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Demolition Find: 120 Year Old Documents

A glimpse back in time to horse-drawn chocolate deliveries discovered at New Dunedin Hospital site

On a chilly day recently, some very old books were pulled from the former Cadbury office block in the New Dunedin Hospital demolition site.

The sixteen books contain Hudson & Co.’s business records from 1899 to 1988 and tell the story of a local family business that went on to merge with a global chocolate company.

The first entry, written in ornate cursive on cream-coloured paper, reads: “A meeting of the Directors of this Company was held at the office of R. Hudson & Co. Moray Place Dunedin on Monday the 20th February 1899 at 4 p.m.”

Hudson & Co. wasn’t the first business to occupy the site, which was used for a whiskey distillery and a brewery before being purchased by Hudson in 1898.

The New Dunedin Hospital project respects the heritage values of the site and is working with Megan Lawrence, Principal Archaeologist at New Zealand Heritage Properties to ensure historical finds such as this are preserved, and their stories told.

Megan knows Richard Hudson’s story by heart. “He came to New Zealand and trained in biscuit manufacture in Christchurch alongside John Griffin, who later went on to found Griffins Biscuits,” Megan says.

“Hudson moved in Dunedin in 1868 and became a pastry cook, operating in an arcade off High Street. He’d go down and sell biscuits at the docks. He later purchased an old masonic hall on Moray Place, putting a factory there in 1876.

“Along with biscuits and chocolate, Hudson’s range grew to include lozenges with flavours we might consider unusual today – peppermint, clove, musk, cayenne, ginger, lavender, rose and pear.”

Hudson & Co. was a family business, with each of Hudson’s six sons having a role to play. “His son Richard became the factory manager, Robert was the works manager, Arthur was the biscuit baker, Charles looked after the flour mill, Bill was an engineer, and Alfred was the chocolatier,” Megan says.

Reading through the old records, Megan and the team have learnt even more about the historic family business.

“We can see that they were expecting their first ‘motor wagon’ in June 1913, but they were looking to build a new stable too.

In June 1916 raw materials were noted as being expensive due to the war, but trade was considered very satisfactory. And on 13 July 1929 they passed a resolution to merge with Cadbury and become Cadbury Fry Hudson Co.”

From 1921, type-written entries can be found glued into the books alongside handwritten entries, and the later books are fully typed.

The last record, dated 11 May 1988, notes the Board appointment of FW Swan from Cadbury Schweppes Australia.

Any finds on the new Dunedin hospital site are obviously recorded appropriately and the historic Hudson & Co. books are likely to find a new home in a museum or collection.

“They’re a fantastic record of the development of the business as it transformed, went through two world wars, adapted to changing technologies and labour laws, and became a modern business in the 20th century.”

But the books aren’t the only interesting artefacts from the Cadbury office block. When the old plans were being digitally scanned for posterity, some particularly tasty discoveries were made. “We also found the plans for the Curly Wurly machine and the chocolate fish mould,” said Megan



About the New Dunedin Hospital project

On 19 April 2021 Cabinet approved the final Detailed Business Case for the New Dunedin Hospital Project at a total value of $1.47 billion.

This significant investment is required to address Dunedin Hospital’s deteriorating and inflexible facilities to deliver better health outcomes for the people of Otago and Southland.

The new hospital will:

• include increased capacity to support increasing demand
• ensure better access to outpatients, diagnostic and treatment spaces reducing unnecessary delays
• provide for modern and more flexible models of care
• incorporate the latest technology
• improve the patient and staff experience.

The new hospital will be built in two stages - an Outpatient Building to open in January 2025 and an Inpatient Building to open in April 2028.

It will have:

• 421 beds compared with the current 352 beds
- an increase in operating theatres from the current 11 to 16 (expandable to 21)
• an increase in the number of intensive care and high dependency beds from 16 to 30 (expandable to 40).

This is a large and complex project and is the largest single hospital build ever undertaken in New Zealand.

Many experts (including clinicians, architects and engineers), are working hard to ensure that the new hospital’s design and use of latest technology will enhance the patient care experience.

The project is committed to delivering a sustainable and wellness-focused built environment and is targeting a 5 Star Green Star accreditation for sustainability.

This includes low carbon product specifications, facades and windows that support thermal efficiency, smart energy systems and support for bike parking and electric vehicle charging stations.

Construction of the new hospital will contribute an estimated $429 million GDP to the region’s economy and will employ thousands of construction workers over the lifetime of the project.

In support of the project, the Government has funded a Jobs and Skills Hub (Workforce Central Dunedin) aimed at upskilling local people into work on the hospital build.

Government approval process

Government approvals following the required Better Business Case model, include:

• Indicative Business Case, approved by Cabinet July 2017
• Final Detailed Business Case, approved by Cabinet 19 April 2021, link: new-dunedin-hospital-final-detailed-business-case-cabinet-paper-redacted.pdf (
• Implementation Business Case (ImBC), for approval by the joint Ministers of Health and Finance. (Outpatient ImBC to be completed early 2022, Inpatient ImBC to be completed by the end of 2023).


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