Christchurch Club

The Christchurch Club, situated at 154 Worcester Street, was built in 1862 and is an example of Italianate architecture by Benjamin Mountfort.

The Christchurch Club
The Christchurch Club. © Christchurch Star

The Christchurch Club was established on 15 March 1856 for Canterbury landholders who required accommodation when visiting Christchurch. Initially it was situated in the house of George Woodman, a carpenter whose residence was situated on the south east corner of Durham Street and Peterborough Street. The wives and children of club members, however, were required to lodge elsewhere.

As membership of the club increased, Woodman’s house came to be considered inadequate and a new property was sought. In 1858 a section on the corner of Worcester Street and Latimer Square, belonging to Samuel and John Bealey, along with an adjacent property, were purchased.

Plans for a building were drawn by Benjamin Mountfort in 1859. Although Mountfort traditionally designed buildings in the Gothic Revival style of architecture, the Christchurch Club was designed in the Italianate style. This may have been inspired by clubs in England, such as the Travellers’ Club and the Reform Club, which were designed in the palazzo architectural style. The building was designed to face north onto Worcester Street. The main entrance was set in the base of the central tower which stood at a height of three storeys.

Construction of the building started in July 1860 and was finally completed in May 1862 when the first meeting in the new premises was held. John Peter Oakes, the keeper of the Golden Fleece Hotel, is said to have been responsible for bestowing the nickname ‘The Shagroons’ Palace’ upon the club building.

Additions were made to the building in 1863 with the construction of nine bedrooms, a smoking room, a second billiard room and an anteroom. Gas for lighting and heating was installed in 1864. To extend the building, an additional section, facing Latimer Square, was purchased from the Bealeys in 1872.

Further additions, designed by Alexander Lean, were made in 1874 and 1875. These involved removing part of the first addition and constructing a dining room, a card room and a library. On the floor above were ten bedrooms, while on the western side of this new addition were the quarters for the housekeeper, servants and a lavatory.

When Prince Edward visited Christchurch in May 1920 as part of his tour of New Zealand, the Christchurch Club was made available to accommodate the prince and his staff. Renovations, paid for by the New Zealand Government, were made prior to the visit, to ensure that the club building was of a suitable standard. Electric lighting was installed throughout, a bathroom was built on the first floor, and two bedrooms on the first floor were joined into one.

By the 1960s, at which point the original section of the building was a century old, it was noticeable that the building had fallen into disrepair. Although the construction of a new building was considered by the committee, by 1967 it had been decided to remodel the existing building. The renovation, which included the construction of a new kitchen block, was completed in 1969.

The building was damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. The repair and restoration of the building, which was carried out by Armitage Williams, saw the construction of a new kitchen, dining room, lounge and accommodation quarters. The restoration was completed in 2015, allowing members to return to the club.