The Great Hall (1882)

The stunning Great Hall has been extensively strengthened, repaired and restored, although most of this work is intentionally hidden beneath its beautiful heritage fabric.

The post-earthquake restoration of the Great Hall and adjacent Clock Tower won a Merit Award in the UNESCO Asia‐Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in late 2017.

In June 2016, the meticulous care that went into its restoration was recognised in the Canterbury Heritage Awards, with it taking out both the Supreme and Seismic awards.

History and heritage

Because classroom space was in short supply, a hall was considered a luxury for Canterbury College (now the University of Canterbury). The Great Hall opened to both acclaim and controversy on Diploma Day 1882.

In its early years, it housed the college’s small library and was used for public lectures and formal graduation ceremonies. Over time, the university allowed greater use of the hall for events such as music recitals, student dances and society gatherings. Prior to the earthquakes, as it does again now, the hall held a wide range of events and performances year-round.

The Great Hall closed after it was significantly damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, as with most other heritage buildings across the Arts Centre te Matatiki Toi Ora. It reopened to the public in June 2016.

The hall strongly reflects local heritage and culture. It makes rich use of native timbers, with kauri and rimu panelling, along with rewarewa, totara and matai lozenges.

It provides space for memorial plaques and icons, the first of which was dedicated to Helen Connon, the first woman to graduate from university with honours in the British Empire.

A special feature of the building is the Memorial Window designed by Martin Travers and originally installed in 1938. It comprises of 4,000 individual pieces of glass. In 2016, when the hall was reopened, the restored window was rededicated to the memory of all staff and students who served in World War I.

The Great Hall contains the cremation ashes of Professor Bickerton, commemorated by a memorial plaque.



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