Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former)

544 Tuam Street, Phillipstown, Christchurch

  • Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former). From: www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Paul Willyams. Taken By: Paul Willyams. Date: 19/01/2010.
  • Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former). Original image submitted at time of registration.
    Copyright: NZHPT Field Record Form Collection.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3736 Date Entered 6th September 1984 Date of Effect 6th September 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described Lot 1 DP 333687 (RT 194987), Canterbury Land District and the complex of buildings known as Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former) thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero meeting on 5 October 2017.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 333687(RT 194987), Canterbury Land District


Begun in the early 1880s, the Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former) at 544 Tuam Street, Phillipstown, Christchurch, is a building complex that played a critical role in effecting significant improvement in the overall amenity of the city and the lives of Christchurch residents. It has historical, social, and technological significance in its ability to tell the story of how Christchurch developed a coordinated, city-wide drainage system that served as an exemplar both nationally and internationally. In its utilitarian design with classical detailing and craftsmanship, the Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse also has architectural and aesthetic value.

The Christchurch Drainage Board was established in the mid-1870s to address the issue of poor drainage of stormwater and sewage disposal that was having serious health implications for the dwellers in this flat swampy city. The Board was tasked with planning and constructing a systematic drainage and sewerage network and they engaged an English civil engineer, William Clark, as consulting engineer. The key point of Clark’s comprehensive scheme, approved by the Drainage Board in 1878, was that wastewater flows were to be admitted into the sewers, but kept completely separate from stormwater to avoid contamination. The first stage was the construction, during the early 1880s, of pipelines that took sewage from the city by gravitation to holding tanks beneath the Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse, in Tuam Street. Sometimes known as the Drainage Pumping Station, this brick building was designed by Clark to house the engines and pumps which would pump the sewage in 61 centimetre cast iron pipes to Bromley. The work was carried out by Thomas Parsons as contractor. After overcoming many challenges due especially to unstable soil, the pumping of sewage at the Waterworks Pumphouse Station finally took place as a fully operational system in early 1882.

The Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former) is a building constructed of brick with Oamaru stone detailing, steel windows, and slate and corrugated iron roofing. It is a utilitarian structure with multiple gabled roofs and restrained classical detailing, including distinctive arched windows and doors, and round windows in some of the gables. It is possible that some of the pump and drainage technology remains in the sub-floor area of the building and within the setting.

The original building has been enlarged over time, and altered as machinery was updated. The Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former) building at Tuam Street continued to play a key role in the disposal of city sewage until 1957 when the Drainage Board opened a new pumping station in Pages Road. The Tuam Street site then became used as a maintenance depot until the 1980s, when the Board ‘vacated its most historic site, where the city’s sewage system was born’. Alterations of the building have included the removal of the furnace stack and removal of pump machinery and, after the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-11, structural strengthening and demolition of a lean-to at the rear of the building. The property currently operates as a salvage yard. The building is the subject of two well-known paintings by Christchurch artist, Doris Lusk.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Bell, Charles Napier

Bell (1835-1906) was one of New Zealand's foremost civil engineers during the late nineteenth century. English by birth Bell received his training with Bell and Miller, Engineers of Glasgow, and in the late 1850s he worked on the Edinburgh sewerage system and the Glasgow graving dock. During the 1860s he worked in South America and Europe planning railways systems, water and harbourworks, and in 1867 he became an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

In 1871, working for the English railway contractors J. Brogden and Sons, Bell arrived in New Zealand to advise on the siting of the Rangitata railway bridge and the development of the harbour in Timaru. Five years later he was appointed engineer to the Christchurch Drainage Board and in February 1873 Bell began a seven year association with the Lyttelton Harbour Board. He acted as the Board's first consulting engineer until his resignation in December 1885 when he took up the position of engineer with the Westport Harbour Board. Until his death in Tasmania in 1906 Bell undertook engineering work throughout New Zealand and Australia.

Thomas Parsons

Contractor for the Waterworks Pumping Station No. 1 Pumphouse (Former), Christchurch

William Clark

Civil Engineer for the Christchurch Drainage Board, 1870s

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1882 -

Building extended

Completion Date

23rd June 2017

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

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 Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.