Our History

Risingholme Homestead was built in 1864 by William and Ellen Reeves, parents of politician William Pember Reeves.

After the death of William Reeves in 1891, the house had several further private owners until 1943 when it was purchased and presented to the City of Christchurch by J. R. McKenzie for the “health, amusement and instruction of the public”.

The Homestead is registered with the Historic Places Trust as a Category 2 historic place.

From the registration details Risingholme Homestead has:

  • Architectural significance as a rare example of the domestic work of architect Maxwell Bury. The only other registered dwellings known to have been designed (at least in part) by Bury are Chippenham Lodge in Christchurch (Cat.II), and the Professorial Houses at Otago University (Cat 1).
  • Historical significance as the former home of the prominent New Zealand liberal politician and educationalist William Pember Reeves and Christchurch notables editor William Reeves, lawyer Leonard Harper, businesswoman and philanthropist Eliza White and engineer Frederick Anderson.
  • Social significance as the base for the Risingholme Community Centre, a particularly early (and now long-lived) example of the community centre concept of public education and recreation. In light of the Reeves’ liberal/socialist convictions and interest in education, this was an apposite use for the house.

Local residents petitioned the council for the house to become a community centre for Opawa and surrounding suburbs.

After a public meeting in St Mark’s Schoolroom, Opawa, on 24 February 1944, the Risingholme Community Centre Incorporated Society was formed.

Dr H. E. Hansen, Principal of the Technical College was chairman of the committee set up at this historic meeting. He had been a leader in adult education for many years, and under his guidance the committee established its first activities – a nursery play centre, a room for the Plunket Society, drama, play reading and study/discussion groups.

The Risingholme Community Centre opened in 1944 as one of the first community centres in the country, and quickly became known for the quality and diversity of its programmes through a funding arrangement with the Technical College.

Within 6 months the first director – W. Ross Edwards – was appointed and by July 1945 an energetic programme was in place including a Young People’s Club, woodwork classes and bridge and garden groups.

By 1946 the Committee had decided to build a hall so that the centre could accommodate more activities and so began a succession of fairs, fetes and other fundraising activities that finally led to the construction of the hall/theatre and later the craft rooms at the back of the park.

1947 saw both the completion of the hall and the arrival of Dorothy Crumpton as new director and these two factors led to an increased level of activity at Risingholme. Drama was a focus, two choirs were started, films were shown and classes which had begun under the auspices of both the Christchurch Technical College and the WEA expanded. When the Technical College merged with Christchurch East High School to become Hagley Community College in the 1960’s, Risingholme’s funding arrangements transferred to Hagley.

By 1954 the craft rooms were completed to accommodate the growing number of craft classes such as woodwork and pottery – it was also sadly the year that Dorothy died after a period of declining health. It was then that Jeanne Edgar became director and this began a long and stable period for the Centre as Jeanne maintained and gradually built on the activities already in place until her retirement in 1983.

Jeanne Edgar was succeeded by Raewyn Cooke who brought many positive changes to the way Risingholme operates. Through the energy and vision of Raewyn, the Centre became an independently funded tertiary provider in 2004, with a direct funding arrangement with the Tertiary Education Commission.

In April 2007, Raewyn Cooke was succeeded by Maryke Fordyce who remained as Director until her death in March 2016. Maryke will be remembered for her outstanding contribution to Risingholme.  Having taken over the management of the Riccarton’s ACE programme in 2007, TEC funding changes for ACE Programmes in 2009 resulted in Risingholme, under Maryke’s leadership, taking over the management of Christchurch Girls, Hornby and Shirley Boys High Schools ACE programmes.   The 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes saw Maryke lead her staff team at Risingholme to maintain a full community learning programme despite the chaos in the city and the loss of many teaching facilities, including the Risingholme Homestead and Theatre and for a short time the Craft Rooms.  With the loss of teaching spaces at Risingholme, Maryke worked alongside the Executive Committee to fund and build a purpose built teaching space at the rear of 99 Hawford Road.  Courses commenced in this building, known as the Penney Room, at the beginning of 2015.

In June 2016 Wendel Karati was appointed Director.  During her time as Director, Wendel worked alongside the Executive Committee and Christchurch City Council in the restoration of the Homestead and Theatre having both been damaged in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and the Homestead suffering even more damage by the fire in 2016.  Wendel oversaw the upgrading of Risingholme’s computer infrastructure and systems, moving the email and business systems to cloud-based technology.

Following Wendel’s resignation in May 2019, Lynda Megson was appointed Director.  Her first task was to relocate the office from the residential dwelling at 99 Hawford Road back to the Homestead following it’s restoration.  In November 2019, Risingholme celebrated it’s 75th birthday.

The Adult Community Education programme has continued to flourish, now incorporating the former Burnside High School, Christchurch Girls’ High School and Shirley Boys’ High programmes as well as the Riccarton High School Adult & Community Education programme through collaborative working arrangements. Risingholme is also host to a large variety of independent community groups and activities.

Development of Adult and Community Education Courses at Risingholme

  • Risingholme donated to ChCh by JR McKenzie 1943
  • Committee of local people formed to approach CCC to use property as a community centre
  • One of those people was Dr Hansen, Principal of ChCh Technical College
  • First activities started March 1944, first full-time director appointed Nov 1944 via special ministerial funding from Ministry of Education
  • 1945 first continuing education class (Dressmaking) held under control of ChCh Technical College
  • By 1951, 16 courses were being funded via ChCh Technical College
  • 1966 administration of Risingholme’s continuing education classes transferred from ChCh Technical College to Hagley High School
  • Around the 1980’s the only part of Risingholme’s funding that was still administered by Hagley was the director’s salary. All funding for tutors and support staffing was paid directly to Risingholme from the Ministry of Education
  • 2003 – 2004 saw the establishment of the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), who took responsibility for all tertiary education funding, including Risingholme
  • In 2004 Risingholme made the decision to become an independent tertiary provider, accordingly all funding and administrative links were severed with Hagley Community College
  • 2005 saw Risingholme operating as an OTEP (Other Tertiary Education Provider) receiving all funding directly from the TEC and sub-contracting from Feb 2005 to manage Burnside High Schools’ ACE Programme
  • By June 2005 Risingholme was also sub-contracted to manage the ChCh Girls’ High school ACE Programme
  • In 2007, Risingholme was sub-contracted by Riccarton High School to manage its ACE programme
  • In 2009, changes to ACE funding for schools and communities by TEC resulted in a reduction in funding and saw the introduction of self-fund courses
  • The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 saw the disruption of courses at Risingholme.  Other venues across the city were used until such time as the completion of a purpose built classroom at Risingholme in 2014
  • With the relocation and rebuild of Shirley Boys and Avonside Girls High School, Risingholme ceased delivering ACE courses at Shirley Boys High School at the end of 2018
  • Risingholme’s ACE programme continued to be delivered from four sites, Risingholme, Christchurch Girls High School, Riccarton High School and Hornby High School
  • The COVID-19 pandemic which hit New Zealand in early 2020 impacted on Risingholme’s adult and community education programme.

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