Wards Brewery Historic Area

Fitzgerald Ave, Kilmore Street, Chester Street East, Christchurch

  • Wards Brewery Historic Area.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7512 Date Entered 30th August 2002


Extent of List Entry

Wards Brewery Historic Area includes 229 Fitzgerald Ave, 284-296 Kilmore St, 173-177 Chester St East. The historic area includes all those buildings built for the brewery that are still extant. Originally the brewery was erected on Town Reserve 165, and then extended onto part of Town Reserve 166. [Many of the buildings that formed the Wards Brewery complex have been demolished following the Canterbury Earthquakes.]

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lots 1 & 2 DP 54213, Lots 3, 5 & 6 DP 18647, Lot 3 DP 19609, Christchurch.


This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Ward's Brewery, the first established in Christchurch, opened in 1854. It moved to its current site in 1860 and has been a significant landmark on the eastern side of the city for well over a hundred years. Constructed of brick and stone, the interesting range and form of the buildings attract attention to the site adjacent to the Avon River. The buildings are notable amongst other industrial structures of the era for their attractive detailing featuring Oamaru stone. The kilns in particular are superb examples of industrial architecture, their design and ornamentation transcending their functionality. Together with the malt-house, brewing tower and other related structures they comprise the largest and most important group of industrial buildings in Christchurch dating from this era.

Brewing is one of New Zealand's oldest industries, established in response to strong local demand from the time of earliest European settlement. The first brewery in the country, at Kororareka (later Russell) was built in 1835. The earliest brewery in the South Island was founded in Nelson in 1843. During the mid to late nineteenth century brewing expanded along with settlement throughout New Zealand. Breweries, with their distinctive towers, often featured prominently in the landscape. Brewery structures were typically constructed in wood and corrugated iron. These were sometimes replaced later by brick or stone buildings.

The making of beer consists of malting, brewing and fermenting. The main functional areas of a brewery are the malt house, where barley is germinated; the malt kiln, used to dry the barley and develop malt, and the brew-house, in the form of a tower, where fermentation takes place in vats. The Ward's complex is of considerable importance nationally as a largely intact example of an early brewery, complete with malt-house, malt kilns and brewing tower. It also retains some technological features of the brewing industry.

The site is also linked to the history of the pioneering Ward brothers, three of whom immigrated to New Zealand aboard one of Canterbury's 'first four ships', the Charlotte Jane. The Ward's brewery complex is an integral part of the social history of the community, both for its long operation as a local industry, and for its association with rowing, bowling and the Crichton Cobbers Youth Club.

The Ward's Brewery buildings are currently in private ownership and are used as commercial premises by several businesses.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


It is considered there are no significant cultural elements associated with the Ward's Brewery is considered to have been the first brewery operating in Christchurch and boasted an operating life of just over 100 years. Opening in 1854, the brewery has occupied its present site since late 1860, when it shifted from the other side of Fitzgerald Avenue. In 1881 the brewery buildings were described in The Lyttelton Times newspaper as being amongst the 'principal buildings' of the city and 'beyond question the largest [brewery] ... in New Zealand'. Ward's continued to prosper through the turn of the century, and was awarded a number of prizes at various inter-colonial exhibitions.

The brewery is said to have been founded by surgeon superintendent Archer C. Croft who was shortly afterwards joined in partnership by John Hamilton Ward and the business became known as Croft & Ward. This partnership was dissolved in 1862, when Joseph Palmer, a leading Canterbury banker and Croft sold the brewery, dwelling house and land bounded by Chester Street East and Kilmore Street East to Ward. Ward then ran the brewery under the name 'J. H. Ward, Canterbury Brewery' and the business maintained the Ward name when it was sold to Henry Lee, becoming Ward & Co. With the continuing success of the brewery and Lee's decision to travel to England in 1881, Ward & Co. was incorporated into a company in the same year (becoming Ward & Company Ltd.), with a share capital of 150,000 and individual shares selling for £10 each. One and a quarter acres and the brewery, cellars, cooperage, offices and new malt house were transferred in the transaction, as well as the quarter acre upon which the stables stood near Oxford Tce and a quarter acre housing two malt houses and kilns (known as the Phoenix Maltings). Lee remained the chairman of the Board of Directors while his partner Thomas Douglas, Albert Cuff, Harvey Hawkins and E S Harley were the other original directors. As early as December 1889, Ward & Company Ltd. were investigating the possibility of amalgamating with the Crown Brewery, but at this time they were refused due to the disparate "town" market of Ward's and the "country" trade of the Crown. Ward's acquired the City Brewery and its maltings in Colombo St from Vincent & Co in 1890 as part of its ongoing expansion. In 1923 Ward & Company Ltd amalgamated with Crown Brewery and with Mannings to become Canterbury Breweries, a branch of the newly founded New Zealand Breweries Ltd. Later, in 1955, the redevelopment of the Crown Brewery and its retention as the sole premises of Canterbury Breweries marked the closure of Ward's. Since then the buildings have been home to various commercial businesses as well as the Christchurch youth club Crichton Cobbers.

