Worcester Street Bridge: Picturing Canterbury

Worcester Street Bridge. Kete Christchurch. PH14-313b. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Dulcie Innes, CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

The bridges of New Brighton

The Spit, New Brighton. [3 Dec. 1954] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02328
The Spit, New Brighton. [3 Dec. 1954] File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img02328
Richard Greenaway is an Information Librarian with an interest in the history of East Christchurch. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. Here he explores the bridges early residents of Christchurch used to travel to New Brighton.

Dallington bridge

Built in 1883 by Henry Jekyll (1844-1913) and Henry Philip Hill (1845-1923). They owned Rural Section 183, at Dallington, to the north of the Avon River. The river was the western boundary of the property and the northern boundary was McBratneys Road. Jekyll and Hill planned to put a tramline through to New Brighton. Nothing came of the venture but the original Dallington bridge.

Bower bridge

Bower bridge, Wainoni Road, was opened by Sir John Cracroft Wilson in 1876. The present Bower bridge opened in 1942. In the 1920s and ‘30s the Inter-City bus service pioneered transport on Wainoni Road, across the Bower bridge and to North New Brighton and New Brighton. This was a private service, very popular, cheap and run on the smell of an oily rag. It was managed and owned by Walter Bussell (1887-1967) who had his headquarters on Bowhill Road. The bus company had been in competition with the Christchurch Tramway Board’s trams on the Pages Road route and there was what was called the ‘bus war’.  Trams and buses would try to beat each other to pick up the next passenger.

An electric tram crosses the New Brighton bridge with a barge moored underneath  [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0005
An electric tram crosses the New Brighton bridge with a barge moored underneath [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0005

Central Brighton bridge, Seaview Road

A route was put through by New Brighton Tramway Company. Opened in 1887 horse trams ran from Christchurch to New Brighton between 1887 and 1905, after which the Christchurch Tramway Board took over and electrified the line. The company’s line was later opened as a public road, Pages Road, named after tramway company director, Joshua Page (1826-1900).

One of the people in charge of the New Brighton Tramway Company was George McIntyre (1841-1934), a surveyor by occupation. He was Mayor of New Brighton when King Edward’s Well (outside the New Brighton Library) was unveiled in 1902.

The original Seaview Road bridge was a flat bridge. It was replaced at the beginning of 1930s by the present bridge. This was designed by H. F. Toogood, father of Selwyn Toogood.  You can see photos of the bridges in George W. Walsh’s New Brighton, a regional history, 1852-1970.

The modern Seaview Road bridge is a high bridge. The hump in the bridge is there because Richard Bedward Owen (1873-1948), tailor and conservationist, known as ‘River Bank Owen’, argued that boats could come ‘sailing with the tide’ to Christchurch. They never have. Read all about it in A bridge with some history.

Seaview Road, New Brighton [ca. 1920] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 12, IMG0006
Seaview Road, New Brighton [ca. 1920] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 12, IMG0006

South Brighton bridge, Bridge Street

Opened in 1927 it was the result of the work of New Brighton Borough councillor, Herbert Arundel Glasson (1866-1931). He lived in South Brighton and persuaded fellow residents that they should be a ‘special rating area’ and pay extra rates to the New Brighton Borough Council providing that a South Brighton bridge was built. A small wooden bridge was built. This meant that South Brighton residents could cross the river and get to town, saving the long journey up to Central Brighton. A new bridge was opened in 1981.

Estuary bridge

The Estuary Bridge has never been built. It has been proposed by various people over the years. See The Bridge that never was.

The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies. Read more blog posts about New Brighton history, including more from Richard.

Sources

How to get to New Brighton

Richard Greenaway is an Information Librarian with an interest in the history of East Christchurch. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. Here he explores the way early residents of Christchurch travelled to New Brighton.

Road making on Tramline [later Pages] Road, near New Brighton  [1897] Dutch, F. W. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0066
Road making on Tramline [later Pages] Road, near New Brighton [1897] Dutch, F. W. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0066

New Brighton Road

The first route from Christchurch to New Brighton in European times was via FitzGerald Avenue (then the East Belt), and Shirley and New Brighton Road. Because it was the first route, it was sometimes called the ‘Old Brighton Road’. New Brighton Road dates from 1860s. This route avoided bridges.

