Addington Water Tower

66H Clarence Street, Addington, Christchurch

  • Addington Water Tower.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/09/2001.
  • Addington Water Tower. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 21/07/2013.
  • Addington Water Tower. Detail. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 21/07/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5390 Date Entered 25th June 1992

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration is the land described as Lot 5 DP 338864 (CT 160137), Canterbury Land District, and the structure known as Addington Water Tower thereon, and its fixtures and fittings

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 5 DP 338864 (CT 160137), Canterbury Land District

Summaryopen/close

The following text was prepared as part of an upgrade project and was completed 28 November 2001.

Addington Water Tower was built in 1883 to provide a high pressure water system for the Addington Railway Workshops. These workshops were established in 1879 - 1880, replacing the first railway workshop in New Zealand, which had been established by the Canterbury Provincial Government in 1863. The water tower was designed by Peter Ellis, the then Chief Draughtsman for the Railways Department. Ellis's brother was the foreman during its construction and prison labour was used to build it.

The tower is 21.9 metres high and is built of steel reinforced concrete and cast iron. It is significant within the history of engineering as one of the earliest structures in the world to be made from reinforced concrete. This significance was acknowledged by the Institute of Professional Engineers, New Zealand (IPENZ) in 1990, which provided a plaque for the tower.

The tower stands on a three-step pedestal, and is visually divided into three sections. The bottom section is built of reinforced concrete and is square in plan. There are arched recesses on each of the four sides, and circular windows are set in the top of each recess. On the north-east face there are two wooden doors. The middle section, also of reinforced concrete, and the top section, which consists of the cast-iron water tank, are both octagonal in plan and are separated by a projecting cornice. Health and safety slogans, such as 'Safety Week Starts Every Monday', once decorated every second face of the tank. Inside the tower there are timber floors on both the ground and first floor level, with a steel ladder providing access to the latter. The pumping mechanism is situated on the ground floor. As the tower was constructed on a base of quicksand and clay, it had sunk approximately 22 centimetres (9 inches) by the time it was completed (as predicted by Ellis), and now rests on a slight angle.

The primary significance of the tower is the method and materials used in its construction. Today Addington Water Tower is also important as the last remaining physical link to the Addington Railway Workshops, which had 'once been the largest industrial concern in the South Island'. The buildings of the workshops were demolished during the 1980s and a new railway station now stands on this land. The tower remains as a prominent and distinctive feature of this landscape.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The water tower is centrally located on the site of what was once the largest railway workshop development in the country.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration

ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY:

Although it is an engineering structure the Addington Water Tower is not without architectural pretensions. The arched forms of the lowest section and the general proportions of the tower as a whole give the structure a coherence of design which elevates its appearance above that of the purely functional.

Peter Ellis' use of reinforced concrete in the construction of the tower was highly innovative in 1883. The water tower "is one of the world's first structures in reinforced concrete" (IPENZ commemorative plaque, laid June 21 1990). The structure is also the first reinforced concrete water tower to have been erected in the world, predating the first such structure built in England by eighteen years (1900 - G G Thornton ms). Erected during the experimental period of concrete construction in New Zealand (Ibid.), the tower is also noteworthy because of its foundations and because it was designed to withstand earthquakes by having a very low centre of gravity (NZ Building Progress, 1906?).

TOWNSCAPE/LANDMARK VALUE:

The water tower may be regarded as the focal point of the Addington Workshop complex. As demolition proceeds, however, it will lose its architectural context and thus its townscape significance will be reduced. In the meantime it provides a vertical accent amidst the predominantly horizontal workshop buildings.

