Albert Ager was an architect from Christchurch who briefly made his mark in Ashburton during the late 1890s and early 1900s.
Ager trained at the School of Architecture at Canterbury College, Christchurch.
It seems that before coming to Ashburton, he lectured at the School of Art.
He delivered a series of lectures on the history of architecture which were fully illustrated by limelight views.
Limelight was a type of lighting once widely used in theatres and music halls. It gives its name to the expression ‘in the limelight’ to mean someone who is at the center of public attention.
Ager also delivered lectures on the progress of architecture, this time at a meeting of the Canterbury College of Arts and Crafts Guild.
Most notably, in Ashburton Ager was the minister and pastor of the Baptist Church, and also designed the building. This helped gain the trust of the public, who would be his main customers in the years to come.
The Baptist Tabernacle was built in 1896, and burnt down in 1925. One newspaper article notes that Ager took up church work after leaving the architectural profession but due to “circumstances over which he has no control” later found himself returning to architecture once again.
He set up shop in the Arcade Chambers, with an ad in the paper stating “if you want a new house, or alterations, or newest style decorations, consult Mr Ager.”
It seems that Ager was with the times and kept up to date with what was modern at the time. A villa that Mr Ager designed for Rev. W. Barnett was “fitted with all the latest modern conveniences.”
Many designs were put forward for a new pavilion that was proposed to be built in the domain. Ultimately it was Mr Ager’s design that was approved by the Borough Council.
Another structure that featured in the domain was the grandstand built in c.1907, which Mr Ager designed. The Mayor, Mr Henry Davis, complimented him on the design.
There is some information about property Mr Ager owned, with his purchase of Gertrude Bullock’s property which was situated on the corner of Cass and Peter Street, on January 10th, 1905.
Not much else is known of Mr Ager but it seems clear that he left a legacy of architecture in Ashburton and was prominent in the town from the late 1890s and early 1900s.
By Rosie Twamley
This article has been modified for this blog and was originally published in the Ashburton Guardian, 11th of February 2020.
1. The Baptist Tabernacle, designed by Mr Ager, architect, minister and pastor.
2. Advertisement for Mr Ager’s business offering architectural design and alterations.
3. Postcard of a croquet match in the domain, with the pavilion Ager designed in the background.