Antigua Street Bridge – from the beginning until 1945

In this post you’ll be taken through the history of the Antigua street bridge as it was published and commented on at different times. You’ll discover how and when the first bridge came to be, and some of the surprising social stories associated with the different bridges involving urchins, decomposing dogs, immodest bathers, and disgusting language.

Read time approximately 40-50 minutes

City Bridges  Press, 6 January 1937

Bridges are as much a distinctive part of the Christchurch landscape as its well-planted appearance and its old Gothic style provincial buildings. The chance which placed the city by the river Avon has made possible in these later days the special beauty of its river banks, but it has also made necessary a great number of bridges, for until they were built the convolutions of the river were a considerable obstacle to traffic.

About 35 road bridges come within the area controlled by the City Council, or are on its boundary. Of these 13 cross the Heathcote, the rest being over the Avon or Wairarapa stream. In addition there are five road bridges in Fendalton and Riccarton and numbers of smaller bridges over tributary streams.

Although the pioneers had urgent need of access to the timber of the Papanui bush, for many years waggons had to drive through a ford at the site of the present Victoria street bridge. A traffic bridge was built in Colombo street as early as 1858 but even in 1863 there was only a footbridge at Victoria street. A footbridge was provided quite early in Worcester street, and later a suspension bridge at Gloucester street to give access to the Provincial Council Chambers.

Date of Construction

The structure of all but two of the 13 existing bridges in the city, from the Public Hospital to Stanmore road, dates from more than 50 years ago. The exceptions are the Bridge of Remembrance, opened in 1923, and the Colombo street bridge, opened in 1902 and widened in 1931.

4 November 1861

To His Honor the Superintendent of Canterbury

We the undersigned inhabitants of that part of the City of Christchurch adjacent to the College and also on the District of Riccarton beg to bring your Honor’s attention to the inconvenience and delay to which we are subjected in passing on horseback from the one District to the other from the want of a bridge passable by horses over that part of the River Avon which separates Antigua Street from Hagley Park.

Your memorialists are informed that the expense of adapting the foot bridge situated near the College for horse traffic would be inconsiderable. We therefore pray that your honor would consent to these necessary alterations and instruct the Provincial Engineer to carry out the same.

C.P. Soulsby and others to Superintendent – petition for Antigua Street Bridge, Christchurch. Filed 1874(1) – 4/11/1861 (Archives New Zealand, Christchurch Office R22190110)

At the time this petition was written, Rolleston Avenue – as it is named by the City Council in 1903 – was the section of Antigua Street which extended north from Cashel Street to Armagh Street. The southern section began at the hospital and ran passed a school; the ‘Scotch Church’ St Andrews; May’s Brewery at the corner of St Asaph street – William Wood’s windmill (which is why this portion was referred to as Windmill Road) and the neighbouring Woodburn Nursery; and alongside allotments for the ‘Working Class’; to meet the South Belt – which was renamed Moorhouse Avenue at the same time as Rolleston Avenue’s inception.

Antigua street was divided in two by the Avon near the hospital, with no bridge between.

The only bridges in the area were the Mill Road bridge at the far north-eastern corner of Hagley Park; the Armagh Street footbridge referred to in the 1861 petition, located immediately to the north of Christ’s College and giving access to Hagley Park; and the Montreal Street bridge to the south, which also took in Cambridge and Oxford Terraces. Two other footbridges crossed a lower tributary stream that encircled the Hospital, on Lower Lincoln Road and Harewood Road/Riccarton Road/Middle Park Road, later known respectively as Hagley Avenue (1922) and Riccarton Avenue (1917).

South west view of Christchurch, circa 1860, taken from the Provincial Buildings. Shows a windmill in the distance. Photograph taken by Alfred Charles Barker. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-028149-F
South west view of Christchurch, circa 1860, taken from the Provincial Buildings. Shows Wood’s windmill on Antigua Street/Windmill Road in the distance. Photograph taken by Alfred Charles Barker. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-028149-F
Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand, 1862. File Reference: CCLMaps 212667
Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand, 1862. File Reference: CCLMaps 212667

1866: Still “no bridge at Antigua street …”

Turning southward from the western extremity of the North Town Belt, we find that the so-called Town Belt has been misnamed, for it is not a belt. It does not encircle the town, but comprises only three sides of a parallelogram. Along the west side of the town, the belt is absent, but instead of it, there is Antigua street. Into this we pass over an incline of about four feet, which runs obliquely across the street, and find it covered with tussocks and flax bushes. The ground is firm, but very uneven, and two sections of it are cut off from the main area by gullies through which the Avon flows when the water is high.

There is no bridge at Antigua street, but there is one at the next—Montreal street.

The first noticeable objects south of the Avon in our line of walk are the Hospital, the grounds of which fill the angle between the river and the street, and the deep drain which, running from the South Town Belt, along the west side of this street, here passes between it and the Hospital, and discharges itself into the river. 1

Detail showing Antigua Street and the Hospital Groups as it was in 1868, from map of Christchurch, 1868 By: Dartnall, W. W. Source: National Library of New Zealand

The First: Wire Bridge

1868: Of Great Service To Boys

A letter was read from Mr R. J. S. Harman, asking whether the Council would entertain the idea of putting a foot bridge over the river in the line of Antigua street, and if so, whether the Council would commence the work on the payment of a sum of £20 by persons resident in the neighbourhood. The bridge would be of great service, especially to boys attending the College who lived in the southwest suburb of the town; in view of the latter consideration the authorities of the College would contribute the sum of five pounds should the work be proceeded with.

