This page explores the history of the Canterbury A&P Show and the origins of Show Day. Find out more on our page about Cup and Show Week and Canterbury Anniversary (all our libraries are closed on Show Day).
The Show in pictures
- View historic photographs of the Show from our collection.
- Browse a DigitalNZ set of images of A & P shows.
Early agricultural shows in Canterbury
The first agricultural show in Canterbury was held by the Canterbury Pastoral Association on 14 September 1859 at a farm on the north bank of the Rangitata River. Although the site had been chosen so that entries would come from all over Canterbury, the interest in the show was mostly from the south.
Twenty eight pens of sheep were judged. They were not divided up into classes according to breed. The next year, a more successful show was held at Turton’s Accommodation House in Ashburton.
First Christchurch agricultural show
A Canterbury agricultural show was held in Christchurch for the first time in 1862, using a paddock fenced with gorse, just north of Latimer Square.
The Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association was founded in 1863. The association bought a showground of 14 acres (5.6ha) in Sydenham. This became Sydenham Park in 1894. A show was held there on 22 October, but was washed out by rain.
By 1866, long-woolled sheep were judged separately by breed. Shows were also held that year in Rangiora and Timaru, as the local agricultural and pastoral associations grew in strength.
The 1886 show
Our digital collection contains the programme for the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association’s exhibition contains event listings, competition rules, prizes, lists of members and advertising:Grand November Show : to be held in the grounds of the Association, Colombo Street, Christchurch.
The move to Addington
When the Sydenham site became too small, the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association bought a 29-acre (11.7ha) block in Addington from John Twigger, who gave the Association another 5 acres (2ha).
The first show at this site ran from 9 to 11 November 1887. It included events such as the leaping match, with a prize for the horse clearing the highest bar no less than 4 feet (1.2m). By now there were classes for sheep, pigs, cattle and horses, as well as farm produce and equipment.
Anniversary Day and the show combine
By 1918, the Friday of Show Week had become People’s Day at the Show. Large numbers of town and country people visited.
Some time between 1955 and 1958, the official holiday for the anniversary day of the province was moved from 16 December (the date of the arrival of the First Four Ships) to People’s Day (the second Friday in November).
New Zealand Cup and Show Week
The Show has always been an occasion for town and country to mingle. Over the years, the days leading up to the Show and just after have become the dates for classic race meetings.
In 2005 the Christchurch City Council created the New Zealand Cup and Show Week umbrella brand to coordinate the growing number of races and events. The week was named after the New Zealand Cup (New Zealand Trotting Cup), a race started in 1904 and now considered the most prestigious harness racing event in New Zealand.
Race day has become a famous social event with traditions of high fashion and entertainment. Other long-standing events include two of New Zealand’s biggest horse races — the New Zealand 2000 Guineas and the New Zealand Cup. The New Zealand Greyhound Cup is also raced. The trotting and greyhound events take place at Addington Raceway, and the thoroughbred racing at Riccarton Park Racecourse.
Canterbury Agricultural Park
The Canterbury Show continued at the Addington Showgrounds for another 110 years. By 1996 the facilities at Addington had become cramped and dusty and no longer able to cope with the large number of entries and crowds of visitors.
That year, the A&P Association acquired a 145-hectare block of land on Curlett’s Road, Wigram from the Christchurch City Council. It was named Canterbury Agricultural Park and became New Zealand’s first purpose-built Show facility. It opened in 1997.
The Show grows
The range of events included dog trials, woodchopping, and exhibits such as emus and ostriches, wines and cheeses, agricultural machinery and services, as well as the more traditional livestock competitions. The park now hosts many other events including regular livestock sales, horse shows, showjumping and the New Zealand Motorhome and Caravan Expo. It is also used as a junior rugby league ground and Christchurch Riding for the Disabled has an indoor arena there.
- Grand November Show : to be held in the grounds of the Association, Colombo Street, Christchurch. A digitised copy ot the 1886 programme.
- The country comes to town: 1997 New Zealand Royal Show, November 12-16: a supplement to The Press, Christchurch, 1997
- 1987 New Zealand Royal Show, Christchurch, 1987
- A History of Canterbury, vol. II, Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd., 1971
- Rice, Geoffrey W. Christchurch changing: an illustrated history. Christchurch, 2000
- Show guide 1996: historic last show at the A&P Showground, Lincoln Road, Christchurch, Christchurch, 1996
- Deaths, John Twigger’s death notice, Star, 9 November 1885, p 2