The Bluestone Bridges of Timaru


The Claremont Bridge - On the road to Timaru.

The bluestone, basalt volcanic stone, bridges of the Timaru area are such unique structures. Many of the bridges have had their tops replaced with wooden structures or some no longer exist. An interesting feature of the roads in the Pareora West district is the ten stone bridges built of blue rock quarried in the district. The engineers responsible made these bridges fairly wide. The one at Washdyke bridge SH1 and Washdyke Flat Rd are examples as they now have been completely replaced with modern material but Jessie Wigley did paint a water colour of that old stone bridge, Washdyke in 1954. See page 273 Gillespie, Oliver A. (Oliver Arthur) South Canterbury A Record of Settlement; The South Canterbury Centennial History Committee 1958.   

Lava from Mt Horrible consolidated into the well-known Timaru basalt or "bluestone." The basalt immediately to the west of Timaru is less then five metres in thickness, but up to 25 metres thick near its source, extending eastward for about 16km from Mount Horrible. Immediately west of Geraldine there is a small an outcrop. The dolerite that forms the summit of Mount Horrible is recent tertiary.     

Otago Witness, 27 September 1873, Page 14
The rain which has been so heavy all over this Province has extended to Timaru. The bridge at the Washdyke having been removed to give place to one of stone, all communication between town and country has been frequently stopped, owing to the state of the river. It is said that such a quantity of rain has not fallen in the district for the last three years.

Timaru Herald, 5 February 1872, Page 2
Stone Bridge at the Otipua Creek. — That useful public body, the Levels Road Board, have for some time been quietly introducing a permanent class of work that must in the long run prove a great saving to the pockets of the ratepayers of the district, and that is the construction of stone bridges and culverts in lieu of wooden structures — the employment of an imperishable material in lieu of a perishable one — at an increase of cost quite disproportioned to the immense advantages gained. We were present on Friday last, when the centreing of the new bridge over the Otipua creek (Walker's track) was slackened off, the result, we believe, exceeding the anticipations of both engineer and builder, as no appreciable deflection could be detected. We are correct in stating that this is one of the largest stone bridges in Canterbury, and though there is no attempt at ornamentation, it is really a handsome structure from its very simplicity, and the evidently good and substantial workmanship bestowed upon it. The bridge has a single span of 35 feet m the clear, with a rise of 7 feet from the springing, shewing a total height of 13 feet, and a total length over the abutments and wing walls of 80 feet. The stone used in the bridge is the ordinary blue stone, which has been quarried within a stone's throw of the work ; this fact accounts for the cheapness of the bridge — about £230 — not so very much more than a wooden bridge in the same situation would have cost. The Board have reason to congratulate their engineer Mr W. Williamson, who recommended, designed, and superintended the construction of the bridge, and Mr Hope, the contractor, for the careful and satisfactory manner in which he has executed his contract. The bridge crosses the Otipua Creek at a point where there is a fair amount of traffic, which, heretofore, owing to the steepness of the gully and the rocky bottom of the creek, has been attended by considerable difficulty, if not absolute danger. This will be now almost entirely done away by the erection of the new bridge, which, also, by the easy communication it affords, will further tend to open up the back country, and lead to sales of waste lands.  

Timaru Herald  - The Levels Road Board,
1865 April Tenders were opened and read for erecting a stone bridge over the Waimataitai Creek, Messrs. Overmyer and Kivklaud that their tender would be accepted conditionally, pending the decision of the Government.

1868 Feb, Mr Hall's offer to erect a stone bridge over the creek m Woollcombe'a Gully, near Mr F. LeCren's, subject to the approval of the Engineer, for £20 and the wood of the old culvert, be accepted.

1870 That the bridge over the Otipua be repaired at a cost not exceeding £20." "That the Engineer be instructed to carry on at once all necessary work for repair of damage by the recent flood, including the stone bridge on the old North road, and that tenders be invited for re-building the bridge on the old North road."

