John Anderson (1820 – 1897)

Those Canterbury Association settlers that weren’t Church of England but were wanting the new start Canterbury offered, stayed pretty quiet about their true denomination until the ship was well on its way. The first sign of their defiance was usually discovered when these families refused to attend the Anglican Church services, usually held on the ship’s poop.

The Scottish Presbyterian Anderson family were one of these groups, bravely facing a new life on board the Canterbury Association’s 3rd ship, the ‘Sir George Seymour’. On the day of their arrival, 17th December 1850, they headed straight over the Bridle Path to the Deans Brothers at Riccarton Farm. They weren’t the only ones to spend the night there, but John Anderson took to heart the advice given by his fellow Presbyterian Scotsman, John Deans. The future is Christchurch, do not settle in Lyttelton. John did what he was advised.

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 to sadly lose their first two offspring.

Completely heartbroken and fed up, the Anderson’s accepted a £300 advance from Jane’s employers to go and make a new start in Canterbury. With a new baby son (John Jnr.) on the hip, the Anderson’s seized the day. 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.

Like the other Presbyterians in Christchurch, Anderson wanted a church to be opened for worshipers. In his spare time, he would travel across the Canterbury Plains, sharing his faith with others, and hopefully building up Presbyterianism in the region. He played a founding role in the opening of St Andrew’s (now situated at Rangi Ruru Girls High), St Paul’s (cnr of Cashel and Madras Streets – lost to the quakes) Churches and the set up of the old Scots Cemetery, now known as Addington Cemetery.

With business doing so well, Anderson was able to send his two eldest boys back to Scotland to further their education. They both studied engineering and returned to Christchurch to work for their father. The Anderson’s moved to Cashel Street, after purchasing land off Daniel Inwood – fellow Sir George Seymour settler and the first to open a Mill in Canterbury – building their house straight across the road. Anderson called his home ‘Inveresk’ after his hometown. His business was known as J. Anderson, Engineer, Millwright & Boilermaker but once the foundry was added, it was simply known as Anderson’s Foundry.

He also held a great business interest in Christchurch. He was a shareholder in the Christchurch Gas, Coal & Coke Co, the Press Co. Ltd and the New Zealand Shipping Company. He had interests in the Canterbury Agricultural & Pastoral Assoc, the Lyttelton Port Board, the Canterbury Mechanics Inst. (now known as the Christchurch Public Libraries), the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and if he was anything like the men of the day, probably smoked his cigars and drank his Brandy at the Canterbury Club.

His interest turned political when 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. Owner, Peter Guthrey – son of Christchurch’s 40th Mayor Ron Guthrey – turned down a grant for its rescue, stating that the ‘…costs didn’t add up…’

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.

John Anderson died in his home of Inveresk on 30th April 1897, and is buried with his beloved Jane at Addington Cemetery.

*Image of John Anderson’s Grave taken by Annette Bulovic*
*Image of the Anderson Foundry courtesy of the Christchurch Public Libraries – -File Reference CCL Photo CD 11, IMG0020
*Image of the Guthrey Centre courtesy of George Kuek*

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