Fairton – more than just ‘the works’


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Often the activity of one business dominates smaller communities. The closure of such an important venture as the Fairton ‘works was traumatic. It was also a reminder of the community spirit that has built up over time around this venture.

This week we look at some images from the museum archive that recall various aspects of Fairton life, as we offer our support to those in that community and beyond.

The name Fairton was itself an ingenious solution. There had been some early confusion about the place name, as for a while both the railway siding and the works itself were called Fairfield. As it was sometimes mistaken for the Fairfield area near Dunedin, Fairton was adopted by the community and later by the works as well.

The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand (1903) states that the community had a school, opened in 1901. Initially the school was housed in rented premises but later sat on a 5 acre block donated by the late Mr Wilson of Dromore.

Naturally, the works features large in the Cyclopaedia publication. This proudly states that Fairton was considered to be one of the finest works in the Southern hemisphere. It could put through 500 sheep in a day.

The industries that took place at Fairton works included the manufacture of premier jus, tallow, manure and sausage casing. The fellmongery also processed hides and wool.  Along with the abattoir, it must have been a very busy place.

While naturally the works was major focus of the community, and Ashburton in general, we should not forget that the community needed women, children, other businesses and recreational outlets to survive and flourish. These images are by no means reflect the only things happening in the Fairton area, but reflect those kept in the collections for all our community to reflect on.

By Kathleen Stringer


1 – St Paul’s Church, taken in 2003.

2  – The local hall was a focus for the social life of the community.

3 – Staff of the works. It is interesting to compare their clothes with those of today’s almost medical-style garments.

4 – The 1922 cricket team with the Studholm shield.

5 – Just some of the 500 sheep that could be killed in a day around the turn of the century. The chillers had room to store 80,000 carcases.

6  – Ashburton was so proud of their works, that it featured in a number of postcards.

7 – Mr T Fisher, the grocer, supplied Fairton as well as Seafield and surrounds.

8 – School children outside their weatherboard school.

9 – Like most communities, Fairton had a home guard as well as Red Cross to aid the war effort.

10 – The school band, about 1919.

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