Coachman Inn

Opened in 1903, and designed in Edwardian Classicism, the building at 144 Gloucester Street was the third hotel to have been erected on the site. 

In March 1863 Benjamin Jones applied for a license to run a hotel which was to be built on part of Town Section 701 next to the Canterbury Music Hall. However, when the building opened on 5 July 1864, the management of the new hotel had already passed to John Coker. By the following year, it was known as Coker’s Criterion Hotel.

The license for the hotel was transferred to John Edward Darby in May 1866. However, by October, Darby was in financial trouble and the hotel license was auctioned. The hotel appears to have been placed under the management of Thiel, Mytton, and Company until August 1868 when John William Oram became the hotel manager following its renovations.

John Baylee took up the management of the hotel in August 1869. By November 1877, Baylee had sold the hotel to George Bird. However, on 11 November the building caught fire and was damaged. Baylee continued to offer his services as a publican from a shanty while the hotel was rebuilt. The tenders for the rebuilding of the hotel to a design by C. Cuff were advertised in December 1877. The license for the hotel was eventually transferred to Bird in April 1878 and by June the rebuilt hotel was open.

The new hotel was a wooden building, with the façade facing onto Gloucester Street. The front façade featured two doors, one at the western end and another at the eastern end. Set between the two doors were windows, while on the floor above, four windows also looked out onto Gloucester Street.

In December 1878 the license for the hotel was transferred to Robert Wallace. In November 1882 Wallace applied to transfer his license to John Olphert. After Olphert was declared bankrupt in October 1883, James Shand, as the trustee for the estate of Olphert, applied for the license of the hotel in November. In May 1884 Robert Wallace reapplied for the license.

In March 1885 the license was transferred from Wallace to William Henry Conlan. When Conlan reapplied for his license in June 1887 the police noted at the licensing committee hearing that the Criterion had become a hotel where prostitutes frequently congregated. Around this time Conlan fell ill and became bedridden, before dying in June 1890. Following his death, his wife Rubina Conlan managed the hotel, and applied for the license in May 1891. Although the license was granted, it was noted by the licensing committee that the hotel was still frequented by ‘low characters.’ Rubina remained in charge until June 1892 when the license was transferred to William Burnip.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the wooden hotel, like many of its contemporaries in Christchurch, was considered derelict by the licensing committee. In June 1901 Burnip was granted a renewal of his license on the condition that the hotel was rebuilt. Incidentally, in February 1902, a fire broke out in the hotel and severely damaged the building. As a result, Burnip decided to replace the wooden hotel with a new brick building. Tenders were advertised by the architect, Joseph Clarkson Maddison in March 1902, with the contract for its construction awarded to the builder W.H. Brown.

On 2 September 1902 the foundation stone for a new hotel building, known as the New Criterion, was laid by John A. Burnip, the son of the proprietor.

The building was designed by Maddison in a form of Classical architecture known as restrained Edwardian Classicism. Influenced by forms of palazzo architecture, the building featured a rusticated ground floor in contrast with the smooth exterior of the first and second floors. String courses differentiated the three floors of the building. The windows and doorways of the building were arched, and both doorways had, on either side, pilasters which continued up through the levels of the façade before culminating in triangular pediments. The building was topped with a balustrade and parapet.

The hotel opened on 7 August 1903. Given its proximity to the Theatre Royal, the hotel offered special arrangements for theatrical companies.

In December 1904 the hotel license was transferred to George Fox. In January 1905 George Fox applied to transfer the license to Walter Samson. In April 1906 Samson applied to transfer the license to John George Green.

Green and his wife Jessie had previously run the Occidental Hotel. When Green applied to renew the license in September 1907, the licensing committee questioned both him and Jessie on a series of allegations. These included claims that the barmaids were ordered to encourage the customers to drink excessively, to convince the customers to purchase them champagne and that they were taking customers back to their bedrooms. Because there were elements of truth in these allegations, the license of the Greens was not renewed.

The license was then granted to Henry McCartney on 25 September 1907. McCartney probably wished to distance his establishment from its previous licensees, as in December 1907 his lawyer applied to have the hotel renamed the Dominion Hotel, which was granted. In January 1908 McCartney advertised that the hotel was under new management and had been ‘thoroughly renovated and restored’.

In September 1908 McCartney applied to transfer the license for the Dominion Hotel to Ealey Ebenezer Daniels. In December 1911 Daniels applied to transfer the license to John Thomas Sutton. Sutton remained as the licensee of the hotel until 1923, when in March he applied to transfer the license to Thomas Arthur Cloudesley. In November 1923 Cloudesley applied to transfer the license to Percy Curtis.

During the management of Curtis, a fire broke out in the hotel on 17 January 1925, destroying the roof of the servants’ quarters. In June 1926 Curtis applied to transfer the license to David Young. Following the death of David in October 1927, his license was transferred to his wife, Catherine, as part of his estate. Catherine reapplied for the license in May 1928.

In 1930 renovations designed by Francis Willis were undertaken by W. Williamson.

The hotel was purchased by New Zealand Breweries in 1970. In 1979 it was sold to B.W. Bellis who owned the Coachman Steak House situated in Chancery Lane. In March 1980 the hotel was closed and renovated to provide not only accommodation but also two bars, a restaurant bar and a restaurant capable of seating up to 150 diners. The new Coachman Inn was opened on 12 November 1980 by Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

In 1986 Bellis sold the hotel to an undisclosed buyer. In 1989 the bar situated on the second floor became The Loft, an Irish bar, and in 1993 it was renamed the Finbar. The restaurant on the ground floor became Excalibur’s.

In 1995 the owner, David Carter, proposed to demolish the building. To prevent this, the Christchurch City Council placed a heritage order on the building and eventually purchased it in 1998. Ernest Duval of Equity Trust Pacific purchased the hotel building from the council in 2000. Under the ownership of Duval and Alan Franks the building was restored.

By 2002 the Japanese restaurant, Fuji Teppan Yaki, was operating out of the ground floor and continued to do so until 2011. In the following year the building was purchased by Gordon Lidgard.

The building was damaged in the 2011 earthquakes and subsequently demolished.