The First Hundred - 1968


Last Modified: 18-3-2023 17:31

Mayor: Mr S. P. Harling

Councillors: Messrs G. A. Wall, R. J. France, D. C. Irving, L. C. Duckworth, H. E. McKinley, E. S. Young, A. F. Wagner, M. W. Wisheart, B. Hundleby, G. H. Whimp, F. L. Smith, G. E. Marshall.


There are over 220 cultural, social, religious, sporting and charit­able organisations in and around Blenheim.

There are three free kindergartens, one play centre, six primary schools, one intermediate school and two single-sex secondary colleges, two private Catholic schools, and evening trade courses and adult education classes at Marlborough Boys' and Girls' Colleges.

There are 48 manufacturers and processors operating in and around Blenheim.

Although Blenheim is not as military-minded as during its early history, it has an Army office in Charles Street (S/Sgt R. W. Brown), a large R.N.Z.A.F. base at Woodbourne (Wing Com­mander B. A. Wood), and a Naval relations officer (Lieut­Commander M. W. Wisheart).

2: Over 2000 people entered the fourth Marlborough Walk. At the Blenheim presentation ceremony, Mr L. C. Duckworth, presi­dent of the Marlborough Public Relations Association, announced that the check points at Koromiko and Tua Marina would in future be known as the A. H. Reed and Jim Webb check points.

6: The Marlborough representative cricket team (N.Z. test player Gary Bartlett, captain) wins the Hawke Cup by beating Hutt Valley. It won the Newman Shield on February 17.

17: Mr Ross Cragg exports 33 trays of Wiggins peaches to London. Some of these fetched 80c to $1 each.

22: The Mayor opens the New Zealand age group tennis cham­pionships at the courts in Pollard Park. Mr N. Perry was presi­dent of the Marlborough Lawn Tennis Association.

There is a difference of opinion between the Council and the Marlborough County Council over the latter's passing of sub­division plans for an area at Yelverton on the Borough boundary. The Borough Council's and Ministry of Works' appeal to the Town & Country Planning Appeal Board failed.


6: One hundred and forty-six new pupils attend classes for the first time at the new Witherlea primary school. Mr R. A. Brown, headmaster. Sandra Moran was the first pupil to ring the bell.

27: The St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church building, opened on October 23, 1892, is bought by Mr A. B. Barratt, licensee of the Criterion Hotel, for possible future extensions. He lends the building to the Marlborough Art Society. The foundation stone of the new church on the corner of Alfred and Henry Streets is laid by the Rt. Rev. E. G. Jansen, Moderator of the General Assembly on May 25.

28: The Marlborough Hotel, High Street, owned by Mr and Mrs H. H. Alexandre, ceases operation as licensed premises. Built in 1868 and rebuilt in 1877 and 1910, it had previously been named Ewart's and the Club Hotel.


7: The new Senior Citizens' clubrooms are opened by the Mayor. President of the Association is Mrs P. Rees.

13: The Marlborough Retailers' Association (Mr N. J. W. Cuddon, president, Mr I. Columbus, secretary) organises a New Zealand Wool Board show at His Majesty's Theatre. Mrs Joan Shewan won the "Mrs Marlborough" contest.

There is no shortage of suggestions to the Borough Council. Different organisations in the community want it to double the space at the Centennial Hall, heat the Olympic Pool, buy a theatre, beautify the inner area, build a new aviary, construct an open air theatre on the banks of the Taylor River, and make the Wither Hills a municipal park.

21: There is unemployment in Blenheim.

There are many fines for motoring offences in Blenheim — $5 for operating a noisy vehicle, exceeding 55 mph $13, insufficient lights $15, parking in expired meter space $2 ($5 costs in each case).


The Council plans to shift the bird aviary to Pollard Park and close the end of Wynen Street to allow more scope for the new Fire Station.

10: Mr Ron Sutherland, of Blenheim, swims ashore from the wreck of the Wahine which capsized in Wellington Harbour; 54 persons lost their lives.

13: The Marlborough Aero Club celebrates its 40th annivers­ary with a pageant at Omaka Aerodrome (Mr P. D. Reid, president).

16: In the largest burglary reported in New Zealand history, $51,000 is stolen from the Blenheim Post Office. A hole was cut in the main safe door. Four days later two Blenheim men were arrested and subsequently convicted of the crime. Most of the money was recovered.

Locally grown walnuts fetch 20c per lb, but the old Blenheim saying "plant a walnut tree and pay your rates" no longer applies.


4: 600 members of the Jehovah Witness sect attend a convention at the Centennial Hall. Members called at many Blenheim homes wanting to discuss religious matters.

4: Alan Sutherland, of Blenheim, is selected as a rugby All Black. He toured Australia with great success and established the record of being the highest scoring New Zealand forward to tour overseas.

13: Four fires break out in a barracks block at the R.N.Z.A.F. Base, Woodbourne. Some trainees lost all their possessions. An airman was tried and subsequently convicted for starting the fires. 22: A Blenheim Borough Council Centennial Committee is formed with Councillor L. C. Duckworth as chairman.

