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Monday, 7 November 2011

Avonside Holy Trinity - all gone

On Wednesday the last of the rubble was removed from the site of Holy Trinity Avonside. Apart from some protection to the columbarium the fences are gone and the whole place open again. On the south side of where the church once was are graves that haven't seen the sun for many decades. For now they are basking in daylight and surrounded by exuberant shrubs, flowers and grasses. Nothing like an old overgrown cemetery to feel the age of a place.

A church has been on this site since 1857, longer than there has been a cathedral in the Square. The land in Avonside (named after the church - Avonside Holy Trinity) is one of the oldest areas of settlement in Christchurch. One of the first rural areas (!) in Canterbury it became the second suburb to the city after Heathcote. Just as the inner city is losing most of its heritage buildings, Christchurch is also losing almost the entirety of one of its heritage suburbs.

In all the discussion and noise about iconic buildings in the city centre, somehow the crowd has forgotten that Avonside is an iconic suburb. Incorporating houses ranging in age from more than 100 years, to just a few years, there is a parade of styles that well illustrates how house designs changed in the pre-earthquake lifetime of Christchurch. From a modern gated community, through infill housing and the kiwiana quarter acre section the suburb has the lot. There was a cottage school that became Avonside Girls High School, and some streets of social housing that accommodated those who couldn't afford the kiwi dream. There is even a kitset house shipped out from Britain in 1906.

Not much is likely to remain by the time the deconstructors are finished, and something tangible needs to stay. It seems imperative to keep the Church here, an anchor for those who experience the Red Zone turmoil, and for those who remain. Holy Trinity Avonside has been a help in the aftermath and probably more relevant and needed than it has been for a long time. That at least should be protected.

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