History of the Tinwald Domain

Continuing on from our last post about Tinwald, let’s now take a look at Tinwald’s popular and beloved Domain.

The Tinwald Domain began as a mere suggestion made by John Grigg to the Ashburton County Council, to apply to the Government for a fifty acre recreation reserve in 1878. Fifty acres were not acquired, instead the area granted was two hundred acres (230 acres in extent when surveyed!)

A Domain Board was pulled together to manage the reserve and the rest is history. What started out as a “quite dull and uninteresting” bit of land eventually evolved, with care and attention, into a multi-purpose recreation area and beauty spot, enjoyed by all.

Rowing in the Tinwald Domain pond, 1907.

Most of the information in this post came from Emily Bayliss’ 1970 book Tinwald: A Canterbury Plains Settlement.

First steps

The Tinwald Domain’s first board of managers were William C Walker, Edward G Wright, John Carter (first chairman), Joseph Beswick and John Grigg. The Board were granted an initial £150 of funding and quickly got down to business.

In 1881 under their second chairman Charles P Cox, steps were taken to lay out the Domain in its present form, contracts were let for clearing tussock and land not reserved for trees was offered for lease. Around 1888, a decision was made to provide a “Reservoir or Ornamental Piece of Water” at a cost of £100. The project ended up running over budget, but the Board considered “the excess judiciously spent.”

According to Emily Bayliss, “the lakelet was stocked with imported perch which grew to a good size in their new habitat. At one time a certain amount of illegal fishing took place, and even some Ashburton people came over to do some quiet angling.”

Two ladies by the pond, being approached by several ducks. Taken by Hooper, 30/11/1935.

At this point the Tinwald Domain was taking shape nicely. The pond island was placed in 1892 and iron gates were put in place on the Maronan Road entrance.

Sports and activities

The earliest application for sports grounds was in 1884, when the Tinwald Cricket Club applied and was allowed to rent ten acres. Five years later, the Tinwald Racing Club moved to a new track in the Domain, which was outfitted with a grandstand, enclosure and a three-roomed judge’s box.

Subsequent developments for sport and recreation included a running track which was formed in 1896, courts for the Tinwald Tennis Club in 1900 and 1905 as well as hockey grounds and a football field. It’s no wonder that, with all this buzz about sports, an association was formed in 1899 which worked with the Domain Board to improve the grounds and get a cycling track laid down. In 1911, the Sports Association became the Amateur Swimming and Athletics Club.

A big change came much later in 1967, when the Domain Board made forty acres on Fraser’s Road available to the new Tinwald Golf Club and this was extended by a further fifty-eight acres in 1969.

Swimming in Tinwald had simple beginnings. The pond was used for bathing, with certain restrictions, until it was eventually prohibited. A designated swimming spot was appointed in the Lagmhor Creek, but it was not entirely fit-for-purpose and so in 1910 the chairman of the Board decided to act on the many requests he had received for a proper swimming bath.

View across the Tinwald swimming baths, taken by Miss Hooper on 30/11/1935.

In 1911 a pool was decided on. It was planned to be roughly 60 meters long and 14 meters wide, indeed no mere paddling pool. The buildings of the defunct Racing Club were dismantled to make dressing sheds, the banks were done up and over time the sides and bottom were concreted. The pool was remodelled in 1958 and ten years later it was properly reconstructed.

The Plains

On top of all the sporting areas, the Tinwald Domain is also home to the Plains Vintage Railway & Historical Museum, owned and operated by the Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society Inc. which was founded in 1971.

A section of the former Mt Somers Branch railway is kept in working order for running restored locomotives and the Plains also looks after a staggering number of machines and vehicles. Several rescued and restored historic buildings grace the Plains, which include the Waterton church, the Chertsey railway station, a weatherboard cottage from Princes Street, a blacksmith’s shop and replica shops housed in the old wool-classing room of Ashburton Intermediate School.

Locomotive W 192, during its brief stay at the Plains. It is one of two of its class built at Addington Railway Workshops by the Railways Department around 1889-1891. Photographed on 09/05/1992.

Also located at the Plains are the Lynn Woodwork Museum and the Ashburton Fire Museum. The Tinwald Domain really is packed with plenty of things to do.

The Tinwald Domain has earned a lot of praise throughout its 140 years. In 1918 the Guardian praised the grounds and boasted of its swimming bath, which was “one of the largest in the colony.” In 1968, Assistant Commissioner of Lands for Canterbury Mr H J Fitzgerald called it a “splendid reserve” and “an ornament to the district and a service to the community.”

Oak planting ceremony, to commemorate the visit of Prince Edward of Wales, at the Tinwald Domain. 19/08/1920.

Emily Bayliss included a poem in her chapter talking about the Tinwald Domain, which goes as follows:

We enter here; enchantment lies

Around us, to delight our eyes

With beauty inexpressible.

This fair Domain is our great pride

Where wildfowl on the water glide,

And peace and loveliness abide.

By Connor Lysaght

Unless otherwise stated, photographs and research materials on this page are owned by the Ashburton Museum & Historical Society Inc. This post was modified for this blog and was originally published in the Ashburton Guardian, 18 September 2021.

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