A factor in the brewery's early success could perhaps be attributed to the influence of its entrepreneurial owners, several of whom were involved in a variety of financial enterprises. John Hamilton Ward, from whom the Brewery derives its name, is perhaps the most renowned of these men. Described at 17 as being 'much too fond for his age of making a good bargain', Ward was a prosperous farmer, stockbreeder and share-broker in addition to his progress in making Ward's beer a success. His family's history is also significant to the province of Canterbury in that in 1850 at the age of 15, Hamilton (as he was known) and his older brothers, Edward and Henry, emigrated from Ireland to the new Canterbury settlement on one of the 'first four ships', the Charlotte Jane. Edward won the ballot for Quail Island from the Canterbury Association in 1851 and the Ward brothers became its first European inhabitants. Edward and Henry drowned in 1851, however, and Hamilton went to live with another prominent pioneering family, the Godleys, at Lyttelton until his brother Crosbie arrived in New Zealand. Crosbie became the editor of the Lyttelton Times newspaper and a cabinet minister, and with Hamilton founded the Canterbury Investment Company in which Hamilton was the active partner. Hamilton's successful involvement in the operation of Ward's Brewery added to the achievements of this early Canterbury family.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


Occupying a corner site bounded by Chester St East, Fitzgerald Avenue and Kilmore Street, the buildings of Ward's Brewery feature prominently in the neighbourhood. Their location adjacent to the Avon River enables the attractive facades of the buildings to be appreciated in a readily accessible and appealing setting. The form and detailing of the buildings distinguish them from many other industrial buildings and add character and interest as well as aesthetic appeal.

The sweeping slate roofs of the malt kilns are eye-catching, while the kiln walls are ornamented with beautifully carved Oamaru stone roundels with a brewing theme. Wheat sheaves, hops, and grapes as well as native plants are used as motifs. The malt-house also has decorative carvings at its roof comers along the same theme. These embellishments contribute to the aesthetic qualities of the buildings in this visually interesting complex.


The architectural significance of Ward's Brewery lies in the size of the complex, considered extensive even in newspaper reports of 1897, and the functional variety of buildings it contains, most of which relate directly to the historic use of the site as a brewery. The Lyttelton Times newspaper records that the kilns, tower and malt house were designed and built by Joseph Dawson. Dawson is probably the same person listed in Wise's Directory 1875-76 as a carpenter, and is otherwise unknown as an architect in Canterbury records.

The buildings are grouped around the brewery yard, with entrances from Kilmore Street and Chester Street East (see site plan). The earliest malt kiln, situated on Chester Street East, stands next to the three-storey malt-house, with the later kiln behind, adjoining the yard. The east face of the malt house stands beside the brewing tower on Fitzgerald Avenue with three further buildings (including the original barrel rooms) running towards the Fitzgerald Ave bridge. Facing Kilmore Street are brick buildings that may have functioned as maturing cellars and administration offices.

The malt kilns are constructed of brick and Oamaru stone, with stone dressings, sills, roundels, cornices and corbels, and windows are set beneath arched recesses below a double-pitched patterned slate roof. The three-storey malt house also has Oamaru stone dressings and decorative emblems on its roof corners, as well as a geometric frieze on the Fitzgerald Ave gable. The five-storey tower was plastered around 1930 and its domed belvedere roof and cast-iron filigree railing were removed in the 1960s due to deterioration. Although lacking its original decoration, the tower remains a distinctive building due to its height and fenestration.

Within the yard and attached to the tower is a small single-storey structure where the main artesian well was located and, behind that, the boiler house, upon which the chimney stood. There are also several other buildings within the yard, most of which are recent additions, including a brick workshop erected with bricks from the original stables. While it is difficult to trace the history and appearance of all the buildings within the yard, it is likely that the existing reinforced concrete boiler house is a replacement for the original brick building present in 1897.

The single-storied Fitzgerald Ave buildings are now painted and the once decoratively gabled facade wall has been levelled to roof height. The Kilmore Street buildings have also been altered, with part of the structure removed for access to the yard behind. Although the brick and stonework has also been painted over, the style of these buildings remains distinctive, with symmetrical arched windows and the original slate roof.

Durable brick and masonry construction distinguish the buildings at the Ward's brewery site from most brewery structures of the same era, which were generally constructed of wood and were less imposing. The decorative Oamaru stone architectural embellishments are of special interest, departing from the plain and functional appearance of most other industrial buildings. As a remaining example of a purpose-built industrial complex, surviving largely intact, the brewery site has considerable value, both locally and in a national context.


