Belfast Freezing Works

Engineering Site (eg Portland cement works, Maori fortifications)


Although it is difficult to establish when many freezing works were built, because many had previously existed as abattoirs, canning works, or the like, which then extended their activities to include freezing meat, the Belfast Freezing Works was purpose-built. Thus it can be confidently established that this works was the second freezing works built in New Zealand when it was completed in 1883. As such, it was also the first to export meat from Canterbury.

The Belfast Freezing Works is located a short distance along Factory Road which turns off the main highway north from Christchurch at Belfast. A number of buildings on the site are suspected to be original, or near original buildings, and amongst those possibly are the engine room which is complete with some early machines with hemp rope drives. The Christchurch site is significant historically because it is thought  that there are no early buildings left on the site of the first freezing works, built at Burnside in Dunedin. 

The Belfast Freezing Works has further of significance in that it was the first works in which the engineer Frank Coxon was involved from the beginning, including the site selection and who was subsequently involved in the design of many freezing works. It appears that J. C. Maddison was the architect.

The construction of the works was the result of the success of a shipment of meat on the S.S. Strathleven from Australia. This shipment arrived in London in February 1880, and news was cabled from the London office of New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company to their office in Christchurch. John Cooke, who was in charge of the Canterbury business, realised the significance of this in opening up overseas markets for Canterbury meat producers. He was possibly instrumental in alerting John Grigg, of the well-known Longbeach station in South Canterbury, of this development. This resulted in Grigg calling a meeting of run holders in November 1881, which led to the formation of the Canterbury Frozen Meat and Dairy Produce Export Company Limited on 19 June 1882.

After the company was founded, 34 acres of land (13.76ha) at Belfast, just north of Christchurch, were inspected by Messrs Grigg , Banks, Cooke and Coxon, and the next day were purchased for the construction of a freezing works. The works were completed and production commenced on the 12t February 1883.

In December 1888 a fire at the works put the freezers out of action. In order to continue production the well-known hulk, the Edwin Fox, was fitted out as a freezer, and hastily towed from Dunedin to Lyttleton to freeze the output from Belfast until the freezers at the works could be replaced.

In the late twentieth century the plant belonged to the Primary Producers Cooperative Society, who became Silver Fern Farms.


No Attachments


The Belfast Freezing Works are situated along Factory Road in the suburb of Belfast, northern edge of Christchurch.


Access Info
The buildings are visible along Factory Road, but are not open to the public.

Nature of Engineering
Manufacturing and Industrial Processing


Belfast Freezing Works, Christchurch, 192?. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1969: Collection of photographs, ID: 1/1-003961-G. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

(Click image to enlarge )

CFM freezing works, Belfast, Christchurch, 196?. Burt, Gordon Onslow Hilbury, 1893-1968: Negatives, ID: 1/2-037069-F. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

(Click image to enlarge )

Lat: -43.44562842876721 Long: 172.64057636260986