24: An earthquake shakes Blenheim but causes little damage. It was severe on the West Coast, and Inangahua and Reefton were declared disaster areas.

Borough building permit figures decrease by 16%. An average 3-bedroomed house costs $8280. Costs have risen 24.2% in eight years.

A Blenheim food processing firm, Instant Foods Ltd, sends freeze-dry foods to a New Zealand student during a period of shortages in Paris.


1: The Marlborough Model & Experimental Engineers Society holds a model boat regatta at the Taylor Dam (Mr P. Carmody, president).

4: Many Blenheim people mourn the death of Sir Walter Nash, a former Prime Minister.

Bill Thomas, head boy of Marlborough College, is selected to represent the Lions Clubs of New Zealand at an international youth congress in the U.S.A.

7: The Post Office produces a new Blenheim telephone book. There are 50 Smiths, 21 Browns, 13 Whites, 10 Greens and 8 Blacks.

The Mayor receives a telephone call from an irate citizen on account of the cutting back of a plane tree in Eltham Road. Its core was rotten, and 400 young saplings had been planted this year, said the Mayor. The Council was happy to plant more trees given the finance, said Cr G. E. Marshall.

The publication by The Express of the estimates prior to the Council meeting sparks off an argument. Councillors ob­jected to reading the Committee's recommendations for the first time in the newspaper. The Express had an agreement (14/11/62) which permitted, subject to certain conditions, prior publication of committee recommendations. The Council re­solved not to release information until 3 p.m. on the day before the Council meeting.

3: The Marlborough representative rugby team beats the tour­ing French team 24-19 at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim, in the greatest victory of Marlborough rugby history. The Marlborough team was: Backs, L. Sparks, N. Avery, P. Clarke, A. Mowat, J. Gleeson, K. Hodges, R. May; forwards, A. Sutherland, R. Waiariki, R. Neal, R. Sutherland (captain), A. Shultz, J. Josephs, M. Bell, G. Lowe. Mr E. P. Dwyer was president of the Marl­borough Rugby Union. Coach-selectors were Mr J. Finlay and Mr J. Fraser.

6: The New Zealand Ploughing Championships are held in Blenheim (Mr I. Jordan, president, Marlborough Ploughing Match Association). The first ploughing match in Marlborough was held on Henry Redwood's paddock, Spring Creek, on May 20, 1870.


17: The Blenheim C.W.I. drama group wins the national finals of the C.W.I. Drama Festival in Wellington with "The Cage", produced by Chris Ashley.


6: The new Blenheim Post Office is still on the drawing board. A building of between 10,000 and 13,000 square feet is planned.

10: Blenheim land values soar 112% between 1960 and 1967. For comparison, Hastings increased 18.6% and Greymouth dropped 23.7%. Blenheim's increase exceeded that of Auck­land, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Owing to a serious reduction of rail freight available to Safe Air Ltd, 18 Blenheim-based pilots are under notice of dismissal.

27: It is pointed out that if the Blenheim population increases at the current rate of one citizen a day, it will be a city in 1984. The Council Reserves Committee advises the Marlborough Boys' College that it has no rabbits to spare from the aviary for biology class dissection.

28: The Council decides it will consider selling the Town Hall to either build or buy a theatre in Blenheim.

There are 260 parking meters in Blenheim. They are referred to as "one-armed bandits".

The staffs of two Blenheim firms, R. T. Scott Ltd (Mr A. Black) and Alloway Products (Mr P. Alloway) donate a stainless steel slide to the Ra Maru Intellectually Handicapped Children's School, Redwoodtown.

Mr Norman Brayshaw, secretary of the Marlborough Historical Society, is the provincial archivist. He has thousands of photo­graphs, records and historical items in stores built behind his home in Alabama Road.

31: The newly-formed Blenheim South Rotary Club receives its charter. Mr D. C. Irving, president.


3: Cr G. H. Whimp convenes a conference of non-Kapuni gas authorities in Blenheim to study the future of natural gas or liquid petroleum gas.

5: In a Council election survey, citizens' opinions of the Council ranges from "They have done a wonderful job" to "Like all Councils, they need a bomb under them."

6: Mr E. C. Baynon, attendant at the Riverside Park Aviary, introduces a mate, Paula II to Blenheim's bonnet monkey, Peter. A case of love at first sight is reported.

5: Marlborough beats Nelson in its sixteenth successive defence of the Seddon Shield (rugby football).

There has been a great increase in the Blenheim tourist industry during the last seven years. Today there are 325 beds in motels, 203 hotel beds and 46 beds in guest houses.

17: The Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt, and Lady Porritt, visit Blenheim. He mentioned that he had been supplied with Blenheim roses grown under glass by Mr R. Ballinger, who pro­vided the only consistent supply in New Zealand.

23: The Hon. T. P. Shand opens the Wairau Hospital Nurses' Recreation Hall (Nurse K. Roberts, president, Student Nurses' Association). The nurses raised much of the finance and they received generous support from the R.S.A., Jaycee, Blenheim hotels and other organisations. The hall cost $22,000. Con­tractor, L. C. Duckworth Ltd.

