Bridge Street, Hamilton
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Able to Visit
30th August 1990
Victoria Bridge is an elegant road bridge, spanning the Waikato River in Hamilton. Its construction represented a considerable civic and engineering achievement when it was opened for traffic in 1910. A steel-arched structure 152 m long, the bridge formed the main link between separate parts of the town, Hamilton East and West. These had grown up around two military redoubts, built during the third New Zealand - or Waikato - War (1863-1864). The bridge was erected on the site of the earliest ferry crossing in the colonial settlement, and replaced an 1870s timber structure symbolically known as 'Union Bridge'. It also had a broader importance, lying on the main road between Auckland and Rotorua. The new bridge was both functional and emblematic of progress, being built by the Hamilton Borough Council after a popular vote and at considerable expense. It was constructed at a time when local authorities took on a more prominent profile in government and when Hamilton was expanding rapidly as a town.
The bridge is of open spandrel construction, with a three-pinned central arch of 104 m and two approach spans. Its design was unusual in New Zealand for the combined length and low height of its main span. The structure is believed to have been partly conceived by Waddell and Harrington of Kansas City, who had created the first vertical lift-bridge in the world, while the prominent New Zealand engineer James Fulton supervised its construction for the borough. The international nature of the project was reinforced by the steelwork being prefabricated in Britain by the Cleveland Bridge Company, and shipped over for erection on site. The reinforced concrete deck of the original structure was designed to carry trams, and accommodated two traffic lanes with a separate pavement for pedestrians. Later subsidence of the foundations led to a lighter, steel-framed deck being installed in the 1930s, which was claimed as the earliest of its type outside Canada. This was removed during a widening of the carriageway for safety reasons in 1992.
Victoria Bridge is nationally significant as one of the most accomplished steel-arch road bridges in New Zealand erected by a local authority. It was an ambitious project, designed and supervised by engineers of national and international renown. It increases our understanding of this country's engineering and trading links with North America and Britain, and makes a valuable contribution to the history of transport and technology in New Zealand, including the rise of motorised traffic in provincial towns. The structure has considerable historical value for demonstrating the leadership and ambition of local authorities, including borough councils, in the years after New Zealand became a Dominion in 1907. It reflects Hamilton's growth and prosperity in the early 1900s and its position as the major settlement in the Waikato. The bridge is important for marking the earliest crossing of the Waikato in colonial Hamilton and is a significant local landmark. It enjoys public esteem as an elegant addition to the urban landscape, and has additional value for its association with other historic bridges over the Waikato River.
Fulton, James Edward
Fulton (1854-1928) was one of New Zealand's most prominent engineers. Born in Dunedin in 1854 he worked for a short time as an engineer in flax mill. He was then appointed cadet in the Public Works Department. In 1875 he was transferred to Napier where in 1878 he was promoted to Assistant Engineer in 1878. In 1880 he entered private practice. In 1882 he was Resident Engineer for the Palmerston-Waikanae section of the Wellington-Manawatu Railway, and in 1889 he became manager and locomotive superintendent of the railway.
From 1897 he designed and built the Kelburn Cable Tramway, the original Kelburn Viaduct across Tinakori Gully and numerous bridges, including the Ballance Bridge over the Manawatu River, and the Otaki, Ohau, Rangitikei, Lower Shotover Bridges. He designed and built railways for timber companies in the Central North Island. In 1906 he visited the United States, Great Britain, and Europe to study advances in bridge and railway engineering. He worked on the Leamington Bridge on his return. He was an active member of professional engineering bodies in New Zealand and is now commemorated by the Fulton Bequest for the present day Institution of Professional Engineers in New Zealand.
Waddell and Harrington
No biography is currently available for this construction professional
Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications.
1864 - 1877
Site of ferry crossing
1877 - 1908
Site of Union Bridge
1908 - 1910
Construction of Victoria Bridge
Tar seal over jarrah timber road surface
Replacement of concrete deck
1976 - 1979
Repairs and repainting
Widening of deck and conservation
21st November 2001
Report Written By
P.J. Gibbons, Astride the River: A History of Hamilton, Christchurch, 1977
Patrick Hudson, Bridges of New Zealand, Wellington, 1993
Murray-North Ltd., 1990
Murray-North Ltd., 'Victoria Bridge Upgrading Investigations', unpublished report, Hamilton, 1990 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
'Victoria Bridge, between Victoria Street and River Road, Hamilton', Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1989
Geoffrey Thornton, Bridging the Gap, Early Bridges in New Zealand 1830-1939, Auckland, 2001
pp.107, 232 & 248-249
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.