Sure to Rise

In February 2011, Christchurch and surrounds were rocked by a 6.3 earthquake. Christchurch sustained substantial damage and the city is still in re-build mode four years later. When we did our first sojourn in from Sumner, the beach town we’re staying in, it was a brief trip in to test out driving on the left and ease out of a 24 hour travel day and begin to grasp what a city in flux looks like.

I was expecting it to be both better and worse, which I realize is ridiculous.


In some ways, why isn’t it all up and done and shiny so I can enjoy it? (That is selfish and facetious. And yes, I know why. I get zoning and demo and dialogue.) And in some ways, holy cow, they are rebuilding an entire city and that is a mind-blowing undertaking. Seeing how the city has moved forward and how it’s created an in-between civic center for business, families and the like is something that resonates with this Chicagoan. Did that happen there in 1871?

There are a slew of initiatives and efforts that have inspired and moved us since we got here and I’m excited to share about those. And there are pieces of the city that were not destroyed that have an important ChCh story to tell.

After popping into the CBD (Central Business District) and seeing just how much it should be called the CBD (Central Building District), we decided to look for Cheerios, because that is what you do when you are a parent. You look for Cheerios a lot. A grocery store that looked promising was located next to Edmond’s Factory Garden.


Much like when we were in France, our days here are punctuated with park and playground (and Cheerio) searches. While it’s not hours spent in museums or sipping wine at cafes, there’s much to be learned and so much to be enjoyed from where people gather to play and picnic.

Lo immediately declared this the Jumping Tree and spent a good chunk of time leaping which gave me time to wander.


What I love about travel, even when it’s to places where the language isn’t a challenge (though they call grocery carts trundlers), is that the things I assume about places, on a mega and micro, in-the-minute scale, are challenged all the time. I decided Edmonds Factory Garden was a former factory that had been shuttered and made into a community garden, maybe because labor had been exported or the commodity outsourced. I had not decided if that garden had been constructed pre- or post-Earthquake.

Instead, it was a historical site (and oh, I love me those!) and silly iconic to New Zealand (who knew?). The Edmond’s Factory had been there, but is now gone, but the gardens didn’t stand in its stead. Rather, they’re a reimagined version of gardens constructed almost a century ago beside a storied Christchurch factory.DSC_1569

Thomas Edmonds, a Londoner, emigrated and opened a grocery in Woolston in the late 1800s. He soon came to develop products that included baking powder and mixes and jellies were: Sure to Rise / Sure to Please / Sure to Set. Well played on brand consistency, Thomas.

In 1923 he built the Edmonds factory and the gardens followed. Both changing attitudes about the health and happiness of workers and the power of fresh air as well as the English Garden City movement were all part and parcel of the green space. It was a prize-winning garden that eventually included a kindergarten and bowling greens.


It’s listed as one of the first factory gardens though I’m having a hard time finding examples of other ones. Was this a movement? One other example pops up, the Sanitarium factory garden, which is also a factory and not a sanitarium.

Edmonds is a about as New Zealand a brand as you can get. He traveled the whole Canterbury offering samples of his baking powder to ensure it was the highest quality (and the first brand to pop to mind). He used modern advertising techniques and did some smart marketing.
Edmonds Cookery Book

That sun crest and “Sure to Rise” graced the Edmonds Cookery Book, first published in 1908. If you announced your engagement in the paper, you received one in the mail. If you wrote to ask for one, you received. In it are quintessentially Kiwi dishes and you can bet your bum I’ll be in possession of one before we leave.

The factory was demolished in 1990 to much citizen consternation but the remaining, reimagined gardens are dutifully tended by volunteers who mind it all, including the rose garden that blooms in Edmonds’ colors of cream, gold and rust.


Sure, the slogan it was baking powder’s leavening power and the history of a company. But I’ll be damned if “Sure to Rise” isn’t a great statement about Christchurch as a city post-quake.


NB: My new NZ read is Long White Kid, a blog and partner Facebook page that dive deep into New Zealand pop cultural history. It’s researched to the hilt and shows a love of storytelling I can get behind.


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