Shackleton & the Girls’ Training Hostel, Christchurch, NZ

November 4, 2018

Following Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909, the Nimrod arrived at Lyttelton, New Zealand, on 25 March, 1909, having left that port on 1 January, 1908. On 7 April, 1909, Shackleton gave a public lecture to over 2,000 people at His Majesty’s Theatre, Canterbury. As he often did, Shackleton donated the proceeds to local charities/hospitals/causes. In this case half was given to the children’s ward at Christchurch Hospital, and the other half, ₤83, to the Christchurch Technical Institute to assist in the building of a Girls’ Training Hostel where Domestic Science could be taught more successfully to young women.

Nimrod leaving Lyttelton, 1 January, 1908. Image: SPRI.

The hostel was to be a residential school, where young women from, more often than not, more privileged backgrounds learned how to run a home and manage domestic servants. The foundation stone of the building was laid by Mrs John Studholme, who was a prominent fundraiser, in a ceremony held 23 January, 1912. It was then estimated that the cost of the land and the building would be £6,000. The building was officially opened 28 April, 1913, by Sir Robert Heaton Rhodes.

            Girls’ Training Hostel. Image: NZ Historic Places Trust.

Following the relief expedition for the surviving men of the Ross Sea party, the Aurora returned to Wellington on 10 February, 1917. Shackleton again gave a public lecture and attended official events. On the afternoon of 24 February, 1917, Shackleton was invited to afternoon tea at the Girls’ Training Hostel. His donation to the building fund in 1909 was well-remembered and appreciated.

   The Press, 26 February, 1917.

Arriving at the hostel, Shackleton was greeted by Mrs. Scott, wife of the chairman, and shown about the premises. Having seen the hostel. Shackleton was said to have been ‘greatly pleased with the institution’. To mark the occasion of his visit, Shackleton planted an oak tree in the grounds of the hostel and a black granite plaque at the base of the tree commemorates the event.

The Shackleton Oak. Photo by James Stone.


Ashburton Guardian, 24 January, 1912.

Christchurch City Council, ‘Heritage Assessment—Statement of Significance: Heritage Item Number 1366, Former Girls’ Training Hostel and Setting’. 

Ellis, J. ‘Shackleton’s Connections with Canterbury, 1901-1917’. 2007, UC Research Repository, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

Heritage New Zealand, ‘Girls’ Training Hostel (Former)’.

New Zealand Tree Register entry for the oak planted by Shackleton, 24 February, 1917.

The Press, 24 January, 1912; 26 February, 1917.

The Star, 28 April, 1913.

Stone, J. ‘Antarctic Connections: Christchurch & Canterbury. A guide to the past and present connections of Antarctica to Christchurch and the greater Canterbury region’. 2015, UC Research Repository, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

The Sun, 26 February, 1917.

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