Radiant’s great days recalled

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The women wore cotton print dresses and bobby socks, and the men – or boys – had their hair in quiffs – and they danced in the Radiant Hall.

The more daring bent their backs for the limbo.

There were dances, boxing, balls, rock shows – the twang of Peter Posa’s guitar – and farewells for soldiers.

Now the glory of Ashburton’s Radiant Hall in Wills Street is coming to the Ashburton Museum.

Senior curator Maryann Cowan is putting together an exhibition for early July setting out the hall’s history – it was first a stables, Cookson Stables – and wants input from the public.

That could include anecdotes for anyone who enjoyed time there, from musicians who played there, and it also seeks posters and any sort of memorabilia from the hall.

The hall stood, roughly, where the Chinese food business is near the town Countdown supermarket, and was built in the 1880s.

Museum director Tanya Robinson said: “We are interested in any photos, clothing or memorabilia that people had when they visited the Radiant; anything that would help us tell the story.

“Shoes worn there would be amazing to get, and dresses,” Mrs Robinson said.

The hall was an Ashburton institution and kept its name until it became, towards the end of its life, Martingale Mews and, last, Radford Upholstery.

Mrs Cowan said many people would remember going to the Radiant and having fun there.

The museum has lampshades from the hall, some Temuka Ware cups labelled RH, but would welcome promotional posters or anything to help tell the hall’s story.

Clippings on the hall uncover a wealth of information – that the Arcadia tearooms ran stalls there with sweets and soft drinks – for balls.

Mrs Robinson said: “We want to recreate the excitement of the people when they went to the hall; to bring back the memories.”

The Radiant was also known as the Ashburton County Scottish Society Hall.

The exhibition will feature a big selection of photographs taken at hall dances by Ashburton photographer Gordon Binsted.

Tenders for the Cookson livery stable were called in 1878, and the building was completed in the same year with 17 stalls and three loose boxes.

In 1881 the stables were destroyed by fire but rebuilt in 1882.

In 1938, Tom White transformed the stables into a hall, the Radiant.

In 1950 sold to the Ashburton Country Scottish Society for 13,000 pounds, with business so good the society paid off the debt in six years.

In 1975 the hall was sold to Barry Redmond and it became Martingale Mews.

In 1986 the hall was closed and tenanted by Radford Upholstery.

In 1995, it was demolished to make way for the Countdown complex.