Grosvenor Hotel

8:01. A House near the Railway.

            John James Mumford was born in 1843, the second of the five children born to David and Martha Mumford, in Huntingdonshire, England, in the parish of Kimbolton. Mumford senior was a labourer and Martha was, according to family records, a stern disciplinarian. She reportedly kept a whip under the mantelpiece for the chastisement of disobedient children. She would purposely place a sweet on the table where the children could see it and would crack the whip on the table if little hands dared to reach out for the morsel. The Mumfords, their three sons and two daughters emigrated to New Zealand in 1851 on the Canterbury Association emigrant ship “Castle Eden”. David Mumford became a timber cutter and the family lived in a four room cottage in Hoon Hay Valley where Mumford and his sons worked the bush.

            John and Martha had no more children of their own, but their family did expand after their arrival in New Zealand. One day in June of 1876, David found an infant girl abandoned on the doorstep of the home. Obviously the couple would have made enquiries as to the child’s parents, but, equally obviously, the little girl’s origins remained a mystery and she was adopted into the family as Martha Addington, “Martha”, presumably, after her foster-mother, and “Addington” after the suburb of Christchurch in which the family then lived. Mumford Senior became a crossing-keeper at Addington after his time in the Hoon Hay Bush, and it was here that the child was found. A family legend that the child was abandoned on the doorstep of the Grosvenor Tavern does not, sadly, reconcile with known dates, as little Martha ( she may have been known by the nickname of “Friday” as it was on that day that she was found) was discovered in June of 1876 and the Hotel was not built until 1878.

            John James seems to have done rather well for himself, although, it is rumoured, he had something of a penchant to drink the proceeds of his business enterprises. He owned, or at the least had an interest in, an Hotel close to what is now Victoria Square, in the town end of Victoria Street, near Tuck’s Grocery. He ran the Rolleston Hotel for a while and had an interest in the Bower Hotel at Brighton, and he owned two properties. One in town was later valued at £5000, and the other in Linwood at £600.00. Despite his obvious energy and entrepreneurial skills, his financial management was somewhat weak, having, as said above, something of a propensity to drink up the profits. He was able to make more substantial plans after his marriage.

            On March 12th 1868, John married Lucy Tomson, the 24 year old daughter of a well-to-do English family with connections to the Church, at St. Michael’s Church in Christchurch. Her money enabled him to invest on a larger scale. By the late 1870’s Mumford owned a grocery and confectionery shop on the corner opposite the present Grosvenor Hotel on what later became the site of the Andrews and Beaven building and is now the supermarket carpark. To take advantage of his proximity to the Railway Station and its large transient trade, he applied in 1876 for a Wine and Beer License and this was granted on the condition that he cease his general store business. The obvious course of action was to open a hotel and, as his current premises were unsuitable for adaptation, Mr. Mumford acquired and developed the property on the opposite corner in 1877. A substantial new building was erected on the site and in the following year he applied for and was granted a full Hotel license.

Mr. Mumford was well funded thanks to his wife Lucy. His new hotel would not be some worked-over boarding house or claptrap dwelling. He began with a very solid foundation, and the hotel was built to a design by leading architect Samuel Farr. Farr’s commercial architecture was, at this time, plain and workmanlike, elegant yet unpretentious, and of a robust and built-to-last style. It was of a design that was followed by many urban hotels in later years. It had a main door angled across the street corner, a standard practice for 19th century hotels, and it had a stout parapet and cornice that allowed it to display its name above the main door as did the Red Lion (a Rangiora Hotel that Farr also designed). Clad in the standard weatherboard, the internal timber framing was constructed in the heavy English manner that was favoured before the lighter balloon-framing, which was beginning to come into vogue at about this time, became fully standard. There were seven guest rooms on the first floor and the Hotel drew the greater part of its residential trade from the movement of railway passengers.

