Old bridges

Early bridges

Two footbridges crossed the Grafton Gully, before the big new concrete span.

There were two walking wooden bridges crossing this gully, before the current concrete one was built. They each carried stories – as well as thousands of people…

The first bridge, designed by William Anderson went from the end of St Martin’s Lane (in the west) to Bridge Street (east). It was designed in the form of a wooden trestle bridge, and built in 1884 by Messrs Larkin & O’Brien.

It could accommodate three people side-by-side, and formed an important link between Karangahape Road and the Auckland Hospital and Domain in Grafton.

The Auckland Domain had gardens operated by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society which displayed newly imported plants and flowers. They were popular for family outings and with courting couples. Other events often held there were military parades, bicycle races, balloon ascents and company picnics.

The trestle bridge saw most use on weekend afternoons when sporting events were held in the Domain. People became worried about the structure swaying and jumping. As early as 1890 guards were posted at each end of the bridge on busy days, to enforce rules limiting numbers on the bridge.

In 1904 the City Engineer’s department reported on the condition of the 20 year old structure. Mr Wrigg revealed the bridge was working itself apart, with metal bolts rusting and several wooden members going rotten.

A smaller, temporary replacement bridge was built right at the bottom of the gully spanning the Waiparuru Stream. For a while the first and second bridges stood side by side. People still used the first bridge despite it being closed for safety. It took two years to remove it.

Pedestrian access to the second bridge required quite a descent down the side of the gully via a rough path and then up the other side.

The second bridge remained in use for six years. During this period the small wooden bridge and the approaches to it were altered, wooden steps were constructed from Bridge Street and St Martins Lane.

“The track over the Cemetery Gully is now in excellent repair. A long series of steps leads down to and up from a little bridge over the bottom of the gully and foot passengers should be able to cross over dryfoot at all times. The walk is a very picturesque one but the romantic suggestion will not compensate the weary pedestrian for the loss of the bridge!"

Letters about unsafe old wooden bridge


Auckland Star, Volume XXXII, Issue 44, 21 February 1901, Page 2

(To the Editor.) Sir. -Cemetery Bridge! “Who is responsible for this structure? If it is unsafe for traffic, why is it not closed and put into proper repair? It is, I think, the only bridge in Auckland, and evidently the authorities themselves consider it such a ginger-bread build that they will not allow a man or boy to walk over it. Further, the ladies and children are told to “break step,” whatever that means. I consider whoever was responsible for the management of this tin-pot structure called a footbridge on Saturday last should have provided for males being told at the top of the hill on either side that they were not allowed to cross, as it was, parties of ladies and gentlemen were separated, and many of them never saw each other again owing to the crowd in the Domain. The bridge should De strengthened or replaced. —l am, etc., A. EDWIN.

(To the Editor.) Sir. —On Saturday last a very large number of persons returning from the Domain availed themselves of the shortcut, to the city afforded by the Cemetery Gully bridge, your correspondent being one of the number. Notwithstanding only a limited number of persons were allowed upon the bridge at a time, yet it began to oscillate to a frightful extent almost creating a panic amongst the female portion of the pedestrians. Fortunately a gentleman upon the bridge took in the situation and asked all those upon it to stop, which they did, until the oscillation ceased, I would suggest to the authorities that four steel wire ropes, two on each aide, be affixed to the bridge and securely anchored in the gully and properly hove taut. This would effectually cure the swaying- and render the bridge very much more safe for traffic than it is at present. —l am, etc. A STITCH IN TIME.

  • <p>Detail of the map of Auckland c1886, showing the early bridge at the end of St Martin's Lane. Partington's Mill on the top left. <em>Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 374.</em></p>
  • <p>Old Grafton Bridge from Symonds Sreet to Grafton Road, c1884. <em>Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-102.</em></p>
  • <p>Looking south showing Grafton Bridge with Symonds Street cemetery and Partington's Windmill in the background, 1880s. <em>Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-112A.</em></p>
  • <p>A view from the temporary footbridge showing the construction on the Grafton Side of the gully. C1909. <em>Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A353.</em></p>
  • <p>Cemetery Gully footbridge, 1905. <em>Burton Brothers studio, Te papa, Ref: O.036482. http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/1186344</em></p>
  • <p>Grafton Bridge postcard sent from Opunake to Italy in early 1914. It shows the original foot bridge in Cemetery Gully connecting Symonds Street to Grafton Road, the second Grafton Gully suspension bridge and the ferro-concrete Grafton Bridge  that opened to the public in 1910.</p>
  • <p>Hand coloured postcard showing the the steps through Cemetery Gully used before Grafton Bridge was built, c1908.</p>
  • <p>Cemetery Gully bridge, Feb. 26 1885. <em>Detail from a painting by Gustaf Dillberg, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, Ref: E-085-027. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22339333</em></p>