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Bridge of Remembrance

Opened in 1924, the Bridge of Remembrance on Cashel Street crosses the Avon River and stands as a memorial to soldiers of the First World War. 

Bridge of Remembrance
Bridge of Remembrance. Contributor (ctb): MG Karthik. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Originally a bridge built in 1873 crossed the Avon River on Cashel Street, however by 1911 it was considered obsolete.

In February 1920 a meeting was held in the City Council chambers to consider the recommendations of a war memorial committee as to what form the memorial to the Canterbury veterans of the First World War should take. At the meeting, reference was made to a letter from Reverend W.B. Scott, a New Zealand Expeditionary Force chaplain, who suggested that either a bridge with a memorial arch or a cenotaph in Cranmer Square would be appropriate. Two factions soon formed, with advocates supporting either the bridge or the cenotaph. To break the deadlock, a Hall of Memories was proposed.

Eventually, however, the decision to replace the old Cashel Street bridge with a memorial bridge was the favoured outcome. The concept of a bridge was considered symbolic for two reasons. First, it would replace the original bridge, over which many soldiers has crossed after departing King Edward Barracks. Second, it was close to King Edward Barracks, the last place where many soldiers said goodbye to their families and loved ones before departing.

Although designs had been submitted during the earlier attempts to sway the public favour of voting for a bridge, in March 1921 an official design competition was held. By 25 October 1921 the plans designed by William Gummer, a partner at the firm Gummer and Prouse, had been selected. In August 1922, the tender for the bridge’s construction was awarded to D. Scott and Son.

Built from Tasmanian stone, the bridge’s memorial featured a prominent central arch off set by two smaller arches on either side. Atop each of these smaller arches, is a lion carved by Frederick Gurnsey. Gurnsey was also responsible for the carving of the memorial’s other symbols, including the wreath and laurel leaves. Etched into the stone are the names of the different theatres of war New Zealanders fought in during the First World War.

The bridge was opened with a ceremony on 11 November 1924, Armistice Day.

After the Second World War the locations of different theatres of war were added to the memorial.

In 1976 the bridge was converted to pedestrian use.

Although the bridge was damaged during the Canterbury Earthquakes, it was repaired and reopened on Anzac Day 2016.