Page 1: Biography
Lawyer, sportsman, sports administrator
This biography, written by Fiona Hall, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 2, 1993.
Frederick Wilding was born in Montgomery, Montgomeryshire, Wales, on 20 November 1852, the son of John Powell Wilding, a surgeon, and his wife, Harriet Farmer. His early education was at Hereford Cathedral School and Shrewsbury School. In 1874 he was admitted as a solicitor.
Wilding was one of Herefordshire's best all-round athletes. For many years he held the public school long-jump record with a leap of 20 feet 6 inches. He played rugby for West England and narrowly missed selection for the English rugby team. He also boxed, was a good tennis player and an accomplished rower. His crew won the West of England fours and many other trophies.
On 24 June 1879 at Tupsley, Herefordshire, Wilding married Julia Anthony, daughter of Alderman Charles Anthony, a mayor of Hereford; they were to have five children, of whom four survived to adulthood. The family emigrated to New Zealand in 1879, and settled in Canterbury. After being admitted as a barrister and solicitor, Wilding opened a practice in Christchurch, with Dr Charles John Foster.
Wilding quickly became involved in the sporting life of Christchurch. He was selected for the Canterbury cricket eleven and remained in the team for nearly 20 years. A right-hand batsman and left-arm slow bowler, he scored over 1,000 runs for his province and took more than 100 wickets. In March 1888 Wilding captained a Canterbury eighteen against a strong England eleven and took eight wickets for 21 runs as England were bowled out for 75. He also scored two centuries for Canterbury during his career. He was selected for the 1896–97 New Zealand cricket team. Wilding was also successful at tennis. With R. D. Harman he was five times doubles champion of New Zealand between 1887 and 1895, and with E. Gordon once mixed doubles champion (1888–89).
Sport was Wilding's first love, but this naturally energetic man was also heavily involved with sports administration. He was an early official of the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association and various other sporting associations, three times president of the New Zealand Cricket Council, and president of the Canterbury Cricket Association for 16 years and of the Lancaster Park Cricket Club for 41 years.
An influential citizen – he had been appointed King's Counsel in 1913 – with strong sporting connections, Wilding was the natural choice to chair the citizens' committee in charge of the Lancaster Park Preservation Fund, established in 1915. This famous sports ground was in severe financial trouble because of the war and was saved from becoming building allotments by the committee's public appeals for money. So great were Wilding's contribution and efforts to save and establish the park that he became known as the saviour of Lancaster Park. He was also the founder of Wilding Park, the international tennis venue in Christchurch, which was built as a memorial to his son, Anthony, a Wimbledon and Davis Cup tennis champion, who was killed in action in France in 1915.
Frederick Wilding made a remarkable contribution to the sporting development of New Zealand, both as a player and as an administrator. He died in Christchurch on 5 July 1945, aged 92. His wife, Julia, had died on 28 August 1936.