Thus the new Hotel began its operation in 1878. Mr. Mumford called his premises the Grosvenor Hotel for reasons that, while they are now obscure, were clearly important to him. So important, indeed, was the name that the first child borne to John and Lucy after the establishment of the Hotel was named Cuthbert Grosvenor Mumford (born 17th August 1879 at the Hotel). Cuthbert’s youngest daughter, Stella, later married a Herbert Taylor, and their son was christened Robert Grosvenor Taylor.

Two years later, in 1880, Mr. Mumford sold his business to one Daniel Bryant and took up other interests, no doubt with the help of funding from the Tomson family income. But tragedy was not too far in the future.

On 17th May 1885 John Mumford and his friend William Delaney were shooting rabbits near the Waimakariri River. They were walking about six or seven chains apart (about 150 metres) with their shotguns and their paths gradually converged. Delaney for unspecified reasons went to put down his gun, having first, so he said, put down both the hammers. As he did so, one of the barrels of his gun fired and Mumford cried out in anguish “Get my gun barrel! I’m shot”. And so he was, in the left shoulder at close range. He did not fall back, surprisingly, and Delaney caught and held him. Swiftly he grabbed Mumford’s cap and stuffed it into what must have been an horrific wound.

Delaney bundled the injured man into the trap, which was in the charge of Mumford’s 15 year old son Herbert, and the latter drove post haste for the Mumford home at Rolleston, where the women tended to John’s wound. He was then placed in the trap and was driven to Christchurch Hospital where, still conscious despite the agony, he was attended by Surgeon Reuben Briggs Robinson. The good doctor did what he could, but Mumford’s injuries were too dire; the bones were shattered and indeed half his shoulder must have been blown away. He lingered for a few days but the end was inevitable. John James Mumford died of his wounds at Christchurch Hospital on June 3rd 1885 and was buried on 7th June at the Barbadoes Street cemetery.

            There was, of course, an inquest and the Coroner, John Howard duly, placed the following verdict (the report is hand written and difficult to decipher): “That on the 17th day of May last it so happened, accidentally, casually and by misfortune that whilst he was shooting with William Delaney one barrel of Delaney’s gun accidentally went off wounding deceased in the left shoulder and fracturing the bone. He was afterwards  brought to (Christchurch) hospital where he died on Wednesday 3rd (??) of the said injury, so the jurors aforesaid upon their oath aforesaid (??) to say that he the said John James Mumford accidentally, casually and by misfortune came to his death and not otherwise”.

            A sad and tragic end to a young man of no more than forty two who left behind him a widow and seven children. But what did happen? Delaney, in his sworn statement to the Coroner, stated unequivocably that “He (Mumford) and I were the best of friends”, nor was there any suggestion at the inquest of foul play, and there it rested. Family legend, however, would suggest that there was perhaps a little more to the matter than might at first appear. Delaney protested that he was a friend of Mumford’s, but there is the suggestion that there was a barmaid of whom Delaney was fond and whom Mr. Mumford also found rather attractive……! But we shall never know what, if anything, lies behind this rumour.

8:02. Life Goes On.

In 1885 the license was taken by Irishman John Conway. Born in 1836, Conway had been a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary and had arrived in New Zealand with his wife Jane (neé King) and family in 1868 (MacC519). He enlisted in the New Zealand Constabulary on arrival, and he was clearly a very capable policeman as he was soon promoted to First-Class Constable and he was stationed at Lyttelton. He had only been in the Police Force for about four years when disaster struck; running after a moving train to get a letter in the mail-van, he slipped and his foot was run over. He recovered but, crippled, a career in Police Force was no longer possible. On the bright side, however, he was awarded a pension and on the strength of this financial stability was able to buy the White Crane Hotel at Woodend, which he took in 1873, opening up with celebrations that included a pigeon-shooting match and a ball. He became a pillar of the community, and his hotel was well spoken of. He joined the Woodend School Committee in October 1875, and became the Chairman in 1877.

In 1885 he sold the White Crane and took the license of the Grosvenor Hotel but his term as landlord was to be brief. He died at the Hotel on 6th December 1889 at the age of 53 and was buried at the Roman Catholic cemetery in Rangiora. He left behind him eight children and his widowed wife Jane, who died at last on 17th July 1916.

