Colombo Street Bridge

Colombo Street Crossing The Avon River, Christchurch

  • Colombo Street Bridge.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/02/2002.
  • View of balustrading and street lamps.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: P Wilson. Date: 1/02/2004.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1835 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the bridge and land the bridge sits on.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

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


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 across the Avon on Colombo St was erected in 1858 for £329. It was 9 ft wide, and consisted of timber beams in three spans. This bridge was damaged in the Great Flood of 1868 when the north end was swept away, but was repaired. However in 1875 it was replaced with a larger timber bridge at a cost of £328. This survived until 1902, when it in turn was replaced - this time with a 44ft. 9 in. wide steel and concrete structure. This was probably designed by City Surveyor Arthur Dudley Dobson, and built by Langlands and Co. Trams began running across the bridge in 1906, and in 1930 to facilitate their passage, the bridge was widened to 19.14 M by City Engineer A. R. Galbraith and his department. In order to harmonize the bridge with others in the central city, the cast iron balustrade was reinstated within new abutments, and the simple beam structure given an arched side. The original cast iron lamps were however replaced at this time. In 1963 the deteriorating timber deck was replaced with concrete, and an extra beam from the old Fitzgerald Ave Bridge installed to improve the load capacity.

Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson (1841-1934) was born in England, and emigrated with his father Edward Dobson (later Canterbury Provincial Engineer) on the Cressy in 1850. After completing his education at Christ's College in 1858, Dobson was apprenticed to his father. During this period he carried out considerable exploration, discovering Arthur's Pass, and surveying the West Coast. In 1866 Dobson moved to Nelson, where he filled a number of engineering positions. Returning to Christchurch in 1878, father and son formed a partnership. This was dissolved in 1885, and Arthur moved to Melbourne. In 1898 he returned to Christchurch, and was appointed city engineer in 1901. He was knighted in 1931.

Augustus de Rohan Galbraith (1876-1957) was born in England and educated at Winchester. After acquiring many engineering qualifications, he served as Director of Public Works in Zanzibar from 1909, and then as Superintending Engineer with the Royal Australian Navy 1915-18. Prior to his appointment as City Engineer in 1925, Galbraith was serving as City Engineer of Perth. He retired in 1941.

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 Colombo St Bridge has aesthetic significance with its (false) arch and the neo-gothic ornamentation of its balustrade, which add to the attractive riverside environs of the Avon River as its winds through the central city - particularly Victoria Square and the Christchurch Town Hall. This was acknowledged in the 1930 reconstruction, when the Victorian decorative elements were integrated into the rebuilt structure.

The bridge is also architecturally significant for the manner in which it coheres with and compliments both the pattern established for central city bridges, and 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;

(e) is held in high esteem by the public of Christchurch, which ensured that its significant decorative elements survived the 1930 reconstruction;

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

(k) is an integral part of the collection of historic bridges in the central city, and a contributor to the neo-gothic tone of central Christchurch.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Dobson, Arthur Dudley

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Galbraith, A.R

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Langlands & Co

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

A single span iron bridge with a cast iron balustrade, and concrete deck and abutments .

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1902 -

1930 -
Widened, new false arch side and abutments.

1964 -
New deck and beam.

Construction Details

Iron and concrete.

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Starky, Suzanne. 'Dobson, Arthur Dudley 1841 - 1934; Dobson, Edward 1816/1817? - 1908', updated 22 June 2007; URL:

Ince, 1998

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


New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust


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.