13 December 2010

Geoffrey Thornton and Karen Astwood

Shaky Suspension Bridge

Spanning the Manuherikia River at Alexandra, Shaky Suspension Bridge was constructed as a light traffic bridge, between 1878 and 1879, in response to local need and pressure. This attractive structure is a characteristic Central Otago suspension bridge with schist masonry towers and a timber deck.

As a key junction town in Central Otago, in the 1870s people in Alexandra and surrounding district campaigned hard for a bridge to replace their existing, and potentially hazardous, Manuherikia River ferry services and ford. A bridge at this point was a local priority because when the river was in flood all connection to the settlements east of the Manuherikia and Clutha Rivers was interrupted.

Consequently, Vincent County Engineer, Leslie Duncan Macgeorge (1854–1939), designed 60 metre bridge, which was constructed by Grant and McKellar. With the advent of a road/rail bridge close by in the early 20th century the bridge was threatened with demolition. Local people then rallied around the structure to save it, as they did again in the early 1950s, by which time its dilapidated state had earned it the name Shaky Bridge. Now used by pedestrian only, Shaky Bridge underwent a significant restoration project completed in 1952 and was called Pioneer Bridge, although the former nickname has stuck.

Shaky Suspension Bridge is a handsome and popular local landmark, and has some engineering importance as an example of the vernacular form of late 19th century bridge in Central Otago, which notable engineer Macgeorge excelled in designing.

Read the heritage assessment (PDF 610KB)

Heritage recognition

This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 2 historic place (List no.2082):

Shaky Bridge: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information


More information

Location

Manuherikia River, Kerry Street/Graveyard Gully Road, Alexandra, Central Otago.

Access

Shaky Suspension Bridge is a pedestrian bridge at the end of Kerry Street. Kerry Street intersects with Fox Street, which in turn is east off of Tarbert Street/State Highway 85. Kerry Street has curb-side parking. Alternatively, there is also parking available at the south end of the bridge on Graveyard Gully Road. Vehicle access across the Manuherikia River is via Little Valley Road, and Graveyard Gully Road is the first intersection to the southwest once across the river.