Hornby: Grand Beginnings
The area we now know as Hornby was from the mid 1860s simply considered an outlying part of Riccarton, and home to a number of great houses, the property of important landowners.
Ablington" was the first of these houses, built in 1858 on what was known then as Shands Track. It was bought in 1866 by Canterbury businessman and farmer Richard M. Morten and renamed "Broadlands". In 1874 it was re-named "Oakhampton", and later still "Branston Farm".
"Stoneycroft" was built in 1863 by one George A.E. Ross and used as a base for his considerable farming interests. His success however was shortlived for in 1867 he was declared bankrupt and sold the house to Richad Morten. Arthur R.V. Morten who inherited "Stoneycroft" on the death of his father in 1909 dismantled the house and built a new one alongside. This new building was acquired by the government in 1919 and used by out-patients from Sunnyside Hospital. It was later re-named "Hornby Lodge".
The third and arguably most impressive of these large houses was "Woodcote". Built in 1866, it was bought in 1878 by Sarah Bassett, subsequently greatly expanded and surrounded by extensive gardens. However as was often the case in these times, the family’s circumstances were to change and the splendour of "Woodcote" disappeared; the family was forced to move, but were unable to sell the house. The building survived into the early years of the twentieth century, but the end came when it burned down.
Another early house was "Crisis Lodge, on the site of what is now Hornby Mall. Built in 1875 by Robert Reay, a prominent figure in racing circles, it was sold to Dr. Henry H. Prins in 1880 who continued to use it to breed and train racehorses until his death in 1896. The new owner, George Hamill, subdivided it into 50 sections, and around 1900 the house itself was moved to a site on Shands Road where it stood until demolished in 1963.
Hornby: The Development Phase
It appears that Hornby was the second choice of name for this area, as the original railway station was known as Southbridge Junction. Subsequent postal confusion with the Township of Southbridge led to a new name being gazetted in September 1878 - Hornby Junction. Further confusion with the existing Horndon Junction disappeared when that area was re-named Darfield!
Hornby was different from other settlements of the time in that it had a name before any subdivision took place. There was an attempt at development in October 1878, but it did not eventuate and it was to be another 20 years before Hornby became more than a farming area with its few large houses and scattered cottages.
The growth of Hornby at the turn of the century was due almost entirely to the development and extension of the frozen meat industry. In 1896 the area known as Jersey Town (because of the dairy farm), was sold and subsequently divided into 82 sections. A year later more land was subdivided across the railway line by Carmen Road.
Hornby was also the site of one of the village settlements meant to provide allotments for town workmen, which were established by the Liberal Government of 1891-1912. In 1909 the Government bought 75 acres which was subdivided into 3 acre sections, and offered on 33 year leases. There was however no great demand for these.
Various institutions also became established at this time. The first Hornby school opened in 1895; the Baptists were the first to establish their church in 1897 but were soon followed by the Roman Catholics and Anglicans. After much debate a recreation ground was opened in 1910 and soon became the centre for a number of sports.
In April 1911, the Paparua County came into existence and took over administrative responsibility from the road districts which had been set up in the 1860s.
Hornby: Early Industry
Samuel Smart and Sons established a stone breaking works in the area about 1884. The demand for road metal, shingle and sand was significant and within five years the land had been excavated to a depth of some 30 feet. Before recent development the area was known as Smarts Pit, and subsequently a road in the vicinity was named Smarts Road.
However Hornby came to be dominated by the early establishment of a large meat exporting industry. Opened in November 1869, and spread over 10 acres alongside the railway line, the Canterbury Meat Export Company had a chequered life. Initial success and the development of canned meat, was followed by the company’s collapse five years later; this was attributed to an over-supplied market and defective cans. For the next 13 years the plant was only worked at intervals, but the advent of refrigeration resulted in a change of fortune. The property was taken over by the newly formed Christchurch Meat Company, new freezing works buildings were constructed, and the area now known as Islington was born. The Township was very much a company affair and by 1896 the "Works" employed some 500 people.
A second freezing works was opened in 1896 adjacent to the Hornby Railway Station. This was an attempt by Nelson Bros., a big company in the British frozen meat trade, to enter the South Island. However instead of offering competition to the Christchurch Meat Company, Nelson preferred to negotiate. This arrangement was not to last very long, and by 1912 there was an agreement whereby the Meat Company leased the Nelson plant. Eight years later the Company, now known as New Zealand Refrigerating Company, bought the works, which survived until sold for demolition in 1936.
Hornby’s First Department Store
Although served by a post office from the 1870s, business in Hornby did not develop until the end of the century and even then it seems that one name was to dominate the scene.
In 1897 Alfred Manhire opened his general store on the site now occupied by Woolworths. His brother William took over the business in 1898. It served as the modern day department store; as well as the departments which faced on to the street - groceries, drapery and boots - other goods were sold at the rear of the shop - animal foods, wood and coal. In addition the store acted as agent for the Liverpool, London and Globe Insurance Company, plus other agencies.
In 1908 when the post office was moved from the railway station a small addition was made to Manhire’s store to accommodate it.
In 1920 the store was bought by Archibald Still and he and his family maintained the business until 1964. Woolworths then bought the site for £35,000 and demolished the original buildings to make way for their supermarket.
A plaque in the car park marks the site of the original store.
- The Christchurch Press (no date)
- McBride, I. The Paparua County. Canterbury Public Library 1990.
- Cyclopedia of New Zealand
- McBride, I. The Paparua County, Canterbury Public Library, 1990.
- Loach, C. A History of the New Zealand Refrigerating Company, Caxton Press 1969.
- McBride, I. The Paparua County. Canterbury Public Library 1990
- The Press (no date)
- The Press, 30 August 1978