Yeah Bob, times they are indeed a-changin’ – A Story of Simeon Street

Christchurch, it would be fair to say, has seen a few changes in the built environment over the last 10-plus years. Even the more sleepy suburbs of south Christchurch have changed up with the addition of new cycleways, new retail spaces and new housing. But saying "hello" to the new often involves a tearful "goodbye" to the old.

I was having an appropriately "socially-distanced" conversation across the fence with my neighbour during lockdown, and he shared his sadness about a recently demolished property that he used to see on his daily commute. After establishing where Simeon Street was (I get confused!) I realised I knew exactly which property he was talking about because I had taken a photograph of it earlier this year. And isn't she a cutie? From the wisteria laden verandah, to the cheery red tin roof, this is chocolate-box suburban cuteness.

97 Simeon Street may be gone but I don't want her to be forgotten. I decided to do a little bit of research about the lives that have been lived on this lovely spot.

Simeon Street and much of Spreydon used to be part of Rural Section 154 and was initially owned by Captain Charles Simeon. Simeon Street itself is first mentioned in 1878. This particular site was purchased by Thomas Line (his ownership was transferred from the Deeds System into Certificate of title in 1893, opens a new window but both Thomas and his brother Noah were already residing at Simeon Street). The Line lads were the sons of Emma and Samuel and the family originated from Bedfordshire, arriving in 1869 on the Matoaka. The Matoaka, opens a new window famously went missing on her return voyage to London later the same year. 

Thomas and Noah were coal merchants and operated from a yard on Lincoln Road. They sold the business in 1910, opens a new window and a clearing sale was held on the premises selling carts, coal and even the horses who were charmingly named Blossom, Prince, Kitt, Jack, Bob and Bess. Hopefully all went to a good home for a good price. 

The property on Simeon Street was originally a 2 acre section but this was subdivided in 1901. Thomas Line continued to live on his section but the other changed hands.

The Hessey family owned the property for many years. Married at Lyttelton in 1909, Harry Hessey and his wife Edith were living at Simeon Street by 1914. The house itself was probably built around 1910. A carpenter to trade, Harry worked for a period at the Addington workshops and was involved in the local community as a member of the Spreydon and Addington Burgesses' Association.

Born in 1882 in San Francisco to William and Ellen Hessey (née Hore), Harry spent only a short time in the US before his parents returned to New Zealand in 1885. His father William, an iron moulder, had owned a business in Ashburton but had fallen on hard times. His family life was fairly turbulent too with several marriages and lots of children. After a brief period in the Auckland, and bankruptcy, the Hessey family settled in Addington where Ellen had family. William Hessey died in 1890, opens a new window.

Edith and Harry went on to have 7 children and their own share of heartbreak. Harry lost a finger, opens a new window in an accident at Lyttleton Harbour in 1920, all the more unfortunate as he'd already lost two. Worse, Harry died suddenly of heart failure in 1930 aged just 47, opens a new window, his youngest sons were then aged only 5 and 6 years. Harry had recently completed an extension of the property to house their large family but now Edith was left alone. 

A meeting was held at Addington School, opens a new window to look at ways to help Edith and her children. A fair was held on the Addington School grounds to raise funds for a memorial to Harry, both the Christchurch Mayor and MP E J Howard attended, opens a new window

In 1934 Edith was hit hard again when her eldest son James Harry Hessey was swept out to sea from the Black Rock at Taylor's Mistake, opens a new window. He was only 22.

Edith stayed at 97 Simeon Street until 1953. She then moved to 79 Cobham Street. By then the neighbourhood had seem some changes with Sugden Street, opens a new window now located between Simeon Street and Barrington Park and a generally less rural feel to the area.

Edith died in 1961. In a rather charming full-circle moment Edith's only daughter Phyllis had married Thomas Line's son Clarence.

Albert Millthorpe was the next homeowner of number 97 from 1953-1965, followed by Ronald Hazel and Charles Crooks. The property was subdivided in 1973 with two units going in at the rear of the section. Further families lived there until she was sold for the last time in 2020.

And now 97 Simeon Street is gone.

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