On the motion of Cr. Sheppard, seconded by Cr. Tombs, it was resolved that the Surveyor be instructed to estimate the cost of a footbridge across the Avon in the line of Antigua street. 2

The Surveyor … also measured the width of the river Avon, in a line with Antigua street, and found that it would cost £60 to erect a footbridge in that spot.

Mr Harman’s letter offering a contribution of £20 towards a foot bridge in a line with Antigua street was read in conjunction with the second clause. Councillor Sheppard, who had given a notice of motion a fortnight ago for one to be erected, said he thought the Council might fairly entertain the application for the bridge. They had assisted the residents of several other portions of the city in a similar manner, and he did not think the amount the Council were asked to expend was beyond their consideration. He moved that the application made by Mr Harman should be granted. Councillor Jameson would support the motion, if the residents paid half the cost of the bridge. Councillor Calvert said the principle advocated by Councillor Sheppard was altogether wrong. The Council had demanded half the cost of all other recently erected bridges from the persons interested in them, and they had no right to make any exception in this instance. The motion not being seconded was lost, but on the motion of Councillor Calvert it was resolved that plans and specifications should be prepared immediately on half the cost being guaranteed. 3

1869: Little progress made

Page 1 Advertisements Column 1, Lyttelton Times, Volume XXXI, Issue 2637, 17 June 1869

The Surveyor’s report was read and considered. It mentioned that two designs would be laid before the Council for a foot bridge across the River Avon in a line with Antigua street. One for a suspension bridge of cable wire with a clear space of 80 feet, the cost to be £114; the other for a bridge of two spans, at a cost of £78. The Works Committee consider that the cost of these bridges is too great, and that the expense should be kept to about £60, by having a bridge of an ordinary description.

The plans for the Antigua street bridge were laid upon the table. Cr Jameson suggested that the Council should vote £60 for an ordinary bridge. The width of the river was the reason of the great cost. £30 had already been subscribed. 4

The Town Clerk, said that the Rev Mr Wilson had called on him and expressed a wish that the bridge (Antigua street) should be made wide enough for a horse to pass over and had offered to subscribe £5 towards the expense. 5

The Surveyor’s report … stated that the wires of the new foot bridge across the river in continuation of Antigua street had been broken by a number of boys swinging thereon, but that the police had obtained the names of the majority of them. …and the labour gang had been employed during the week in erecting the Antigua street footbridge. 6

… but little progress had been made with the Antigua street foot bridge, as it had taken the carpenters nearly all their time to replace the broken wires.  7

The Surveyor’s report was read and considered. …the flooring of the Antigua street bridge had been completed, and the approaches would also be finished during the present week. 8

1869: New Footbridge

The City Council have just completed the erection of a new foot-bridge across the Avon, in continuation of Antigua street. It is very ornamental in appearance, and will undoubtedly prove a great boon to residents in the vicinity. The plan is a new feature in such structures within the city, but as it is cheaper than the old mode of piling or trussing, and possesses durability sufficient to last until such bridges will be superseded by cart bridges, it will probably be generally adopted. The body of the bridge, which is 120 feet long, is suspended from each end by six galvanized iron wires, of strong proportions, and further wires are judiciously placed on the most approved suspension principle. When passing from one end to the other the flooring sways to and fro with an easy pleasing motion, but not sufficiently strong to shake its stability. The total cost of the structure exclusive of repairing the damage done during its construction, has been about £50, which is jointly met by local subscriptions, and grant from the Council. 9

1870: Lighting the Bridge

The City Surveyor reported that tenders would be laid before the Council for lighting the kerosene lamps in the city for twelve months, from 12th August, I870. The number of lamps at present lighted was fifteen—viz., Madras bridge, juuction of Barbadoes street and Ferry road, Montreal street and Worcester street, St Luke’s Church, Cathedral square and Worcester street, Manchester street and Armagh street, Salisbury Street and Madras street, Cranmer square, Cambridge terrace and Manchester street, Durham street and St Asaph street Wire bridge (Antigua street), Tuam street and Durham street, Cashel street, and Barbadoes street, Ferry road and East Town belt, Colombo street and Salisbury street. 10

Antigua Street suspension bridge and Public Hospital, 1872.  Original photo by W. J. A. Brittenden. Source: From the Banks of the Avon: The Story of a River. By Robert Cameron Lamb. Page 108.

1871: Troops of urchins

A letter was read from the House Surgeon [Dr Burrell Parkerson Jnr], Christchurch Hospital, calling attention to the dangerous and unprotected part of the river Avon from the end of the wire bridge to the corner of the Gardens. On the night of September 9, he pulled a tipsy man out of the water nearly drowned. This was the second man he had helped out of,the river at the same place within two yearly. At the suggestion of Councillor Sawtell, it was decided that his Worship the Mayor and the Chairman of the Works Committee (Mr Anderson) should wait on the Deputy Superintendent, and request the services of the hard labour gang for carrying out the work required in the locality pointed out by Mr Parkerson. 11

In the City Council, last evening, Councillor Bishop called attention, to the dangerous state of the Hospital bridge [aka Antigua bridge], as at present the whole weight of the structure rests solely on one wire. Almost from the first period of its erection, this bridge has been looked upon by the gamins [street urchins] of Christchurch as their especial property, solely erected for their amusement: and more especially on Sundays, troops of urchins congregate upon it, rocking vigorously thus putting a strain upon the wires they were never intended to bear. The remedy proposed by the City Surveyor will effectually put a stop to this, and at the same time strengthen the bridge, and in the interests of the public it is to be hoped that no time will be lost in putting it in a state which will preclude the chance of any accident occurring. 12

The City Surveyor reported that during the week the labour gang had been repairing the wire bridge in Antigua street, and the who’e had been strengthened by placing two piles under the main girders. 13

Antigua Street suspension bridge and Public Hospital, 1875. Original Photo: W. J. A. Brittenden. Source: From the Banks of the Avon: The Story of a River. By Robert Cameron Lamb, Page 107.