1870 June The following tenders were received : — For bridge on the old South road — J. Hope, timber, £44 10s, stone, £68 ; Resolved — " That the tender of John Hope for building a stone bridge over the creek on the old South road be accepted, provided the plans, &c, be approved."

1872 Oct. Tenders for stone bridge on Washdyke Flat road were considered as follows : — W. Jones (accepted), £55 ;

1874 Feb, That the Engineer be instructed to call for tenders for a stone bridge over Mr Landsborough's crossing, by next monthly meeting." Mr Hall proposed, Mr Macintosh seconded, and it was carried — "That tenders be called for a stone bridge over Boggy-creek, to be called for for next meeting." Tenders were opened as follows — For construction of a stone bridge over the Waitmataitni-creek, on the Main-road — McGill and Brehaut, £675 ; R. B. Sibley, £454 ; Jones and Peters, £432 l6s (accepted).

1874 March 1874 The following tenders were opened and considered : — For a stone bridge by Mr Landsborough's — R. B. Sibly, £520. (Accepted).
Washdyke stone bridge, Boggy Creek — Jones and Peters, £80. (Accepted).

1874 Sept. The Engineer said he had deferred the the matter in order to suggest to the Board whether it would not be better to discontinue having anything further to do with bush bridges, and suggested the use of stone as a material for bridge works where it could be easily procured. That the Engineer obtain tenders for stone bridge on the Sterndale Valley road." The Engineer requested to report, at next meeting, plans and estimates of stone bridge on Suttor road, to be placed there instead of a culvert.

1874 Oct. A letter was read from Mr J. G. McKay, stating that the road from the stone bridge to the Opihi, alongside section 4589, was not fit for traffic. The old track had been ploughed up by the C. and O. Association [Levels], and there was no road along the Opihi, through section 9918.

1875 July Tenders were opened as follows for contracts : —
No. 15. Stone bridge, Guscott'a road — Jones, Peters and Hope, £274 6s. No. 16. Concrete culvert Levels Downs road, near Mair's— Jones, Peters and Hope, £36' Resolved — "That the tender Jones, Peters and Hope for contracts 15 and 16, be accepted."Resolved— "That the Engineer be requested to prepare plans for a stone bridge on the Totara Creek "

1875 A stone bridge was erected over the Pighunting Creek on the Upper Pareora road,


Fairview Rd Bridge

The Landsborough Rd bridge and two Fairview Rd photos (same bridge) are taken at end of Coonoor Rd where it seems two branches of the Otipua creek meet and then go out to sea at Scarborough, according to map. Note the native flax and toi toi in the photo above and cabbage trees in the photo below.


Fairview Rd Bridge


Landsborough Rd bridge

There is a walking track that starts here at this picturesque, historic stone bridge. The walkway No 6 Saltwater Creek / Coonoor Rd in south west Timaru follows the creek across across King street to Saltwater Creek and the Wetlands walkway and the coastal trail near the Timaru cemetery. It is possible to see a variety of bird life including shags, ducks and pukekos and farmland and views of the stream and the Two Thumb Range in the distance and native flora e.g. flax and toi-toi.


The Normanby Bridge

The Normanby Bridge. Photo taken in March 2008 by Margaret Todd.
 

"The NZ Historic Places magazine, May 1994 says "at Normanby a stone arch bridge stands forlorn, abandoned by a realigned highway. Tidied up and and appropriately designated it could be preserved as an excellent example of the early stone arch bridges of South Canterbury." May 1994, John Waugh. Information used in preparing the article was supplied by Gerry Essenberg" 

Now in March 2008 the bridge has retained the country feel surrounded by farmland, blackberry bushes, California thistles and brown top with the country "smell" to go with it as it is used as a stock track is now more remote than ever because southbound traffic by-pass Normanby altogether on the new 2 lane by-pass. Since the 1994 article was written a lot of bridges/culverts no longer exist.


