William Derisley (W.D) Wood arrived in Christchurch on the ‘Randolph’, the second of our First Four Canterbury Association ships on the 16th December 1850. Family legend states that W.D. didn’t step on shore until the next day as it was going to be his 26th birthday. Being born into a family of millers, W.D’s destiny was all set. He would in fact use every source available such as wind, water, stream and electricity over his 114 years of business.
Wood’s first job in Christchurch was being secretary to John Robert Godley, Christchurch’s founder. It wasn’t until 1856, after a trip to Australia and England that Wood’s opened his first flour mill in Christchurch, in the shape of a windmill. It sat on Antigua Street and was quite a site on Christchurch’s skyline. Next came the Riccarton Mill in the early 1860’s. Wood Lane, off Fendalton Ave reminds us of this mill and Wood’s house that once stood there. This land was leased off Jane Deans of Riccarton. Today this land belongs to Christchurch Girls High.
After his trip home to England, Wood was joined back in Christchurch by his brother Henry who took a huge role in the development of Riccarton Mill and the ‘Woods Bros’ name was becoming well known. Wood kept his eye on all new developments in the flour business, even taking trips to America to see all the news ideas in first hand. An additional mill in Wise Street, Addington was opened and both Riccarton and Addington Mills were run together for five years.
In 1895, Riccarton Mill had been sold and Woods Bros Flour Mill was running solo in Wise Street. By this time, W.D. had retired – his business now run by his sons who were among the first students at Lincoln University. This huge business was now powered by steam instead of water. In 1913 a tall brick grain silo was built and storage buildings were added in 1926. By 1936, Woods Bros. Flour Mill was the largest exporter of flour in the South Island. The mill and the land were sold in 1970 and few businesses have used the old buildings over the years, including apartments that could be rented. In 2003 Champion Flour Mill used the old Woods silo to mix their grain.
With the decay of time, arson and also the Christchurch earthquakes, the old mill has been shaken into a skeleton of its former grand self. Its future remains in the balance, sadly the site failing to find a purpose in the rebuilt. But none the less, this burnt out giant still watches out over Christchurch from it Wise Street location, waiting hopefully for its next chapter in our history.
*Image taken by Annette Bulovic*