Caledonian War Memorial Gymnasium and Bowling Club

Motor on up to the Warehouse Extra in Kensington and you might struggle for a clue that you are parking your four wheels on hallowed ground, the very site where the first ever touring British Rugby side played Otago, in 1888. 

This unattractive and inauspicious sheet of segregated tarseal serving the red shed and Pak n Save was the beloved 'Caley' or Caledonian Ground, from 1876 until 2000. From 1862, the keen Caledonians held their 'games' in North Dunedin and built a beautiful grandstand there, which was moved to this site in 1876. 

Yes, State Highway One rumbles in the background, yes the vibe is mainly industrial, but this is not the plan and was not the goal of the City's forefathers when the plot was set aside for sport in 1876, or indeed much later in 1950 when the impressive Caledonian War Memorial Gymnasium was constructed to cement the status of the ground, at the same time as Logan Park in Dunedin North was vying for the same. 

Logan Park eventually triumphed, and even 'The Caledonian Ground' moved back north, without it's historic grandstand, but not before some serious history was made here. 

Of course that first big game of rugger was a ripsnorter, drawing 10,000 spectators and the colonials were surprised by the stamina of the recently arrived Brits, who triumphed 8–3. In a rematch only our days later, the tourists won again, 4–3. 

The next year, was a boomer for 'The Caley' as it played host to New Zealand's first National Athletics Championships and a football match against New South Wales which is still held up as New Zealand's first international, NSW winning 1-0. The odd, (and one very odd) show took place in 1889, earning The Caledonian another stripe, when a travelling showman Thomas Scott Baldwin visited bringing two firsts to New Zealand by way of a hot air balloon and parachute display.

By 1901, The Caley had become such a centre of the community that a children's demonstration was held here for the Duke & Duchess of Cornwall & York. 

Cricket was played here at the regional level, and cycling which was always popular in Otago, also used the track, it had a certain heyday during the years of 6pm pub closures, when entertainment was scarce so watching cycles at the local track became a popular activity.

The Caledonian War Memorial Gym still is what it was meant to be, thanks to brilliant construction and a superior floor. Sadly, the bowling club is almost defunct. 

 

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