Book pays homage to Christchurch\’s lost chimneys


A tribute to Christchurch, New Zealand’s lost chimneys and a celebration of those that have survived the forces of nature has been compiled by UC historian Professor Geoff Rice.

In his latest book All Fall Down: Christchurch’s Lost Chimneys, published this month by Canterbury University Press, Professor Rice looks at the chimneys that have adorned the city’s skyline since 1850 – from the domestic to the commercial and the industrial.

It also considers the history of the European chimney from its first appearance in the medieval period to its modern day equivalent, “developing a thread of heritage history that hasn’t done before”.

Having collected material for a chimney book for some years, Professor Rice, who is Professor of History at the University of Canterbury, was spurred into action by the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake which destroyed much of the city’s chimney heritage. The February 2011 earthquake destroyed even more.

“After the September earthquake I photographed a lot of brick chimneys in my neighbourhood that had been shaken apart and I thought I should get on with that book. But, after 22 February, most of the chimneys I’d photographed were completely gone, so for me it became a record of things that no longer exist, a memento of the earthquakes and the chimneys that have gone.”

While noting the quirky and the unusual, All Fall Down also documents the typical styles of successive stylistic periods, from late Victorian to Art Deco, and the latest versions on new houses. It also looks at a style of chimney pot, the Homebush pot, produced in Glentunnel between 1880 and 1890 and distinctive to the Canterbury region.

Professor Rice said his fascination with chimneys and chimney pots stemmed from his childhood in the smoggy Christchurch of the 1950s, and was furthered by his interest in medieval and Tudor buildings. Later on, his research on eighteenth-century England, where chimneys were status symbols and a display of wealth, and his travels around Europe, added to this interest.

Professor Rice’s previous works include Black November, an account of the 1918 influenza pandemic in New Zealand, as well as the illustrated histories Christchurch Changing and Lyttelton, Port and Town. He has also written a two-volume biography of British diplomat and statesman William Nassau de Zuylestein (1717–81) called The Life of the Fourth Earl of Rochford (1717-1781): Eighteenth-Century Anglo-Dutch Courtier, Diplomat and Statesman, which was published by Edwin Mellen Press in 2010.