Worcester Street Bridge

Worcester Street, Christchurch

  • Worcester Street Bridge, Christchurch. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 10/08/2014.
  • Worcester Street Bridge, Christchurch. Balustrading and paving on bridge.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: P Wilson. Date: 1/02/2004.
  • Worcester Street Bridge, Christchurch. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand . Taken By: Ann McEwan.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 1833 Date Entered 2nd April 2004

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the bridge and land the bridge sits on.

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

There is no legal description or Certificate of Title for the Avon River and its banks.

Location description

Worcester Street/Boulevard crossing the Avon River

Summaryopen/close

The Canterbury Association survey of Christchurch in 1850 laid out the nascent town in a grid, bisected only by diagonals providing access to the port of Lyttelton and the northern hinterland. Disrupting the regularity of this street pattern however were the sinuous curves of the Avon River. These proved a serious impediment to travel within the city, and necessitated the prompt construction of a series of bridges. Initially simple structures, by the 1880s the majority of these inner city bridges had been replaced in permanent materials. With their fine cast iron railings, they contribute much to the townscape and character of Christchurch.

The first bridge to cross the Avon was a flattened tree trunk erected on Worcester St adjacent to the Land Office in February 1851. By 1860 a more substantial footbridge had been raised, but this was destroyed in the Great Flood of 1868. Its replacement was a cart bridge, which was in turn succeeded by the present bridge in 1885. This was erected by Walter Bory Scott (1851-1922) at a cost of £1, 984.

Born in Norwich and educated at York, Scott emigrated to the USA in 1871. Moving on to NZ a few years later, he became a contractor and builder in Christchurch. In Africa between 1902 and 1907, Scott later returned to the city and founded a motor company.

Although the designer of the bridge is not recorded, it is most likely to have been City Surveyor Charles Walkden (1824-1908). A surveyor and engineer, Walkden had worked in Austria and Denmark for a number of years before arriving in Christchurch in 1871. In 1874 he was appointed City Surveyor to the City Council, a position he held for 22 years. During this time, (and particularly during the 1880s), Walkden was responsible for building or rebuilding many of the bridges in central Christchurch. He retired in 1896 on an allowance of £375 p.a.

At only 52 ft in width, the Worcester St Bridge is one of only two nineteenth century bridges in the city not to have been widened to accommodate modern traffic (the other being the Armagh St Hagley Park Bridge). Today the tourist tram route crosses the bridge, though trams did not pass this way when part of the transport system.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The bridge has historical significance as an indication of the desire of the Victorian citizens of the city to use the Avon's bridges to ornament Christchurch whilst also providing evidence of permanency and progress.

The Worcester St Bridge has aesthetic significance with the graceful form of the bridge arch, and the neo-gothic ornamentation of its balustrading. These add to the attractive environs of the Avon as it winds through the central city, and compliment the bridge's immediate neighbour, the former Municipal Chambers (1887).

The bridge also has architectural significance for the manner in which it coheres with and compliments the pattern established for central city bridges, and with the neo-gothic idiom broadly characteristic of public architecture in Christchurch.

(a) reflects the economic and social importance of the establishment of an effective transport network in the fledgling city.

(g) is an aesthetically pleasing but practical design enhanced by fine ornamentation.

(k) is a significant contributor to the collection of historic bridges in the central city, to the structures and sites of the Worcester Boulevard cultural precinct, and to the neo-gothic tone of central Christchurch.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Walkden, Charles

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Scott, Walter Bory

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

A single span brick arched bridge with stone facings and piers, and a cast iron balustrade.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1885 -

Construction Details

Brick, Mt Somers stone, and cast iron.

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Ince, 1998

John A. Ince, A City of Bridges. A History of Bridges over the Avon and Heathcote Rivers in Christchurch, Christchurch, 1998

pp.48-51

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.