Collection Stories

Edith Christie’s Evening Gown

In the early 1900s, the Christies were among the leading families of the Whanganui social scene.

This evening gown belonged to Edith Harriet (née Christie) Carey, the eldest daughter of Henry Flockhart and Alice Christie.

Made of satin, silk georgette and embroidered lace, and embellished with gun metal, pearl and glass beads, it embodies the style of the Edwardian era and would have been greatly admired at one of the many balls and dances held in Whanganui in the early 1900s. The Christies were among the leading families of the Whanganui social scene of the time and Edith was obviously supplied with lovely clothing for her many social engagements.

The stretch from Halswell Street up to St John’s Hill is known as Christie’s Hill. It is not an official name and is not recorded on any map but is still remember by Whanganui locals.

The name was first mentioned in the newspapers by the Wanganui Herald in 1911. An advertisement for Russell and King, Central Garage, advertised a one-hour sightseeing taxi ride around Whanganui. The suggested ride, for 12 shillings and sixpence ran from the town centre to Castlecliff Beach, with time for afternoon tea, returning via Mosstown to St John’s Hill with a magnificent view of the town, down Christie’s Hill and home. The mode of transport was a Zedel taxi (an early motorised car) which could take four passengers.

Christie’s Hill is named after Henry Flockhart Christie, who was once the manager of the Pātea branch of the Bank of New Zealand. Christie and his wife Alice Henrietta (née Bush) had married in Nelson, where Alice lived, in December 1875. They set up home in Pātea where they soon started their family. Their eldest daughter Edith Henrietta was born in June 1876, followed by Ethel Isabella in 1878, then Henry Howard in 1884, Allan Leslie in 1887, Dorothy in 1890 and Gladys in 1892. The older children were sent to boarding school in Whanganui. The girls went to St Helen’s School in Bell Street, and then to Wanganui Girls College. The boys went to Wanganui Collegiate School. Upon his retirement from the bank Christie moved to Whanganui and in 1898 purchased several acres of land from Porritt Street down to the start of Peat Park.

Christie built a house called Awatiro, which still stands, in Dickson Crescent. During the influenza epidemic of 1918, two of the adult children died in the space of 10 days: Allan who had just returned from war service as a doctor and Gladys who had married Dr Douglas Wilson seven months earlier. Christie remained at Awatiro until his death in 1924. The land was later sold and subdivided. Many of the streets on St John’s Hill bear the names of the later subdividers.

The evening gown was donated to the museum in 1971 by Edith Carey, along with her 1908 wedding dress and a magnificent black silk evening gown with a huge cream lace collar. She died on 13 January 1972 at the grand age of 95 years. Her last years were spent in the Braemar Hospital in Whanganui. She is buried in Aramoho Cemetery, Whanganui.

By Trish Nugent-Lyne, Kaihāpai Taonga/Collections & Curatorial Lead at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Image: Evening gown

Early 1900s. Maker unknown.
Photographed by Kathy Greensides
WRM 1971.71.4 

View the full-length image.

Karen Hughes

1 April 2023

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