The Second Bridge

1876: Cross at your own risk

The city surveyor reported—“ The suspension bridge at the hospital was repaired about fifteen months back, when I reported that it would only continue a few months longer in a safe condition, and as I now find that it is very unsafe, I have had a notice to that effect placed at each end of the bridge warning pedestrians that they cross it at their own risk.” 14

Antigua street Bridge. – lt is probable that the present foot bridge over the Avon, near the hospital, which has been closed as being unsafe, will shortly be taken down and be replaced by a substantial structure, as the City Surveyor received instructions yesterday at a meeting of the City Council to prepare plans. 15

A fresh drawing of  footbridge for Antigua street would be laid, before the Council that evening. He [City Surveyor] had designed it as plain and cheap as possible, consistent with strength and durability. The piles and bearers would be of iron bark, and would be sufficiently strong to form part or the cartbridge, when the Council deemed it necessary to erect one.

With regard to the Antigua street bridge, Councillor Ick said it would be as well for the public to know that this would be merely a plain temporary structure, but he trusted that next year the Council would be in a position to proceed with the construction of a permanent cart bridge in a line with Antigua street. 16

The surveyor reported as follows:—”Tenders … for the Government bridge, in line with Antigua street, will be laid before the Council this evening. … The tender of Thomas Codling for the bridge, referred to in the report of the surveyor, was accepted, being the lowest. 17

Antigua Street Bridge.— This bridge is still in an unfinished state, and strange to say that although the superstructure is far advanced towards completion, the approaches are not commenced. The bridge, though capable of being used for traffic, in its present form is not available with any degree of safety after dark, and only at daylight by first walking along a single plank to reach it. 18

Monday June 5th. The City Surveyor reported … The footbridge at the Hospital was finished, with the exception of some fencing and the approaches. 19

I wish, … to call the attention of the proper authorities to the disgraceful state of the approaches to the foot-bridge at Antigua street, near the hospital. A great improvement has been effected by the erection of the new foot-bridge, but this public benefit is very materially lessened by the state of the approaches, which were then heightened by means of cartloads of earth being laid down ; and now, owing to the recent wet weather, these approaches are almost impassable. 20

The Late Case of Drowning in the AVON.—At the request of the coroner, on representations made by the jury who sat upon the body of William Stewart, drowned some few days ago near the Hospital bridge, the Council yesterday decided, on the motion of Cr Nathan, to place drags at the various bridges and boatsheds throughout the city ; and also at the new fire brigade station. It was stated by the chairman of the works committee that instructions had been given -to fence in many of the more dangerous portions along the banks of the river. 21

Christchurch Map 1877 By Lambert, T. S.; Strouts, Fredk.
Detail from Christchurch map 1877 By: Lambert, T. S.; Strouts, Fredk. Source: National Library of New Zealand

1880: A Case of Drowning

We noted in our issue of yesterday the death by drowning of Thomas Fuller at the Hospital. The following further particulars have been received:—lt is supposed that the unfortunate man made away with his life deliberately while in an unsound state of mind. It appears that Fuller had asked to go out during the evening of _ Monday, but was refused permission, owing to his peculiar manner exciting a suspicion that he was light-headed. At about 10 o’clock one of the nurses reported that Fuller was missing. The police were at once communicated with, and an active search commenced. It was found that the man had escaped through the window, but no traces of him could be discovered until yesterday morning at half-past seven o’clock, when Mr Brown, dresser at the Hospital, discovered Fuller’s body in the river, between the Hospital boat-shed and the bridge, lying in about seven or eight feet of water. The body was removed to the dead house. An inquest will be held. 22

Hospital Buildings from Bridge IMG0091
Hospital Buildings from Bridge beside the boatsheds, circa 1880. Image: Christchurch City Libraries. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0091

1882: Request to Erect a Boatshed

Messrs Lamb and Robinson’s request, not to be charged £9 for breakage of street lamp, for which they were not responsible, was referred to the works committee ; as also was Messrs Albert Shaw and Co.’s request for permission to erect on the north bank of the Avon, between the Hospital bridge and Montreal street bridge, a boatshed and appliances for the business of boat builders and owners of pleasure boats. Resolved that Mr Walker receive for tho present year £5O for acting as clerk to the Christchurch Licensing Bench. 23

1883: Decomposing dogs, immodest bathers and disgusting language –  Running the gauntlet at Hospital Bridge

THE AVON. TO THE EDITOR OF THE PRESS. Sir, —Can you inform me who are the proper authorities to apply to in reference to a great annoyance pleasure-seekers on the River Avon are subject to from the Hospital bridge to the Carlton they will find no less than half a dozen dogs and sheep in a decomposed state. Also, as regards the prohibited hours far bathing, as I have frequented the river all hours of the day lately, and to my disgust have found bathers in a most disgusting manner exhibiting themselves, and using most abominable language. By giving publicity to this letter you will, I am sure, oblige many a frequenter of the river. Yours, , A.G.A. February 21st. 24

