Quarries in Christchurch: A History

Work gardens-9649.jpg

On first glance, it may appear Christchurch’s quarrying and shingle pit history can only be found in the pages of old archives, but take a closer look; its mark lingers in parks, reserves, buildings, businesses, and street names which surround us. So sit back and have a gander at the pits once situated throughout our beloved garden city.

Or, for a full timeline view, see our 'Quarries over time' page. 

Quarries in Christchurch
Fulton Hogan values


Central Christchurch was perhaps the most surprising: a shingle pit about an acre in size stretched from Armagh Street entrance to North Hagley Park. The pit was filled sometime around 1919 by the Christchurch City Council. According to Domain Board Curator James Young, before the area became a shingle pit, trees “were being planted just on top of the shingle, and in consequence growth could not be expected”. With the rubbish going in, it was “practically a compost bed”, he said. The Board also chose to work this pit another two chains westward. In addition to this, a small pit near the tea kiosk at the Botanic Gardens was to be converted to an 18 inch high paddling pool for children. A gravel pit also filled Victoria Square In 1851.


The Christchurch City Council owned a quarry on McCormack’s Bay Road since around 1885 to at least the 1960’s. The quarry was made to build a protecting sea wall at Sumner. The Christchurch Tram board crushed the rock in Sumner for use in asphalt to make road surfacing. The Scott Brothers owned a two acre quarry property on Main Road, Sumner. They gave some of this land to the Heathcote County Council and it was converted to Scott’s Park.

Mount Pleasant

The rock from Andrew’s Quarry was used to build the tramway across McCormacks Bay in 1903-07. The 20 hectare quarry was opened in 1892 by Samuel P. Andrews at the foot of what is now St. Andrews Hill. Two dozen dray horses carted stone from this quarry for roads and footpaths. Subdivision of this land was undertaken by Walter de Thier in 1930. Contrary to popular belief, St. Andrews Hill was not named after Samuel P. Andrews, the quarry’s founder, but named by golf enthusiast de Thier after St. Andrews, Scotland—the home of golf.


Prisk’s Quarry in Ferrymead at the foot of Cannon Hill Crescent and opposite the Ferrymead Historic Park is now residential land. Crushing and screening was done on site and material was sent to the city for use on local roads using the Ferrymead branch line in the 1860’s.

Heathcote Valley

The foundation stone Frederick Thompson supplied to build the second town hall in Christchurch came from either Thompson’s Quarry in Heathcote, or his quarry at Marley’s Hill. He supplied the foundation stone for the Christchurch Cathedral in 1864, but work on the cathedral only got underway nine years later. It is thought the foundation stone still remains underneath the Cathedral. One of Thompson’s quarries was situated on the hillside east of the Heathcote Domain, behind Ferrymead. Thompson resigned from teaching and went into partnership with Arthur Dudley Dobson during the 1860s to start up this brown stone quarry. Also owned by Frederick Thompson was a quarry above Bridle Path, facing Castle Rock, in early 1863. Its remnants can be viewed when taking the Heathcote Quarry Walk. The Brown Valley Stone quarry on Bridle Path Road produced a brown rock on the small site. It is unclear whether this quarry is separate from Thompson’s Bridle Path Quarry. However, there were two small quarries on either side of the Bridle Path track. Now the Heathcote Quarry Reserve, England’s Quarry was situated on Bridle Path Road, between Ferry Road and Heathcote. The reserve was developed in 1989 after Trevor Smith Ltd. offered the land to the council as an alternative to paying a reserve contribution for subdividing land. A fine, grey-green trachyte was produced at the Green Valley Stone quarry on Bridle Path Road. It can be seen in what is left of the lower walls of the Christchurch Cathedral.


The stone from the Crighton Dale Quarry was used to make the Presbyterian Church and parsonage in Lyttelton. Prison labour was used to extract aggregate from the quarries around Lyttelton.