For the next fifty years after the departure of Mr. Mumford the business changed hands frequently, averaging a new licensee every two years. Bryant held the license for eight years, to be followed in quick succession by Mr. Conway, Pat McSweeney, J W Clery, J O’Neil, Tim Twomey, Peter Keller, Elizabeth Keller and John Jackson in 1908. On 7 September  1909, Jackson was convicted of permitting gambling on his premises and was fined £5 and costs, but his punishment was much more dire than a mere fine. He also lost his license, which was that day transferred to Patrick Flood.

            It was somewhere about this time that the Grosvenor was extensively refurbished. Many of the old Hotels about town, for example the Carlton, the Zetland, the Prince of Wales and the Provincial, were in a very poor state of repair and, under threat of closure by the Licensing Board, were ordered to be either refurbished at great expense or torn down and built anew. Most were torn down and the Carlton, the Prince of Wales, the Clarendon etc. were recreated to classic designs by the great J C Maddison. Not so the Grosvenor. Its structure was too sound, and although its weatherboard cladding was deteriorating, it was in too good a condition to destroy. The Grosvenor was refurbished and clad in brick and stone.

The superstructure was of brick and the main door, and another on Moorhouse Avenue, were surrounded by segmented arches on pillars, and the single arch-topped windows with plain surrounds were finished with keystones. The cornice of Oamaru limestone was plastered and shaped with a metal former to create the crowning border while the parapet was of moulded brick. The ornamental wreath motifs between the corbels were added last. elegant, sturdy and simple, and to this day essentially unaltered (Wilson 1982 p86).


8:03. Of Drunkards and Hunchbacks.

            Drunks and the Police are problems in any hotel, and any publican can recite tales of inebriates and interfering Constables for hours on end. Few are the Publicans who escape at least a brush with the law at some stage of their careers, and Peter Keller, landlord from 1900 to 1907, was no different to anyone else.

            At about 11:30 p.m. on the evening of 3rd August 1900 Sergeant Rogers and Constable Trahey of the Christchurch Police walked quietly down Madras Street to the Grosvenor Hotel and listened carefully at the door. From within came the sound of conversation and the jingle of glassware (Lyttelton Times 22nd August 1900, p3). Watch in one hand, Sergeant Rogers banged peremptorily on the door with the other. Silence descended and a full three and a half minutes before the door was opened by Mr. Keller. The Policemen noticed a light in a room adjoining the bar, but did not look further, and informed Mr. Keller that he would be charged with failing to admit the Police without undue delay. At his trial in the Christchurch Magistrate’s Court, Mr. Keller, represented by his legal counsel Mr. Kippenberger, deposed that people would sometimes knock at the door and demand admission in the name of the Police in order to get into the bar after hours. Sometimes they assaulted the licensee, and Mr. Keller had thrown out two men earlier that evening for just such conduct. His Worship was not impressed, having heard almost exactly the same excuse from Alfred Prior of the Oxford Hotel less than an hour beforehand. “There must never be delay in admitting the Police” said his Worship severely. When there was, then the licensee must suffer!”. Defendant

 was fined 10/-.

One evening in late August of 1902 a certain Bridget Lane came into the Hotel, complete with parcels and purse, and demanded to be served. She was drunk and Mr. Keller, quite rightly and properly, refused to supply her with more alcohol and demanded that she be on her way. She appears to have refused as she had then to be forcibly ejected. This cavalier treatment incensed her to such a degree that she smashed one of Mr. Keller’s windows in her anger. That was too much for Mr. Keller. The Police were summoned, Bridget was arrested and on Monday 27th August 1902 she appeared in the dock of the Christchurch Magistrate’s Court before Messrs. N K Bowden J.P. and W I Ballinger J.P.

