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Sport and Recreation

20 November 2023

The first student club blossomed at Canterbury College as early as 1879, when the Dialectic Society held ‘Olla Podrida’, or miscellany evenings and debates. Many clubs were soon established as space and interest directed.

By 1929 the student activities being reported on in the College magazine included the Student Union, revue, Easter tournament, football club, rowing club, athletic club, tennis club, women’s hockey, men’s hockey, scientific society, misogynists club, photographic society, dialectic society, women’s club, men’s SCM, and the boxing club.

Space for playing sports was always at a premium on the town site. L.M. Kissel recalled in 1902 that Boys’ High pupils were very excited when the College brought a row of vacant sections fronting onto Hereford Street, and the area was leveled and sown to provide a cricket pitch for the boys. The willow trees on the site were cut down to make room for cadets to drill.

Students who represented the College in a sport were given badges or caps as a sign of their status. This jacket pocket comes from the collection of Henry Askew.

The College students had their tennis court to the east of the Clock Tower, and it was well used by the Lawn Tennis Club, which was founded prior to 1880. They described the court as a ‘nice green space’ but ‘neither smooth nor level.' Fortunately nearby Hagley offered some space. The Athletics Club, formed in 1898, would take training runs along Park Terrace. A record time was set one evening when the runners were shot at. Up until 1919 the club also used Lancaster Park for training, but during WWI it was sown with potatoes, so the club was forced to move.

Canterbury College Tennis Team at Wellington, 1900.

Sports teams and clubs held concerts and events at College to raise funds, many making use of the Great Hall and adding to the life on campus. Club teams initially included College students, as well as Boys' High students, and College graduates, who often continued to play an active part in the life of the College. It is also very clear from the various histories of clubs at Canterbury that there was a strong connection between staff and students, especially in the first 50 years of the College. Staff sponsored prizes and attended events to show their support. Many staff were on the committees for clubs, and some even participated in the activities.

For example Professor of Classics Francis Haslam, aged a stately 35, played in the very first football game at College in 1883. His participation was however, limited. In 1886 Haslam wrote to the Captain before the match against Christ’s College “My Dear von Haast, It’s no good my attempting to play tomorrow. This change in the weather has pretty well done for me. I should only make a fool of myself and perhaps lose the game for us…”

For those not keen on active sports, there were other forms of activity. O.T.J. Alpers relates that “we had our boating on the Avon, classic-named; there were shady walks among the willows on its banks where we sauntered two and two, while we lovingly coloured our meerschaum pipes, and dreamed our dreams, and talked of Cicero ‘On Friendship’."

A view of the Boys' High School showing the Fives Courts next to the Gymnasium.
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