Hospital bridge, which has for a long time been unprotected in any way, is at last being fenced, the materials used being those of the fence just removed from the small reserve at the east end of the Hospital grounds. 25

THE HOSPITAL BRIDGE. TO THE EDITOR. Sir,— ls it not time that something was done to put a stop to the objectionable practice that some of the youths of this city have of standing on the footbridge by the Hospital of a Sunday, taking stock of every lady that passes, and using the most disgusting language? Last Sabbath I had to run the gauntlet of passing between two lines of youths, or, rather, larrikins, who were standing at the entrance to the bridge, smoking, while one of their number, who appeared to have had more drink than was good for him, had placed himself right in the gangway, so that no person could pass through before he chose to move out of the way. Hoping the proper authorities will take the matter in hand, and abate this growing nuisance, —I am, &c., MARTHA ANN. Oct. 12, 1883. 26

1884: A Mischievous Practice

THE HOSPITAL BRIDGE. lt is satisfactory to find that, since a special watch has been set in this locality by a constable in plain clothes, the annoyance to passengers has ceased. The offenders have shown discretion, as there is a determination to put down with a strong hand an annoyance which might grow into a serious evil if unchecked. 27

A. T. W. Clements and F. W. Thiel, two boys aged 17 and 15 respectively, were prosecuted for throwing acorns from the Hospital bridge at persons passing along the river in boats. Inspector Pender said that the practice complained of was very common, and a great annoyance to ladies and other persons boating. Clements was fined 10s, and his companion, the younger boy, 5s. 28

1886: A Fine Trout

Mr B. Brown landed a fine trout from the Avon close by the Hospital bridge last night. The fish, when weighed, turned the scale at 11lb, and the catching of it afforded diversion to a small crowd, and exercised the patience of the angler for close on three hours. The big fish took the bait shortly after seven o’clock, and it was past ten before he could be persuaded to hover over the net which was waiting to bring him safely to land. 29

1887 By- New Zealand. General Survey Office
Detail of Plan of the city Christchurch, 1887 By: New Zealand. General Survey Office. Source: National Library of Nez Zealand

1888: Melting the Mudbank

To-day an experiment was made with the view of proving the practicability of removing the offensive mudbank in the Avon, opposite Dr Nedwill’s residence. The Steam fire engine Deluge was posted at the Hospital bridge, and a jet of water directed on to the mud through an inch and three-quarters nozzle. It was soon proved that the bank could be easily removed by this means, as the mud melted away like salt before the powerful stream. Of course it has yet to be decided whether it will go far down the stream, or merely settle near where it was dislodged. The water of the river was muddy for a long distance below the bank, so that a portion of the mud, at all events, went far down the stream. The operations were watched by the City Surveyor and the Engineer to the Drainage Board, and attracted the attention of a considerable number of people. His Worship the Mayor and some of the members of the City Council were present during part of the day. The engine was worked at a pressure of 120lb of steam, and 80lb water pressure. It was managed by Engineer Fuller and Assistant-Engineer Watts, of the Christchurch Fire Brigade. 30

1890: The Antigua Street Drain – Disease and death in all directions

TO THE EDITOR OF THE PRESS. Sir,—lt is only right that the public should be again reminded of the great danger run in crossing the Antigua street footbridge, near the Hospital and Boat Sheds. The bridge itself is all right, but there is by its side a drain running into the Avon which is in a most disgraceful state, and the gases from which are highly poisonous, and will moat certainly produce diphtheria and fever unless the bridge is at once closed for traffic. The drain is quite superfluous, as the main sewer runs the whole way down the street by its side. This the Drainage authorities have had repeatedly pointed out to them, but still nothing is done, and the nuisance is left to spread, perhaps, disease and death in all directions. Sir, if the Drainage authorities will not remove the nuisance, then the City Council ought to have the bridge closed to traffic. 31

While on this unsavoury subject, the drain hard by Antigua street bridge may be alluded to. Since the river has been lowered, this sewer discharges itself over a bed of stones, which retain some of the solid matter brought down by it, instead of the whole outfall going at once into the river as formerly. The result is that, on warm days especially, passers over the bridge get whiffs of vapour that are most unpleasant, besides being very injurious to health. 32

Hospital Bridge, circa 1890 as captured in a magic lantern slide.

1894: Flowers Affloat

An accident occurred to two young ladies while boating, near the Antigua Street Bridge, yesterday afternoon. They were trying to get some flowers, when the boat capsized, leaving them struggling in deep water. Mr Brunsden, one of the gardeners at the Domain, hearing their cry for help, went to their assistance, and soon had them on the bank, not much the worse for the accident. 33

Boating on the Avon with the Antigua Footbridge behind. Date unknown. Source:
Boating on the Avon, with the Antigua footbridge behind. Date unknown. Source: Hocken Collection, University of Otago.

