Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 2, 1988
The Way to the West: The First Appleby Bridge
The Way to the West: The First Appleby Bridge
The Waimea river, as rivers go, is not a bad one. Over the greater part of most years, it is a very attractive and tranquil stream, glistening in the bright sunshine of the Nelson summer months, attracting to its bosom, trout fishermen, picnic parties, swimmers and canoeists in quite large numbers.
In the early spring months and during the gloom of winter, with heavy rain, however, it becomes very awesome indeed, and terribly dangerous to all who may be tempted to transgress its turbulently boiling waters.
Agitation for a bridge at Appleby came to a head in 1865. The settlers on the western side of the river, feeling that it was time to do something, started to hold meetings among themselves and with the Provincial Council.
On the third of June 1865 a meeting, called by Henry Redwood Jnr, was held in the Village School, Waimea West.
F. Blundell, Esq., chaired the meeting and Henry Redwood Snr, the Hon Major Morse, John Kerr, H. Ford and others spoke at some length on the need for a bridge. The outcome was a resolution to the effect that a bridge be erected over the Waimea river, at a point not lower than Mr Redwood's gate. John Kerr moved the motion to erect the bridge, seconded by Mr H. Ford.
Shortly after this meeting, the Provincial Council called for tenders to carry out the construction. The successful tender was that of Messrs Lloyd & Bray of Nelson.
The construction began immediately and, by September 1868, was completed to the satisfaction of the Provincial Engineer.
On the twentieth of September, the "Examiner" advised that the bridge was to be opened on Thursday the twenty-fourth of September 1868, and that all members of the public were invited to attend.
The article in the Examiner reads thus:—
Opening of the new bridge at Appleby
The Bridge over the River Waimea, at Appleby, on the highway from Nelson to Motueka, was formally opened on Thursday last, 24th of September, 1868. The Provincial Secretary and the Provincial Engineer, with a party of gentlemen from Town, met the contractors Messrs Lloyd & Bray, at the foot of the Bridge and, on the structure being handed over to the Government, the bridge was declared open to the public.
In the evening, the party of Officials and the Contractors, along with several mutual friends, dined together at Palmer's Waimea West Hotel and, in the course of the evening, Mr Blackett, the Provincial Engineer, complimented the contractors on the faithful and substantial manner in which they had performed their contract.
The new Waimea Bridge consists of nine spans, each 60 feet wide giving a total length of roadway of 540 feet: the approaches which are made up solid extending beyond this at each end about 150 feet. The width of the roadway is 16 feet including the footpaths of 3 feet each. Each pair rests on eleven piles one foot square, driven to depths below the ordinary waterlevel, varying from 16 to 21 feet. These piles are capped with a heavy wood sill, on which rests two cast iron pillars 12 inches in diameter.
These pillars support the ends of the trusses and stand immediately under them; they are braced between, and are protected by strong sloping cut-waters; the two sides of each pair are planked over, and made so that no drift may be entangled in them!
The roadway is laid on cross-joints which rest on the two side main-trusses which are eight feet deep. The lower stringer of each is doubled and formed of wrought iron; the upper stringer, braces, and the studs are of wood; the whole being firmly held together by 1¾ inch wrought iron bolts and nuts. The lower ends of the braces and studs page 25rest in strong cast-iron shoes, bolted to the lower stringers.
The height from the waterline to the undersides of the trusses is about 12½ feet or about 6½ feet above the highest flood line, with the exception of the flooring, which is of Black Birch, all the rest of the timber is of sound Totara, of large scantling and is well seasoned. Regarding the cast iron pillars and the wrought iron stringers as imperishable, the whole of the trusses and other parts of the bridge liable to decay (from being of wood), are so formed as to be capable of easy repair, and so that any pieces may be replaced easily which become faulty.
The cost of this style of bridge will be about 6 pounds 6 shillings per foot run; the cost of a bridge entirely of iron and of the same width, would be about 18 pounds per foot. The total cost of the bridge over the river at Appleby including approaches and some additional works considered necessary for the protection of the bridge and approaches and of the river banks will be about 4000 pounds.
The structure was designed by John Blackett Esq., the Provincial Engineer and has been erected in a highly creditable manner by the Contractors, Messrs Lloyd & Bray, of Nelson.
This description of the bridge and the praise heaped upon its builders, both at the opening ceremony and later at the dinner and evening at Palmer's Hotel, plus the plaudits of the scribe in the "Examiner", have all been amply justified, if one gives some meagre thought to its eventual lifetime.
Built in September 1868, it stood the supreme test of 81 years of storm, flood, earthquake and hard usage, except for a section or two being washed away in the early thirties. In 1949 the present modern concrete and steel bridge replaced it. Some of the old timbers were used in the construction of a building on the hill on the Aniseed Valley Road, overlooking the Waimea Plain. The present bridge across the Waimea River at Appleby has now been in use for just on 40 years, almost half the period of the life of the old wooden one. That 40 years does not seem unduly long, and there are many in Nelson today who have memories of the old bridge, the picnicing places and the swimming holes adjacent to it. The old Appleby Tennis Club's court was at the left hand approach on the eastern side and before the present huge stopbanks were built, they would also remember the huge areas of flood waters during storms. These stretched from Lansdowne Road nearly to the Cotterell Road corner, with water nearly up to the top of the bar in the Traveller's Rest Hotel.