Visit the Aigantighe Art Gallery
For a start you would surely be interested to know how to pronounce Aigantighe, am I right?
Well, it is: “Egg and Tie”.
The word is Scottish Gaelic and means: at home.
The Scottish name of this Edwardian house refers to the first owners who were born in Scotland and made Timaru their new home. Aigantighe was built in 1908 as the retirement home of Alexander Grant (1832 – 1921) and his wife Helen Grant (1854 – 1955). They had farmed Grey’s Hills Station in the Mackenzie Country, and as you can see from their dates, Helen Grant reached the holy age of 101 years until she died at Aigantighe.
Alexander and Helen Grant already had wished that Aigantighe was gifted to Timaru as an art gallery, and their artist daughter, Jessie Wigley (1880 – 1968) supported the plan. Their son James Grant (1879 – 1969) who had inherited the house finally gave it to the city, and the art gallery was formally opened in 1956.
The building you see today had a wing added in 1978. A sculpture garden (see extra tip) was installed on the property in 1990.
Before Aigantighe opened, paintings donated by citizens and collected by the South Canterbury Art Society, had been displayed in the public library. The Grant family also had quite an impressive collection which was then added to the exhibits. The Aigantighe Art Gallery’s Holdings aquired more works, and now the gallery has the third-largest public art museum collection in the South Island, after Christchurch and Dunedin.
The artworks you can see date from the 15th century. But the gallery also features contemporary artists. When I was there in May 2009, they had an impressive exhibition of modern artists, with the donations going to Plunket New Zealand.
In the permanent exhibition rooms of the two-storey building you find some paintings of the famous NZ artists Frances Hodgkins, Colin McCahon, and Charles Frederick Goldie. I love Hodgkins’ watercolours, the ones in the gallery are some smallish examples which do not reflect her fantastic work. The McCahons are some of the examples I even like – I do not like his phase when he wrote more words onto the canvas than really painted the way I would consider it a painting… Well, hubby loves it, so as a family we represent the whole spectrum ;-)
So, to me, the Goldies are the absolute highlights. If you have not heard of this artist who lived from 1870 to 1947, he is famous for his Maori portraits. He painted the faces of heavily tattooed Maori chiefs and women with mokos on their chins in such a realistic way, with really touching facial expressions, that even I who am more into impressionism and expressionism absolutely loves those paintings.
Not only the exhibitions are well worth a visit, the house itself is beautiful. From the exterior it looks strangely modern with heritage features. But the inside is incredibly precious, starting with the fantastic polished timber floors to the stunning stained glass windows.
A rough guide for a visit: In the Rough Guide New Zealand they write you can spend an afternoon at the art gallery and the sculpture garden. Well, I think this is exaggerated, unless you plan to have a several hours picnic in the garden… The paintings and the few sculptures are exhibited in about eight normal sized rooms, and even if you read every sticker on the walls, a visit will not take you much longer than 30 to 45 minutes.
Entry free, donations welcome, like everywhere.
Closed on Mondays, 25 and 26 December and 1 January.
Open Tue – Fri 10am – 4pm
Weekends 12noon – 4pm
Photographing not allowed inside the gallery.
Photo 2 shows the main entrance of the gallery.
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- Arts and Culture
Down in the park area, adjacent to the botanical gardens is the Timaru Aviary.
It is a small domed enclosure with many exotic birds. There may be some local New Zealand birds, but most are imported. There are parrots, wood birds, ducks, egrets, etc.
The fenced enclosure has some segregated cages to isolate some birds, yet many are free flying in the larger open area. All that is asked is required when you enter is that you only open one door at a time to prevent any escapees.
The cost is free to enter and only requires a few minutes of your time.
Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden, Timaru's Pride
This is Timaru’s biggest pride, located at the foot of the Timaru Piazza, just a stonethrow from the shores of Caroline Bay. From the Piazza on Bay Hill you have a great aerial view of the garden which has been architecturally designed by Sir Miles Warren, and has strictly geometrical shapes. It features nearly 1200 roses, arbors, a lych gate, gazebo, a central pergola, a pool, and a fountain. You find a representative plant from every main rose family in the world. The old Roses are planted in a sequence of colours: soft, mid and deep pink, burgundy, crimson, cream, white, peach, apricot, yellow, golden yellow.