The charges were drunkenness and wilful damage. Bridget, sober now and thoroughly chastened, pleaded guilty. She explained that she had lost her parcels and her money somewhere along the way, which was a hard punishment in itself, and asked the Bench for leniency. On being questioned by the Bench, she confirmed that she was a married woman and that her husband was alive, matters of greatest importance which, together with the loss of her goods and the fact that she was a first offender, obviously inclined the bench to clemency. She was fined 5/- for being drunk and 5/- for breaking the window in default of one week’s imprisonment, and ordered to make reparation of £1-10-0d to Mr. Keller for the replacement cost of his window, (Lyttelton Times 28th August 1902, p3).

            Then there was Arthur Earnest Patterson, a hunchback who used to frequent the Grosvenor. One evening in 1925, on January 10th to be precise, he was in the bar, but unbeknownst to him or, indeed, to anyone else, the Hotel was under surveillance; Constables John Anderson and Edward J Rowe were watching events from the Railway Station. It was getting close to closing time, and at 5:40 p.m. the two limbs of the law decided that it would be good idea to have a look inside and see what was going on.

            Entering the Hotel, the policemen encountered Patterson just inside the public bar with half a beer in front of him and took the opinion that the man was drunk “Because he was fooling in the Hotel and was the joke of the bar” (Press 5th February 1925, p3). The constables duly arrested Patterson and took him away, to the jeers and taunts of the assembled patrons. Constable Anderson took Patterson outside, while Constable Rowe returned to the Hotel. He summoned the publican, Mr. Edwin Russell, for a word in the manager’s office and informed the latter that he would have to lay a charge against him of permitting drunkenness on the premises. Patterson was duly taken away and held in the lock-up until he was bailed out at 10:00 p.m. that night. He was convicted and fined the next morning.

            That was not the end of the matter of course, and on 4th February 1925 Mr. Russell, accompanied by his solicitor Mr. C S Thomas, appeared in the Christchurch Magistrate’s Court before Mr. Wyvern Wilson SM to answer a charge that, being the holder of a liquor license, he permitted drunkenness on his premises. The charge was read out and Mr. Russell, somewhat indignantly, pleaded not guilty.

Constables Anderson and Rowe gave their evidence and Mr. Thomas cross-examined his client. Mr. Russell pointed out that Patterson was a hunchback and was the butt of jokes in the bar. He had seen the man arrested but had not considered him to be drunk. In essence, the case came down to a choice between the police and the publican and Mr. Russell clearly felt that he had been victimised by the police because his patrons had embarrassed the two constables by their jeering. “If the crowd had not made a noise”, he said, “I don’t think that I would have been charged” (Press 5th February 1925 p3).

His Worship summed up and pointed out that he had one question to decide; was Patterson drunk? The items were: 1. Patterson was a “hunchback cripple” who was likely to become the butt of the jokes from a crowd in the bar. 2. The licensee had seen Patterson and was aware of his presence but did not deem him to be drunk. 3. The two constables, on entering the Hotel, had considered the man to be drunk and consequently had arrested him. 4. The bar had contained some 40 or 50 men at the time and the cripple’s mode of locomotion was different to that of others. It was His Worship’s belief that the weight of evidence indicated that Patterson had been drunk and that the publican knew that the hunchback had been on the premises. His judgement had been formed and it was simply a matter of deciding what punishment should be inflicted.

Taking the above items into considerations, His Worship convicted Mr. Russell as charged and fined him  40/- and costs.

8:04. The Green Hornet.

The 1940’s arrived. By that time the Second World War was in progress and Christchurch was host to thousands of young allied soldiers, mainly Americans, who arrived for periods of rest and recreation. The Grosvenor’s close proximity to the Railway Station meant that it was a first port of call for many servicemen in transit, and rumour has it that the first floor rooms were pressed into service as a brothel for the benefit of allied troops. The local lads, however, were not allowed the use of this facility, as it did not officially exist. The authorities could never let it be known that Our Gallant Allies would ever frequent such an establishment.