A mishap to the Christchurch-New Brighton tram at Wainoni Park  [14 Dec. 1913] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0035
A mishap to the Christchurch-New Brighton tram at Wainoni Park [14 Dec. 1913] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0035

City and Suburban Tramway Company route

The City and Suburban tramway Company put through a tramline which started in town, went down Travis Road and towards the sea along what is now Bowhill Road. The line then went along the Esplanade (Marine Parade) to Central Brighton. The line was opened for traffic in 1894. The company went out of business and was taken over by the man who had built the line, John Brightling (1843-1928). Bowhill Road is named after Thomas Bowhill Thompkins (1837-82), a publican, who had land in the area. Stronger Christchurch uncovered some tram tracks from this line in 2012.

Seaview Road, New Brighton  [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0021
Seaview Road, New Brighton [ca. 1910] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 18, IMG0021

Avon River

Richard Bedward Owen thought of the Avon as a route to Christchurch. Some small vessels trying to negotiate Sumner bar sank there and at the entrance to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.

Paddle steamers

These came down the Avon to New Brighton, mainly bringing picnickers. Notable among these was the Maid of the Avon. In 1866 the captain, John Mills, chopped down the Stanmore Road bridge because it was impeding a true-born Englishman’s right to pass along a navigable waterway. Another notable paddle steamer was the Brighton which was part of Joseph Harrop Hopkins’ attempt to boost New Brighton in 1872-75. He also had built the original New Brighton hotel, in Seaview Road (later Patterson’s and McCormack’s).

It was customary for the Christchurch fire brigade to hold an annual picnic. On 3 April 1874, members of the brigade celebrated the occasion by chartering the Brighton for an excursion to the beach. With their friends, and with Mr. Bunz’ popular band, they set off.  They enjoyed the races and games of cricket on the beach, as well as the luncheon provided at Mr. Hopkins’ hotel.

One of the brigadesmen, Richard Edward Green (1853-1938) wrote about this outing in the Star of 1928. Green recalled the chorus of one of the songs that firebrigadesman Samuels had sung at a party that day:

Ah – she has fairly broken my heart.

I wish I had never seen

that dark young girl with her hair in curl

that works at the sewing machine

The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies. Read more blog posts about New Brighton history, including more from Richard.

Sources

The bridge that never was

Richard Greenaway is an expert on the local history of Christchurch. Some of you might have been on one of his fascinating cemetery tours. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. This one concerns the people behind unsuccessful plans to build a bridge across the Estuary.

James Mawson Stewart (1883-1949) was born at Orange, New South Wales, but came with his family to Christchurch as a small boy. He began his working life as a clerk in a mercantile office and, later, became works clerk and then, cashier at a venerable institution, the Christchurch Gas Company. While still a young man, he set up the firm of Stewart Beckett and Co., public accountants. He became ‘one of the best known businessmen in Christchurch’.

A long-time member of the Stock Exchange, Stewart was a director of local companies, first president of the Christchurch Public Accountants’ Association and became president of the New Zealand Society of Accountants’ Association. He was instructor in accountancy at the Christchurch Technical College (now CPIT) and chairman of the Fendalton Domain Board. He dwelt at 39 Hamilton Avenue.

Stewart was interested in racing, being a member of the Canterbury Jockey Club and, from 1932 to 1946, steward of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club. While his health allowed it, he was a keen golfer. A member, and president of the Christchurch Rotary Club, Stewart … took a leading part in the charitable work of the club, notably in the Depression years when hampers were distributed at Christmas to those in distress. His personality made him a valuable member of committees appointed at that time to raise money in the annual street appeals.

The 1936 volume In the public eye has the verse:

Jim you smile so air-ily,
poised so debonair-ily,
auditing so warily,
backing odds so mare-ily,
springing jests so dare-ily,
bearing loads so share-ily.
We greet you, James, Rotar-ily.

In youth Stewart and his brother, Arthur, bached at New Brighton. There exists a photo of seven dapper young businessmen sitting or standing near the beach and, before them, a leg-pull notice: ‘Inmates of the Old Men’s Home, New Brighton’. At either end of the middle row sit Arthur and James.

