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Historic Tea House to be re-opened

3 December 2008

The 105- year-old Tea House at Riccarton Park Racecourse will be officially re-opened this afternoon by Diana, Lady Isaac following more than $800,000 in restoration work. 


The  Historic Places Trust category II listed building was built in late 1903 at a cost of

£1500 and was part of a programme of improvements to mark the 1904 Golden Jubilee of the Canterbury Jockey Club (CJC) .  The CJC was established in 1854 at a public meeting chaired by JR Cracroft Wilson and holds the record as the oldest continually existing club in New Zealand. 


Most of the money for the restoration was raised by the  Riccarton Park Restoration Trust.  The Christchurch City Council also assisted with two heritage grants totalling just over $120,000


Chair of the Trust Lesley Keast said she hoped the Category II listing would be reviewed upwards not only because  the Tea House had finally been restored to its former glory, but also because of  its social history.


“Some will argue its architectural importance is eclipsed by the significance of its social history…I stand firmly in the middle…it is both. It has not only been a formal Tea House but a dance hall, a dormitory for soldiers and even a makeshift hospital.


“My dream is for the Tea House to now enjoy its rightful place in the history of a magnificent historic racecourse . . .  that it will be enjoyed by patrons, community and general public alike. “


CJC chief executive Tim Mills said the Tea House would be a tremendous asset to the racecourse.


"The Tea House is a very significant part of the club and the course's history and we are delighted that has it been faithfully restored as well as developed as a very usable venue."


There were already firm bookings to use it for weddings and other events, he said.

The Tea House was designed by Luttrell Brothers and is of timber construction sited to the west of the park’s grandstands on a landscaped area surrounded by a moat, effectively making it an island.  It is the only remaining building of its era and type in New Zealand.


The Press at the time of construction noted that:  “ . . . the ornamental Tea House with its broad verandahs under which in warm days one can lounge or take light refreshments; the artificial waters encircling the island upon which this new structure stands surrounded by a belt of fir trees and pretty borders, so planted that there shall be a constant succession of bloom, present a scene such as cannot be surpassed for beauty by any Australasian race course . ..” (The Press November 4 1903)



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