1895 – Sunday Amusements

SIR, – As I was coming home from church on Sunday night I saw a lot of noisy young fellows assembled on the Antigua street Bridge. Making my way towards them, I soon found that a boat race was in progress. Now, is boat racing allowed on a Sunday? If so, it should be put down at once. It is bad enough for boats to go out on Sunday, but web it it comes to racing the whole lot should be abolished.—Yours, &c, Observer. 34

The Fishing Season. — The trout- fishing opened to-day. The rivers, are all in perfect order and well stocked with fish. Anglers were early astir, and shortly after midnight a number of reels were to be heard at work on the Avon. An unusually large number of anglers have gone to the up-country rivers, the Lower Selwyn being especially favoured. The best basket recorded this morning was one containing a dozen fish caught near the Hospital Bridge, one of which scaled 3lb. 35

Antigua Bridge and Hospital, date unknown, Archives NZ
Antigua Street bridge with Christchurch Hospital buildings behind. Date unknown. Source: Archives New Zealand, Christchurch Hospital Miscellaneous Items (R19023214)

The Third Bridge

1899: New Bridge Proposed

At the meeting of the City Council last evening the Special Committee appointed at last meeting recommended that the following works and loan be at once undertaken, without waiting for further recommendations as to other works still under consideration : … That three new carriages be built across the Avon, one to replace the Colombo Street bridge, one in a line with Antigua Street at the Hospital, and one in line with the East Belt at Ward’s Brewery, £7500. 36

1900: A Bridge for the Brewers and Undertakers

TO THE EDITOR OF THE PRESS. Sir, —In view of the present unsatisfactory state of the city finances, … “Is the erection of a bridge over the river at Antigua street a work of necessity?’ “Who are the ratepayers who ask for or require this bridge?” Now, I maintain that as there is already a good bridge at Montreal street this proposed bridge is not required. True, it would save the Crown brewery carters a short distance in reaching the Papanui road, and it might save the undertakers a few minutes in reaching the Hospital, but surely this kind of traffic is not sought for by the people of Christchurch west, which is essentially the home of study and rest, and I assert that it is the quiet to be obtained in this neighbourhood that has made land in the west of the city so valuable for residential sites, and if the neighbourhood is opened too much to dray traffic it will tend to reduce the value of property, and I think that the City Council should pause before wasting the ratepayers’ money and doing a positive injustice to the residents of Christchurch west by the erection of this bridge.—Yours, etc., RATEPAYER. 37

Antiqua Street bridge under construction, 1901. The old bridge and the temporary bridge are shown. Original photo: Weekly Press, CPL. Source: From the Banks of the Avon: The Story of a River. By Robert Cameron Lamb.

1901: A New Traffic Bridge

The footbridge in Antigua Street has recently become an almost nightly resort for a number of larrikins, who seem to find much, amusement, in sitting on the handrails, expectorating on the bridge, and passing remarks on all who come their way. Several ladies have been subjected to annoyance lately. 38

The Surveyor had also been instructed to prepare plans for the Antigua Street Bridge. 39

There has been too great a tendency on the part of the City Council during recent years to squander money on non-essentials, and to neglect the thing that really matter. … They propose to build a wholly superfluous bridge over the river at Antigua street which is not only not wanted, but will destroy the present unique beauty of an ideal spot. 40

NEW CITY BRIDGES. TO THE EDITOR OF THE PRESS. Sir,—The Council is proceeding with two new river bridges, viz. one at the East belt, the other at Colombo street, and the third, for Antigua street and Oxford terrace, will soon be on the way. I admit the necessity of the two first-named but deny it is the latter case save as a footbridge. Let me put in an appeal for a foot-bridge only by the hospital. There is no need for a traffic bridge there, the whole surroundings are of a quiet nature, and beautiful character as to landscape, etc. Why spoil it? Erect a new bridge by all means, but for foot passengers only. Let it be handsome in design, and further add to the beauty of that spot. Stand on the present structure and look north, east, and west, and within a few yards too is the Avenue. Have we any prettier, spots in Christchurch? Why spoil these?— Yours, etc., LANDSCAPE. 41

1902: Municipal Vandalism – Residents Revolt


Some time ago, the City Council decided that the footbridge across the Avon at Antigua Street, close to the Hospital, should be pulled down, and that a traffic bridge should be erected in its place.

Last evening, Mr H. F. Wigram, and Captain Button waited on the Council and presented a petition signed by 40 residents in’ he locality, urging that the proposal to build a traffic bridge should be reconsidered.

The petition set forth that the erection of the bridge would completely alter the character of the traffic along Park Terrace and the northern part of Antigua Street. There could be no doubt that the excessive traction engine traffic in road metal from the Halswell quarries to St Albans would follow that road, and that what was now one of the most picturesque features of Christchurch would be converted into a noisy business thoroughfare. The quietude of the Hospital and the new- electrical laboratory with its delicate instruments were referred to, and it was urged that the seclusion of the University and Christ’s College, and the unrivalled beauty of Park Terrace frontage all lent themselves to that “old- world charm” which it was admittedly the privilege of the City to possess ; and that the very slight curtailment of distance on traffic from the Lincoln Road northwards would be dearly bought at the cost of the destruction of this beauty-spot. The petitioners suggested that a new footbridge, in keeping with its surroundings, should be erected near the Hospital . Mr Wigram said that all the principal residents in the locality had signed the petition, as they all thought that it would be inadvisable to make a business thoroughfare in that part of Christchurch.

