Coker's Hotel

Situated at 52 Manchester Street, Coker's Hotel was built in 1878 and continued to provide accommodation until 2010.

Cokers Backpackers
Cokers Backpackers. Photographer (pht): Doc Ross. © Doc Ross

Coker’s Hotel was built on land that had originally been a market garden plot belonging to George Allen. Following his death in 1871, his wife, Lizzie Westwood, inherited the land. In 1872 Lizzie married John Etherden Coker.

In 1878 the couple started the construction of a new hotel on the Manchester Street plot adjoining George Street (Southwark Street after 1909). Designed in the classical commercial style of architecture by James Heath, the building was described as a ‘lofty and substantial structure, formed of brick and with stuccoed walls.’ The contractors were Prudhoe and Cooper.

The main entrance to the hotel was on Manchester Street. Within was a lobby with an entrance into a hall. The hall offered access to private suites and at the end, swing doors led to a second lobby with access to the commercial room and dining room. The upper floor contained four further private suites and sixteen single bedrooms with bathrooms.

The bar and parlour were accessible from George Street, allowing the hotel guests (which were often families) privacy. The hotel was advertised as being only three minutes’ walk from the Christchurch railway station, making it accessible to visitors to the city. One such famous visitor was the author, Rudyard Kipling.

The license for the hotel was transferred to Thomas Liverton Popham in 1890. In 1892 new additions, overseen by architect Thomas Cane, were added to the hotel.

Coker’s Hotel became a target of the Prohibition League in 1895, which sought to have the hotel’s license cancelled by the licensing committee on the grounds that prostitutes used the hotel as a place to solicit customers. When the hotel was called ‘little better than a common brothel’ by prohibitionist Tommy Taylor, he was taken to court for slander by Popham. After hearing evidence from police and residents, the jury found that the allegations were false.

In 1897 the license was transferred to James Hatfield. Under Hatfield the hotel was renovated and was able to provide sixty four bedrooms. In 1900 a new public bar, which opened onto Manchester Street, was designed by F.J. Barlow. The former bar, facing onto George Street, was turned into accommodation. Hatfield transferred the license of the hotel to F.W. Green in 1905.

In 1937 a southern extension along Manchester Street was designed by W.H. Trengrove.

Despite the decline in rail travel changing the dynamics of the southern side of the central city, the hotel continued to provide accommodation and eventually became a backpackers.

The building was damaged in the 4 September 2010 earthquake and was forced to close. As a result of further damaged sustained by the 22 February 2011 earthquake and subsequent earthquakes, the building was demolished.