Christchurch's oldest timber bridge reopens after $1 million restoration video

JOSEPH JOHNSON/Stuff.co.nz

The Helmore’s Lane Bridge has reopened in Little Hagley Park after five months of repairs.

"An eccentric old bugger" built this, city councillor Jamie Gough said as he and some sheep reopened Christchurch's oldest timber bridge.

The Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT)​ repaired the 150-year-old Helmore's Lane Bridge, in Little Hagley Park.

Unlike its original builder and namesake, Joseph Helmore, the restoration was not done on the cheap. Its community value was worth the $1 million spend, Gough said.

Sheep once crossed the 150-year-old Helmore’s Lane Bridge to get to the Riccarton saleyards. They returned for the reopening.
Joseph Johnson

Sheep once crossed the 150-year-old Helmore’s Lane Bridge to get to the Riccarton saleyards. They returned for the reopening.

"[Helmore] was notoriously cheap, he put bugger all money into it and after a few years it fell to bits and had to be rebuilt," Gough said, at the bridge's reopening on Monday.

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SCIRT​ general manager Ian Campbell said recycled timbers, including reused bridge piles from old bridges on the Waitaki River, were brought in for the restoration.

Ken McAnergney, right, blessed the 150-year-old bridge, which runs through Little Hagley Park. Only cyclists and ...
Joseph Johnson

Ken McAnergney, right, blessed the 150-year-old bridge, which runs through Little Hagley Park. Only cyclists and pedestrians can use it.

The cost increased when bridge beams were found to be rotten, meaning extra work was required, Campbell said.

For more than 100 years, the bridge was used as a shortcut for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. In its early days it was a route for driving stock to Riccarton Market Yards, hence the sheep.  

Motorists would no longer be able to use the bridge, although they considered it, Campbell said. 

Cr Jamie Gough said the $1 million restoration was worth it to get the bridge back in action.
Joseph Johnson

Cr Jamie Gough said the $1 million restoration was worth it to get the bridge back in action.

When cars (illegally) used it, few vehicles used the bridge, he said. Technically, the bridge was part of Hagley Park and could not be used for traffic, the council discovered in 2014.

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Helmore's Lane Bridge was the only surviving 19th century timber bridge in Christchurch.

It built in 1866 as a thoroughfare between Helmore's new subdivision and the Riccarton saleyards.

The sheep were the first to cross the newly restored bridge. The younger lambs required some encouragement.

Gough coaxed the lambs forward with food, while spectators carried some across. 

 - The Press

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