The name-sake Trevor Griffiths was a renowned South Canterbury rosarian and author whose collection of genuine old roses once was the third largest in the world. It comprised about 600 roses. Another 600 modern roses from English breeder David Austin were added to the garden which was opened on 10 December 2001.
Trevor Griffiths, born in 1928, was already fascinated by roses as a young boy. From the age of eight years when his mother took him to a florist shop he spent more than 50 years creating his fantastic collection of old roses in his nursery near the neighbouring township of Temuka. He wrote several books about roses. The National Rose Society of New Zealand says without Trevor Griffiths many old roses would be extinct. David Austin honoured him by naming a dusky pink bloom after him.
Update 2 March 2010
Trevor Griffiths died last week, aged 82. (In our paper they wrote he was 83 - but I wonder how this should be if he was born in 1928.)
Photo 2 gives an unobstructed aerial view of the Rose Garden.
You can Dine at the Old Customs House
The Old Customs House is quite a spectacular building, some steps from the main road where you would not necessarily walk to. Its Corinthian style architecture and its striking white colour with light blue pillars and columns make it a standout landmark.
From the Visitor Centre (i-site) in the former Landing Service Building you would just walk down Station Street, along the railway line, and would soon spot it on the left side of the street, at the corner with Strahallan Street.
It was built in 1902, and today is used as a restaurant (Steak @ Customs House).
It is quite a fine dining restaurant.
Contact details of Steak @ Customs House:
2 Strathallan Street, Timaru 7910
Ph +64 3 684 5528
Fax +64 3 688 7103
Photo 2 shows the front of the building and the entrance of the restaurant.
- Food and Dining
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The new Phar Lap Memorial at the Raceway
On 25 and 26 November 2009 Timaru celebrated a Phar Lap Festival, honouring New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) most famous racehorse ever. The highlight was the unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue at Phar Lap Raceway north of the township.
The statue was created by Auckland based sculptor Joanne Sullivan-Gessler.
The life-sized bronze sculpture shows the horse in full gallop, ridden by jockey Jim Pike and demonstrating his famous 22-foot gallop stride. The horse gallops over a map of New Zealand with his front hoof placed squarely over Timaru, reminding the world once and forever that he was born and bred in South Canterbury (in 1926). The base of the statue is a water fountain which – so the words of the sculptor – brings the statue to life with the sound of water designed to emulate galloping hoof beats.
Phar Lap was considered a wonder horse that dominated Australia’s racing scene in the late 1920’s/early 1930’s with 36 wins from his last 41 starts. After winning North America’s richest race, the Agua Caliente Handicap in 1932, he died under suspicious circumstances just two weeks later.
A white statue of Phar Lap has been standing at the corner of the property where he was born for many years. This memorial is 5 km from SH 1. You find Phar Lap’s full story in my tip about the white sculpture in the rural suburb of Seadown I had written earlier. Lately I have posted a story about the road that leads to/from this more or less hidden memorial – it is a brilliant example of hilarious Kiwi humour.
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TIMARU VISTOR CENTRE & CAPTAIN CAIN
As usual, we found the Information centre before heading out and having a look at Timaru.
The Tourist Information Centre is the restored stone Service Landing Building, which has a small maritime museum inside. The staff helped us out, sold us some souvenirs, and then we had a look at the beautifully done sculpture of Captain Henry Cain, an important figure in local history who settled in Timaru in 1857.
There is quite a story to this man. He went to sea at the very young age of 13, became a wealthy trader with interests and property in California and Melbourne. In 1851, he arrived in New Zealand aboard the schooner Pauline, which he owned, and settled in Timaru in 1857, opening the first landing service in1859. He owned stores in Cain's Terrace, became the Town Mayor and harbour pilot.
In 1886 he was murdered by poison and was buried in the Timaru Cemetery.
Quite a life!
Cain's son-in-law Thomas Hall was convicted of Cain’s murder by poisoning in 1887, and also of the attempted murder of his wife, Cain’s daughter Kate. At the time of his conviction the judge described Hall as being "The vilest criminal every tried in New Zealand".
- Museum Visits
TREVOR GRIFFITH'S ROSE GARDEN
I love gardening, and I love my Roses, and here at Timaru, there is the beautiful Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden on Caroline Bay.