The Hadlow Road Bridge

This one is on Hadlow Road on town side of the old Game Farm at Hadlow. There is even a flood gate to stop stock getting out of the paddock and a  Californian thistle, right hand corner!  Had to climb the fence to take the photo.

 "a few years hence and wear and tear will destroy them all."


The Rockdale Bridge

Rockdale Road's bridge is a wee treasure. The other side has a large concrete culvert drain but this side still has it's bluestone intact. Rockdale Road is just off Beaconsfield Road near Saltwater Creek. It goes past the Celtic Rugby Club and comes out on Fairview road.


Talbot's Road Culvert


Talbot's Road had three culverts mentioned in the May 1994 NZ Historic Places magazine but this is the only one Margaret could find. Seems like the others have large concrete drains now.


Bowker Gateway 1940

Gardeners don't just like to dig big holes, they also like to fill them and holes don't come much bigger than an abandoned quarry. The Bowker Gateway, opened in 1940, on Otipua Road is an entrance to the Scenic Reserve (otherwise known as Centennial Park) and the exit (or entrance) is beside the Claremont Road bridge on Claremont Road. It is a lovely walk or drive. George Bowker donated 16 acres to the city to make the park more accessible. Centennial Park, follows the course of the Otipua Creek and an old railway line used to take the basalt boulders from the quarry to the harbour breakwater. It is a one hour walk, 3.5km, beings or ends here or from the old 'bluestone' Gleniti School on Claremont Street, west of the town centre.  Take Church St., past St. Mary's, up to the intersection of Otipua Rd and go through the Bowker Gateway, down the zig zag and drive to the lake -car park, and start to walk!

Evening Post, 18 July 1939, Page 11 MR. G. BOWKER
The death has occurred at Timaru of Mr. George Bowker, whose widow, formerly Miss Lena W. Young, is a daughter of the late Mr. Andrew Young, a prominent figure in connection with Wellington's street transport system prior to the introduction of the electric tramways. His daughter was well known in connection with amateur operatic performances in Wellington. The late Mr. Bowker was one of Timaru's most prominent business men. He commenced his career in a firm of shipping and commission agents in South Africa, and, returning to Timaru in 1904, entered the sharebroking and estate agency business which he conducted until his retirement in 1936. He had held many public positions in Timaru, and made two gifts of land to the town for the purpose of improving its public parks. He organised and founded the South Canterbury Real Estate Institute many years before the national organisation associated with estate agents came into being.

The Otipua Wetland Charitable Trust was established in 1996, after it was suggested that the margins of Saltwater Creek, which were a muddy eyesore, could do with some attention. The idea was popular with Timaru locals, who suggested that the 20 hectares of nearby farmland also be included in the development. A small group of volunteers raised the $50,000 needed to buy the farmland. They applied for the appropriate consents, had the site surveyed and fenced and then started planting trees. Since those beginnings the Otipua Wetland Charitable Trust has raised almost $500,000 towards the restoration of the wetland, has planted between 60,000 and 70,000 trees and has developed around three kilometres of walking tracks. 


North Otago Times, 11 January 1866, Page 3
The weather on New Year's day was delightful, and by the middle of the day some hundreds of holiday folk from Timaru and the neighbourhood had assembled at the Otipua Creek, to witness the Bullock races and other sports advertised to take place there. Shortly before two o'clock, five (horned) steeds were brought to the starting place. The race was in heats, and was won in good style by Mr Fitch's bullock. The race caused much amusement, which was not lessened by one of the jockeys "coming to grass." A duck hunt was the next event. The duck, personated by Mr Fitch in a home-made dingy, played round his pursuers in a manner that would have made his capture hopeless, had not a swimmer got possession of one of his paddles thus crippled the duck took to the water, and was shortly caught. The duck hunt was followed at rather long intervals by jumping in sacks, a wheel barrow race, foot races, and a hack race, for which five horses started, won by Mr S. Morrison's horse. Mr Fitch's house, the Sportsman's Arms, in front of which the sports were carried on, in very pleasantly situated near the Otipua Creek, and the spacious balcony belonging to it served admirably as a grand stand. Mr Fitch deserves much credit for his enterprise in getting up such a pleasant day's amusement.

