longer beside Cranmer Square.
The Red House is situated in a prominent location on a corner site at 25 Armagh Street at the south-western corner of the large open rectangular space known as Cranmer Square in central Christchurch. A new two storeyed residence, built with smooth light grey concrete exterior and with a gabled roof form, adjoins the timber Red House on its north side but, like the large elm tree at the south-eastern corner of the land parcel, is not included in the extent of the Listing.
Largely rectangular in plan, the Red House is a timber gabled dwelling with a windowless main façade to the south, abutting hard up against the footpath fronting Armagh Street. On this south elevation, a panelled entrance door is situated in a recessed central porch behind a decorative arched entry, flanked by smaller arches on either side. A wrought iron gate provides entry to the porch. The remaining flatness of the façade is relieved by timber battens forming an arcade on its surface.
On the east elevation is a box bay of sash windows and a decorative gable end that has diagonally laid battens on either side of a centrally laid vertical batten as well as dentils decorating the bargeboards.
The western exterior of the building comprises an elevation with a box bay of fixed and casement lead-light windows, and at the north-west corner is a low roofed porch and timber panelled door which functions as a back entrance.
The north side of the timber building was never an exterior as such, as it was built against the previous brick building. For seismic purposes, a concealed gap (varying between 15 and 30 centimetres) has been kept between the old and the new building at the timber building’s north side. In effect, the north wall of the timber building forms an interior wall of the new build.
The plan of the Red House is relatively simple. The entrance at the centre of the south elevation accesses a wide hallway that leads to the new build (just as it previously had opened into the now demolished original 1864 brick residence) as well as rooms on either side of the hallway. Timber detailing is a key feature of the hallway, particularly the doors and ceiling. On either side of the entrance hallway are two large rooms.
The room on the eastern side extends the depth of the building and contains a square bay window, with window seat, on the east wall, and a fireplace and door on the north wall. A red brick fireplace on the north wall is surmounted by a three panelled timber feature with surrounding Celtic style naïve carvings and a timber crest with the words ‘Stand Sure’. The coved ceiling contains a carved timber centrepiece. The floorboards of this room are original to the building but some have come from other parts of the building.
The western room is a guest bedroom. Its coved ceiling is made up of beaded timbers, at the centre of which hangs a chandelier. A bay with box window is on the west side. The south and east walls have timber dado panelling and on the north wall are the remains of framing from a cabinet which conceals a blocked door behind. Next to the cabinet on the north wall is a brick fireplace with timber surround. At the centre of the timber mantelpiece is a panel containing circular pressed metal patterns. To the east of the fireplace is a doorway leading to a passage that leads to an entry vestibule at the north western corner of the building. Formerly a waiting room, the small room at the north-west now functions as a kitchenette.
The interior contains a considerable amount of original fabric, including lath and plaster in much of the walls, and finely crafted timberwork throughout. The north side of the building was never an exterior as such, but the original north wall framing is retained within a concealed gap (varying between 15-30 centimetres) between the old and new.
Summary of works carried out during post-quakes renovation after 2011:
The floorboards of the Red House were lifted and a new ring foundation was put in. Some floorboards were replaced, either from elsewhere in the building or introduced recycled timbers from elsewhere. The corrugated iron roofing was repaired and refurbished. A door at the south end of the east elevation was closed over (formerly there was a flat roofed porch and door just south of the bay window on the east elevation). A door on the north wall of the eastern room, leading into the new building, was repurposed from the northern wall of what was previously the waiting room. The former waiting room was reduced in size by shifting the easternmost wall slightly to the west, and the toilet room situated to its north-east was removed and replaced by a larger modern bathroom.
Contextual Information - Samuel Hurst Seager
Throughout his career, Samuel Hurst Seager (1855-1933) was preoccupied with the identity and character of New Zealand architecture itself and his work is pivotal in the history of New Zealand architecture. Seager’s practice was dominated by domestic works. He is well known for his large houses in the English Domestic Revival manner such as Daresbury and Elizabeth House but his most distinctive and historically significant designs are the small timber houses built around the turn of the twentieth century. Seager’s 1899 extension to his house on the corner of Armagh Street and Cranmer Square (the Red House) marks the beginning of his exploration of designing a specifically New Zealand house, using best architectural principles. As architectural historian Dr Ian Lochhead has written, ‘At first glance the addition appears to be merely a simple gabled timber structure placed hard against the street frontage, but closer examination reveals just how carefully its design has been considered … the entrance porch surmounted by a distinctive triple-arch motif [is] derived from the arcade of Mountfort’s Christchurch Club in Latimer Square built forty years earlier. Seager greatly admired Mountfort’s works, and in particular his timber churches which he described as occupying “a high place among our architectural works”.’ Seager’s tribute to Benjamin Mountfort in the 1899 addition is considered likely to be the first self-conscious reference by a New Zealand architect to a work belonging to the history of architecture in New Zealand rather than overseas. This makes the Red House particularly important. Potentially 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, and he was of the view that the early timber houses in New Zealand were the only works truly characteristic of colonial life.
Another pivotal piece of architecture is that of a cottage at 2 Whisby Road in Cashmere, Christchurch, which Seager designed around the same time for the Macmillan Browns. Considered the first New Zealand bungalow, the Whisby Road building is a forerunner of his developments at The Spur, a series of small, unpretentious ‘styleless’ houses intended for informal living in close contact with nature. The Spur development of houses at Clifton Hill, built between 1902 and 1914, combining the ideal of the seaside garden suburb and the concept of the bungalow, also plays a significant role in New Zealand’s architectural history. Seager developed the New Zealand vernacular further with his designs for rest houses along the Port Hills Summit Road, using materials and simple forms that harmoniously sit in the natural landscape.
Some internal modifications in 1920s, including lowering of hall ceiling.
Brick extension at rear to enlarge second storey.
Samuel Hurst Seager - Red House constructed as addition to original brick building
Additional building added to site
2016 - 2018
New residence constructed beside Red House (not included in List extent)
2012 - 2019
Repair and refurbishment of timber Red House
Timber, metal roof, lead lights, glass.
Public NZAA Number
20th November 2019
Report Written By
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
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Lochhead, Ian J. 'Seager, Samuel Hurst', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996, updated May, 2002. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3s8/seager-samuel-hurst (accessed 14 January 2019).
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
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.
Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.
A fully referenced copy of the Review Report for this place is available on request from the Canterbury/West Coast Office of Heritage New Zealand.