Located by Timaru Piazza, this Rose garden has 1,200 roses set out in a well designed garden. The gardens are said to have a representative plant from every main rose family in the world!
A big walkway of many steps leads down to this garden, which has pools and fountains, and Rose Arbours, they seem to grow so well here!
Timaru has had a long history with the rose with its temperate climate, soil conditions and sheltered aspect making it the perfect environment for growing the Roses. The Timaru Botanic Gardens also house a large rose collection, and anywhere in Timaru, they seem to be found.
You do not have to walk the steps, you can drive your car down to the bottom to where the rose garden is located.
In November of each year, the Rose Festival is held.
Stroll through the Botanic Gardens
I felt a bit like in Little Christchurch when walking through Timaru’s Botanic Gardens. Little Christchurch, because so many features reminded me of the Gardens of the big city, the nice lawns to stroll around, duck ponds, a beautiful rose garden, large mature trees, a herb and native garden. And still, Timaru’s Botanical Gardens are different, and unique, despite being much smaller than the Gardens in Christchurch.
A very nice feature is the hilly area where it is located at the southern end of Timaru on SH 1. If you enter from the southern end at the corner of SH 1 (Craigie Ave), King Street and Domain Avenue, and walk just some steps through a formal garden with a simple reddish stone monument (dedicated to the former Governor W.F.D. Jervois), you get a fantastic view of the Southern Alps. This was the more spectacular on my last visit when the mountains were snow-capped and looked incredibly close. (Well, they are very close!)
Just some steps away you find an aviary which features exotic birds rather than natives, budgies, canaries, and quite a lot of Aussie parrots, parakeets and cockatoos, including a sulphur-crested cockatoo who talked to me. (And I talked back, of course ;-)
The Anderson Rose Garden (named after the former Curator of Reserves, Walter Anderson) has a geometrical design. It is circular, the rose beds also circular, and enclosed by low buxus hedges, and circular paths between the enclosed rose beds. So it looks a bit like a maize – just you do not get lost in it, and all circles are regular, some paths cutting through the circle lines, radiating from the centre to the outer buxus border. So you can walk around in circles and admire the roses, some of which were still blooming after the first winter storms.
In the centre of the Rose Garden you find a fountain which looks like a small and less colourful copy of Christchurch’s Peacock Fountain (which there you find near the main entrance of the Gardens, beside Canterbury Museum).
Walk out of the Rose Garden, you get into a tiny kind of secret garden, very lovely, and right next to that a statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns who is even honoured here in South Canterbury. You find a bigger and more prominent Burns statue at the Octagon in Dunedin, the centre of Scottish heritage in New Zealand.
Adjacent to the other side of the Rose Garden is the Graeme Paterson Conservatory and Fernery. Just some steps from there, along Queen Street, is Timaru’s Cenotaph War Memorial and a War Memorial Wall which lists all the fallen from the wars. Queen Street would lead straight to Timaru’s Hospital which sits at the north-east corner of the Botanic Gardens.
I walked along a path past the beautiful Education Centre. It is a small hexagonal heritage building which looks rather romantic under the high trees.
Then I just crossed the lawns to the native plants and trees, and down to the two Duck Ponds. Do not forget to take some bread if you want to feed them. You can cross the Lower Duck Pond on a small Japanese-inspired wooden bridge, reflected in the still waters of the pond, as well as a band rotunda.
I especially liked the many signs on and under the trees, giving me the opportunity to finally identify a Mediterranean tree named Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) which you find quite a lot in New Zealand. If you see their fruit you understand their name.
Further featured areas in the Gardens are azaleas, rhododendrons, a species rose garden, the so-called Queen Victoria Sunken Garden, a bowling green, and a small children’s playground. You can walk on several named trails.
Limited opening hours of the conservatory and the Education Centre.
Graeme Paterson Conservatory and Fernery:
Open Monday – Friday, 10am - 4pm
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 2pm - 4pm
Botanic Gardens Education Centre
Open Wednesday and Sunday 2pm - 4pm
The main entrance is on Queen Street. This is accessible by car.
There is also an entrance on Domain Avenue, but there is no vehicular access. But there is plenty of parking space along the very wide Domain Avenue.
However, you do not have to bother about entrances, as you can walk into the Gardens from just everywhere.
