Victoria Street bridge

The Victoria Street bridge crosses the Avon River and was officially opened on 26 September 1864.

River Avon, Victoria Street bridge. Christchurch. NZ
River Avon, Victoria Street bridge. Christchurch. NZ. Contributor (ctb): Isabel Clemens. No known copyright

Originally a timber bridge, built in 1852 and known as Papanui Bridge, was situated at this point in the Avon River. An increase in traffic meant that the bridge required regular maintenance and by 1863 it was deemed unsafe by the Provincial Council.

Sir Charles Fox, an English civil engineer in London, was requested by the Provincial Secretary to prepare designs for iron framework and to advertise for tenders in England. Iron founders, Head Ashby of Stockton, were successful, but upon delivery of the ironwork it was found to be unsatisfactory and a recast was required.

The remainder of the bridge was designed by James Wylde, assistant provincial engineer. The tender to construct the bridge, using his designs and the ironwork, was awarded to engineer, E.G. Wright.

Work on removing the old bridge and preparing the abutments began in January 1864. The ironwork finally arrived in July, but was found to have been damaged during the voyage aboard the Amoor. The damage was eventually repaired and on 26 September 1864 an opening ceremony was held to celebrate the construction of the first cast iron bridge in Canterbury.

The bridge was further widened in 1875 by Samuel A’Court, who added wing piers and a wooden outrigger foot path.

Trams began to use the bridge with the opening of the Papanui tramline in 1880 and would continue to run until the closure of the tramline in 1954.

In 1885 the bridge was widened once again by Walter Bory Scott. To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee for Queen Victoria in 1897 the bridge was renamed Victoria Bridge.

The bridge remained a part of Victoria Street until the section of the road which ran through Victoria Square was closed in 1988. As part of the redevelopment, a section in the middle of the deck was removed, creating a void to expose the girders. In the following year the bridge was renamed the Hamish Hay Bridge, after Sir Hamish Grenfell Hay, a former mayor.

Following the 2010-2011 earthquakes repairs were carried out by SCIRT and completed in June 2016.


Victoria Street Bridge over time.