25: Of the 110 premises which handle or sell food in Blenheim, 35% are judged by the Borough health inspector, Mr W. Stirling, to be of good standard, 45% reasonable, and 30% below stand­ard.

24: The N.Z. Free Kindergarten Conference (Mrs N. H. Bray­shaw, president, Blenheim Branch) holds its annual conference in Blenheim. Blenheim is gaining the reputation of being a good conference town.

26: The Borough Centennial chairman, Cr L. C. Duckworth, announces the programme for the centennial celebrations on March 6, 1969: The sponsorship of a boy to Outward Bound, $100 to the Queen Elizabeth Music Fund, a visit by the Governor-General, Sir Arthur Porritt, the depositing of a casket covered by an inscribed plaque in the Memorial clock tower, a grand procession, a static display in the Town Hall, a centenary Council meeting, a civic dinner, a centennial ball (March 8, 1969), the publication of a chronological review of the past century.

25: Speed restriction is less important in traffic safety than good driving education, said the chairman of the by-laws and town planning committee, Cr E. S. Young.

Twenty-five senior Marlborough College boys sell $10,000 worth of debentures in order to raise finance for a new gymnasium (G. V. Jones, deputy head boy, was in charge).

Blenheim Jaycee celebrates its 21st anniversary (Mr B. F. Ker­ridge, convener, Mr D. L. Kidd, president).


10: The Wairau Harbour Board (Mr R. A. Hawkins, chairman, Mr D. H. McFedries, secretary) which was formed in March, 1908, ceases to exist as its functions have been taken over by the Marlborough Harbour Board.

12: Successful candidates in the Blenheim Borough Council election were:

Mayoralty, Mr S. P. Harking, 2635 votes.

Council, Messrs L. C. Duckworth (3042), Deputy Mayor and chairman Works Committee; H. E. McKinley (3039), chairman Finance and Library Committees; E. S. Young (2983), chairman By-laws and Town Planning;   A. F. Wagner (2813); M. W. Wisheart (2786), chairman Reserves Committee; B. Hundleby (2743); G. H. Whimp (2703), chairman Gas Committee; F. L. Smith (2477), chairman Property Lighting and Industrial De­velopment; G. E. Marshall (2279), chairman Abattoir and By-Products Committee.

It was a 53.21 % poll.

A Blenheim businessman, Mr C. E. Saunders, is a rowing judge at the Olympic Games in Mexico. He was an Olympic and Empire Games judge on previous occasions and was a New Zea­land and Olympic oarsman.

Work commences on the Council's half-million-dollar sewer out-fall scheme, incorporating a pumping station near the Abattoirs and stabilisation lagoons three miles east of Blenheim on Harding's Road.


20: The Council decides to suspend building any additions to its present offices and proceed as soon as possible with the new civic chambers.

28: Lance Corporal Donald Bensemann, of Blenheim, who was killed in action while serving with the New Zealand contingent in Vietnam, is buried with full military honours at Omaka cemetery.

28: It is a beautiful sunny Blenheim morning as the compiler of this chronology completes the manuscript. He walks into Seymour Square and, sitting beside the fountain, wonders what life was like in the early days of Blenheim, when James Sinclair and F. J. Litchfield were building their great-grandchildren's future and our present.

Early citizens held trotting races, football games, and grazed cattle in Seymour Square. Now the square is a garden and dedicated to those men who left Marlborough on war service, never to return.

Today we graze cattle and play our games elsewhere, and judg­ing by the ideological and racial discord in the world, Marlborough men may again leave the Province never to return.

Has Blenheim changed much in the past 100 years? The world certainly has. It has been the most dynamic century in the history of man.

During the currency of this chronology there have been enormous social reforms, undreamt-of-scientific progress, two world wars; kings and queens have come and gone.

We are now in the age of nuclear power, computers, and in a matter of months man may step from a machine on to the moon. This huge tide of events has obviously produced a change in Blen­heim, but it has been gradual, and the even tenor of life was little disturbed until the nineteen-fifties when the town emerged from tranquillity.

But surely the true essence of life has changed little. We worship the same God, we are born, we love and we die. There are more of us, and life is easier. Communications between people and places are vastly improved — yet we know each other less.

The unrewarding work, of caring for the future of Blenheim is still undertaken by the willing few. Pray God that in the next 100 years similar men will still care, and pray God men will still retain the right to criticise them publicly.

This chronology is not for the serious student, as it hardly scrapes the surface of the history of Blenheim. Important items, people and incidents have, through lack of time and space, been omitted.

The real history is in the old Council minute books, in the past pages of The Express and in the minds and archives of our his­torians.

In the next hundred years may the sun still shine on Blenheim, may the Cleghorn Rotunda still be in Market Place, and may God give us Mayors and Councillors who will lead us with the same determination as did those of the first hundred.

Blenheim, 28 November 1968  A.B.

Cite this page

Beverley, A. (2023). The First Hundred - 1968. Retrieved May, 31, 2024, from