In 1865, after a horse drowned, the C.C.C fenced off the Avon River around Market Place (Victoria Square) and installed a horse ramp so Christchurch’s working horses could safely enter an approved area to have a drink!
It is really hard to imagine this today but the Avon River was infamous for its depth and deep water holes. Before the Canterbury Plains were drained of its swamps and lagoons, the Ōtākaro (Avon) River was a very different, wild character and the place of many drownings.
Close to the Sir Hamish Hay Bridge (once known as the Papanui/Victoria Bridge) was one such water hole where the aforementioned horse lost its footing and died. Just a month before this incident, another horse had found itself in strife there but the quick actions of its owner and a passerby saved the distressed animal from the same fate.
Another one of these deep water holes was once located in the Avon beside where the Christchurch Public Hospital. This was mentioned in Christchurch’s history in 1841 when the McKinnon family hid their farming equipment in it as they quickly moved their lives to Banks Peninsula from Putaringamotu (Riccarton Bush). This farming equipment has never been found!
*Image courtesy of Annette Bulovic*