Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Clock Tower Block

Architect - Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort
or - Samuel Hurst Seager

The Star, Issue 2856, 8 June 1877, Page 2

The Governor's Visit

The College Buildings.

The building which has just been opened is a most handsome one, and in every respect worthy of the body entrusted with the control of the Canterbury College in all its departments. It is of the Gothic order of architecture, built from plans drawn by Mr B. W. Mountfort, the contractor being Mr S. H. Seager (note 1), to whom very much credit is due for the great expedition he has used in putting up the building, seeing that he has completed it two months before the contract time. The amount of the tender was £6370, but the few "extras" required will bring the total sum up to something beyond that.

The first stone of the building was laid in June last, and the contractor had until the beginning of September next to finish it — so that in this respect he deserves very exceptional praise. And taking the building as a whole, it may also be said that be deserves very great praise in that respect also. The outer wall is built of "rubble," obtained from Mr Tait's quarry (note 2); and the facings, moulded strings, corbels, and cornices are all of white rock. The building has a frontage of 80 feet to Hereford street. The western portion recesses back some 15 feet, and has a depth of 23 feet.

The latter portion of the College contains a tower and main entrance, the latter being composed of an elliptical arch, supported on triple columns and foliated caps, the whole forming a very handsome appearance. It is surmounted by a concrete archway, having a span of 11 feet.

The entrance hall is very roomy, and is tiled with white and red tiles, from the local factory of Austin and Kirk (note 3). On one side of the hall is the registrar's room, on the other side the janitor's, each being 16ft by 14ft. The class room downstairs is 36ft by 22ft; it is lofty and well ventilated. In fact the entire building is ventilated by Sheringham and Dr Arnott's valves.

The ceiling of the lower classroom is of concrete arches supported on wrought springers. The gallery consists of eight tiers, and ia fitted for the reception of benches. This room is well lighted by eight Venetian windows. A very wide, lofty, and exceedingly handsome staircase, leading from both sides of the entrance hall, conducts the visitor to the upper storey, which contains five rooms. The largest of these, except the classroom, is the Governors'-room, which is 24 feet by 14 feet. It contains a large and comfortable looking fireplace, which, like all the others in the building, is composed of Reece's Kaipara stone.

The roof girders are supported by moulded brackets and handsome carved corbels. Adjacent to the Governors' is the waiting-room, from one corner of which there is a staircase leading to the tower. The interior of this is intended for the works of a clock, with which it is shortly proposed to fit the tower. After passing through two professors' rooms, which are of the same size as the registrar's room below, we find ourselves in a very spacious classroom of the same size as that below, only containing nine instead of eight tiers for the reception of benches. The ceiling of this room is coved and plastered with wrought beams, and moulded and swept brackets. The two class rooms, the entrance hall, and the staircase, are all lined with bricks and bands of white rock stone; the whole coloured and tuck pointed, and being surmounted by a course of moulded bricks and bold corners. There is an entrance for the students from the back of the building, and this entrance leads to the back of the class rooms. The entire building is roofed in with slates, and finished with ornamental ridging.

When completed the College will run back as far as the girls' high school, and there will be an eastern wing similar to the western one which now exists, which will give the building a very finished appearance. The additions will be made as funds permit, and when completed the College will contain four class rooms, &c. The building is a very handsome addition to the architecture of the city, and will, no doubt, be found to be of very great benefit for the purpose for which it is designed.

Photo above of B. W. Mountfort from The Weekly Press Jubilee Number 15 December 1900

Note 1. father of the architect Samuel Hurst Seager (1855-1933)

Note 2. Granite from Mr Tait's quarry was used for the plinth of St Paul's Church at the corner of Cashel and Madras Streets. The Star issue 2615, 11 August 1876, page 3.

Note 3. In 1886 Austin and Kirk became, with others, the New Zealand Brick, Tile and Pottery Company. The tiles were later replaced with English imports.

The Star, Issue 3463, 17 May 1879, Page 4
Canterbury College Additions
(By the Special Reporter of the Lyttelton Times.)

To-day the new wing of the Canterbury College will be completed, and deserted by the workmen, the painters for some little time past having had an undisturbed possession. The addition adds wonderfully to the appearance of the buildings, with which it is, of course, strictly in keeping, although in not a few of its details there has been a considerable departure from the design of the older portion of the College. The extra accommodation afforded will be a great relief to the professorial staff, who have of late been much hampered for want of an adequate number of rooms, and have had to keep their list of subjects in narrower limit a than was considered desirable. The new wing, which lies to the south of the main building, was commenced by the contractors, Messrs Greig and Hunter (note 1), about ten months ago, the amount of their contract being £4075. The contract time has been somewhat exceeded, but the delay is abundantly compensated for by the excellence of the workmanship, which, on the authority of Mr Ness (who acted as inspector of the work on behalf of the architect, Mr Mountford) (sic), we are enabled to state is thoroughly satisfactory in every particular. On the ground floor of the new wing, and immediately adjoining the older portion, is the library, a very line room, having a clear floor space of 28ft by 20ft, and lighted by an unusually handsome bay window, the width of which is 12ft. From floor to ceiling the height of the room is 17ft. To the left of the library is the lower class room, 31ft by 22ft, which is, we believe, to be used by the Rev C. Turrell. The room is arranged, with regard to the seating of the students, much after the manner of the Science lecture Theatre used by Professor Bickerton. From this room, access is gained by a spacious staircase, designed in the same manner as that in the entrance hall of the older building, to the upper floor. Here, next to the original building, and communicating therewith, is a professor's room, 20ft by 11ft, and a laboratory, 20ft by 16ft, these apartments being intended for the use of Dr. Powell. The laboratory is immediately over the library, and the bay window mentioned is carried up, enlarged on the upper storey by means of corbel projections. The upper floor also includes the upper class room, built over the one on the ground floor, of which it is a copy, with a slight additional floor space.

A novel effect has been obtained in some of the rooms, by glazing the upper portions of the windows with tinted glass, though it is probable that the general opinion of this effect will be that it is more curious than beautiful. In these places where the woodwork of the dados is much likely to be rubbed against, varnish has been dispensed with, and instead the woodwork has received an oil dressing. The woodwork throughout has a massive appearance, and is in point of fact very strongly constructed, the steps of the staircase, for example, being solid. The brickwork, very much of which is visible in the interior, is an excellent specimen of workmanship, and the whole of the stonework has been finished with the utmost care, not a bad joint or slipshod piece of dressing being anywhere perceptible. Externally, the new wing, as already intimated, is in keeping with the main building, and its design is decidedly effective.

note 1. Grieg and Hunter's other work included:
1879 - Boys' High School - tender price £8889 8s 6d
1880 - new Girls' High School - tender price £4567 8s 9d
1880 - Bridge over the Heathcote in Wilson's Road
1882 - The New Zealand Grain Agency Co. building High and Cashel Streets
1883 - Armagh Street Bridge
1884 - Building for Mr F. Hobbs in Cathedral Square - three storeys, nine shops, offices etc - £12,000
1885-6 - new building for Ballantyne and Co, Cashel Street. Three storey building in brick and stone, J. C. Maddison architect.
1886-88 - Magdalen Asylum, Lincoln Road
1886 - their tender for Sunnyside Asylum declined
1891 - Sunnyside Asylum, south main entrance block and new male day rooms - £351

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