The Canterbury Acclimatization Society formed – 25th April 1864

On 25th April 1864, the who’s who of early Canterbury gathered together in the Christchurch Town Hall, which was situated on Sumner Road (High Street).
The historian in me marvels at such a gathering with the likes of these attending…

* Venerable the Archdeacon Octavius Mathias:– the 2nd Rev of Christ’s Church (St Michael & All Angels) who gifted the land for St Peter’s Anglican Church at Church Corner to be built.
* William Sefton Moorhouse – Canterbury Superintendent who once owned the farm named Spreydon.
* Charles Orbin Torlesse – Canterbury Association Surveyor, constructed the first home in Rangiora and was the nephew of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
* Edward Jerningham Wakefield – son of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
* Sir John Cracroft-Wilson – named and owned the farm of Cashmere.
* Sir Fredrick Weld – 6th Premier of New Zealand, Governor of Western Australia, Tasmania & the Strait Settlements.
* Dr. Julius [von] Haast – Founder of the Canterbury Museum, explorer.
* George Gould – one of the founders of today’s PGG Wrightsons.
* William Guise Brittan – Commissioner of Crown Waste Lands, ran the land office, played a role in the naming of New Brighton.
* Mark Pringle Stoddart – named Diamond Harbour and was the first European to explore Lake Coleridge.

– Amongst many others.

The meeting was called to silence by Canterbury Superintendant Samuel Bealey with “…the purpose of appointing the various officers required…” for the inaugurating of what would be named the Canterbury Horticultural and Acclimatization Society.

Not long after, the name was changed to simply just the ‘Canterbury Acclimatization Society’.

This made sense as the ‘Christchurch Agriculture, Botanical and Horticultural Society’ – now the Canterbury Horticultural Society – had formed on 10th December 1861 and those interested in acclimatization soon lost interest in introduced flora and concentrated more on animals imports.

The first New Zealand acclimatization society first appeared in Auckland in 1861 which was, “…focused on introducing all manner of new species as long as they were ‘innoxious’.”

As for Canterbury, 1.6 hectares were set apart in North Hagley Park – taking up the land to the west and north of Christchurch Public Hospital. It was to be known as the Acclimatization Gardens. A Curator’s House was to be built at the grounds’ eastern end; this became the home of John Armstrong who, in 1866, became the Government Gardener and also oversaw the Christchurch Botanical Gardens.

Soon, these gardens became the home of trout, salmon, small birds, pheasants, kea, ducks, quail, hares and rabbits which soon became a family favourite to visit on a Sunday. Even more so with the addition of kangaroo, emu, squirrels, red deer, goats, goldfish, ferrets and even a Californian bear.

The gardens were closed and moved in 1922 when the Christchurch Public Hospital wanted to extend their onsite Nurse’s Home. The society moved to 4 hectares at Greenpark (probably around Tai Tapu/Lincoln/Hoon Hay). Although the country’s societies are regarded to have lasted for 130 years, they have evolved, introduced scientific thinking and morphed into today’s Fish and Game New Zealand.

The old garden grounds today are simply known as The Murray Aynsley Lawn and the Daffodil Woodlands with the Curator’s House now functioning as a restaurant – having last being lived in 1982.

*image courtesy of the Canterbury Museum – W. A. Taylor Collection – Reference: 1968.213.5184 – Photograph by W. A. Taylor –

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