In 1862, eccentric British lawyer Joseph Cornish Helmore arrived in Christchurch and purchased 50 acres in Merivale which included the western end of Pilgrim’s Corner (Little Hagley Park). The area then became known as Helmore’s Plantation due to the lovely trees on his land. Known for being suspicious of all he met, his garden in Cashel Street was rigged with alarm wires and he would infamously fire his always loaded pistol in the air when a strange noise caused him concern.
In 1866, he approached the Canterbury Provincial Council to ask for permission to build a road through his land. He also informed the council that he would also construct a bridge over the Washborne Creek – all at his own cost.
He was granted permission and he constructed what we now know as Helmores Lane and Harper Ave. Over Washborne Creek he built the only remaining wooden street bridge in Christchurch.
Provincial Engineer Edward Dobson (father of Arthur Dudley Dobson of the Arthur’s Pass fame) sent his assistant George Thornton to inspect the bridge which got a thumbs up. But it proved a constant nuisance, a victim of floods and was always in the need of maintenance. It was raised by two feet but because of the use of inferior timber, the shaky bridge was only used by the brave of heart.
The earthquakes of 2011 took the historic bridge out of commission – the bridge actually snapping away from the suddenly sunken river banks. Then known as quick short-cut for all sorts of vehicles, when restored (great care taken so to keep its historic title) and reopened in 2014, the bridge was closed to cars permanently, now only to be used by bicycles and pedestrians.
*Photo taken by Annette Bulovic*