Grandstand, Marlborough Agricultural & Pastoral Association Showgrounds
A & P Park, 149-183 Maxwell Road And Alabama Road, Redwoodtown, Blenheim
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 2
Able to Visit
25th November 1982
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Lots 1-2 DP 1145 (CT MB3A/111; NZ Gazette 1983, p.3170), Marlborough Land District and the building known as Grandstand, Marlborough Agricultural & Pastoral Association Showgrounds, thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 8 March 2018.
Pt Lots 1-2 DP 1145 (CT MB3A/111; NZ Gazette 1983, p.3170), Marlborough Land District
The Marlborough Agricultural and Pastoral (A & P) Association constructed the Grandstand in 1924-25 as part of a larger scheme of improvements to its Blenheim showgrounds in the 1920s. It contributes to our understanding of the central place of agriculture in New Zealand’s history, society and economy. It also has architectural, social and historical significance as a fine and largely intact example of a covered grandstand, one of the country’s most visible and widespread types of civic amenity. The Grandstand, along with the Entrance Gates and Wall, the Covered Sheep Pens, and the open space of the grounds, still conveys a clear sense of the historic showground landscape.
The Wairau Agricultural Society was founded in 1870 during a period of rapid expansion of this type of organisation. The organisation split in 1874 after a close vote in favour of purchasing Maxwell Road land. It reconsolidated in February 1876 as the Marlborough Agricultural Association and changed its name to the Marlborough Agricultural and Pastoral Association in 1880.
When purchased in 1874, the showgrounds on Maxwell Road contained approximately six acres; the first show occurred there in April 1875. Although the main purpose of agricultural shows was to ‘display new breeds and encourage improvements in stock’, they were also a central feature in provincial New Zealand’s social calendar and usually very popular.
The Association made regular improvements to the showgrounds, but sometime between 1908 and 1928, it doubled the size of the showgrounds through aquisition(s) of land to the south. This expansion permitted the reorganisation and modernisation of the facilities, including construction of larger buildings and structures, most notably covered sheep pens (1923), a masonry grandstand (1924-25), and the Maxwell Road brick wall with entrance and service gates (1928-29). Even before all of the improvements were realised, the Marlborough Express described them as ‘splendid’ and suggested that they ‘placed the grounds in the forefront of any in New Zealand for modernity and completeness.’
Flush with financial success from a recent sheep drive, the Association announced in June 1924 that a new grandstand, designed by local architect John Brown, would be constructed to augment the seating capacity provided by the existing 1906 one. The Grandstand was planned to accommodate 900, including a dining room, kitchen, and, originally, ladies’ ‘accommodation’ under the seating. The following month the Association accepted the low bid of £1830 for construction submitted by Wemyss and Cook for a design that omitted the ladies’ rest room in favour of an entirely separate building for that purpose. The contractors lodged the building permit application in September 1924, construction was completed by mid-1925, and it officially opened in October 1925.
The completed building had concrete perimeter walls and a row of support columns down the middle of the understory to support the timber framing and decking for the seating. The timber structure and decking of the corrugated iron roof was likewise supported by iron posts. The grandstand remains largely intact with some refurbishment over time.
Although the showground was purchased by the Blenheim Borough Council in 1974, it continues to be used by the Association, with the annual show attracting 8,000-10,000 visitors over two days. The grandstand has been closed to the public since being damaged in the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.
John Brown, born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, and apprenticed to Mr Ingram of that town as an architect, came to Dunedin around 1908. He entered Mason and Wales office as chief draughtsman in 1908, before setting up on his own account in 1914. His obituary records that in the eight years he practiced on his own, he ‘designed and supervised the erection of many fine residences about Dunedin.’ His final work before his death was Reverend Tulloch Yuille’s residence in maori Hill. He designed the memorial arch at Kaikorai School (since demolished), and the Presbyterian church in Tarras. He was married to Margaret Mill, youngest daughter of William Mill of Dunedin, and sister of Robert Mill of the Bank of New Zealand in London.
Wemyss and Cook
No biography is currently available for this construction professional
1924 - 1925
Addition of one-storey concrete block addition with toilets and storage built against rear (south) wall
1994 - 1995
renovation and refurbishment of understory; new seating and flooring on upper level; alterations to rear toilet block
North-facing windows openings covered over; fixed seating added between sets of stairs up to covered seating
25th January 2018
Report Written By
‘Ye Olden Days.’ Marlborough Express. 1 November 1909. p.2
A Grand Parade: A History of the Marlborough A & P Association
Brooks, Cynthia. A Grand Parade: A History of the Marlborough A & P Association.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.
A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand