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
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
Fairview Rd Bridge
Landsborough Rd bridge
There is a walking track that starts here at this picturesque, historic stone
walkway No 6
Saltwater Creek / Coonoor Rd in south west Timaru follows the creek across
across King street to Saltwater Creek and the
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 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
"a few years hence and wear and tear will destroy
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.
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
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.
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.
Other bluestone structures in the
The Anglican church of St. Mary is built of Oamaru and from hard, grey
bluestone, dolerite stone from local quarry. Bluestone rock is found at
Timaru suitable for millstones.
The large stone bridge over ... Creek on the main road to Timaru was
McGill and Brehaut in 1875. The contract price was £732/4/4. ...
Meyers Pass Road, Waimate,
bridge built by Overmeyer and Kirkland in 1879.
Waimate's Toohers's picturesque bluestone cottage, the
former home of Larry and Sarah Tooher, carries a category II Historic
Places Trust classification.
The Temuka Pioneers Memorial committee have accepted a
tender from Mr. W.H. Cain, monumental mason, Timaru, for an
obelisk in bluestone. It should prove a
handsome ornament to Victoria Park, as well as interesting memento of
the early settlers. Mr. J. S. Turnbull, Architect, of Timaru, very
kindly assisted the committee in preparing designs, etc., and has been
invited to see the details of the work efficiently carried out.
Timaru Herald September 1897
Bluestone Landing Services
A quaint bluestone building (1885) on Cox St. Geraldine
- the former Town Board Office moved stone by stone and became the
Memorial Wall - Timaru
gateway erected by Aoraki Youth Trust 1990
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.
New Zealand Tablet, 16 February 1905, Page
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.
What amazingly talented people our ancestors
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. He 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