Totara Valley Limestone Bridge

Sterndale Valley Road, Totara Valley

  • Totara Valley Limestone Bridge.
    Copyright: Timaru District Council. Date: 10/03/2008.
  • Totara Valley Limestone Bridge. March 1993. Image included in Field Record Form Collection .
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: J R Fougere.
  • Totara Valley Limestone Bridge. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: C Cochran. Date: 8/04/1983.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 2010 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Legal Road, Canterbury Land District and the structure known as Totara Valley Limestone Bridge thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 1 February 2018

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Legal Road, Canterbury Land District


Built in 1874-5, the Totara Valley Limestone Bridge, Sterndale Valley Road, Totara Valley, is one of a number of stone arch bridges in South Canterbury that are an enduring reminder of early engineering design and have high level of craftsmanship. Constructed by the Levels Road Board and still in use, the Stone Bridge has historical, archaeological, aesthetic and architectural value.

Between the 1865 and 1880s, a number of stone bridges and culverts were constructed in South Canterbury. Most were small single span structures built of local limestone or bluestone (basalt). Early newspaper reports of the Levels Road Board meetings contained references to a ‘manuka bridge’ at Totara Flat. In 1874, Mr W Williamson, Engineer to the Board, suggested that it might be better to discontinue having anything further to do with bush bridges and recommended the use of stone as a material for bridge works where it could be easily procured. The Levels Road Board called for tenders to construct two stone bridges, one being for the Totara Valley Limestone Bridge, in November 1874. Messrs McGill and Brehaut’s tender of £362.10s was accepted. The remains of a ‘Manuka bridge’ were removed from the Sterndale Valley Road in early 1875, by which time there was already one stone bridge completed.

The Totara Valley Limestone Bridge sits over a creek on Sterndale Valley Road. The Stone Bridge has a span of approximately 3.8 metres. The width is 5.5 metres and the depth of the crown of the arch to creek is approximately 2 metres. In his 1958 publication, South Canterbury – A Record of Settlement, Oliver A Gillespie records the construction of these early bridges as follows: ‘Before building a stone bridge, a wooden framework was erected to support the weight as the prepared stones were placed in position. Cement was used only for foundations and to smooth over interstices between the stones after these had been filled with chips. Stones, shaped at an angle to give an arch, were packed as tightly as possible. Those last to be placed in position were the wedge-shaped keystones which locked the whole structure and gave it strength. Once they were placed, the framework was removed and the bridge was ready to take the weight of traffic.’


Construction Professionalsopen/close

McGill and Brehaut for Levels Road Board

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1874 -

Completion Date

4th December 2017

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Information Sources

Stone Bridges of South Canterbury

Fougere, J R, Stone Bridges of South Canterbury, Timaru, 1993 (unpublished).

South Canterbury: A record of settlement, 1958

Gillespie, Oliver A, South Canterbury: A record of settlement, 1958 (second edition 1971)

Timaru District Built Heritage Inventory: From Mesopotamia to Pareora River

Opus International Consultants, Timaru District Built Heritage Inventory: From Mesopotamia to Pareora River, July 2004

Historic Stone Arch Bridges

Waugh, John, ‘Historic Stone Arch Bridges’, New Zealand Historic Places, No. 47, May 1994, pp. 20-21.

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Regional Office of Heritage New Zealand