Addington Raceway & The Twiggers

POTATOES!!!  This is what crosses my mind every time I drive along the Christchurch Southern Motorway and glance towards the Addington Raceway below.  I have no idea where I read that the land there once was fields of potatoes but the thought has never left me.

Inspired by The Press’ article about the Addington Raceway selling some of their land to developers this week, I wanted to know more about the Raceway as it has been part of our city since 1899. The story that lies beneath the pounding horse’s hooves has proved to be an interesting one and I think I have solved the potato mystery too!

Christchurch was just 5 years old when the body of a Rev. Joseph Twigger (the Chaplin from the Canterbury Association’s 18th ship ‘Cornwell’) was pulled out the Avon River, close to the Barbadoes Street Cemetery.  He had been missing for a fortnight, after farewelling a friend around midnight on the corner of Cashel and Durham Streets, where the Bridge of Remembrance is situated.  The pair had spent the evening at the White Hart Hotel on Lichfield Street (where the Westpac Building stood before demolition) and the very drunk Rev. had a very long stroll home to his farm on Lincoln Road.  But he gave his friend a big smile and said, “Alright my boy, God bless.” And the two parted company.

The Rev. was discovered by Stephen Brooker (who is part of the story behind the naming of New Brighton) and examined by Dr. A.C. Barker, Christchurch’s first doctor and photographer.  Noting that the Rev.’s clothes showed no signs of a struggle, it was concluded that he had simply fallen down the bank and drowned.  The river current had caused his remains to drift back into the city and the weeds had kept him hidden quite effectively.   Sadly, the Rev. was a well known drunk but he was defended by the owner of the White Hart Hotel – Michael Hart – who reported that the Rev. had had only 5 glasses of spirits instead of his usual 20.  A Reverend not by choice, it seemed the Rev. preferred to place bets on boxing matches rather than open his bible.

His illegitimate daughter was only 2 years old at the time of her father’s death and missed out on her inheritance due to the Rev.’s Will not being signed.  So his farm sat for quite a few years unclaimed before a John and Charlotte Twigger (another illegitimate child born in England) arrived from England to inherit the property.  Not surprisingly, the new Twiggers held an auction on site and everything that could be picked up and carried off was sold.  Even the Rev.’s book collection was up for grabs.  John also faced a time of public shame for not financially assisting his half sister but that smudge on his character was soon forgotten.

As the name Twigger appears throughout the papers concerning the auctions of livestock through Matsons & Co, we know John carried on the farm and maybe it was he who planted the potatoes?  In 1863, John donated some of his land for the building of the Sunnyside Hospital and it is through the hospital that we first hear of the Metropolitan Trotting Club.  But before we leave the Twiggers story, he made a further impression on Christchurch by selling some of his land to the A & P Association in 1885. He died soon after.   Some of us may remember the old entrance to the Addington Showgrounds on Lincoln Road.  The 5 acres around the brick gateway was donated by John whereas the actual gates were a gift from John Deans II and the bricks were made in the Deans’ brick works in Glentunnel.

The Twiggers are remembered today in the naming of Twigger Street (which leads into the Addington Showground car park from Lincoln Road), the Twigger Stand and the Twigger’s Cabaret Restaurant.

It was Christchurch’s mayor of 1899, Charles Louisson that secured the land at Addington from Sunnyside.  Under a lease, the Metropolitan Trotting Club were able to move out of Lancaster Park (now the AMI Stadium) and build a track of their own.  It wasn’t until 80 years later that the club were able to purchase the land.

Fires have proved to be the raceway’s biggest nemesis, the fire’s of 1916, 1926, 1953 and 1961 cost the raceway more than just one stand but its popularity never faded.  In 1962, the barrier became mobile, 1963 night racing began, 1982 the timing became electronic and in 1983, the integrated computer betting system was added.

On the corner of Lincoln and Wrights Road is Cardigan Bay Reserve.  It is named after a famous horse who strutted his stuff at Addington. Affectionately known as “Cardy”, he was the first New Zealand born horse to win $1 million in prize money. He was the ninth horse worldwide to win one million dollars.  Cardigan Bay won races in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.

*image of Car race courtesy of Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Jul-13
*image of modern race courtesy of*
*image of 1916 fire courtesy of*

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