Feb 18, 2008

Minson's of Christchurch

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A nondescript facade on the East side of Colombo Street between Gloucester and Armagh Streets belies the story of what was once a fondly remembered Christchurch institution.

In 1892 forty-eight year-old William Minson arrived in the city with a young family. Settling at the "The Hollies," on the banks of the Heathcote river in Opawa, he purchased a hardware shop originally established in 1857 by William Neeve. As Minson & Company he turned the business into a replica of the old family crockery and glassware emporium at St Ives in Cornwall.

With what was probably the best range and quality in the city, Minson flourished to the extent that he moved the shop further up Colombo Street into the 1882 three-storied Compton House. In 1912 he extended the premises through to Gloucester Street. Succeeded by Arthur William, the oldest of his three sons, Minson died in 1925 aged 81 and now lies in Linwood Cemetery.

Carville Stewart recalled Minsons in the late 1920s: '... a long narrow shop on Colombo Street, north of Cathedral Square, that sold good quality china, cutlery and glassware - they kept a great deal of their stock on island displays alongside a central aisle that ran down the length of the store. The floor was wooden and when you walked down that very long aisle, every piece of china, on every one of those island displays, rattled alarmingly. It sounded as if every piece of expensive china was going to fall off and break into a thousand pieces - quite terrifying for a shy little boy who just wanted to see the Micro Models at the back of the store."

Alas commercial acumen is not an inheritable trait and its fourteenth decade the venerable store declined into extinction, but shorn of its elaborate facade in the 1940s the old premises survives as a dilapidated ghost of its former glory.

1 comment:

Alan Beck said...

Is this the building that contained NZBC facilities 3zb, 3zm, purpose built studios? First floor, stairs access off the street.