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Exhibitions showcase history of Christchurch’s Sumner Road

Wednesday, March 13, 2019   Posted in: Signatory Notice Board By: Administrator With tags: heritage, transport, exhibition

Christchurch City Council Newsline: 12th March 2019

Sumner Road’s colourful history is captured in tandem exhibitions being staged this month at the Lytteltton Library and the Mataku Takotako: Sumner Centre.

The exhibitions tell the story of Sumner Road and the important role it has played in linking the communities of Lyttelton and Sumner.

The exhibitions have been put together to celebrate the post-earthquake reconstruction of Sumner Road, which is due to reopen to traffic for the first time in eight years at 6pm on Friday 29th March 2019.

“Sumner Road has played a vital role in Christchurch’s transport network since it opened in 1857," says Lyttelton community librarian Annette Williams, who has been part of the team that has curated the exhibitions.

“It has been a crucial route for carting goods between the port and the city and over the years it has had everything from churches to planes hauled along it.

“Sumner Road has also played a role in the defence of Christchurch against possible enemy attack," Ms Williams says.

“Gun emplacements were installed at strategic points along Sumner Road in the late 19th century, when there were fears the Russians were going to invade. During World War II Sumner Road was again pressed into service by the military who saw it as strategically important to coastal defences."

On a less serious note, Sumner Road has opened up access to the Port Hills for generations of families and been a popular route for recreational cyclists.

Unfortunately though because of Sumner Road’s positioning, landslips and rockfalls have been a problem throughout its history.

“From the early days of the settlement, local residents worried about the stability of the cliffs and warned of disasters waiting to happen," Ms Williams says.

The exhibitions detail the enormous amount of engineering work that has gone into keeping Sumner Road open for the past 160 years.

Photographs and video of the work that has been done  in the past two-and-a-half years to reinstate the road, which has been closed to traffic since tonnes of rock came tumbling down onto it from the surrounding cliffs during the 22 February 2011 earthquake, are also included in the exhibitions.

The Following the Sumner Road: An exploration of its past and present exhibitions are on at the Lyttelton Library and the Mataku Takotako: Sumner Centre from Saturday 16th March to Sunday 28th April 2019.

People interested in Sumner Road are encouraged to visit both exhibitions as each contains unique information about the road and the work that has gone into rebuilding it.

Those attending the exhibitions can get a free commemorative Sumner Road bookmark which they can get stamped at both the Lyttelton Library and the Mataku Takotako: Sumner Centre.

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