Hutt City Libraries Online Heritage Collection > Texts

Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941)



The Main Bridge.

When roads began to take the place of waterways the rivers obstructed rather than assisted communications. They had to be crossed. The first means was by ford, and there was an early one opposite the village of Aglionby, situated in what is now called Alicetown.
In 1841 or 1842 the New Zealand Company decided to continue the main road from Wellington, already formed to Petone, through to the Taita Gorge, and Mr. S. C. Brees, the Company's surveyor, prepared drawings for (a) a ferry, (b) alternative plans for a 130ft. single-span arch bridge, and (c) plans of what is now referred to as the "Willow Pattern" bridge, made familiar by Brees's own sketch, which is reproduced on the following page.
The original drawings of the ferry and these early bridges are in the possession of the Lower Hutt Borough Council.
The "Willow Pattern" design, with a centre span of 50ft., was chosen by the Company, and the bridge was built by Mr. G. Compton, who lived nearby,
with timber supplied free by the settlers. The bridge was opened in April, 1844, and the exact site of this and other bridges referred to may be found on the historical plan at the end of this booklet.
Part of the super-structure of the first bridge was built of white pine and had already commenced to decay when the bridge was removed some three years later. On the other hand, some of the totara used in it was built into Mr. J. H. Percy's house, and was found to be in an excellent state of preservation when it was removed from the house in 1927.
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Fort Richmond and the First Hutt Bridge, 1845.

Brees—Courtesy Wellington Harbour Board.
Molesworth's windmill may be seen on the extreme right.
The first bridge was not suitable for vehicular traffic, and in 1846 a contract for a vehicular bridge of a single span of 130ft. was let to Messrs. J. H. Percy and Son, on the authority of Major Richmond, Superintendent of the Wellington Province. The tender price was £385, and the bridge was opened early in 1847. A price of £85 was quoted to "roof and weather the bridge," but there is no record of this being carried out. The builders alleged a loss of £189/3/10 1/2 on the contract, even after Sir George Grey had made them a grant of £50. There was some delay in completing this bridge on account of the difficulty of securing the timber and the scarcity of labour, owing to troubles with the Maoris.
An illustration of the second bridge appears on page 23.
Repairs were found necessary in December, 1848, after an earthquake had damaged one of the abutments and strained the superstructure. The great
earthquake of 1855 shook down the southern abutment, and a severe flood completed the destruction of the bridge. The Provincial Government authorised the setting up of the Hutt Bridge Committee, and gave it power to collect tolls; and a new bridge, built by Mr. R. C. Carter (after whom Carterton was named), was opened on the 1st January, 1856. It had seven 45ft. spans and cost £1458.
Carter's bridge had an adventurous career. In 1858 the great flood eroded the western bank, and a breakwater had to be built at a cost of £1775. In October, and again in November, 1858, further work was done to the breastwork, and in August, 1866, when a breach was made at the western end, it was found necessary to lengthen the bridge. Further additions and repairs were made in 1868, but this year saw the end. A jam of logs brought down by a flood lifted it off its foundations and sent the tangled timber crashing down the river.
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The Third Hutt Bridge, Built in 1856.

—Redrawn from an old photograph published in the "Evening Post," 1903.
The Aglionby Arms is on the right.
It was four years before another bridge was completed, and in the interim a punt ferry and a ford had to be used.
The fourth bridge, of four 70ft. arches, was built by Mr. A. (Gus) Petherick, and was opened in 1872. This had a useful life of 32 years, and the principal reason for its replacement was that when the stop-banks were built it was too low.
The toll-house, which stood at the eastern end of this bridge, is depicted in a photograph reproduced elsewhere.
The fifth bridge, of three 120ft. spans, is still standing. This was the first bridge authorised by the Lower Hutt Borough Council. The original site chosen was approximately where the concrete bridge now stands, but this was not approved by the Government of the day, and some of the circumstances surrounding the change of site are recorded in the story of the Borough Council.
The Council secured a Government subsidy of £5000, and adjacent local bodies who benefited by the bridge contributed to its cost of £7731. The bridge was designed by Mr. John Fulton, the Government engineer, built by Mr. M. O'Connor, and opened on the 3rd April, 1904.
The growing needs of the district, an adverse report on the soundness of the structure for heavy traffic, its bad position, and its difficult approaches resulted in the present bridge, the sixth of the series, being proposed by Cr. D. A. Ewen in 1927. The bridge is 360 feet long, has eight spans of 45 feet, and is 40 feet wide. The designers were Messrs. Sladden and Pavitt; the builders Messrs. Bird and Codling Bros.; and the contract price £19,133. It was opened for traffic on the 14th March, 1929.
Photographs of the fifth and sixth bridges are reproduced in the aerial view shown on the next page.
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Lower Hutt's Fourth Bridge.

—From a photo by J. Bragg: about 1872.
—Courtesy Wellington Harbour Board.
Note the remains of the approach to the third bridge below the Catholic Church spire. A portion of the music-hall is on the left. The ford used beween 1868 and 1872 is in the foreground. Some of the piles of this bridge may still be seen in the river.

Other Bridges.

Space forbids more than a bare mention of other bridges, old and new. There were numerous small bridges over the streams which crossed the roads in the early days, and most of these have now been replaced by pipes.
It is interesting to note that in 1845 a structure called Waiwhetu Bridge existed at the corner of Mabey Road and the main road at Taita. What is now known as the Waiwhetu bridge is situated within a few chains of the Wainui Hill road, where a bridge has existed since the very early days. There are now, however, several other bridges over this stream.
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An Aerial View of Lower Hutt. 1935.

—Courtesy "Evening Post."
A substantial wooden bridge once existed on the main road near Knox Church. This was originally called Second River Bridge and later the Blackbridge. This latter name is perpetuated by the post office and the district in the vicinity.
Reference is made elsewhere to the railway and pedestrian bridge on the Waterloo line which was completed in 1937, and which crosses the river at the northern end of Gear Island.
The Melling suspension bridge, with a span of 360 feet, was opened early in 1909.
Two "pipe" bridges, so called because they carried the pipes for Wellington's water supply, have spanned the river near the mouth; the first being a very light pedestrian bridge, erected about 1884, and washed away in 1907. The present Pipe Bridge, which also carries vehicular traffic and forms a vital link with the Bays, was opened in 1908.
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Reflections in the Waiwhetu Stream.

—A recent photograph by W. Hall-Raine.

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