Councillor C. D. Morris said that though he sympathised with the petitioners, he thought that a traffic bridge would be a great convenience to the public. Councillor R. M. Macdonald said that he would support the petition. There was provision already for heavy traffic in that locality. He thought that a heavier, bridge- might be built at the Carlton. .At present the City Council had to pay for the wear and tear caused by a great deal of traffic that went from the country, to St Albans, as it had to go through the City. Councillor C. M. Gray said that money for the proposed bridge had been specially borrowed under an Act of Parliament. He thought, however, that a cart bridge need not necessarily be built at the spot, and a new foot bridge might be erected. He  moved that in the meantime the matter  should be postponed for a month. It would be better to leave it in abeyance for a time. Councillor G. Payling seconded this motion. He said that it would hardly be just to’ devote the money to a foot bridge when it had been announced that a traffic bridge would he buiit at Antigua Street. He sympathised with the petitioners, but certainly took that view of. the position. Councillor H. B. Sorensen said that he also sympathised with the petitioners. If the people in the locality were satisfied with a foot bridge, he would favour one being erected instead of a traffic bridge.

The motion was carried. 42

Media Support

The Star: There is a very great deal to be urged in support of the petition presented to the City Council yesterday against the erection of a traffic bridge across the Avon at Antigua Street.  … But in pointing out that if Antigua Street were made a thoroughfare for heavy wheeled traffic the delicate meteorological instruments in the Public Gardens and the electrical instruments at Canterbury College would be affected by the passage of lumbering vehicles, such, for instance, as traction engines, the petitioners made out a case which the Council will find some difficulty in ignoring.   … The fact that the opening up, of Antigua Street would tend to destroy the ” old world charm” and quietness which is a feature of that part of the city is also a strong argument in favour of the objection to the City Council’s proposal, and if the Council takes all the points into consideration it cannot very well disregard the prayer of the petitioners. For our part we should like to see the structure which at present spans the river at Antigua Street done away with and replaced, not by a traffic bridge, but by another footbridge which would harmonise with the natural beauty of this picturesque locality. 43

The Press: THE HOSPITAL BRIDGE. It is to be hoped that alter the lapse of the month, for which the City Council adjourned, their decision as to the Hospital bridge, they will agree to the request of the petitioners, and will not erect a traffic bridge in the place of the present structure. The views expressed by the deputation last night must carry great weight with everyone who has any sense of the fitness of things. Of all place* in the city the, bend of the river by the Hospital is emphatically the spot where a traffic bridge is not wanted.. To put one there would be to destroy the charming quietness and beauty of Antigua street by turning it into a business thoroughfare; to seriously annoy the inmates  of the Hospital, to whom quiet surroundings are essential to recovery, and to injure the Magnetic Observatory in the Public Gardens, where scientific work of great importance is being carried on in connection with the work of the Discovery’s Antarctic expedition. … The residents immediately concerned do not want a traffic bridge, and for that reason, and the- others we have mentioned, it would be a mistake to force one upon them. 44

Page 1 Advertisements Column 6, Press, Volume LIX, Issue 11321, 10 July 1902.

Petitions to Reuse the Old Footbridge

A petition was received asking that a foot bridge should be erected between Union street and Churchill street. The matter was referred to the Works Committee, with a request that they would also report as to the state of the of Antigua street bridge.

The Works Commititee reported that they preferred to make no report on the suitability of the old Antigua, street bridge for removal to any other site, until the condition of the timbers is ascertained.which would be known shortly, when the bridge is taken down. 45

“Ratepayer” writes suggesting that when the Antigua street footbridge is removed it should be rebuilt across the river opposite Salisbury, street west. It is, he points out, a long stretch from the Carlton to the Armagh street bridge, and to provide another entrance to Hagley Park would add greatly to the convenience of residents in that portion of the city. 46

A Strange Craft

 A strange craft in the shape of a catamaran caused much interest to those in the vicinity of the hospital bridge on Saturday afternoon. It was propelled from the bridge a little higher up the river to the Antigua boatsheds by its builders. Messrs A. E. R. Bell and Leslie Sharp. The motive power was supplied by a paddle wheel at the stern. This was driven by the two young men, who were seated on bicycle frames, and who appeared as if they were cycling in the water. 47

Temporary Footbridge under Construction

A beginning was made this morning with the erection of a temporary footbridge over the river at the Hospital. It is intended to use the footbridge now standing for the swinging of the steel girders for the new permanent bridge, and the temporary structure will be for the use of the public till the new bridge is ready. There has been a good deal of talk about the alleged delay in the work of building the bridge, but, as a matter of fact, there has been no delay at all. The contractor began the concrete work as soon as he got his contract, but the steel for the girders had to be imported from Home. Those girders are now almost ready, and the new bridge will be open to the public at the end of January. 48

View of the bridge from beside the Antigua Boatsheds.

1903: New bridge approaching completion

The new bridge over the Avon at the Hospital is approaching completion. Workmen are engaged on the flooring, and part of the side railing has been placed in position. 49

Workmen are now engaged in painting the ironwork of the new bridge at the Hospital, and their efforts do not seem to be appreciated by the ladies of boating proclivities who have to pass underneath. 50

The new footbridge over the river at Antigua street has been completed, and will be open for traffic shortly. It will be lit by a gas light in the middle of the structure. At present the approaches at either end of the bridge are being put in order. 51

Some residents in the city have expressed disapproval of the action of the City Council employees in cutting down the trees that grew near the new bridge at the hospital. It is considered that, as the bridge is not meant for vehicles, the trees. would not have impeded traffic, and would have afforded pleasant shade for pedestrians passing to and fro. Their removal has exposed to view a dirty corrugated iron fence, badly in need of paint, and it is a conspicuous eyesore. 52