North Otago Times, 25 January 1866, Page 2
The anniversary of the arrival of the first ship-load of emigrants from London direct to Timaru, by the Strathallan, was celebrated by a repetition of the bullock races and other sports at Otipua Creek. The attendance was not be large as on New Year's Day, A match at football was announced as the commencement, but for want of competitors did not come off. For the bullock race four started, and Mr Fitch's "Yellowman" taking two successive heats, was declared the winner. The duck hunt followed, in which the first duck was quickly taken. Mr Fitch then assumed that character, and gave his pursuers some trouble, but was eventually caught while swimming. Some feats of swimming were then displayed, which caused much amusement. After an interval some juvenile sack-racing came off, and the way in which the youngsters wallowed in the dust when they fell was quite refreshing to witness. A hack race was won by Mr Morrison's horse, and. the sports concluded with a trotting match, which was drawn in consequence of both horses having broken. The weather was delightful, and everyone present good humored by being willing to be pleased. A sign of progress, which I have pleasure in noticing, is the arrival (by the Spray, brigantine) of machinery for a steam saw mill of 14 horse power. It is imported by Mr McKenzie, who intends to erect it at Raukapuka. There is no doubt it will be a great boon to the vicinity, as much inconvenience is often caused to persons building, by having to wait for a supply of timber.

North Otago Times, 11 February 1868, Page 3
SALTWATER CREEK.
When the flood was at its highest, and before the lagoon broke out into the sea, the main road was several feet under water, and the house and garden of Mr Driller were completely flooded. On the bridge over the Otipua creek there was a depth of two feet of water, and fears wore entertained at one time that the bridge would give way but it does not appear to have been injured. The garden and ground at the back of Mr Fitch's house were several feet under water, and some of the fences around the paddocks belonging to Mr Stubbs were entirely lost to view. The house belonging to that same gentleman was again flooded, and has nearly all fallen to the ground, only one wing of it being left standing. When the water broke away with a loud roaring noise, the whole country was speedily drained, and then it was that the destruction was made visible. Pigs and poultry were drowned, and fences washed away ; but all this was nothing compared with the most melancholy sight of some 1200 dead sheep lying on the main road and m the flax adjoining, immediately to the south of Mr Driller's house. Mr Bristol had only two or three days before turned out about 3300 shorn hoggets and wethers — fine fat sheep, the pick of the flock — on to his country, running between the main road and the sea. The sheep, during the fury of the gale, must have sought shelter in the flax on the low lying piece of land adjoining the Otipua Creek, and were soon hemmed in by water. Yesterday morning they were found in mobs of fifty and a hundred with their heads in the flax, having apparently died in the struggle to keep above water. Many of the mob escaped by swimming across the main road and over the top wire of the fence on to the high ground adjoining. Mr Bristol estimates his loss at present from 1200 to 1500, and we are afraid that that estimate is, if anything, under the actual loss. The destruction to the road in many places is very great, and it will cost the Levels Road Board many hundreds of pounds to repair the damage between the Saltwater Creek and Pareora alone. The road at every small incline is filled with large ruts, caused by the drainage of the water, and one bridge and three culverts are left standing in the centre of what may now be called large streams. The bridge over the Pighunting Creek has had its approaches washed away on either side, and a large body of water is flowing by it. The large wooden culverts in three other valleys have suffered in a similar manner, and the whole will have to be repaired before traffic can be resumed, as the creeks are of a very boggy nature, with steep banks.

