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Our Environment: Issue 22 Autumn 2000

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Chokebore Lodge wins race against time
No.12 in our "Still Standing" Heritage Building Series

Chokebore Lodge

One of the City’s oldest domestic buildings, Chokebore Lodge, was for the greater part of its life associated with the racing industry in Canterbury.

Originally constructed of earth and timber, this City Council- owned landmark in Racecourse Road will soon undergo a staged conservation programme.

Chokebore was built by John Willis, a farmer who came to Canterbury with his wife Charlotte in 1852 from Buckinghamshire, England. In 1856 John purchased 20 acres of land from his older brother George, an early colonist who had arrived in Canterbury in 1851 on the Cressy, one of the first four Canterbury Association ships. On this land John Willis constructed the two storey cob cottage which today comprises the principal section of Chokebore Lodge. He also built stables that he leased in c1868 to Henry Redwood of Nelson.

Since Buckinghamshire was a major cob building area it was not surprising that Willis should use familiar materials to construct his home in Canterbury. Also, cob construction was widely used in the Canterbury rural area as an early building method. (Cob buildings remaining today include Cracroft House in Cashmere, Tiptree Cottage and the Cob Cottage at Mount Pleasant.)

Chokebore Lodge’s original cob section features a verandah and timber dormers set within a pitched shingled roof now covered with corrugated iron. The barge boards of each cable have been drilled at regular intervals to create a decorative effect offset by the simple verandah posts. Plaster over the cob section of the cottage has been incised to imitate stone construction. Two chimney stacks break through the roof ridge and enhance the symmetry of the cob or principal portion. In 1874 John sold the entire property to Redwood and so began the long association of Chokebore with the racing fraternity. Redwood, often cited as the “Father of New Zealand Racing”, had arrived in New Zealand in 1842 and settled in the Nelson area where he subsequently established himself as a noted importer, trainer and breeder of race horses. Attracted to the Canterbury property because of its proximity to Riccarton Racecourse, Redwood named it Chokebore after a type of shotgun. He was noted as “an excellent shot”. However Redwood remained in the Nelson area, sending horses to Chokebore where they were trained by Edward Cutts, Redwood’s jockey and trainer. After a sizeable win at the races in 1880, Cutts purchased the property from Redwood. He continued to train horses there, becoming the private trainer for Sir George Clifford, President of the New Zealand Racing Conference.

Cutts added two rooms to the rear of the original portion around 1890. This single storey elevation features a steeply pitched gable roof that complements the pitch and scale of the original cottage. The larger of the two rooms features a fireplace set in a timbered alcove. The design of this alcove suggests that interior renovations were also made to the original portion about this date as the panelling is repeated in the cob section. To the rear lies a utilitarian brick structure – or possible service wing – that is connected to the main buildings by a curious long corridor pierced by narrow windows. In its heyday Chokebore also sported carefully laid out gardens that included a small whare.

For many generations Chokebore continued to be associated with the Cutts family and the racing inductry. In 1985, when the property was sold and subdivided, Chokebore was retained by the Pararua County as a reserve contribution. At this time the Cutts family removed the Maori whare and the Cliffords dismantled the brick stables, intending to re- erect them at their Nelson stud. After the amalgamation of local councils in 1989 the lodge’s title passed to the expanded City Council. A rare colonial survivor, Chokebore remains not only as a significant part of our colonial architectural heritage but as a reminder of the long- standing interest and passion Canterbury has had for horses and racing.

Jenny May
Architectural Historian

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