Christchurch Heritage Festival recap: Our stories of living and learning

Heritage Festival officially wrapped up over labour weekend and we were thrilled to be able to run our homestead and garden tours as part of this year’s celebrations!

Over two days we welcomed members of our community near and far and explored the rich history of Risingholme park and homestead. Risingholme was originally part of the extensive Ōpawaho swampland which was an important site of mahinga kai for local iwi. From 1864-1944 the homestead and park was used as a private residence for a number of prominent local families such as the Reeves and Andersons. Since 1944, when it was gifted to the people of Christchurch by local philanthropist J.R McKenzie, Risingholme has been a place for the community to gather and learn, and the tours we ran as part of this year’s heritage festival represent an extension of this ongoing community spirit.

Our natural heritage

The sprawling Risingholme Park is home to a variety of native and introduced trees, many of which were planted by the Reeves family between 1864-1891. The Andersons were keen gardeners too, and established a blooming rose garden at the front of the property. Species like English Oak, Beech, Atlantic Cedar, Totara, and a special Kauri tree planted in 1943 for the official opening of the Risingholme Community Centre in 1944 also contribute to the heritage status of the park.

Today, the park continues to be enjoyed by the public and is lovingly looked after by the Christchurch City Council Park’s Department. The park tour was led by DJ who was our natural heritage expert and shared some fascinating insights into the various plantings and how the natural environment has changed over time to reflect different tastes in gardens over time.


A private home and place of learning

One of the most striking things about the park is the large Category 2 listed homestead nestled in the centre of it. Designed by the leading colonial architects Benjamin Mountfort and Maxwell Bury in a carpenter gothic style, the house retains much of its original features despite being heavily restored following the 2011 earthquake and a fire in June 2016.

Our homestead tour guides took us behind the closed doors of the homestead which now acts as the offices for Risingholme Learning. Within each room there was a story to be told from the renovations and additions made over time as families moved in and out, to the visible restorations that enable it to be used as a safe space to run classes from today. Many of the rooms also had works on display created by learners at Risingholme as well as a specially curated sample of archives that illuminated aspects of Risingholme’s long history.

If you’re interested in learning more about our history and the legacies that inform our work as an organisation today, stop by our office at 22 Cholmondeley Ave, have a chat with one of the team, and take a look at the display panels which expand on the story of Risingholme.

Make sure to check out some highlights of the park and homestead tour on our Instagram page here by clicking on the ‘our history’ button at the top of our profile.

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