The Lady Wigram Trophy
The Wigram Aerodrome was the location for the Lady Wigram Trophy, one of New Zealand’s most well-known motorsport races.
The track was first used in 1948 for a Formula Libre race where cars of different makes, models and configurations could be freely raced against each other.
In 1949, the first Lady Wigram Trophy race was held with the trophy being awarded to Morrie Proctor by Sir Henry Wigram’s widow, Agnes.
Since then some of the fastest open-wheel vehicles in the world raced the track including Ferraris, Alfa-Romeos and Coopers, while some of the most famous driver names in motorsport — Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren to name a few – appear on the trophy.
Although The Lady Wigram Trophy is no longer raced at Wigram, it is still contested for in the Formula 5000 class at Ruapuna Park.
Hundreds of years ago, the wild, wide-open space, now known as Wigram, was home to weka – and a hunting ground for local Ngāi Tahu.
The area first appears in European records, in 1884, as “Plumpton Park”. Named after a racing park in England, it was a popular venue for gallops, trots, and organised hare hunts. In 1901, however, the racing club using the land moved to new grounds in Riccarton and the park reverted to farmland.
In 1901, however, the racing club using the land moved to new grounds in Riccarton and the park reverted to farmland.
In 1916 Sir Henry Wigram a successful Christchurch businessman, and mayor, with a passion for aviation, established the Canterbury Aviation Company and the land was purchased for what was then called “Sockburn Airport”. The airport was used as the base for a private flying school training pilots for World War I and entry into Britain’s Royal Flying Corps.
After World War 1 ended, attempts to support the airfield through scheduled public flights proved unsuccessful and in 1923, the government took over converting Sockburn Airport to a military base and renaming it “Wigram Aerodrome”. Sir Henry Wigram continued his support, gifting land and funds to buy a Gloster Glebe fighter.
In 1928 Wigram captured the imagination of the nation when Charles Kingsford-Smith made the first Trans-Tasman flight from Sydney to Christchurch. The arrival was broadcast live on radio. A plaque on the landing site still commemorates the event.
After more than 90 years, the air base closed to air force training in 1995, and in February 2009 to commercial air traffic.
Click here for more information about the residential development at Wigram Skies.
Information and images courtesy of The Christchurch City Library