Cranmer Court (former Normal School)
Designed by Samuel Charles Farr and built in 1874, the Normal School was associated with teacher training until 1970.
In April 1873 the Canterbury Board of Education met to discuss proposals for the construction of a new school and teachers’ college which would be the first normal school in New Zealand. The purpose of the normal school was to provide student teachers with the opportunity to observe experienced teachers in a classroom situation.
Following the meeting, the board announced a competition for entrants to design the school building. The winner was Samuel Charles Farr, an architect who specialised in the Gothic Revival style of architecture.
The design submitted by Farr recalled the rugged collegiate ensembles of Augustus Pugin. The building consisted of two wings, with one running north to south on Montreal Street and another running east to west on Kilmore Street. Both wings met on the corner of the two streets and were connected via an octagonal structure.
Although the chosen site was initially criticised as being swampland and unhealthy, the foundation stone was laid in 1873 at a ceremony attended by the Governor, Sir James Fergusson. The builder selected for the construction was Daniel Reese who compensated for the swampy terrain by deepening and widening the foundations. William Brassington was employed to carve the stone details of the school building.
The building was completed in 1874 and although the Canterbury Board of Education were able to occupy the octagonal room and offices in the following year, it wasn’t until April 1876 that the school officially opened and classes commenced. In 1877 student teachers were enrolled.
In 1878 the Montreal Street wing was extended to provide a kindergarten on the ground floor and a training department on the first floor. The architect for the extension was Thomas Cane.
The building suffered some damage in the 1888 earthquake, with four chimneys on the Montreal Street wing splitting and a crack appearing between the original wing and its addition. Chimneys on the Kilmore Street wing were also damaged.
In 1924-1925 the students from the Teachers’ College were relocated to a building on the corner of Montreal Street and Peterborough Street. In 1954 the normal school was transferred to Elmwood in Merivale. The building then became the training centre for the Post-Primary Department of the Christchurch Teachers’ College. In 1970 the department relocated to the new campus in Ilam.
Following this departure, the building became subject to neglect, vandalism and decay. After debates as to whether the building should be demolished, it was sold in September 1981 to an investment company. In 1982 the company started to convert the Kilmore Street wing into apartments and the octagonal board room was converted into a restaurant, Grimsby’s. The conversion of the Kilmore Street wing into apartments started in 1985.
The building was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and demolished in October 2012.