During the Fifties the hotel acquired the nickname of the “Green Hornet”, due to the vivid green colour of the building and the fact that it was the gathering place of a popular cricket team known as the Hornets, many of whom were connected with the railways. The links with the Railway Station continued, and in post-war years the Grosvenor was a favourite watering hole for the local railwaymen. Being shiftworkers, many of the regulars had their own keys to the front door and night shift workers, knocking off at 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning would let themselves in, serve themselves and leave the money on the bar. The admission fee for these men was a lump of coal, which was added to the heap by the fire. The pub had a reputation for such after – and before – hours trading during the forties and fifties, and was not above a bit of sly grogging besides.

One “coal admission” man was Herb “Robbie” Robinson. A confirmed bachelor who worked for the railway for many, many years, Robbie was in charge of a “permission box”, a railway signal box, in Matipo Street. He worked the night shift from midnight to 8:00 a.m. and when he knocked off work would mount his trusty bicycle, a sturdy machine with “sit-up-and-beg” handlebars and rod brakes, and pedal along to the Grosvenor, complete with a large lump of coal on his carrier. He reputedly knew the exact number of pushes on his bicycle (some 3,000 or more) that it took to travel from his signal box to the Hotel.

            Another contemporary was a certain Jock “Vinegar” Wilson, so named because of his very sour temperament. Jock, it seems, used to frequent both the Grosvenor and the Waltham Arms, and on one occasion won a beer raffle at the latter pub. Duly notified, he and a couple of his mates went to the Waltham Arms and there bought a beer while awaiting the delivery of the prize. The argument that followed involved the matter of lemonade and stout.

            Draught beer in the 1950’s cost 1d an ounce over the bar, 2/- (2 shillings – 24 pence) for three eight ounce glasses. It was the custom for publicans to have a bottle of stout and a bottle of lemonade on the bar for drinkers to add to their beer; some liked a little shandy, others liked to darken their beer with a dash of stout and others again drank their beer as it came from the tap. Those who preferred to add a little something of either would be served a slightly short measure to enable them to add a dash of whatever was to their taste. The Grosvenor, like most pubs, supplied this free of charge, making up the loss by the shortfall in the beer. Not so the Waltham Arms. The barman demanded another penny from Vinegar for the dash of stout that he tipped into his beer.

            Vinegar was incensed. He was angry. He told the barman in very explicit Anglo Saxon terms what he could do with his beer, left it on the bar untouched and stormed out to the carpark where he fumed until his friends joined him with his beer raffle prize. Vinegar was a man who bore a grudge and he never again drank at the Waltham Arms. The Waltham’s loss was the Grosvenor’s gain.

In the days of 6 o’clock closing there was a code of knocks to alert those who drank after hours. Three knocks would open the door just widely enough to admit another thirsty patron. A single knock, loud and peremptory had but one meaning; “Police! Open up!”. When the dreaded one knock was heard at the front door there was a sudden rush of patrons out of the bar, down the central corridor, out the back door – known as the “fire escape” – and up the outside stairs to the upper floor, where they would cower in tipsy silence until the long limb of the law was finally withdrawn. On one occasion the first person down the corridor, out the “fire escape” and up the stairs was an extremely overweight gentleman. He was able to dart down the corridor and out the door as nimbly as anyone else, but the outside stairs, alas, proved too narrow for his great girth. He became stuck half way up and his erstwhile drinking companions clambered straight over the top of him in their efforts to escape detection.

            By the 1960’s ownership of the Hotel was in the hands of the Cross family, who had for long been involved in the liquor trade. Mr J W Cross, the owner, was a son of Mr. Frederick Cross, founder of the wine and spirit merchants Frederick Cross and Sons Ltd. After Mr. Cross Jnr. died, the Hotel, along with the rest of his estate passed to his widow Mrs. L S Cross who died in 1970. The estate sold the freehold to Mr H J Kendall, former owner of the Lancaster Park Hotel, for close to $100,000 and his brother later came to the Hotel as licensee. Mr. Kendall had interests in several properties around Christchurch City and was a keen horse racing man; he returned to Christchurch from Australia briefly for the sale of the Grosvenor and then returned over the Tasman. His horse “Prince Mellay” was to race shortly and he was eager to be in attendance for the occasion.

