Photos-United Pavilion

Back to photos index. Newspaper clippings from the fire

From 1904 to 1979 The United Tennis, Bowls and Croquet club occupied a two-story pavilion located near the Trust car park.

The pavilion was destroyed by fire on Sunday 1st July 1979. After this tennis, bowls and croquet formed separate organisations. Tennis built their own replacement pavilion and bowls and croquet built a shared building with separate rooms that were opened on Friday 16 September 1983.

Photos of the pavilion used to be displayed in the croquet room, but over the years some of the photos have seriously faded. The photos below are taken from this display.

On the back of the display is written:
In centre photo (of the original pavilion) taken 1974
M. Ferguson, E. Cocks
J. Stanton, E. Horwood
M. Willets, M. Baldwin
Miss Ethel Innes, I. Baldwin
Photos taken by Iris Horwood.

Newspaper clippings

Clipping 1

Surrounded by smoke, firemen pour water into the burning building

Fire guts Hagley pavilion

Fire gutted the United Tennis Club’s pavilion in North Hagley Park last evening.

The two-storey wooden building was reduced to a charred shell of timber with the walls barely standing, after fire swept through it about 7.45 p.m.

Small pockets of fire were still burning in pavilion at 9 p.m. Seven fire appliances answered a call from a motorist who noticed the fire as he drove past the park.

One bystander said he had seen a glow in the sky shortly, before 8 p.m. Then the building had suddenly “shot up in flames.”

A small crowd was drawn by the glow of the fire and the thick smoke which spread over Riccarton.

The Ministry of Transport closed Riccarton Avenue to traffic while firemen doused the flames.

The pavilion was shared by the tennis club; a bowling club, and a croquet club. It is believed that nets, lawn mowers, and rollers were in the building.

The tennis club had asked the Christchurch City Council, which. owns the land, for another pavilion and had started fund-raising two years ago, according to a club member. The building had been in a poor state of repair and many weatherboards had been rotten.

It was the second fire in two months to destroy a building in Hagley Park. The Botanic Gardens’ tea kiosk was razed on April 25 in suspicious circumstances.

Clipping 2

The president of the United Bowling Club (Mr Les Giles) surveys the ruins of the North Hagley Park pavilion destroyed by fire last night.

The blaze was a mixed blessing for the tennis, bowls and croquet clubs it leaves homeless.

Lost in the fire were valuable equipment, furniture and irreplaceable mementoes such as honours. boards and team photographs.

The tennis club lost all the nets and most of the net posts for its 30 courts but was fortunate that its mowers, worth perhaps $8000, were saved.

Mr Giles said major functions had been planned for the celebration of the clubs’ 75th anniversary next season and the 100 bowlers would have difficulty managing without their headquarters.

However they had been asking the city council to. do something about the pavilion which was “a mass of rot”.

“To tell the truth, we’re glad to get rid of the bloody thing,” he said.

He had also. been concerned about the safety of the building. As- many as 200 people would gather for functions upstairs, where there was stair access on only one side of the building.

The captain of. the tennis club (Mr Ralph van Ysselsteyn) said it, wanted a new pavilion which required less maintenance “but it’s still a hell of a shock.”

Tennis officials met the mayor and council staff only a week ago, to ask for a new pavilion, separate from the other clubs.

The courts had expanded away from the present site which was no longer convenient for players.

A building fund had been started but the old pavilion was insured for only $25,000 – far below replacement cost.

This morning Mr Giles was searching the charred ruins for any sign of Darky, a large black tomcat for whom the pavilion was home.

“I think he’d have got out all right,” he said. “He’s probably still running.”


Clipping 3

The club captain of the United Lawn Tennis Club, Mr Ralph van Ysselsteyn, examines a racket which was among equipment destroyed. when the United Sports Pavilion in Hagley Park was gutted by fire on Sunday evening. The remains of the old wooden Building are in the background.

Fire safety officers were still trying yesterday to, establish the cause of the fire. The building would cost at least $60,000 to repair, according to early estimates. but the bowls. tennis. and croquet clubs which used it regard the blaze as a mixed blessing. The pavilion, built in 1905, was badly rotted, and its occupants had been trying for new premises for some time. “It was in. a pretty bad state, but we will now have, to find a new headquarters fairly quickly,” said the president of the bowling club, Mr L. GiIes. The building was insured for only $20,000, he said.

Clipping 4

History lost in pavilion blaze

The United club’s pavilion, which was destroyed by fire last night, was an historic building in New Zealand sport.

It was used many times as the headquarters for national and international tournaments, and many champions passed through its doors.

In recent years, the building was starting to reach the point where it had outlived its usefulness.

But in the early days it was a showpiece of sport in Christchurch.

The United Bowling, Tennis and Croquet Club was established in 1905, and the pavilion was opened in December of that year.

Built at a cost of £800 by W. Jacques, it was described as a handsome building with an imposing gallery looking out over the croquet lawns.

The club originally occupied four acres, which was held on a yearly tenure from the Domains Board.

Within a year, there were 250 members of the three sections, and the area in North Hagley Park was a scene of constant activity.

The New Zealand International Exhibition was a big event, and the new pavilion was used extensively for special tournaments which were held in conjunction with the exhibition.

Such famous stars of tennis court as Anthony Wilding and Geoff Ollivier played regularly at United.

The first New Zealand croquet championships were held there in January, 1913, and United has also been the venue for many international contests.

The pavilion, which was added to at various stages, was last, used as headquarters for a Dominion bowling tournament in 1958.

That year, Phil Skoglund, still only a youth, won the first of his many singles titles.

Repairs to the old building were considered, and as recently as last year a figure of more than $60,000 was put on the estimated cost of renovating.

But the wooden building was rotting in places, and it was a fire hazard.

Les Giles, president of the bowling cub, said that about, two years ago somebody tried to start a fire in the phone booth under the stairs, but it went out.

“I don’t know how many times the, pavilion was broken into, but it ran into dozens. We even found where hobos were using it as a home, and there was hardly a door or a window that we hadn’t had to repair.”

The club split up into its three sections in 1959, but they continued to share the facilities.

The tennis club came off worst in the fire, losing, much valuable equipment.

But many club records were lost, and honours boards and photographs were among the irreplaceable items of historic significance which went up in smoke.

Vern Brown the bowling club treasurer, is today thanking his lucky stars that last year he photographed the honours boards.

“But the big worry is losing the pavilion, especially with our 75th anniversary coming up next year,” he said.