If you come to Timaru from the south, just take a right turn towards the city centre (sign-posted), instead of keeping left on SH 1.
If you come from the north, stay on SH 1. Near the end of the township you see the Gardens to your left.
From the town centre of Timaru it is quite a long way to the Gardens, if you consider walking. From Bay Hill (Piazza) it easily takes you half an hour. The distance is about 2.5 kilometres.
More information at the i-site in George Street (Landing Building), phone (03) 688 6163. Nice map and info text on the South Island website, see below.
See travelogues for more photos of the Botanic Gardens.
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This rather new scultpure stands in a small grassy patch at the corner of Stafford Street & The Terrace/Port Loop Road, just off the Piazza.
It was unveiled on 26 November 2008.
The artist was Debbie Templeton Page, a Tasmanian-born artist who has been living in Timaru for quite some years now. She works from her studio in York Street.
The sculpture was donated to the City of Timaru by a law firm, in celebration of the 125th anniversary of Raymond Sullivan McGlashan (RSMLaw) that was established in 1883.
- Arts and Culture
Bob Fitzsimmons, Timaru's Sports Hero
Bob Fitzsimmons who lived from 1863 to 1917 was well loved by the people of Timaru, as he was the biggest sports hero Timaru probably has ever had.
However, this statue looks bigger in my photo than it really is. It even is rather tiny, compared to all the Queen Victorias you find in NZ ;-) It stands at Strathhallan Corner, not far from the public toilets, along the main shopping street (corner Stafford & Strathallan Streets), so you should not miss it ;-)
“Fitz”, as they called him, was World Boxing Champion in Middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight. He was born in England but grew up in Timaru where he learnt to box.
In 1891 he became World Middleweight Champion – and this was long before all those many boxing federations came up that make it nearly impossible to know who is the champion in which class of which federation.
In 1897, at the age of 34, he knocked out Gentleman Boxer Jim Corbett in Carson City, USA, making him Heavyweight Champion of the World, the most valuable title you can win in boxing.
In 1903, now already 40 years old, Fitzsimmons won the light-heavyweight title to become the first man ever to win three different world championship divisions.
The statue was commissioned by Bob Jones and donated to the City of Timaru. It was sculpted by Margriet Windhausen van den Bergh from Invercargill and formally unveiled by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, David Lange, on 5 September 1987.
I would want to add, as nice as the body is sculpted, I have never seen a boxer pose like this ;-) Must be a pose of the good old days.
On photo 2 you see Strahallan Corner and the nearly invisible statue in the background.
- Arts and Culture
The Sculpture Garden at Aigantighe Gallery
The Sculpture Garden is on the property of the Aigantighe Art Gallery in Wai-iti Street. The sculptures were all created during an International Stone Carving Symposium in Maugati in South Canterbury in February 1990. It was part of the Aoraki Festival. The sculptures were then donated to the nation, and the artists chose the Aigantighe Garden as the site for their safekeeping.
Most artists were from New Zealand, including Maori stone carvers, and from Zimbabwe, but also one from Japan. Interestingly enough I felt most attracted by the works of the sculptors from Zimbabwe. But I thought all the artworks were great, not that you get me wrong.
The only negative thing I would say about the garden is that there was no guide to the garden available at the gate or in the gallery. It would have helped to have the information at hand, standing in front of the sculptures and trying to learn more about them and their creators. You can only find the names of the artists and artworks on site, and there is one big poster at the entrance. On that even every tree species in the garden is explained. The information was not even posted on the internet, so you could not just download the brochure and print it out for a more efficient walk in the garden. I asked in the gallery, and the guy at the counter thought it would be a good idea to have copies of the poster but nobody had ever thought of it. Let’s see if this attitude will ever change. I think more people than just me would appreciate it.
The stone used for the sculptures is Mt. Somers stone. Mt. Somers is a mountain along scenic highway 72, not far from the Rakaia Gorge and Methven. Some sculptures in the garden are made of bronze, like “Adolescence” by Muriel Moody, and of steel plate and golf leaf, used by Philippa Wilson.
Five of the artists had already died by 2009:
Muriel Moody, New Zealand (1908 – 1992)
Buck Nin, New Zealand (1942 – 1996)
Bernard Takawira, Zimbabwe (1948 – 1997)
Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Zimbabwe (1940 – 2002)
John Bevan Ford, New Zealand (1930 – 2005)
My photo shows The Baboon by Nicholas Mukomberanwa.
