Location 153
Location #153. Kawarau Bridge (1874)
Map 3

Kawarau River



Location #153. Kawarau Bridge (1874). May well have been in the same location as the MacAndrew - using the same approaches. If so, the bridge was approx 100m upstream of the current bridge (location #152)

Still Standing


Construction Details

A suspension bridge with 16 x 5 inch wire rope cables attached to 1 inch diameter iron hangers which supported the timber superstructre, deck beams and planking. The deck was 14 foot wide. All the timber for the bridge was rafted down from Wanaka to Cromwell by Alex Marshall. At the time it was the longest span suspension bridge (141 ft) in Otago. The construction was carried out by Lewis Grant and John McCormick. The bridge had a toll charge and a toll house was constructed on the Bannockburn approach right bank (see location #154).

Location Type


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Interested Parties

The table below shows the groups of people that had an interest in this property, either as owners, residents, tenants or shareholders. Clicking on the 'Details' link will display a list of the individuals in the group along with any known historical information about them.

Group Date Description
1 c1872 John Richards, John Grant & John McCormick Details


The table below shows any historical notes about the location.

Note Date Short Description Note Text
2106 c1872 Kawarau Bridge Company was formed. John Richards formed the Kawarau Bridge Company with partners John Grant and John McCormick. The provincial government approved his application to construct a bridge and to charge a toll. Under the terms of the charter, the government had to provide the bridge approaches and £2000 of public money was spent on them. This led to an immediate agitation to have the government take the whole project over. The approach to the proposed bridge on the Bannockburn side was to be built on an area held as a residence site by a Mr Sades F Graver (dwelling #513). The Crown was required to obtain the area from Mr Graver and to compensate him for his loss. The approach to the proposed bridge from the Cromwell side required to be cut into the river terrace. In October 1872 the approach was formed by sluicing a cutting into the terrace. The water for sluicing was obtained by cutting a water race, two and a half miles (4.0km) across the Cromwell Flats to connect to a water race in the Kawarau Gorge owned by Mess'rs John and Francis Hayes along with Timothy Gorman.
2107 1874 The Kawarau Bridge was opened. The Kawarau Bridge was finally opened and soon put the two punts out of action. The lobbying for the government to take over the bridge continued.
2108 1875 Pressure applied for the government to take the bridge over. The Vincent County Council was formed and pressure was put onto Vincent Pyke, the Member for Kawarau (Bannockburn) riding and the first chairman, to have the bridge taken over. The local progress league questioned the legality of the toll charges.
2109 1877 The matter of the toll charges was settled. In September (or possibly July), the matter of the toll charges was settled, with a proclamation in the Cromwell Argus.
2110 1878 The bridge was finally acquired by the government. In Feb 1878 the bridge was finally acquired by the government and declared a free bridge at a cost of £7,000 (seven thousand pounds). A grand ceremony was held to celebrate the toll free status of the bridge. Vincent Pyke, who deserved all credit for his efforts in getting the bridge taken over, symbolized the occasion by hurling a bunch of keys into the river. Speeches were made by the district judge, Judge Ward, and by the Mayor of Cromwell, Mr D A Jolly.
2111 1878 The Kawarau Bridge collapsed after a flood. On 29 Sep, a large flood undermined the right (Bannockburn side) abutment and it was swept away, which caused the bridge to collapse. Communication was completely cut off for a period of time until John Richards resumed his ferry service again.
2112 1879 The bridge was rebuilt. The damaged pier was rebuilt by Jeremiah Drummy who constructed the new pier separate from the bank to prevent the back pressure from undermining it again. Mr Drummy also rebuilt the damaged bridge. The work was slow and caused great discontent. In March the work was completed and the bridge re-opened for service. This again saw the end of the ferry service.
2113 1893 The bridge was in need of repair. The bridge was in need of repair, which was now the responsibility of the County. There were many complaints from locals with a number of accidents caused by cart and wagon wheels going through the rotten planks. However, no repair work was done by the County. There was a growing feeling amongst the local population that the bridge was becoming a menace and if it was not repaired it should be demolished and replaced.
2114 1895 The bridge was damaged by fire. Early one morning, in April 1895, a shepherd was coming home and found the bridge on fire. He rushed up the hill to the Bannockburn Hotel (location #115) and with the help of some locals managed to put the fire out.
2115 1895 Another fire at the bridge. In September, again on a Sunday night, the Kawarau River Bridge mysteriously caught fire, however it was discovered and extinguished before any major damage was done. This was all much to the disgust of the locals.
2116 1896 Another fire occurred at the bridge. Very early on Monday morning, 13 Jan 1896, the crew of four men working on a gold dredge on the Kawarau River * noticed that the bridge was on fire. Word was sent to Bannockburn but the postmaster, Mr John Robertson was unable to contact Cromwell on the telephone for assistance. At seven o'clock, Mr Thomas Rooney of Cromwell was coming out to work on his claim at Bannockburn and found the bridge well ablaze. He rode back to Cromwell and reported the event. A team of people returned with him to try to save the Cromwell end of the bridge. In the meantime, the Bannockburn end had been partly salvaged by William Parcell who had cut off the burning timbers. The fire was finally extinguished but in some places all that was left were the wire ropes and iron rods. However, many of the deck planks were salvaged. With Bannockburn now cut off, the ferry service was temporarily reinstated. (* two of these men were Alex and Joe McGeorge)
2117 1896 A temporary footbridge was erected on the bridge. The Vincent County Engineer, Mr L D MacGeorge soon had a temporary foot bridge erected between the remaining sections of the bridge. Rails were laid on the old deck and by using a trolley, communications were kept open. Up to one ton could be pushed in the trolley across the bridge.
2118 1896 Contract was let to build a new bridge. In April of 1896, the Vincent County let a contract to a Mosgeil iron-founder to build up a new iron superstructure for the Kawarau Bridge. This was to become the new MacAndrew Bridge (location #155)


The table below shows a list of images related to the location. Click on 'View Image' to display more details about the image, and to view the image.

Image Id Source Date Short Description
228 Cromwell Argus via R Murray 1874 Kawarau Bridge, Bannockburn - Toll Charges View Image
984 The Dunstan - by C W S Moore unknown M J (Jeremiah) Drummy. Stone Mason, Bridge Builder. View Image
2007 Tuapeka Times 15 Jan 1896 Bannockburn Bridge damaged by fire (location #153). View Image
2008 Tuapeka Times 6 Feb 1896 Bannockburn Bridge - light replacement (location #153) View Image