The water tower is an industrial landmark within Addington, close to the south-west corner of Hagley Park. It can best be appreciated from the nearby Blenheim Road overbridge, for elsewhere the flatness of Christchurch tends to undermine its landmark value. Demolition of the railway workshops should remedy this situation to some extent, however.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Ellis, Peter

Peter Ellis was chief draughtsman of the New Zealand Railways when he designed the Addington Water Tower. He later worked as a draughtsman for the Wellington Harbour Board and interestingly it was his brother, J A Ellis, that supervised the construction of the tower in his capacity as foreman of works with the Christchurch division of the New Zealand Railways.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

DESCRIPTION:

New Zealand's oldest railway workshop was established by the Canterbury Provincial Government in 1863. Having been taken over by Central Government in c.1872 this workshop soon became too small to handle the demands of the provincial railway system and so it was re-established at Addington in 1879-80. The water tower was erected to supply the Addington Railway Workshops complex with a high-pressure water supply.

Built by prison labour, and supervised by the engineer's brother, the water tower had sunk nine inches at the time of its completion and today it rests on a slight angle. At the time of its construction the Public Works Department was evidently sceptical of Peter Ellis' design and sole responsibility for it was vested with the engineer (Ibid.).

Despite the demolition of the railway workshops it is intended that the water tower will be retained and used to augment the domestic water supply in the area. In June of 1990 the Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand recognised the significance of this structure when it installed a commemorative plaque at the site.

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

The tower is a 21.9 metre structure built of steel reinforced concrete and cast iron. Standing on a three-step pedestal, which is square in plan, the tower is visually divided into three sections. The two lower sections, of reinforced concrete made with a coarse aggregate, support the cast iron tank which has a capacity of 114,000 litres. The tank and the middle section of the tower are octagonal in plan and are visually separated by a projecting 'cornice. Every second face of the water tank bears a painted slogan which is therefore visible throughout the workshop yard. The slogans read "Safe Habits Are Good", "Safety Week Starts Every Monday", "Be Safe First And Always" and "Help Prevent That Accident".

The lowest section of the tower is the most decorative and features chamfered edges and boldly detailed mouldings which form arched recesses on each of its four sides. Circular wagon wheel windows are set into the top of each recess and on the north-east face the tower is pierced by two massive wooden doors. The doors, which are set into arched openings, are decorated with wooden bosses and two 'portholes'.

Inside the water tower there are timber floors at the ground and first floor levels and a steel ladder provides access to the latter. The pumping mechanism is located on the ground floor inside the tower and the entire structure rests upon clay and quicksand; a fact which has resulted in the slight settlement of the tower over the years.

MODIFICATIONS:

1964:Reinforced concrete ring beam cast around the top of the tower as part of an earthquake strengthening programme.

Notable Features

The tower's construction is its most noteworthy feature.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1882 - 1883

Modification
1964 -
Reinforced concrete ring beam cast around the top of the tower as part of an earthquake strengthening programme.

Construction Details

Steel reinforced concrete, cast iron and timber.

Completion Date

28th November 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

Session 1, 1879, E.-1., p.86

1880, Vol.I, E.-1., p.51

1883, Vol.II, D.-1., pp.51 & 68.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903

Leitch, 1988

David Leitch and Bob Stott, New Zealand Railways: The First 125 Years, Auckland, 1988

New Zealand Historic Places

New Zealand Historic Places

R. Sinclair, 'Notable Achievements of our Engineers': (No. 31, December 1990, pp 43-46).

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Thornton, 1996

Geoffrey Thornton, Cast in Concrete: Concrete Construction in New Zealand 1850-1939, Auckland, 1996

pp.66-69.

Troup, 1973

Gordon Troup (ed), Steel Roads of New Zealand: An Illustrated Survey, A H & A W Reed, Wellington, 1973.

Pierre, 1964

W.A. Pierre, Canterbury Provincial Railways - Genesis of the N.Z.R. System, The N.Z. Railway and Locomotive Soc. Inc., Wellington, 1964.

Cookson, 2000

John Cookson and Graem Dunstall (eds), Southern Capital Christchurch : Towards a City Biography 1850-2000, Christchurch, 2000

W. David McIntyre, 'Outwards and Upwards - Building the City, p.111

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.