W.D Woods arrived in Christchurch on the “Randolph’, one of the first four ships on the 16th December 1850. Legend states that W.D. didn’t step on shore until the next day, his 26th birthday. Being born into a family of millers, W.D Woods fate was set.
Wood’s first job in Christchurch was being secretary to John Robert Godley, Christchurch’s founder and he also owned a cattle run out by Darfield. It wasn’t until 1856, after a trip to Australia and England that Wood’s opened his first flour mill in Christchurch, known as Riccarton Mill. Wood Lane, off Fendalton Ave reminds us of the mill and Wood’s house that once stood there. This land was leased off Jane Deans.
On his trip home to England, Woods meets his future wife. Taking his wife back to Christchurch, he was also joined by his brother Henry who took a huge role in the development of Riccarton Mill and The Woods Bros name was becoming known as a Christchurch business. Woods kept his eye on all new developments in the flour business, even taking trips to America to see all the news ideas in first hand. This caused the expandure of a additional Mill in Wise Street, Addington and both Riccarton and Addington Mills were run together for five years.
By 1892, Riccarton Mill had been sold and Woods Bros Flour Mill was running solo in Wise Street, Addington. By this time, W.D. Woods had retired, his business passing on to his sons who were among the first students at Lincoln University. This huge business was powered by steam instead of water. In 1913 a tall brick grain silo was built and storage buildings were added in 1926. By 1936, Woods Bros. Flour Mill was the largest exporter of flour in the South Island. The Mill and the land were sold in 1970 and few businesses have used the old buildings over the years, including living apartments that could be rented.
In 2003 Champion Flour Mill used the old Woods silo to mix their grain.
The decay of time, arson and also the Christchurch earthquakes have shaken it into a skeleton of its former self. Pictured here sad reality of Woods Mill today but it is fighting its way back.
So, what happened to Riccarton Mill? It was sold to a Richard Allan in the early 1890’s. His business was called Riccarton Roller Flour Mill, then it turned into producing grains for animal stock food, then general food supplies business that is now known as Watties. In 1971, the old Mill was gutted by fire. In 1974 Christchurch Girls High moved to the site and are still there today.
All is that left of the old Riccarton Mill is the old Mill pond and the foundations stones.
All water powered Mills need to sit over their water supply so an island is a great support in a river for such a business. Here pictured is the island that supported Riccarton Mill. What you can see is a Christchurch Girls High building, a bridge the only way the girls can get to these classrooms. Back in 1856, the Maori that planted potatoes for the Deans lived in huts on this island. As Riccarton House was being built, they set fire on their huts, believing they could move in with Jane Deans as the house was too big for one white woman. Jane stood her ground and the Maori ended up moved camp. The island is not really an island just a bit of land that juts out into the Avon. You walk this island and you’ll end up at Mona Vale.
W.D. is buried in Linwood Cemetery, Christchurch.
*Image of W.D. Wood courtesy of http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz *
*black white images courtesy of http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/ *
*Modern photo of Woods Bros Flour Mill taken by Annette Bulovic*
*photo of W.D. Woods’ grave taken by Chris Bulovic*