SYDENHAM, which lies south of the central area of Christchurch, once had the distinction of being the largest borough in the colony, outside of the four chief centres. Originally, it formed a part of the Heathcote and Spreydon Road districts and comprised of green fields and farmlets, where milk herds pastured and grain crops grew.
The Sydenham Borough was formed in 1876 and Charles Allison advocated that the new local body in the area be the Sydenham Borough Council named after Charles Prince’s crockery and china shop on Colombo Street called, ‘The Sydenham House’. The crockery shop, in turn, was named after the London suburb of Sydenham in the Borough of Lewisham. The Borough in 1877 had a population of between 5000 and 6000. At the end of twenty-five years of vigorous and healthy life, it had a population of 12,000.
On 31 March 1903 the Borough amalgamated with the City of Christchurch and became a suburb. At that time Sydenham already had its own swimming-baths, fire-engine, school, Theatre, cemetery and recreation grounds.
Numerous industries grew up during this time chief of which was Booth Macdonald and Company one of the principal manufacturers of agricultural machinery and farming implements. There was also a roller flourmill, a large furniture factory, a stocking and knitting mill, wholesale boot manufacturer, a cycle and carriage works, a soap factory and many other minor industries.
A well known Sydenham industry for many years was pottery. The founder was Luke Adams. Examples of the work of Luke Adams can be found in collector’s shops and homes.
Sydenham was a happy place for children to grow up in; houses were small but sections were large and there was plenty of spare land at the back of the shops along Colombo Road (Street). There were many sporting clubs in the area. The Agricultural and Pastoral Association which owned the land of the south west corner of the Colombo / Brougham Street intersection decided to move to Addington and sell its Sydenham site. This was bought by the Council in 1893 for 400 pounds and the sports clubs made great use of this land.
Early in Sydenham’s history there were many churches in the area and much of the social life of the people centred around them. Many had their own rugby, cricket and tennis clubs.
Sites to visit to find out more of the life of Sydenham’s history
Sydenham the Model Borough of old Christchurch
New Zealand Federation of University Women Canterbury Branch 1977