Shannon is situated on flat land on the southeastern fringe of the Manawatu Plain and about 1 ½ miles south-east of the Manawatu River. The foothill ridges of the Tararua Range rise about 2 miles south-east of the town and extend in a general south-west to north east direction. Shannon is 20 miles south-west from Palmerston North by road (18 miles by rail) and 10 miles north-east by road or rail from Levin.
The main activities of the district are dairy, sheep, and mixed farming, and market gardening. Opiki (4 miles north-west) is the centre of a notable potato- and onion-growing area. Mangaore (3 miles south-east) is the residential township for the nearby Mangahao hydro-electric power station. Shannon is not only a small servicing and distributing centre but is also a minor industrial town. Its industries include the manufacture of butter, cardboard boxes and other containers, agricultural implements, clothing, and concrete posts.
Shannon originally adjoined extensive swamps and was a headquarters for flaxmilling. The land on which the township later stood was part of an endowment of 215,000 acres acquired about 1881 by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company. At first the company had intended to extend its railway from Levin to Foxton, but afterwards it proceeded to develop and open up the endowment area. Accordingly, the line was laid along the present route via Shannon. The town is considered to have been founded on 8 March 1887 when the first auction of town land was held. Shannon was named after a director of the railway company. It was constituted a borough in 1917.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 1,042; 1956 census, 1,189; 1961 census, 1,398.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.