At the Antigua street bridge, the [Beautifying] Association has fenced with wire netting the portion of the river bank between the bridge and the hospital fence, and intend planting it. 53

The Hospital Bridge, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1900-1910, Christchurch, maker unknown. Gift of Patricia M. Mitchell, 1989. Te Papa (PS.000635)

1904: Weighing Machine

The Australasian Automatic Weighing Machine Company wrote asking permission to erect one of their machines in Cathedral square, and one near the Hospital bridge. The company offered to pay a yearly rental of £3 for each machine. The Mayor said the Council should be careful granting such permission, for Cathedral square. The Council decided to grant the request as far as the Hospital bridge was concerned. 54

The space between the Antigua street bridge and the Hospital fence had been planted. 55

Hospital Bridge during summer, circa 1905. Image: “F. T.” Series No. 2844
Antigua Street Bridge, Christchurch, in winter, circa 1905, by Muir & Moodie studio.

1906: One of the most sightly spots

One of the most welcome improvements to the streets approaching the Exhibition grounds is the complete asphalting of the footpath and approaches to the Hospital bridge. A triangular plot is being left on the southern side, and this will be planted with shrubs. The corner should then be one of the most sightly spots in the neighbourhood, bounded as it is by the Hosptial grounds, the river and boatsheds, and some very pretty trees. 56

1907: Unpardonable Negligence

THE HOSPITAL BRIDGE. ; TO THE EDITOR. Sir, — Either the laws of Christchurch City are allowed to exist to the danger of the citizens, or else the police here are showing unpardonable negligence in allowing cyclists to ride across the Hospital Bridge, which is scarcely wide enough for pedestrians as it is. On several occasions I have seen people  walking or standing on the bridge put, to the greatest inconvenience by some, cyclists riding across. In no other city in New Zealand would such a thing be tolerated, and I trust this letter will have the effect of having this nuisance immediately stopped. — I am, etc., J. C. BASS. 57

The hospital grounds from the Antigua Street Bridge. Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-19070713-9-1. Taken from the NZ Graphic, 13 July 1907, p0009.

1908: Incipient fire in Antigua street

The turn-out of the Fire Brigade on Saturday evening for the incipient fire in Antigua street caused considerable alarm among tho patients in the Christchurch hospital. At first it was thought in the city that the hospital was again on fire, and the brigade turned out in full force, galloping to the hospital corner. The commotion inseparable from a turn-out attracted the attention of patients, and when engines pulled up at the hospital corner it was hard for the nurses to patients that the place was not on fire. Tho housesurgeon hurriedly visited the wards in case the alarm cause any unpleasant consequences, but it is understood that nothing serious happened. 58

1909 – New Street Names

REASONS FOR THE CHANGES. RENUMBERING THE CITY. The alteration in the names of a number of well-known streets in the city, which were agreed upon by the City Council on Monday evening, have not been received with entire favour, objection being expressed to a change being made at all in the case of so well-known a thoroughfare as Windmill Road, for instance.

Wherever two streets formed sections of practically one continuous thoroughfare the less familiar of the names had been discarded and the other applied to the whole length of the street. Thus, the name Windmill Road had been done away with, and the name Antigua Street would be applied to the whole street from Victoria Street to Brougham Street. The name “Park” was found in several parts of the city, so that there were two reasons for abolishing the name Park Terrace and extending Rolleston Avenue from the Antigua Street bridge to Bealey Avenue. 59

1912: Bikes, Bridges and Accosting Women

Leslie Evans (Mr Malloy), a boy of eighteen years, was charged with having, on four occasions, indecently exposed himself in different parts of the city. It was stated that the accused had been in the habit, for some time past, of accosting women of all ages, some married and some young girls, and of insulting them. On the occasion which led to his arrest he had placed his bicycle across the Antigua Street Bridge so as to prevent a woman, whom he saw approaching, from passing. The birth certificate of the boy was produced, proving that he was under nineteen years of age, and he was sentenced nominally to a month’s imprisonment, the Magistrate stating that no would take steps to have him committed to an industrial school. 60

The hospital bridge over the River Avon, Christchurch, 1912., not the notorious Antigua drain to the left. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0074.

1913: The ‘Larrikin element’

A notice is posted in a conspicuous place at the boatsheds on tho river informing the public that-persons are not allowed to land on the banks of theAvon “after sunset” within the Park. Mr Shaw, who is in charge of the Antigua Street boatsheds, in reply to a question, stated that the boat proprietors hud, of course, no control over the action of parties who engaged boats, but added that since he had been in charge of the sheds he had made every effort to pet rid of the “larrikin element,” which until recently was in evidence about the Hospital bridge, and he thought successfully. Great supporters of the boatshed are the theatrical companies visiting Christchurch, all seemed to gravitate to the river and to enjoy the quiet and coolness of the surroundings, more especially from the Hospital bridge upwards. The City Council, derives an income of £75 per annum from the proprietor, Mr Anstey, for tho license to use the  site of the Antigua Street boatsheds. Originally the charge was £5. 61

1916: First Dam to improve the Avon for boating

The Mayor announced to-day that the work of making a weir over the Avon, in order to deepen the water in  the upper reaches, and generally improve the river, will be begun at once. The. site of the weir is just below the Antigua Street Bridge, near the General Hospital. Mr Holland said that he regretted that a site further down the stream could not be selected. 62

1920: A Traffic Bridge for Antigua Street?

