The Woolston Tannery was built circa 1870 from brick by Gustav Lindstrom, great-great grandfather of one of the Cassels Sons. The Cassels and Sons Brewery building stands on the banks of the Heathcote River. Prior to the arrival of the European the Heathcote River was a source of food for Maori. They called the River Opawaho and took from it fish, eels and wading birds.
In 1841 Captain Daniell explored the Estuary and sent boats eight miles up the Heathcote. Later the “Acheron” surveyed the area in 1849 followed by the brig “Pandora”. In 1859 an extensive report was prepared for the Admiralty and sailing instructions were published in the NZ Pilot. Extracts of the report include “The entrance to the Avon and Heathcote Rivers lies at the south extreme of the sandy beach of Pegasus Bay … As a means of conveying cargo between Lyttelton and the plains it is of great importance to the Canterbury Settlement and in moderate weather is accessible to vessels drawing eight to ten feet of water. Indeed, with no prospect of roads over the swampy ground it was the rivers, which decided Captain Joseph Thomas on the siting of the city of Christchurch.
The Heathcote could be navigated up to Wilson’s Bridge, though in practice the trade ended at the present Radley Street Bridge. Thus the Lower Heathcote in conjunction with Ferry Road soon became the main artery of the Canterbury Settlement. By 1856 industry had established on the River. In the building boom of the 1860’s and 1870’s eight million super feet of timber passed up the River annually.
By 1874 eight wool scourers and seven tanneries established in the Woolston Area, the largest of these was built by Gustav Lindstrom and is was later became the Woolston Tannery. There were also limekilns, brick works and timber yards. Goods were now being exported from Canterbury, via Lyttelton. The River was taking all this traffic and cargo! On 14th November 14, 1866, 15 vessels sailed from the River. With the building of roads and railways the River trade declined. The railway line was built through Woolston, close to the River, enabling the area to remain an important industrial suburb.
Woolston in 2012
The old tanneries went out of business in the 1950’s, Andersons in the 1980’s and Skellerup contracted around this time. Petrochemical storage and container parks took over much of Chapman’s Road. By the end of the 1990’s transport based industries had relocated to Hornby and an identity crisis loomed. A recent building boom has seen a turn around to the point where all the vacant land either side of Chapman’s Road has been developed. In the area of the Heathcote Loop, G L Bowrons and Independent Fisheries have expanded. The old Jubilee Hospital Building, together with its grounds is still intact. The Council have planted out a public walkway on the northern side of the River. The Loop is a very picturesque area and has a look and feel more like Hagley Park than a business five zone. Not being as prone liquefaction, the series of earthquakes has left the area reasonably unscathed. The Cassels & Sons Brewery is sited where the old Woolston tannery Gardens were on Garlands Road and the Council have granted resource consent for a 4,000 sm shopping and mixed use development on the Woolston Tannery site, which will retain the buildings, form and historic character of the iconic site.