Topic: Horse watering ramp and setting

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Situated on the banks of the Avon River in Victoria Square, it is assumed to be the surviving ramp of a watering site formed by the City Council.

Until 1874, horses were originally watered downstream of Victoria Street bridge on the banks of the Avon River in what was then Market Square. This was closed in 1874 and a petition was made for the council to provide two new watering places, including one at Armagh Street Bridge.

By July 1875 the new site by Armagh Street Bridge had been completed. Initially stones were used to pitch the incline and in 1876 shingle was also added. However, due to the speed at which people entered the river, the shingle and stones often came loose. Because of the hazard, the works committee announced its intention to erect a sign, warning that people who used the watering place did so at their own risk. Wooden boards were also put in place to ease the transition from the riverbed up to the riverbank.

Despite the maintenance, stones used in the pitching still came loose and often lay scattered along the bottom of the river, causing horses to trip. There are instances of other accidents occurring. By 1886 the City Surveyor found that the continual maintenance of the watering place was becoming too expensive.

In 1893 it was found to be in bad condition again, and it was suggested that a new entrance be made so that horses did not have to be turned around while in the river in order to exit.  In 1899, cabmen and carriers petitioned the City Council to improve the watering place. While the riverbed could have been paved with stone, the loose shingle in the river would have continually damaged it.

The watering place continued to be used in the early twentieth century but was made redundant by the introduction of motor cars.

In 1914, when it was considered to use Victoria Square as a site for a new town hall, it was proposed to demolish the watering place, describing it as ‘the most unbeautiful portion of the city river bank.’ However, despite this, it was retained.

In 1934 it was used to water elephants from Wirth’s Circus.


Christchurch City Council District Plan - Listed Heritage Place: Horse watering ramp and setting.


Local and general, Star, Issue 2092, 21 November, 1874.

City Council, Press, Volume XXIV, Issue 3097, 27 July 1875.

Dangerous Watering Place, Press, Volume XXVI, Issue 3400, 27 July 1876.

Local and general, Star, Issue, 2629, 28 August 1876.

Local and general, Star, Issue 3857, 27 August 1880.

City Council, Star, Issue 4227, 8 November 1881.

City Council, Star, Issue 5801, 14 December 1886.

Latest Locals, Star, Issue 4583, 3 March 1893.

Notes and Notations, Star, Issue 6552, 1 August 1899.

Victoria Square, Star, Issue 11028, 17 March 1914.

General News, Press, Volume LXX, Issue 21065, 17 January 1934.

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Horse watering ramp and setting