More sculptures and photos, including information about the artists, in one of the travelogues.
- Arts and Culture
The Basilica Dominates the South
The two most prominent churches of Timaru are totally different: St. Mary's Anglican Church (near the city centre - see extra tip) is a perfect example of the English Gothic revival style, whereas the Catholic Basilica of the Sacred Heart (a little further away on Craigie Ave) is a majestic Roman style building with twin towers and a massive dome.
The Basilica dominates the southern aspect of the city. The outside is cheerfully colourful, made of white stone and red brick, and topped by metallic green copper rooves. Within are an array of fine stained glass and a noteworthy altar that is made of different kinds of stone.
The foundation stone was laid on 6 February 1910 and was blessed in October 1911.
Update 1 June 2009
Last week - on an early Friday afternoon - I tried to have a look inside the Basilica but did not succeed. All doors were closed, and there were many, as I could find out when I ran around the church. The parish office at the rear of the building was closed as well. But there were signs at nearly every door, saying that security cameras were installed. I hope they have recorded my desperate attempt to get inside the Basilica ;-) There was no sign about opening hours, just about the times when mass takes place, and this is several times a week. Plus they are open for weddings on Saturday afternoons, for example. We once arrived there during such an occasion.
- Religious Travel
South Canterbury Museum
The octaganal museum is located in Perth Street, Timaru. It has a good display of Wildlife, Maori and European history, Maritime history, and Richard Pearse.
Richard Pearse was a pioneer aviator, a genius! Only a few neighbours in 1903 & 1904 watched him take-off in his home built flying machine, only to land a short distance later in a gorse hedge. He built his 1st aircraft on his farm out of scrap metal, using hand made tools. To this very day, doubt is over whether this shy young farmer achieved powered flight, just before or after the Wright Brothers. He did his without any financial backing, The Wrights had backing. He died a recluse in 1953, said to be A GENIUS UNRECOGNISED. A replica of his flying machine is in the museum.
Entry to the Museum is FREE.
- Museum Visits
'PHAR LAP' is an icon in Australia, the Horse that everybody loved, young or old, you love to hear the story of the unbeatable Phar Lap and his very sad ending to his incredible life's journey. Phar Lap was born on 4/10/1926 at the stud farm at Seadown, near Timaru. On the 24/1/1928, he was sold at the yearling sales in Wellington and this is how he came to Sydney, Australia. Phar Lap had 51 starts for 37 wins and 5 placings, 9 unplaced starts, this was when he was a 3year old. The only other unplaced start, was his last, in the 1931 Melbourne Cup, where he had to carry an enormous weight, (68KG) too much for the Champion. IT WAS THE HEAVIEST WEIGHT EVER CARRIED IN THE HISTORY OF THE RACE. Phar Lap only had one more race, and that was in America, where he beat a top field easily. Phar Lap passed away of a mystery illness on 5/4/1932. His Heart was extra large. The name Phar Lap is Thai for 'LIGHTNING" On the corner of the property that he was born, is a stone carving of the Mighty Phar Lap. The road is signposted, but its probably best to ask at the info centre for directions.
- Road Trip
Theatre Royal - Concerts, Drama & You if you Want
This is not only a beautiful heritage building but also Timaru’s major place for all kinds of drama and performing arts. It is also popular with touring shows and concerts.
The auditorium can seat up to 1000 people. It is located in 118 Stafford Street which is Timaru’s main business and shopping street.
The Theatre Royal was once said to be New Zealand’s most ornate building. It was reconverted into a theatre in 1877 by Maurice Duval. In 1992/93 it was upgraded. Barry Bracefield Consultancy designed the new foyer.
If you want to present your art to the world you can also hire the venue. Contact the Timaru District Council in this case:
2 King George Place, PO Box 522, Timaru 7940
Phone (03) 687 7200
For events taking place in the Theatre Royal you get tickets at Merlins/Ticketek Timaru, phone (03) 688 4160. This is located inside the Movie Max 5 at the corner of Sophia and Canon Streets.
Merlins open Mon – Fri 11am – 5pm, Sat 11am – 1pm
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