The Mayor stated last night that he intended to ask Mr A. D. Dobson (City Surveyor) to prepare a report on all bridges in the city. Dr Thacker added that …  there should be a traffic bridge at Antigua Street. 63

1925: Traffic Bridge badly wanted

Antigua, Street Bridge. The Works Committee reported that the matter of building a traffic bridge over the river Avon at Antigua street was referred to the committee by the Council at its last meeting. The committee had given the suggestion very careful consideration, and had come to the conclusion that a traffic bridge in the locality was neither desirable nor necessary. Cr. A. D. Ford said the bridge was quite necessary, for the Montreal street bridge was expected to carry too much of the traffic out to Addington and other districts to the south. He moved an amendment that the Works Committee be recommended to have estimates prepared for a hardwood traffic bridge with asphalt roadway and footways. This was seconded by Cr. C. P. Agar. Cr. W. J. Sim said it. would be a tragedy to spoil the present beauty of the avenue by building a traffic bridge at the Hospital corner.   Cr. A. McKellar said a traffic bridge was badly wanted at Antigua street. 64

1929: Thrown into the Avon by larrikins

Ten of the seats on the riverbank between the Antigua street bridge and Manchester street bridge were thrown into the Avon by larrikins during Sunday night. According to Mr M. J. Barnett, Superintendent of City Reserves, this sort of thing happens fairly frequently, and the only way it can be stopped is by setting the scats in concrete. 65

1930: Sleep walked into the river

YOUNG WOMAN TAKEN HOME. (By Telegraph.—Press CHRIST CHURCH, this day. A young woman caused alarm last night by throwing herself into the Avon from the Antigua Street bridge. Though the water was only 2ft 6in deep she persisted in keeping her head immersed. In the end three men dragged her out and took her home in a taxi. When the matter was referred to the police it was learned that they did not intend to take action against the girl, as she suffered from insomnia and was subject to fits. 66

1838: Permanent Weir Proposed

The building of a permanent weir in the river Avon near the Antigua street bridge is being sought by the Christchurch Beautifying Association. The City Council is to be asked to provide the finances for the weir, the purpose of which will be to improve the river for boating. A temporary weir was built near Antigua street about two years ago. The Avon is now carrying more water than it has done in recent years. Fed by water from Avonhead and various small streams, the Avon has a capacity varying between 90 and 110 cusecs [a unit of water equal to one cubic foot per second.] through the city. It is now several feet below the depth indicated as having been experienced in the old days by the marks on timber in the mill which was once worked on the island near the Hereford street bridge. 67

1944: A Traffic Bridge across Antigua Street is needed

Sir,—l see by your paper that the Hospital Board is asking for’ the Domains Board’s land, for building purposes. Land at Addington was bequeathed to the Hospital Board by the Twigger estate. What is being done with that? Is it running wild? Land left for a hospital by a deceased person should’ be used for hospital purposes. It is a sacred trust. Why take away our beautiful gardens? Land at Cashmere was bought. What is being done with that? A traffic bridge across Antigua street is needed. Garden Lover. August 1, 1944. 68

1945: Seagulls Menace Trout

Actual evidence of the seagull menace to trout in the Avon River was produced on Tuesday by the caretaker of the Christ’s College cricket ground (Mr. A. Gray), states the “Christchurch Star-Sun.” While walking upstream near the Antigua Street bridge, he observed a black-backed gull picking up a trout weighing up to 21b in weight. The bird had already devoured the trout’s eyes. Mr Gray said he had frequently seen gulls diving into the river and picking up trout. He had watched them drop the fish from a height to kill them, but it was the first time that he had been able to deny a seagull of its tasty morsel. An officer of the North Canterbury Acclimatisation Society said that the gulls took a heavy toll of fish in the Avon, but the society could not secure authority to destroy them. 69

Antigua Street Bridge, 1960s. Creator: G B Scott Publications Limited. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 996-94.


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  2. CHRISTCHURCH CITY COUNCIL., Press, Volume XIII, Issue 1778, 23 December 1868
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  18. LOCAL AND GENERAL., Star, Issue 2554, 31 May 1876
  19. CITY COUNCIL., Lyttelton Times, Volume XLV, Issue 4773, 6 June 1876
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  39. CITY COUNCIL., Star, Issue 7157, 23 July 1901
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  41. TO CORRESPONDENTS., Press, Volume LVIII, Issue 10918, 20 March 1901
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  55. BEAUTIFYING ASSOCIATION., Press, Volume LXI, Issue 11943, 12 July 1904
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  60. MAGISTERIAL., Star, Issue 10519, 22 July 1912
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  63. LOCAL AND GENERAL., Star, Issue 19839, 7 January 1920
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  65. General News., Press, Volume LXV, Issue 19774, 12 November 1929
  66. JUMPED INTO “RIVER.”, Auckland Star, Volume LXI, Issue 3, 4 January 1930
  67. PERMANENT WEIR PROPOSED, Press, Volume LXXIV, Issue 22496, 2 September 1938
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  69. SEAGULLS MENACE TROUT, Evening Post, Volume CXXXIX, Issue 145, 21 June 1945
Antigua Street foot bridge near Christchurch hospital looking back towards Oxford Terrace".
Antigua Street foot bridge near CHCH hospital looking back towards Oxford Terrace. Source: Becker Fraser Earthquake Photos September 2011.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Paul Newby says:

    Hi there, interesting read, thanks. I have come across a Wheeler & Son photo of what I think is the original bridge. Can I please send it to you to verify?


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