It wouldn’t be until March 1888 that the Committee of the Canterbury Agricultural & Pastoral Association met to discuss the amazing success they had enjoyed at their last Metropolitan Show, which had run from 9th to 11th November 1887. There had be serious doubts and nervousness amongst the members as this would be the first Show held at the new grounds in Addington.
The previous Shows had been held at Sydenham Park (corner Colombo & Brougham Streets) – would the distance to the new location be the death of all interest in what was becoming a grand tradition? Their worries couldn’t have been more unfounded! The weather was gorgeous and thousands poured into the new show grounds!
In a landscape designed by architect Robert England (other works include the McLeans Mansion, Knox Church, Acland House, Riccarton House ‘Stage III’ to name just a few), 1421 exhibits were proudly on display – all competing for a slice of the £562 prize money. If one wasn’t lucky enough to win any money, medals and books were also handed out as prizes.
In what would be a first in association history, a special train was chartered to bring, not only visitors, but also hoof stock and other goods – a temporary track led straight into the grounds. Things were on the increase all round and it couldn’t have run more smoothly.
It could have turned out so differently!
Months later, as the men poured over the previous meeting minutes and provided their individual reports and numbers, Association President John Deans II (of Riccarton & Homebush) must have taken a moment to reflect on all the information.
While the nearby Press reporter scribbled away madly, Deans stated out loud towards him,
“The work done by the association in the matter of the new grounds showed they still had faith in the future of our little country…the faith the members had in the future of Canterbury…”.
Who were these members? Well, they had great Cantab pioneering names such as Sir John Hall (Chch Mayor & New Zealand Premier), the Hon. John Thomas Peacock (businessman, gifted the Peacock Fountain), John Anderson (owner of the Anderson Foundry, Chch Mayor), Hugh Percy Murray-Aynsley (early Cantab land owner, Member of Parliament), Hugh McIlraith (Uncle of John Deans II), William Boag (owner of the Burnside Farm) just to name a few.
Despite taking on the expected workload to run The Show, some of the members decided to take this ‘…faith…’ of theirs a little further and make a special lasting gift to the people of Canterbury: With the specialized talents of W. Smith (builder), John Anderson (blacksmith), Robert England (architect), G.W.G. Parsons (mason) and John Deans (owner of Homebush bricks) – the Addington Show Grounds were adorned with beautiful, brick entry gates constructed for the frontage onto Lincoln Road. They were unveiled by the Hon. J.T Peacock who was also a great patron of the Association.
Although The Show moved to its Wigram site in 1996 and the old Addington ground was repurposed for residential housing, these gates have survived – through even a couple of years of earthquakes too. Though they were quake damaged, they have since been fully restored and strengthened. Sadly, no plaque or storyboard exists to remind us of the history built into those bricks and wrought into the iron.
And what a story it is – our founding fathers took a step of faith, with a real risk of failing, to continue to showcase industry that has placed Canterbury on the world map.
*Photo taken by Annette Bulovic*