Built in 1902, the destructor was used to incinerate rubbish and eventually to generate electricity.

Armagh Street Converter Station and Yard
Armagh Street Converter Station and Yard. No known copyright

In early 1900, concerns regarding outbreaks of bubonic plague led Christchurch City Council authorities to re-evaluate their refuse disposal practices. Although the council used reserves on the outskirts of the city to dispose of night soil and other city refuse, these were breeding grounds for rats which spread the plague. The advantages a destructor had over waste disposal, both in terms of hygiene and the cost of refuse cartage, was brought to the council’s attention.

In June, the council announced that it initially planned to develop a corporation yard at the corner of South Belt and East Belt to house a destructor and a city morgue. This, however, was met with opposition. By November, the council had acquired two acres on the corner of Manchester Street and Gloucester Street for the new central corporation yard.

Although there were concerns that a destructor in the central city would lower the value of neighbouring properties, due to pollution, and that a central location would result in refuse being carted through central city streets, by January 1901 a section of the corporation yard had been selected for the site of the destructor. The morgue, a brick building with a verandah, was also built in the yard and ready by July.

Tenders for the construction of the destructor house and inclined roadway were advertised in August and tenders for the construction of the chimney shaft were advertised in September. In September, F. Nell and H.A. Garratt of Meldrum Brothers arrived in Christchurch to oversee the construction the destructor. The construction was finished by March 1902 and on 30 May 1902 the destructor was officially opened by the Mayor, Henry Wigram.

The destructor was housed in a fireproof brick building connected to a 150 feet high chimney. Refuse for disposal was brought via carts which entered the yard from Gloucester Street. The carts then proceeded up the inclined roadway, with walls on either side, at the end of which was a platform. The refuse was tipped down into the firing platform. There, the workers would rake the refuse, removing incombustible items, before pushing the remaining refuse into the charging holes which were three feet long. The rubbish then fell to the drying hearth where it was dried. The material was then pushed onto the bars of the furnace where it was incinerated. Material which did not burn was removed by a door in the side of the furnace.

The heated gas produced by the destructor passed to the boilers where it heated the water used to generate steam. From there, the gases passed through an underground flue before being expelled by the chimney.

By 1938 the council decided to discontinue the use of the destructor and the chimney was deconstructed in 1939.

Armagh Street Converter Station and Yard

View of the Armagh Street Converter Station and Yard as taken from Armagh Street. At bottom left is the wooden stave tank used to store water for the tepid baths with the destructor chimney at right...

Scaffolding around the destructor chimney

View of scaffolding around the Municipal Electricity Department destructor chimney on Armagh Street taken shortly prior to its demolition. To the left is a street lighting tower waggon.