The old Dalgetys building on the south west corner of Moorhouse Ave and Colombo Street has always caught my eye and curiosity. Whenever entering Harvey Norman for a bit of shopping, my eyes instantly stray above the produce to take in the vast space before me. There is no mistaking that fact that the building was once a grand warehouse of sorts and the main clue to what, lays outside in the concrete façade.
Frederick Dalgety arrived in Sydney, Australia in 1834. Some sources say he was born in Scotland where others say Canada, but none the less, he arrived to a new life as clerk for a merchant company. He seemed to do very well for himself as in December 1842, he made the move to Melbourne as the new manager of T.C. Breillat, a trader of wool produce. He eventually became a partner, before becoming the sole owner. By 1848, he was a very well known independent and rich merchant, also becoming a financier.
Now known as ‘Uncle Dal’ to his clients, Frederick had the rare foresight to move and change his company to fit and suit the time and era around him. He worked closely with Australia’s sheep farmers, squatters and swaggers, selling supplies to them and selling on their produce at a profit. When gold fever struck in Victorian, the company split its direction, supplying the thousands of hopeful miners with all the equipment they would ever need. Dalgetys become a gold buyer too and went from strength to strength.
In 1854, Frederick moved to London to open and run the new headquarters for his metropolitan colonial empire – which he did until his death in 1894. By the mid 1880’s, stores and warehouses had opened across Australia and New Zealand, including Christchurch. Dalgetys first appeared in Cashel Street in 1863 and business boomed. A warehouse was constructed on the south east corner of Cathedral Square (pictured in 1895). In 1898, Dalgetys rebuilt with grandeur on the same site (pictured in 1920) and were known as auctioneers, stock, station and shipping agents, wool, seed and grain merchants, and dairy produce and land brokers.
Sadly, the Dalgetys building was sold in 1963 and demolished to make way for the Housing Corporation of New Zealand. We know this building as the Millennium Hotel (2015). The business was by this time already set up at Moorhouse Ave and this was an era of change. Dalgetys had merged with the ‘New Zealand & Mercantile Agency’ and become ‘Dalgetys & New Zealand Loan Ltd’, worth £44,000,000 and was Australasia’s largest pastoral combine.
From here on in, the company becomes a whirlwind of mergers, take overs, sell offs and name changes – branching into such industries as flour milling, pet food, lumber and poultry. In 2001, with the name of ‘Sygen International plc’, it continues its history in Japan and China.
*Image of Dalgetys at Cathedral Square in 1895 courtesy of the Canterbury Museum – http://www.canterburymuseum.com – 9341
*Image of Dalgetys at Cathedral Square in 1920 courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library –https://natlib.govt.nz/collections -G56231/1*
*Current photo of Dalgetys Building taken by Annette Bulovic*