            Mr. Kendall, being a property owner and investor rather than a publican, seems to have had rather grandiose plans for the Grosvenor and the history of the Hotel very nearly took a completely different turn in the early seventies.

            Christchurch had been accepted as the venue for the Commonwealth Games, the largest and most prestigious sporting event ever to take place in the City, and the local business community was concerned that there was, at that time, no high-rise hotel of an international standard in Christchurch. Several sites for the hotel were considered, one of them being the Grosvenor because of its proximity to the railway station. Such an enterprise involved money, large amounts of it, and the Christchurch business community felt that central government should assist in some way, preferably in the form of a cabinet approved government guarantee for second mortgage finance within the framework of the Tourist and Development Corporation. Feelings, and rhetoric, were strong. “Everyone agrees we need this hotel. Why haven’t we got it?” demanded Mr. L A Holland, president of the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce (Press 3rd June 1971, p18), at a meeting of the Chamber. “Because of departmental apathy and Ministerial indecision. Gentlemen, we have had enough!” A long telegram including three foolscap pages of “the vacillating statements of the Minister of Tourism (Mr. Walker) over the last year” was prepared for transmission to the Prime Minister.

            Mr. R E Smith said that proposals so far had been nothing more than lines of words on paper. ToDCo was waiting for private interests to take up the challenge without Government finance and was no more than a group of representatives of a Government department “and I don’t think that one needs to say more!” Officials had professed to be waiting for information that had been supplied to them nine months before and “tended to sit on their hands”. Mr. R C Dunn said that the reason the South Island could not finance the project was that so much South Island capital had been collected by national companies and the Government to put up major buildings in the North Island that none was left for use in Canterbury. “If we don’t get a decision on this,” he said “we will have to go it alone as the South Island States”. Mr. J M Tocker (immediate past president) said there had been nothing from the Minister of Tourism except smooth words. He was just looking for excuses to keep on doing nothing, and Mr. Tocker felt that “what we need is for the Minister to be really enthusiastic about his own home town!” A very strong telegram was sent to the Prime Minister, Sir Keith Holyoake, detailing the concerns. Mr. Holland telephoned the Prime Minister after the following week’s Cabinet meeting, to inform him that “if no concrete good news was available” by then, the Chamber would “take further action”. What that might have been is unspecified but clearly his bluff was effectively called and the focus of interest shifted from Moorhouse Avenue and the Grosvenor Hotel to Colombo Street and the northern part of the City. The Grosvenor continued on its own quiet way.

An interesting architectural feature of the Hotel is the curve in the line of the main roof which is clearly visible to those approaching the hotel from Gasson Street. This idiosyncrasy is not intentional. In 1974 New Zealand Breweries, in the on-going battle with Dominion Breweries for domination of retail liquor outlets, had acquired the Hotel from Mr. Kendall and embarked upon a programme of renovations. Marriott Builders were contracted to make the substantial alterations to the interior of the Hotel. This involved a major refit in which the old public bar on the south-west corner of the building and the ladies’ bar (known, for some forgotten reason as the “Snooks’ Bar”), which occupied the area now dominated by the dartboard, were joined together. The old hallway was refitted as the lounge bar, the old circular bar in the public room was replaced by a wall bar and the old corner door was closed off amongst other modifications.

The enlargement of the room to create the present public bar necessitated the removal of an internal wall. The wall was duly demolished, but to the dismay of the workmen they realised, a little too late, that what they had assumed to be a mere partition was actually a load-bearing wall and the whole building began to sag in the middle. The hasty insertion of a large beam prevented the actual collapse of the building, but nevertheless the episode has left a permanent mark. Another novel structural feature is the parabolic floor of the public bar, one corner of which, by the dart board, is some eight inches lower than the highest point at the other end of the room. Thus the bar is the scene of many darts matches, but indoor bowls has never been popular. Slow subsidence has meant that there is not a level floor in the entire building.

