Daniel O'Connell Bridge
Ophir Bridge Road, Ophir
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Able to Visit
28th June 1984
Extent of List Entry
Extent includes part of the land described as Sec 26 Blk II Tiger Hill SD (NZ Gazette, 1881 p 673), part of the land described as Legal Road, and part of the land described as Legal River, Otago Land District, and the structure known as Daniel O’Connell Bridge thereon.
Central Otago District
Sec 26 Blk II Tiger Hill SD (NZ Gazette, 1881 p 673), Legal Road, and Legal River, Otago Land District
The bridge is part of Ophir Bridge Road, west of Ophir township. It is generally open to traffic at all times. Ophir Bridge Road intersects with State Highway 85/Leask Street southwest of Omakau.
Crossing the Manuherikia River west of Ophir, the Daniel O’Connell Bridge is a single lane road bridge providing access to the small Central Otago settlement. Constructed between 1879 and 1880, this striking structure is a good example of Central Otago suspension bridge with schist masonry towers. The bridge has historical and technological significance.
As was the case elsewhere in the region, gold was the reason many people originally came to Ophir, a town initially called Blacks. The residents campaigned for local services, including infrastructure such as roads and bridges. A bridge over the Manuherikia River was a high priority, and locals lobbied the Vincent County Council.
Bridges were particularly important to communities in Central Otago as the landscape was crossed by major rivers – the Clutha, Kawarau and Manuherikia. Bridges provided links between communities and links to markets – improving communication and access. The lobbying came to fruition when in 1878 the Vincent County Engineer, Leslie Duncan Macgeorge (1854-1939), designed this 65.5-metre bridge, which was constructed by J. S. Derby and R. Edgar of Timaru. The cost of the bridge was approximately £7,000. At the opening of this structure in May 1880, the bridge was named after Irish hero, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847). This was an appropriate and seemingly popular choice, because the bridge was located in an area heavily populated by Irish Catholic immigrants.
The Daniel O’Connell Bridge is a single lane suspension bridge with schist masonry towers, one of several similar bridges that Macgeorge designed. It is four metres wide with a 65.5 metre span. The bridge has 10 suspension cables on each side, fed over the top of pairs of towers on either end. The northern approach to the structure is through a narrow cutting through rock. The cables are anchored into the rock. On the Omakau side of the river the cables are anchored into masonry that is visible above ground.
Like many of its contemporaries, by the early twentieth century the bridge’s timber transoms and stiffening truss had degraded. Watson Rhodes and Company replaced the timber transoms with steel equivalents in 1905. There has been little further alteration to the structure since, aside from several replacements of the timber deck.
The Daniel O’Connell Bridge is a handsome and popular local landmark. It has some engineering importance as an example of the vernacular form of late nineteenth century Central Otago bridge that notable engineer Macgeorge excelled in designing. In 2015, the Daniel O’Connell Bridge remains a landmark structure, linking Ophir to the settlements on the west of the Manuherikia River.
Macgeorge, Leslie Duncan
Leslie Duncan Macgeorge (1854-1939) was born in Adelaide and trained as a surveyor. He came to New Zealand in the 1870s. In 1876 he transferred to Central Otago. He held the position of County Engineer until 1902, after which he entered private practice in Dunedin and Timaru. He retired to Melbourne, and died there in 1939.
Source: Registration Review Report for Alexandra Bridge (Former), Alexandra, Sept 2013.
S. Derby and R. Edgar
No biography is currently available for this construction professional
1879 - 1880
Original timber superstructure replaced with steel equivalent. Timber deck replaced.
7th April 2015
Report Written By
Karen Astwood, ‘Daniel O’Connell Bridge: IPENZ Engineering Heritage Record Report’ http://www.ipenz.org.nz/heritage/itemdetail.cfm?itemid=2274
A copy of the original 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.
A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand