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‘Henley’-brand iron roller skate likely dating back to the late 1880s, found under Shop 27, New Regent Street, during earthquake repairs. (WSP-Opus)

O'Brien advertised his manufacture of boots with this grand illustration of his factory. Star, 12 September 1891

Colosseum Skating Rink

on the site now occupied by New Regent Street

The Colosseum Skating Rink covered the entire block that is now New Regent Street and shops. It was the second skating venture on the site. The street as we know it today was one enormous building from the late 1880s to the early 1930s. Parts of that building are still underneath the street and shops.


Timeline of New Regent Street

1873-1885: Circus Paddock – an open field for travelling circuses

1888: Palace Skating Rink, built by R. H. Donnelly, “the largest skating rink in the Australian colonies”

1889: Donnelly goes bankrupt and H.G. Parker takes over as proprietor

1891: Rink closes, bought by O’Brien & Co Premier Boot Company, and becomes a boot factory

1901: Building sold to England & Thomas Co, renovated and reopened as ‘The Colosseum’ hall to be used for a variety of purposes including public meetings, sports and motor shows.

1902: Hall again used for roller skating, organised by the Colosseum Roller Skating Rink Syndicate

1908: Harry Liston opens the Colosseum Picture Theatre, Christchurch’s first cinema

1919: Crowded public meeting with Prime Minister W F Massey turns into a riot. The building is badly damaged and condemned by city authorities.

1920: Abandoned building bought by George Dickinson and converted into ‘Colosseum Garage and White Diamond Taxis’, with petrol pumps along the Gloucester Street frontage.

1928: Building used as a motor vehicle showroom by Dominion Motors Ltd.

1930: Building demolished to make way for New Regent Street shopping arcade, intended as a boutique shopping street like London’s Regent Street. There are to be 40 narrow shops designed in Spanish Mission style.

1932: New Regent Street opened by the Mayor of Christchurch on 1 April.


(Source: Opus International Consultants, New Regent Street Archaeological Monitoring Report)


Archaeologists have found parts of the old building

After the earthquakes, the shops and street needed repair. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga issued an archaeological authority, and archaeologists from Opus recorded what was found. We now know:


The precise location of the north, east and south perimeter wall foundations:  The south wall, which was the back of the building, ran across the street through the middle of what are now Stage Door and Bunch Floral. The east and west walls ran along the backs of all the current shops. The north wall, which was the front of the building, ran across the street through the middle of what is now Rollickin’ Dessert Café.


The ladies dining room in the boot factory was probably where The Institution is now.


The ladies cloakroom in the skating rink was probably where Heart and Soul Gallery is now.


A gas engine or foundry for the boot factory was probably in the area now covered by Beadz Unlimited, Via Sollertia Jewellers and Nsypre Red Hair Design.


The remains of a pump house are still on the north side of the rink beneath the counter-cabinet area of Rollickin’ Dessert Café.


Beneath the tree outside Young's Jewellers archaeologists found a small stand-alone structure that may have been a toilet block.


The men’s cloakroom and Donnelly’s office in the skating rink, and the sample room in the boot factory, were probably where Café Stir and The Last Word are now.  


Underneath the floor of most shops in New Regent Street are concrete strip footings and other structural remains of the original building. These have been kept in place, covered up with gravel.


Find out more

New Regent Street Archaeological Monitoring Report by Opus International Consultants Ltd, September 2014 (Authority No 2013-068eq and 2012-321eq) is available for download through the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Digital Library

Christchurch Library’s collection of original New Regent Street plans and other material

Summary of official report by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga listing New Regent Street as a Historic Area


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