The Ward's Brewery complex retains several technological features that relate directly to its historical function as a brewery. The barrel storage rooms on Fitzgerald Avenue are set four feet (1.2 m) below ground level in order for barrels to be cooled by running water. A water bath at the surface of the artesian well contained water that was pumped to the top of the tower and then, via extensive piping, throughout the complex. Excess water was discharged into the Avon River. Ward & Co is thought to be the first firm in Christchurch to fit a hydraulic ram to an artesian well to raise water to the top of a building, a significant technological achievement for the time. A coal-bunker and underground tunnel that runs to the base of the boiler are further technological features at the site.

The Ward's site is notable in that it preserves the whole complex of brewery buildings including malt-house, malt kilns, tower, barrel storage sheds and other related structures. These have the potential to be investigated further and could be used to trace the beer manufacturing processes used during this era.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


Brewing is one of New Zealand's earliest industries and one that is closely linked to the development of the social behaviour of New Zealanders nationwide. For many decades, in a male-dominated society, beer consumption formed the basis of leisure activity. The production of alcohol continues to be a significant, if not essential, industry and has a special place in New Zealand's history. Ward's Brewery was a significant landmark on the east side of Christchurch and, as well as being an important local employer for several generations, became a focal point for other community activities.

The Ward's Brewery complex continues to reflect the brewing culture of nineteenth and early twentieth century New Zealand, when liquor was delivered by horse-drawn carts and wagons. A cooperage was housed on-site and yeast was sold to the public for medicinal purposes. The Ward's label was a popular one and a century later Lion Breweries successfully revived the name in a marketing campaign for regional beers.

In the late 1800s the riverside location encouraged the brewery's association with the increasingly popular pastime of rowing. After the construction of a boatshed (now demolished) opposite the brewery complex, the Ward's Brewery locality became a site that hundreds flocked to at the start of every rowing season. Both Joseph Dawson, the builder and designer of the tower, kiln and malt-house, and an early business partner, Thomas Douglas, were Canterbury rowing champions. The picturesque surroundings encouraged visitors to climb to the top of the tower roof where they could step out on to a platform to 'enjoy a magnificent panoramic view'. The environment around the site also favoured the establishment of a company bowling green, which was located on the north side of the malt kiln. Regular competitions and tournaments were organised amongst staff.

Later, following the closure of the brewery, the Crichton Cobbers Youth Club moved into the malt-house. Crichton's provided gymnastic and sports facilities and became the biggest boys' club of its kind in New Zealand by 1958. More than forty years since its arrival, Crichton Cobbers is the oldest tenant in the old Ward's Brewery buildings and has become part of the social history of the site.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the report was considered by the Board.

The proposed historic area includes 14 buildings of which 7 (nos 1-7 on site plan) are of primary importance, 3 are of unknown significance (nos 8-10) and 3 are considered of no historical significance (nos 11-13). They are situated along three street frontages and are grouped around the brewery yard. Also included in the complex is the site of the artesian well from which water was pumped using a hydraulic ram.

(Refer to Historic Area Boundary Map by Emma Wethey)

[Many of the buildings that formed the Wards Brewery complex have been demolished following the Canterbury Earthquakes.]

Construction Dates

Demolished - Earthquake
2011 -
Pickwicks Building demolished (pre-1897 and 1910 portions)

Demolished - Earthquake
2013 - 2013
Brick Kiln 1881 (Corner of Fitzgerald Ave and Chester St East) demolition started 5 Sep 2013.

1854 -
Ward's Brewery first opened in 1854

1860 -
Moved to current site in 1860

Completion Date

10th March 2003

Report Written By

Helen McCracken

Information Sources

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum

Fooks Map of 1862

- 'G.R. MacDonald Biographies', Canterbury Museum.

Christchurch Press

24 March 1990

Christchurch Star

Christchurch Star

3 January 1987

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903

Wilson, 1984 (2)

J. Wilson, Lost Christchurch, Springston: Te Waihora Press, 1984.

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories


Jackson, 1990

Peter Jackson, Quail Island. A Link with the Past, Christchurch, 1990

Lamb, 1981

R. Lamb, From the Banks of the Avon: the Story of a River Wellington: Reed, 1981.

Lyttelton Times

Lyttelton Times

2 July 1881

McLauchlan, 1994

Gordon McLauchlan, The Story of Beer: Beer and Brewing - A New Zealand History, Auckland, 1994

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Southern Provinces Almanac

Southern Provinces Almanac


Olssen, 1989

E Olssen and M Stenson, A Century of Change: New Zealand 1800-1900, Auckland, 1989

Canterbury Public Library

Canterbury Public Library

'William Travers Album'

'Canterbury Brewery Information Pack', Christchurch Public Library, 1997.

Canterbury Brewery Heritage Centre

Canterbury Brewery Heritage Centre

'Ward & Co. Minute Book'

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern region office.

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.

Historic Area Place Name

Barrel storage rooms
Boiler House
Brewing Tower
Kilmore Street Block
Malt Kilns (2)
Other buildings
Recent additions
Remaining Fitzgerald Ave Block (i.e: excluding 4 & 5)