The Press announced today that another iconic Banks Peninsula building is to be demolished, Godley House at Diamond Harbour.
It was quite shocking to see the damage sustained to the building from the Canterbury earthquakes in the aerial photograph reproduced in the paper. The brick house is a mess and unfortunately looks well beyond saving. The two story house with return verandas was originally built in 1880 by Harvey Hawkins on a stunning site that provides panoramic views across the harbour to Lyttelton.
However, the house's most famous association is with the popular Canterbury watercolourist, Margaret Stoddart (1865–1934) who lived there with her family in the early 1900s. The Stoddart family had a long association with Diamond Harbour, which began when Margaret's father, Mark Stoddart, purchased land there in 1852. Margaret Stoddart painted Godley House, Diamond Harbour around 1913. It's a vibrant watercolour study of the garden at Godley House that combines her interest in flower painting and landscape. The scene is vivid and the brightly coloured – well-tended flowerbeds seem far removed from the piles of rubble, hurricane fencing and overgrown weeds that now surround the property.
For me, these paintings of lost buildings take on an added poignancy and seem now elevated in importance somehow. Godley House made for a fantastic day trip from the bustle of Christchurch. The trip by ferry from Lyttelton in particular was one of my favourites – skirting across the harbour and wandering up the path from the jetty to the house, before relaxing in its expansive garden setting with a cold beer from the bar. I hope they replace it soon.
On her return from Europe in 1907, Margaret Stoddart lived in Godley House with her mother and sister and remained there until the family’s Diamond Harbour estate was sold off in 1913. The family were keen gardeners, as can be seen by the charming cottage garden. This is one of a number of paintings Stoddart did in Diamond Harbour and shows the style she had developed during her time in Europe. The expressive opaque watercolour treatment is combined with fine fluid washes applied in a quick and direct manner, out of doors before the subject. Stoddart was born in Diamond Harbour, Christchurch, but in 1876 the family sailed for Britain and she received her early education in Edinburgh. The family returned to New Zealand in 1879 and in 1882 Stoddart enrolled at the Canterbury College School of Art. She was a founding member of the Palette Club whose members were concerned with painting out of doors. She travelled to Europe in 1898.
Exquisite Treasure Revealed
Canterbury Museum holds two albums compiled by Diamond Harbour artist Margaret Stoddart. The older of the two, containing images featured in this Bulletin, and itself currently exhibited in the Gallery, covers the period 1886–96. The album is handsomely bound in maroon, and stamped M.O.S. in gold. It contains a sort of travelogue by way of black and white photographs set amongst decorative painting, mostly of native flora, with some locality and date information.
The dazzling watercolours of an adventurous and trailblazing Canterbury artist.