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Santa's Cave


Tue 29 Dec 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm
Wed 30 Dec 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm
Thu 31 Dec 2015, 10:00am–5:00pm
Sat 2 Jan 2016, 10:00am–5:00pm
Sun 3 Jan 2016, 10:00am–5:00pm

Where: Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History, 326 Main St, Palmerston North

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Donation: $2.00
  • Additional fees may apply

Listed by: temanawa09

For almost a century, Santa’s Cave has enchanted generations of Manawatu locals.
Now at Te Manawa, where pieces have been carefully conserved and restored, it is one of the region’s most-loved treasures.

Open daily: Gold coin entry
Santa's timetable will be available from 25 November at temanawa website

One hundred years ago, Leo Henry Collinson and John Cunninghame started a clothing store on The Square in Palmerston North. Their partnership was very successful, and by 1910 the business of Collinson & Cunninghame Ltd employed more than 50 people. By the time it was sold by members of the Collinson and Cunninghame families to the Farmers Trading Company in 1983, C&C’s (as it had become known) was considered by many to have been a true family business built on delivering value, quality and excellent service.

Elworthy Doddrell, a young Englishman, trained as a hosier (a dealer in stockings and socks) worked in London before migrating to New Zealand with his wife and two children in 1910. He obtained a position with Collinson & Cunninghame Ltd in Palmerston North. According to his descendants, Doddrell suggested to C&C’s management that they open a Christmas Cave in the basement of the department store. Doddrell did not remain at C&C’s long enough to see this happen, however. In 1912 he moved to Wellington, becoming Superintendant and Assistant Manager at the D.I.C. department store there.

1918 marked the end of the First World War but also the arrival in New Zealand of the influenza pandemic, which swept across the world in October and November that year, killing more than 8,600 New Zealanders. To generate a spirit of optimism throughout the community, Collinson & Cunninghame’s decided to go ahead and open Santa’s Cave, which it did so on Christmas Eve, 1918. Admission was one shilling. Children under the age of 14 were allowed in from 6.30 to 8.30pm. In the windows of the store, displays included an electrically run toy circus complete with clowns, acrobats and animals.

Santa’s Cave grew enormously in popularity during the 1920s. One of the store’s catalogues recorded that in 1921, 11,000 people visited. Numbers continued to grow as each year a new
series of displays was added. When Collinson & Cunninghame’s was upgraded in 1965, they did not forget about Santa’s Cave. In fact many of the displays you see now date from this period in the store’s history. In 1983, Collinson & Cunninghame Ltd was purchased by Farmers Trading Company. Farmers continued the Santa’s Cave tradition for 27 years, until relocating to its new store in The Plaza. By that time, an agreement had been reached with Te Manawa Museums Trust to take over the preservation and operation of Santa’s Cave, for the enjoyment of future generations.

Restaurants to book near Santa's Cave