John Anderson was born on 7th November 1820 in Inveresk, Scotland. There isn’t much about his childhood, except that his father was a ploughman. As a trade, Anderson chose Blacksmithing, but spent his evenings studying mathematics, chemistry and mechanical philosophy. He married his sweetheart, Jane Gibson, on 3rd June 1845 and the pair were sadly to lose their first two offspring.
Completely heartbroken and fed up, the Anderson’s accepted a £300 advance from Jane’s employees to go and make a new start in Canterbury. With a new baby son (John Jnr.) on the hip, they boarded the Canterbury Association’s 3rd ship, the ‘Sir George Seymour’ for Lyttelton. The family first settled at The Bricks, the South West corner of Oxford Terrace and Barbadoes Street, beside the Avon. Here Anderson lived and opened what could easily be Christchurch’s first Blacksmith shop. Legend has it that he would work all day, and then walk to Lyttelton and back, carrying the iron he would need for his next day’s work.
With business doing so well, Anderson was able to send his two eldest boys back to Scotland to further their education when the time came. They both studied engineering and returned to Christchurch to work for their father. The Anderson’s moved to Cashel Street, his business known as J. Anderson, Engineer, Millwright & Boilermaker but once the foundry was added, it was simply known as Anderson’s Foundry.
In 1862, Anderson put his name forward with the establishment of the first Municipal Council (the Christchurch City Council). He was only a few votes shy from being the first Chairman, this honour going to Sir John Hall. He served Christchurch as a councillor in 1867 and 1871, but served as Christchurch’s second Mayor in 1868-69.
In 1881, the foundry became known as J & A Anderson Ltd as Anderson retired, leaving his boys in charge. With a new brick building being erected, the business expanded in size and room – the rear of the shop now exiting onto Lichfield Street. We knew this building as the ‘Guthrey Centre’; sadly it was demolished in August 2011 after being damaged by the earthquakes.
What Anderson started in a small Blacksmith’s shop in 1851, was now becoming one of New Zealand’s most well known construction companies, covering all sorts of engineering. Anderson Ltd merged with Mason Brothers in 1984 but the final curtain fell on the business in 1986.
For a more in depth look at John Anderson, please check out the attached link: http://www.peelingbackhistory.co.nz/john-anderson-1820-1897-2/
*Image of the Anderson Foundry courtesy of the Christchurch Public Libraries – http://christchurchcitylibraries.com -File Reference CCL Photo CD 11, IMG0020