            Refurbishment was very necessary as the old brick walls were unstable and required steel bracing, and the wooden internal piles had rotted. Thanks to the heavy timber framing, however, the building was in surprisingly good condition, and the internal framing was sound, as was the floor which was attached to the framing. The terra cotta roof tiles were also sound and intact, except for those that had suffered destructive handling on the part of the builders. Mr. Farr’s design was most robust, and subsequent defects may be better attributed to the builders’ over fast work than to his sturdy plans.

8:05. G Block.

            The Grosvenor was purchased by Mr. Frank Hartley in 1990 and remains his property to this day. A standard nine year lease was taken up in October of 1993 by John and Jane Renall. John, a qualified accountant and rugby enthusiast, began life on a Wairarapa dairy farm, while Jane hails from Upper Hutt. It is their first foray into the turbulent but entertaining world of “The Trade”, and John has entered into the spirit of things to the extent that he commissioned, in 1996, his own brand of beer. The Grosvenor Tavern is now the only pub in the known universe to offer for the delectation of the patrons “JR’s Original”, a brew prepared to the publican’s own secret recipe by a local brewer whose identity Mr. Renall refuses to divulge. Like Mr. Renall himself, “JR’s Original” is a hearty, robust brew with a good head.

The Grosvenor, from its very beginning, was an unpretentious pub. It never had the grandiose aspirations of such establishments as the Terminus, the Clarendon or Warner’s. It is, and always has been, a working man’s pub, serving the needs of the railway workers and the travelling public of humbler means. Nowadays its role has changed due to changing circumstances. The transfer of the Christchurch Railway Station to Addington Saleyards means that not only have the railway workers gone, so has the travelling public. The seven bedrooms were patronised by railway staff until at least the 1980’s, but the transfer of NZ Rail into private hands, and the cost-cutting that was subsequently involved mean that revenue from accommodation has vanished.

That is not to say that the Railway connection has been severed, and indeed the Grosvenor is looked upon as something of a shrine to the railway fraternity. In April of 1996 a memorial stone to railwaymen who had been killed on the job was unveiled at the old Christchurch Railway Station (now the Hoyts – Science Alive complex), and the function following the ceremony was held at the Grosvenor. Former trade unionist Murray Horton was present and “greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of the union ‘do’ put on after the function in the Grosvenor Hotel, still the railway workers’ pub of choice, and one of the last of the City pubs not to have been ‘yuppified’ and turned into a phoney baloney theme bar” (Political Review, Sept/Oct 1996, p19).

But all hotels evolve, all clienteles change and all is not lost. Being very handy to the Christchurch Polytechnic, the Grosvenor has understandably become a popular venue for the local students. The Polytech has a habit of designating its various sub-areas as Blocks defined by a letter of the alphabet, for example A Block, B Block and so on. Should you happen to hear a group of students mentioning that they are hurrying off to G Block, do not be too admiring of their academic diligence; they are actually shooting down to the Grosvenor!

8:06: Closing the File.

            On 12th August 2001 John Renall closed the doors on the Grosvenor Hotel. He had had enough. Business was declining more and more, and it was becoming increasingly hard to cope. If he and Jane had remained together it might, perhaps have been a different story, but that was not to be. The time had come to make a decision, and it was made. There was a huge gathering, the bar was full. We drank to the memory of Mr. Mumford and his many descendants. At 11:00 a.m on 21st August the auctioneer took over and all the effects and memorabilia of the Hotel were sold off.

            The file on the Grosvenor Hotel is now closed.


  • Elizabeth Luckey (nee Walters)  On 05/03/2019 at 16:24

    My grandparents were proprietors of the Grosvenor Hotel in the 1940/50s and my mother Betty Stafford Walters (nee Smith), grew up in the hotel as a child. I’m sad there is no mention of my grandparents in the above account.

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