The A & P Show

As Christchurch approached its 2nd birthday, there was a mixture of emotions on the city’s dusty roads.  Since the arrival of the First Four Ships, another 21 Canterbury Association ships had docked at Port Lyttelton and more than 2500 settlers had flooded into Canterbury.  Like those before them, the lies of the Canterbury Association were as hard hitting as a slap in the face, it wasn’t what they expected.  I will never forget the poor fella who trekked over the Bridle Path and made his way through the swamps and tussock as far as Ridley Square (now Cathedral Square) before stopping another settler to ask the way to Christchurch.  I hear his heart break every time I think of him.

Maybe it was this mixture of emotions that made Christchurch’s second anniversary celebrations such a flop.  An invitation was sent out for those keen to bring a collection of their trades to sell or barter in a prepared area in Hagley Park – on the 16th December 1852.  Those who made the effort only brought agriculture and it was an event that was easy to forget.  But by the time the 3rd anniversary rolled round, the turnout was much different.  Our first Cantabs came into Hagley Park from every direction, driving in herds of cattle, sheep and pigs and everything else that could be carried and sold.

In 1859, this gathering took on a more serious direction with the formation of the Canterbury Pastoral Association.  As it had become a life force of its own, it was spilt away from the anniversary celebrations.  That year, The Show took place on a farm by the Rangitata River.  Chosen because it was in mid-Canterbury, it was only the South Canterbury farmers who made the journey north.  28 pens of sheep were judged that day.  The following year, the farmers gathered together in Ashburton.

It was 1862 before The Show returned to Christchurch.  A paddock north of Latimer Square was chosen and on the 22nd October, many flocked into the city to take a look.  It seemed The Show no longer just belonged to the farmers.  A city now fill with bankers, lawyers, teachers, merchants, the city folk were taking an interest too.  By the time The Show rolled around again, the Canterbury Agricultural & Pastoral Association had formed and more permanent grounds were sought.  14 acres were purchased on the corner of Colombo and Brougham Streets and here The Show remained till 1887.  This old show ground is now known as Sydenham Park.

29 acres were donated by the Twigger Family and here comes the era that the most of us will remember.  The Addington Show Grounds came into being and the first show held there took place over the 9th – 11th November 1887.  Its main entrance was at Lincoln Road.  John Deans II “presented’ the brick front wall and gate to the A & P Association which was made with Homebush bricks – from the Deans Clay and Brick Works in Glentunnel.  These gates still exist even though the old grounds were subdivided and now hold residential housing.  I am very glad to say that earthquake damage was repaired and the gate looks as good as new.

It was 1918 when the Friday of The Show became known as the ‘People’s Day at the Show’.  In a sweet twist, it was during the 1950’s – 100 years after the arrival of the Canterbury Association ships – that the Show and other anniversary plans were re-merged into one acknowledgment.   A great idea for sure but it always miffs me that the 16th December really has become forgotten because of this merging.  Many walk The Show today with no clue.

In 1996, The Show moved next door to 145 acres on Curletts Road.  This is our current Show Grounds.  Inside, the main roads around the stockyards and show stadiums are named after those first families that made the show what it is today.  The main road inside is named after the Deans.

In 2005, the Christchurch City Council reformed the November events into the New Zealand Cup & Show Week.  This brought together The New Zealand Cup Race – that had been taking place since 1904 – and the Show into a week of fashion, horse racing, Canterbury’s best on display for all to see.  For those wanting to watch the trotting and Greyhounds are best to attend the races at Addington whereas Thoroughbreds are put through their paces at Riccarton Raceway.

In 2012 the Show celebrated its 150th anniversary and I hope that it remains a part of our summer celebrations for many more years to come.

*Heritage photo of the A & P Show courtesy of*
*Image of 2012 Whangarei Show courtesy of Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 14-Nov-12
*image of Deans Road Sign at A & P Show grounds taken by Annette Bulovic*

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