Antonio Hall, CHCH - Photoshots - the web folio of Tony Stewart.

Antonio Hall, CHCH

There may be some readers of my blog who have spotted a bit of a theme, along the meandering journey that my blog has taken over the last five or so years. I think it is probably fair to say that photography is something I truly enjoy. That said, only a very small selection of my commercial and professional work ever gets displayed here. In part out of respect to my clients, their privacy and their sensitivities. In part, from being fairly busy and the time it takes to do so. But also, not everything can be shared, and probably nor should it. If too I am to be totally honest, like a lot of photographer’s work, there may not be a lot that is unusual or significantly different to share on a day to day basis.

Yet from many a seminar and forum, & listening to those more seasoned than myself, I have learnt the value of exploration for challenging one’s creativity. Repeatedly speakers have recalled the benefit in establishing personal projects. (One of which I have shared last week with photos from Quail Is.) But it is more than that I guess. I have been increasingly drawn into a blend of photography & history. It has taken myself some time to actually realise that I must add, as it evolved without my conscious appreciation initially. It is not historical photos as such, as much photos with a historical context. Maybe it was the CHCH earthquakes, and the rich legacy we have been left by those with significant foresight to record the city in its ‘normality’. The likes of David Cook and Doc Ross. At the time, it may have just just seemed a bit mundane to bother.

Yet the value is not truly apparent till something is lost. Thinking of it, the same can also be said of family portraiture. Only after someone passes, do we perhaps realise what we always had, but now miss, and that perhaps never took the opportunity to record that when we should have. Sadly, as a photographer it is a common refrain we often hear.

But to be honest, the link between history and photography was happening well before the CHCH Quakes, so I can’t really attribute it to that. I visited the Seaview Mental Institution in Hokitika some years back and won Gold at the Professional Photography Awards the following year with an image. Maybe it was that!

Though the idea of old abandoned buildings, with an air of mystery has a certain fascination to me. An element of intrigue of who lived there, what went on, what life was like, & how these facilities were embedded in the fabric of a community. The idea of exploring ruined buildings and places of historical interest does intrigue me. Maybe it was international travel, having been to the likes of Auschwitz, Ypres, Masada, Lalibela … (The most spine tingling place I have to say was Terezin Concentration Camp & Old city in Czech). Maybe finding bones in the soil walking alone in the hills at Gallipolli. Perhaps having lived in France, in Scotland…..

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1) Hanging out in Ethiopia with a destroyed tank

2) Me & German V2 Launch site only a couple of km from home in Normandy, France             

3) Henry VIII Apartments, Hampton Court Palace, London                    

4&5) Loch an Eileen Castle, 1296 AD, again on a couple of km from where we lived in Aviemore, Scotland

Anyway, I digress!

This week, I had the good fortune to take a look inside Antonio Hall. Our equivalent of an abandoned ruin, in such a young country that is New Zealand. To many Cantabrians, this is the grand but derelict complex many drive past on Riccarton Rd between the Westfield Mall and Bush Inn. I won’t go into too much of a history lesson, as Friends of Antonio Hall have done a great job of that on their webpage. Though in summary, the oldest part of the complex is now 100 years old, and has been everything from stately home, seminary quarters, hostel, boarding house, & function centre.

I am most grateful to Robert Urquart for showing me about, and give him full credit credit for facilitating legitimate access. I think in the light of recent Urbex stories in the media, it was with much gratitude that Robert could arrange a tour . Though sadly, many it seems to have tried using their own means, and of course leave a trail of destruction and mess from their mis-intended use.

In essence the facility seems to have been beyond the budget and patience of any potential developer, and has been locked up in a pre-quake state by the overseas owners. I am guessing they will just play a waiting game, to see if the value of their investment is realised by capital gain of the land itself. Sadly, the building remains without too much input, maintained from serious decay by the loving input of a small group of local volunteers. Mixed users now include amateur film makers, civil defence trainers, defence & police forces, (& University orientation week stunts!).

I hope this provides some insight for people who drive past and are curious what lies within.


Exterior views from inside the perimeter fence looking in from Riccarton Rd.






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Interior of the eastern boarding wing, once partly refurbished in the hope of meeting a growing overseas tour market. Sadly this was never realised.



Later some residents during the Boarding hostel era were not quite as complementary with their appreciation.

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I cant claim this has been left by the last residing tenant, as all manner of users have adapted the facilities for the purpose of their visit. Yet it looks like, someone has only just left!


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Some areas just fascinate me. This is one. An old lounge area – semi storage area, half derelict, open to the elements.




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In a different area, an old piano lies abandoned. It seems every abandoned facility I have toured, has an old piano. Weird. I guess they are so heavy, people think bugger it, there’s no point moving it. I guess too given the age of any institutions, these were the mainstay of many communal social areas in a era pre-TV. That said, I can recall on two hands the number I have seen left about the Residental Red Zone in eastern CHCH.

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There is even the old chapel that is in relatively good shape.

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And kitchen, that could pass as a 70-80’s museum.



The bridal head table even.


(Posted with permission. Other than an orientation of the wooden chair and slight change of angle of the vacuum cleaner, to catch the prevailing natural light, everything seen was as I found it. Even the leaf on the organ!).