On 21st June 1851, Riccarton Road (or Harewood Road as it began as a route to Harewood Forest in Oxford as it was then known) was opened.
Those who visited Riccarton during the beginning of 1851 spoke of the constant noise of the sawyers cutting down the Canterbury Association’s allocation of Riccarton Bush – sadly a necessary part of the deal so that the Deans could retain Riccarton Farm.
Just a month after Riccarton Road opened, all that remained of this part of the Bush were just tree stumps, looking like eerie tombstones in a waste land cemetery. A huge channel was dug alongside Riccarton Road that rushed with artesian water and this would now transport these tree trunks into Christchurch to be sold at Market Place (Victoria Square) for building material and firewood for the settlers.
Even after this carnage, Riccarton Bush still managed to keep Riccarton Road in constant shadows, making it quite infamous. During winter, the road stayed frosty 24/7 and those driving their drays and wagons back and forth would have to stop and cover their horse’s hooves in sacking so the hooves wouldn’t slip on the ice! Eventually, Riccarton Bush was cut back during maintenance work and this solved this problem.
The attached photo shows an early automobile at the intersection of Riccarton Road with Deans Ave.
*image courtesy of the Christchurch Public Libraries – www.christchurchcitylibraries.com – File Reference CCL Photo CD 2, IMG0096