Daniel O'Connell Bridge

Ophir Bridge Road, OPHIR

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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.

Daniel O'Connell Bridge. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl | 26/07/2015 | Shellie Evans
Daniel O’Connell Bridge, Ophir. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | Derek Smith | 19/07/2010 | Derek Smith
Daniel O'Connell Bridge. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com | PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite | 19/02/2013 | PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Able to Visit

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 1984

Date of Effect

6th June 1984

City/District Council

Central Otago District


Otago Region

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.

Legal description

Sec 26 Blk II Tiger Hill SD (NZ Gazette, 1881 p 673), Legal Road, and Legal River, Otago Land District

Location Description

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.

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