Search continues for historic painting.
12 June 2003 Timaru Herald
The search for a painting of an intriguing piece of Timaru history is reaching the frustrating stage for an ex-Timaru woman and she's appealing for readers' help. Shirley Patton, who now lives in Mt Maunganui, is wanting to track down the whereabouts of a painting of a bluestone bridge, the work of her late aunt Mavis (Maisie) Voss. Mavis Voss is thought to have done the painting in about 1911 and her surviving extended family have about eight of her other works. "I can remember this one in our house in Wai-iti Road a long time ago but it was only when I saw it again in a cutting taken from the Timaru Herald in 1985 that I decided to try to find out where it went." She has contacted the Aigantighe Art Gallery and the South Canterbury Museum but has drawn blanks in both cases. The painting features the bluestone bridge that used to span Waimataitai Creek on Evans Street near the Ashbury shopping centre. It was filled in and built over in the mid-1930s. In the painting, the bridge is framed by trees and there are grassy banks sloping down to the creek itself.

HISTORIC WELL
31 July 2004 Timaru Herald
An old Timaru well uncovered by contractors this week could be retained.
Contractors were scheduled to fill in the well at the intersection of Dee Street and Gray Road today, but after visiting the site yesterday, Mayor Wynne Raymond is keen to see the future of the 130-year-old structure discussed at this week's council meetings. He was intrigued with the whole idea of the well having been such a focal point for the town's early residents and would be very surprised if councillors weren't interested in considering its future. It is thought the old brick well was built in the 1870s, and would have been used for about 30 years. The 17 metre deep structure was built out of curved bricks. No mortar was used, allowing the water to flow into the well. Although three similar wells have been uncovered in the past, they were in locations which made it impractical for them to be retained. This time round the well is effectively on council land (the road way), Mr Collins said, suggesting it should be saved as a unique piece of Timaru history. He would like to see the block of Dee Street between Grey Road and Matilda Street become one way, with traffic able to travel west along it from either Grey Road or Dee Street. Extending the kerb on the northern side of the road out around the 1.8 metre diameter well would help protect it. With the addition of sign boards similar to used at the Seafarers monument, Mr Collins believes the well could become quite a drawcard. Engineers have already indicated the sewer line running across the well could be removed once the planned replacement sewer is installed.


Geraldine MuseumOther bluestone structures in the district:

Patiti Point gateway 29 Nov. 2010

On the library wall hanging quilt is this round bluestone shelter. It is tucked below the railway line, on the right, as you walk under the viaduct to the Bay. The shelter has a seat in it, and midway up the wall is the inserted stone with the plaque attached. "This stone was part of the structure of the British houses of parliament damaged by enemy air raids in May 1941 and has been placed here as a tribute to the courage and endurance of the people of England when Britain stood alone in defence of her right as a free people and in the cause of democracy"  There is also a bluestone wall and and steps here.

 

The Bluestone House built in 1878 as a headmaster's residence for Main School is on the corner of Arthur Street and Grey Road, Timaru was built of stone quarried from Woollcombe's Gully, now Ashbury Park. The back of the house is red brick. Note the chimney pot. Timaru Main and Timaru West both had bluestone featuring in early buildings. These schools merged in 2005 to form the Bluestone School in West End, Timaru. The building was not damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes but tenants moved out in April 2012 because of earthquake strengthening concerns. Further assessments of the house are to be carried out.

The Bluestone House - Main School. Photo taken in December 2008 by Margaret Todd.

The back of the Bluestone house has two red brick chimneys with 3 flues each. 

New Zealand Tablet, 16 February 1905, Page 7
The Roman Renaissance is the style that has been chosen for the Catholic Cathedral in Christchurch. The walling, columns, piers, etc., throughout are built of stone, either Timaru blue stone, which is used for the base, Mount Sorner's stone for the plinth, and Oamaru stone for the rest of the building. The bells, which are the result of a bequest of the-late Nicholas Quinn, of Timaru, consisting of a two-ton tenor (the heaviest bell in New Zealand) and a chime of three other bells, all of Belgian manufacture and hung in the north tower. Messrs. F. and W. Jameson, of Christchurch were the contractors, Messrs. Anderson and Co, of Christchurch, providing all the iron work.

