The Canvastown district extends along the Pelorus River from Ruatapu in the east to Pelorus Bridge in the west, and up the Wakamarina Valley into the Richmond Range. Early European settlers, especially goldminers after the first days of the goldrush in 1864, banded together to try and get improvements to roads up the Wakamarina to their mining sites. Once the Wakamarina area was changed from a designated forest area to one available for farming, new pressures and pressure groups evolved. Farmers formed a Canvastown Branch of the Farmers Union to deal with issues with the gold subsidy miners received during the depression. The women of the area began a Woman’s Institute branch in 1934.
These groups organised Christmas community events and the very popular Canvastown Races.
Historically there has been more than one entity charged with the creation and maintenance of public buildings in the Canvastown area. The earliest mention of an Incorporated Society was in 1930 in relation to a Canvastown Hall Committee. The hall was probably the Victoria Hall located close to the Pelorus Hotel. This entity paid rates to the council during the 1930’s. The incorporated society was wound up in 1955 to make way for the new Canvastown Memorial Hall built on the same site.
It was in the Victoria Hall on the 4th of April 1914 that a 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner was organised with 10 of the original Wakamarina miners present having a combined age of 714! The Canvastown Library and Debating Hall was also a very popular community based body. It was built on part of the existing school land and opened 18 July 1910
In 1946/7 Canvastown people applied to have a Memorial Hall built using a Government grant scheme which they could apply to after the war. This was a long winded process with lost documents and poor communication amongst government departments. From old documents it seems they bought the land for the Memorial Hall from the then publican, Mr Kennedy, for three hundred pounds.
After enlisting the help of their Member of Parliament, Mr Shand, it finally got off the ground in 1956 when a Memorial Hall Committee and incorporated society was formerly in place with its own letterhead. They received 1,100 pounds as a 1 for 1 subsidy, which they then used to help build the hall. The wonderful murals in the hall were painted by Oriwa Hadden for the princely sum of eighty six pounds and fifteen shillings.
The Memorial Hall Committee took over the management of the dances held in the hall, previously organised by the Social Club, as well as hiring it to the local Pelorus football club, cricket, basketball, bowls, Woman’s Division, play group, highland dancing, mobile kindergarten, church groups, training and political meetings, weddings and birthdays for many years.
The Canvastown Settlers Association organised a monument and celebrations to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Wakamarina Goldrush and suggested Norman Brayshaw write the book “Canvas and Gold”. The monument incorporates the Pelton Wheel of the Smile of Fortune battery at Deep Creek.
Another memorial celebrating gold in the Wakamarina River was erected by the Rutland family near Mountain Camp Creek to commemorate their family involvement in the Wakamarina Goldrush.
In the late 1970’s and 80’s the community became aware the trustees of the hall were all deceased. After a community survey, a new incorporated society was created on the 18th June 1986 at the annual Hall AGM. It was tasked to run the hall and deal with community issues and took the name “Canvastown Settlers Association”. It was at this time work began on up-grading the kitchen, toilets and replacing the roof using funds donated by Government grants, fundraising and the community.
Areas the Canvastown Settlers Association has been and are still active in are:
*The continuing liaison with the Marlborough Catchment Board and then the Marlborough District Council on river protection and flood prevention works-including stop banks and protection works on river banks on both the Pelorus and Wakamarina rivers.
*Road improvements and safety issues
*Name changes of roads, lanes etc.
* The building and maintenance of a solar powered TV transmitter on The Burn overlooking the Wakamarina and Pelorus valleys during the 1970’s
*Lobbying for a public telephone and toilet block.
*Rural Postal delivery after the Canvastown Post Office was closed
*Co-ordinating a local emergency response system for flood, fire and other emergency events
*Organising local celebratory events for the community.