The rocks at the end of the Blenheim Road roundabout came from the Public Works Department Quarry on Summit Road. Material from the site was used to build retaining walls and filling during the construction of the Summit Road. A portable plant worked here to crush rock and make metal. Stone from Garland’s Quarry at Rocky Point was used in early Christchurch buildings such as the old university. Landscape work for the Christchurch 1906-1907 exhibition also used this lichen covered rock. Quarrying at Rocky Point began in the late 1800’s, located at Port Hills Road. The site was originally owned by Edward Queree before Mr E. Garland took over the quarry. The quarry produced a blue-grey basalt used for buildings, walls, churches, and houses. The harder basalt and scoria was used for roads. A small amount of pink basalt was also produced. Mr Queree may have first quarried east of Garland’s Quarry, as there are early quarry workings on this property. Now, the site is occupied by housing. The scuba diving business, Dive Werks, is situated there and Garland’s Road is named after E. Garland and his family, who lived there for many years. One of Edward Queree’s quarry sites in Hillsborough was located on Bishopsworth Street. Mr Queree and his sons appear to have quarried in at least three sites in the area, and it is unclear if these include the old Rocky Point sites. The site is now residential. Prisk’s Quarry at Rocky Point in the midst of Hillsborough is now occupied by housing. The quarry was the first of Samuel Prisk’s, located at Port Hills Road, west of Opawa Road. Memorial stone marking New Zealand’s first railway service at Ferrymead is built using rock from the Glenmore Quarries. The first of the quarries was opened at Hillsborough in 1901. The lower east slopes were worked and the crushing and screening plant was located at the base of the valley. Quarried rock was railed down to the plant. Later, more quarries were made higher up on the hillside of Glenelg Spur. A new crushing plant was built on the hill in the 1920s. The quarries closed in the 1960’s-70’s. Glenmore Brick & Tile Manufacturing Company began at the quarries’ inception. It later became a subsidiary of McSkimming Industries. It was the only brickworks operating in Christchurch by this time, but the business still failed and brick production ceased in 1972. The valley was bought for residential use. Fun Facts: The Kilns, a road within Hillsborough, is so aptly named after the brickworks that used to be situated around the area. The Glenmore Estate was also the Glenmore Brickworks manager’s home and commemorates the once extensive brickworks industry across the Port Hills. It is the oldest remaining private residence in southeast Christchurch saved from demolition and still stands today.


A large amount of rock from Gatehouse’s Quarry was used to build the previous old University of Canterbury site, according to former Gatehouse Quarry worker H. Wicks. Rough filling was also used for the tram track on Barbados Street. The quarry was located a short distance up Rapaki Road. Giant’s Causeway quarry produced a large amount of stone for construction, which can be seen in buildings such as the Christchurch Cathedral and the Public Trust Building. It was worked at the end of Rapaki Road and on Summit Road. A crushing plant was installed during the 1930’s to produce metal for a section of Summit Road.


The Ramahana Road Quarry, now residential land, was situated on the corner of Centaurus Road between St. Martins Road and Ramahana Road. It was in operation for a short time before the company went bust. The quarry produced building stone, rubble and scoria, to name a few. Queree Bro’s Quarry was worked until late into the 1920’s on the north-east tip of Huntsbury Hill. The quarry produced mainly rubble and shingle for roading. Austin & Kirk Lane, Brickworks Place and Farnley Reserve are named after the brickworks in the area. The Christchurch City Council owned a quarry, CCC Huntsbury Reservoir Excavation, on Huntsbury Avenue. In 1949, it extracted 25,000 tonnes of aggregate.


Mildren Bros’ Quarry on Bowenvale Avenue was first worked by Mr. C. Taylor for its redstone. It then closed for a number of years and reopened when the Mildren Brothers restarted work in the 1920’s. The main products the quarry produced included building rubble, scoria and rockery stone.


Andrew’s Quarry in Cashmere was once situated at the top end of Rossmore Terrace and Paulus Terrace. The site has now been built over for residential use, but in its lifetime, it provided stone and rubble for south Christchurch. It was S. P Andrews’ second quarry. A large crushing plant was installed on site to produce different sizes of crushed metal. Quarries at the Victoria Park reserve provided stone for the Sign of the Takahe. In 1870, 197.6 acres was set aside as quarry reserve. In 1883, this became a recreation area and in 1897, the area was called Victoria Park to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. Within the park there is a memorial plantation, for men in the 19th Infantry and Armoured Regiment. Many of the walls on Hackthorne Road were made using the rock from the Valley Road Quarry at the end of Valley Road, at the base of Cashmere. It is now occupied by housing. On Marley’s Hill was another of Frederick Thompson’s quarries, located at the top end of Worselys Track. It was Thompson’s core enterprise, beginning in 1859. Christchurch’s old Bank of New Zealand building was made with the stone from one of Thompson’s quarries. The Canterbury Provincial Chamber also used Thompson’s stone for its ornamental work, as well as the foundation stone of the Christchurch Cathedral, laid in 1864. West of the Sign of the Kiwi and on the south side of Marleys Hill, are the early Marleys Hill quarries. The north face of Marleys Hill was quarried back in the 1800’s and run by William Marley. The Christchurch Cathedral and other historic buildings used rock from here for their construction. To transport the stone to the city, horse drawn drays would be used, taking the route down Gorse Track to Worsley’s Road. Families from Italy worked on the Marley’s Hill quarries, dressing the stone. Mr Barretta said the families arrived at Hokitika and walked over the Arthur’s Pass mountains to get to Christchurch. The families had to stop at a clay hut in Springfield in order for Mrs Barretta to have her baby. Later, the Barrettas moved to Somerfield and lived on the corner of Dunn Street and Barretta Street, which was named after them.