Timaru Herald, 11 August 1885, Page 2
Mr S. Kirby yesterday forwarded to Dunedin, for the Roman Catholic Cathedral there, two trucks of bluestone, taken from his quarry in Woollcombe's Gully. There are ten blocks in all, viz., five blocks of 3ft x 18in x 18in each, and five of 3ft 6in x 2ft x 18in each. They all appear to be very cleanly and carefully turned out, and it is to be hoped this will only be the first of many consignments of the stone to that city. It is well known that for hardness and durability Timaru bluestone cannot be excelled.

Timaru Herald, 30 July 1891, Page 2
The Borough Council have determined to obtain bluestone pitchers to floor the sewer with beneath the N.Z.L. and M.A. Coy's building. Would it cost much more to obtain from the Waimate George or from the Cave pitchers of similar stone to that which forms the bulk of the material on the beach? As for wearing qualities there is no comparison between the blue crystalline sandstone and the Timaru rock. The one will bear the journey along the beach from Waitaki to Timaru and further ; boulders of the other disappear within two or three miles ; while the former we believe is more readily split into the desired shape. The blue rock being the harder, would it not also be well to experiment with broken beach boulders and pebbles for street metalling?

Timaru Herald, 2 May 1868, Page 5
The building trade in the town has lately been very active, and judging from present signs is likely to remain so during the winter months. We note in the town several buildings m course of erection, and we know of others for which plans are prepared. Among those buildings now in progress we observe a large stone store, being built by Mr Healcy on ground adjoining the Old Bank Tavern, on the north road, and facing Strathallan street. This building, the walls of which arc already some feet high, is 70 feet by 30 feet, and is intended, we believe, for a general merchant's store, and judging from the plan which we were courteously shown, will be a very great improvement to that part of the town. The front of thirty feet -will be in freestone, brought from the Cave, pierced with handsome shop windows, and with a rich ornamental cornice on top. The side and back are built of the ordinary blue- stone. The contractor for the stone work is Mr Kirkland, and the wood work is entrusted to Mr Mills. We also observe m that quarter of the town two other buildings of a public nature m course of erection. One of wood and iron, with a stone foundation, is being built opposite, the workshop of Messrs Flockton and Co, and is intended to receive all the necessary machinery for a foundry. The building is expected to be finished m about three weeks, when the machinery will be at once fitted up, as it is now all to hand, the last portions of it having lately arrived from England.


The Main School War Memorial.


20 Grey Rd was built in 1876. What is under that roughtcast?

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

What amazingly talented people our ancestors were.

A Piece of Time article in the Timaru Courier September 02, 2010 pg 7 features a the lovely bluestone gem, the Sid Vincent, 1905 -1908 bluestone house at 40 Maltby Ave, West End, opposite the entrance to the West End Park Mr Vincent was a stone mason and worked at the bluestone quarry. He built the house by hand and it was one of the first homes to go up in the West End suburb. There used to be bluestone pillars, big columns, where the front gate was. The house has a wide hallway with an archway and the original pot belly stove. There are six chandeliers with detailed rose designs surrounding them hanging in the hallway and inside each room.  There was a bluestone shed there that used to be a cow shed. 1993 photo category 2 with Heritage NZ

 
The site at 40 Maltby Avenue was purchased by Alfred Vincent in 1909. Vincent was a quarryman and stonemason and presumably built the house before selling it in 1914. It is a well proportioned and representative example of an Edwardian bay villa constructed of locally quarried bluestone, Edwardian bay villas are more commonly constructed of timber. The interior of this particular example retains the original decorative cornices and centrepieces from which lights are suspended.

  
There is also lovely two story bluestone house at 20 Jackson St. Timaru. Bluestone homes can be difficult to spot has they may have been rough casted, hidden behind fences and trees, set back from the street, can be single or two story.