Our City O-Tautahi reveals Riccarton Park’s historic Tea House
18 October 2005
Restoring the old Tea House at Riccarton Park Racecourse will take plenty of effort and enthusiasm from the community, but the graceful old pavilion tucked into a horseshoe of trees east of the main grandstand will be worth the effort, as an exhibition now on at Our City O-Tautahi clearly shows.
The Tea House - A Pavilion of Charm is the title of a free exhibition at Our City O-Tautahi (the Christchurch City Council facility on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Oxford Terrace) which runs until 16 November. Our City O-Tautahi is open 10am-4pm, from Monday to Saturday.
The Tea House today is in poor shape. Part of the surrounding moat has been filled in and other landscaping also needs work. The building’s form and interior character is still there, however, and its condition could have been much worse.
Closing in the verandah may have spoiled its look, but it did help preserve the original exterior. The timber ceiling and skylights are also still there. The planned conservation and restoration will once again open the verandah, the ceiling and skylights will be restored and the original interior will regain its Edwardian charm.
Tea House History
In 1903, work began to mark the Canterbury Jockey Club’s golden jubilee in the following year. The tea kiosk was designed by S and A Luttrell, architects who specialised in racecourse grandstands and buildings. The project cost £1300.
The “stylistically unpretentious Edwardian building” is west of the grandstand at the racecourse. Its wide, open verandah at the front and pair of large turrets crowning the projecting bays at each end of the main roof give a pavilion-like appearance.
It was centrepiece of an extensive landscaping design. Excavation to provide fill for the front of the new main grandstand created an island on which the Tea House was built. A clearing was made amongst the fir plantation and a belt of trees was left to form a ring round the island. The moat’s water came from the Waimakariri River and was stocked with goldfish. The grounds also featured swans and seagulls. This “beauty spot of the whole domain” was reached by a “rustic bridge”.
The Tea House was the venue for many important and memorable events, including the 1903 wedding of the president of the Riccarton Racecourse Jockey Club and the dossing down of World War II troops on straw-filled palisades on the verandah.
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