The onset of maturity drew many away from the seaside suburb. James and Arthur retained a business interest in the area. During World War I, they were major figures in the South New Brighton Land Company which consisted of a host of small shareholders, and the Southshore Syndicate, whose members were substantial businessmen.  The two companies bought the wasteland where the suburb of Southshore now stands and sold it at a low price. It was stipulated that every purchaser should donate 15 pounds towards the cost of a bridge which was to take people across the Estuary to Sumner. Seven hundred pounds was collected, plans drawn up and a track – the future Rockinghorse Road – hacked out of the wilderness.

After the war, the company and syndicate were wound up. James continued to hope that the area might progress. In 1927 he attempted to persuade the Government that the bridge should be erected at public expense but without success. The property owners became very disillusioned.

Stewart’s last years were blighted by illness; the 1947 deaths of his brother, Arthur, and son, Mawson, in Ballantyne’s Fire; and that of his wife, Margaret, 61 on 11 May 1948. James Mawson Stewart, 66, died on 29 June 1949. The development of Rockinghorse Road after World War II and the rest of the Southshore area owed much to George Skellerup and his son, Peter.

Sources:
‘Brighton breezes’, Star, Saturday articles, 1914-30
Greenaway, Richard, ‘The Estuary bridge which is still awaited’, Press, 10 April 1976, p. 11
In the public eye, 1936
New Brighton Borough Council archives
Press
, 30 June 1949, p. 3 and 9

The library has some great photographs of New Brighton capturing its life as one of New Zealand’s premier seaside suburbs, full of life and character. New Brighton residents have been good at recording their local history and the place has inspired novels and biographies.

A bridge with some history

photographRichard Greenaway is an expert on the local history of Christchurch. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. This one concerns the Central  Brighton bridge on  Seaview Road.

The original Seaview Road bridge was a flat bridge which was replaced at the beginning of 1930s by the present bridge. This was designed by H. F. Toogood, father of Selwyn Toogood.  See photos of bridges in George W. Walsh’s New Brighton, a regional history, 1852-1970.

photographThe modern Seaview Road bridge is a high bridge. The hump in the bridge is there because Richard Bedward Owen (1873-1948), tailor and conservationist, known as ‘River Bank Owen’, argued that boats could come ‘sailing with the tide’ to Christchurch. They never have.

Owen’s conflict with the New Brighton Borough Council brought forth verse which appeared in the Star of 1 October 1927. A Mr. Wright was Owen’s lawyer. J. A. Flesher (1865-1930) was the borough council’s lawyer and A, W. Owles (1847-1940) the Mayor from 1927-29. Flesher and Owles had a personal squabble during the greater battle. Perhaps there was long-standing bad blood between them. They had once stood against each other for the position of Mayor and Flesher had won.

In the 1970s I met Mr. Hensley, lawyer with Hensley and Mortlock. He told me how, as a young man collecting information for Mr. Wright, he had spoken to elderly residents and gathered information on the vessels which had come up the Avon in pioneer times.

The councillors of Brighton,
by the Nine Gods they swore
they’d build a bridge full four feet high
but not a damned inch more.
By the Nine Gods they swore it
and coolly went their way,
and called for tenders for the job
and fixed up who would pay.

Then out spake R B Owen,
the River Banker bold:
“Your proposition’s a disgrace.
The people’s rights you’ve sold.
In perpetuity I claim the right of navigation.
Now who will put in my right hand
the costs of litigation?”

The privy purse was duly lined
and lawyers were engaged.
The issue long remained in doubt
while Wright and Flesher raged.
The Court below to RBO
awarded its decision;
but on appeal his argument
was treated with derision.

“Oh, Avon, Mother Avon”,
cried Owen in distraction,
“His Majesty in Council
shall adjudicate this action.
Five hundred quid’s as nothing,
and we’ll see this matter through

unless you folks agree to raise
this bridge a foot or two.”

And so the bridge remains unbuilt,
and contest’s still unended;
and Owen’s owin’ more and more
for costs and fees expended;
while Captain Owles irately howls
that JAF’s uncivil,
and JAF consigns the worthy captain
to the Devil.

But R B Owen’s sure to win
for Wright is on his side;
and when, in days to come, the boats
come sailing with the tide,
and pass with ease beneath the span,
then will the tale be told
how valiantly he raised the bridge
in the brave days of old.

Sources:

Richard Greenaway