Industrial past, prosperous future

by Andy Bryenton

When the town of Hornby was named in the colonial era, it was twinned with a namesake in Lancashire, England. The name was changed from the more prosaic ‘Southbridge Junction’ in 1878. In those times, naming a new settlement to assuage a sense of homesickness for the ‘mother country’ was the norm, but our own Hornby would grow to become very different from its namesake. 

Early on, the junction of the main state highway and two railway lines made this a place that was a fine seat of industry. With the ability to move materials came the giant enterprises, which were to define Hornby in the early 20th century and even into the present day. With the advent of refrigeration technology came the freezing works, where the livestock of the fertile Canterbury region was processed into food to be sent out on new, chiller-equipped steamboats. 

Another huge enterprise that brought fame to the region was the Crown Crystal glassworks. By the 1960s this was a hub for the craft and artistry of glassblowing and manufacture, where science combined with traditional skills. Glassblowers came from around the world to work in the extensive factory, and it was a stopover on the Queen and Prince Philip’s silver jubilee tour. Equally massive was the fertiliser plant established by Kempthorne Prosser in 1922. This facility, with its huge value to the farming enterprises of Canterbury and beyond, has transformed over the years into modern works run by Ravensdown. In modern times, much of this heavy industry has given way to retail, with one of the region’s largest shopping malls, aptly named The Hub constructed in the heart of Hornby. It has changed the character of the town toward service for the western suburbs of Christchurch, and also for those towns deeper within the Selwyn District.