Hoon Hay

There were five quarries situated at the end of Hoon Hay Valley Road, around the back of what is now Westmorland subdivision. Mr C. Craig quarried here, as well as the Valley Road site. Around 1920, a new company (Hoon Hay Valley Quarries Ltd.) was formed. It put a lot of work and development into the site but production ceased a short time after.


The stone garnered from Halswell Quarry was used to build many of Christchurch’s landmarks, such as the Sign of the Takahe, the Robert McDougall Art Gallery and Canterbury Museum. Some of the quarry site was converted into residential land in 1954. It has been suggested that this 32 section development was made to help fund Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the city that same year. The rest of the site--60 hectares--has since been restored to form a recreation reserve, wildlife habitat and an educational resource by the Christchurch City Council. Over 250,000 trees and shrubs were planted throughout the reserve. The intriguing rock faces of the quarry were conserved instead of being filled, at the request of many local residents of the time. While in operation, the quarry produced a fine blue-grey stone interspersed with small crystals of black augite and golden olivine. It was first opened in the late 1860’s and used to make primary infrastructure that still serves Christchurch today. The quarry is believed to have been the oldest, continually running quarry in Australasia, with its 130 year lifespan ending in 1990.


The fount at Saint Martin’s Church in Opawa is made from Cass Peak stone. The peak is west of Kennedys Bush. It is easily carved and has been quarried on and off for many years.

Tai Tapu

The Tai Tapu quarries were used to build the Memorial Gates which list the names of the soldiers who served in the Boer War and World War One, at Rhodes Memorial Park. The quarry produced a red, volcanic rock which seems to have been first worked by Mr Wendleburn and Mr Rennel, who built the Memorial Gates in 1921. The Tai Tapu church and library were built from the quarry rock in the 1930’s, and a building at the University of Canterbury was also built with the rock during 1965.


Shingle pits were located on what was once called Wairarapa Road, now Wairakei Road, Bryndwr. They were owned by the Ashby Bros during the 1900’s. Lake Bryndwr was the name given to the shingle pits quarried by the Ashby Brothers, which provided much of the stone and gravel for Burnside’s drives and paths. There were three pits fed by an underground spring located on a corner block of land of about 20 acres, bounded by what is now Roydvale Avenue and Wairakei Road. The main pit, known as Lake Bryndwr, was extremely deep (between 4.5 - 6 metres in depth, with its water level related to the level of the Selwyn River). It was also very cold, with lots of weed, and several people drowned in it. Around this main pit was a race track (1.5 miles in length) where midget cars were raced. The lake was used for recreational fishing (brown and rainbow trout) and water skiing. Around 1920 there was a shingle pit near the end of Taylors Road (now Avenue). Children from the nearby school used to catch frogs in the stream near where Bounty Street is now.

Saint Albans

Mr O’Donoghue carted shingle from this St Albans Borough pit. His tender to do so was accepted in 1885.


A gravel pit was once located on Lyttelton Street, Spreydon. It became the well-known Centennial Park in 1955, after five years of planning and development. Prior to this, from 1937, the Christchurch City Council used the pit as a dump. Five thousand yards of shingle and sand was taken out of the Spreydon pit and sold in 1914. A Government pit was present on Lincoln Road in 1887.


Smart’s pit in Sydenham became a park on Strickland Street. It supplied shingle and broken metal “suitable for garden walks” (as advertised). This pit was bought by Smart about 1865 and three or four acres were used. It was later turned into a pond, which in 1882, Smart filled with imported fish—1600 trout and 36 perch. The trout grew, but did not breed. The perch meanwhile multiplied and 450 were caught in a drag net in 1885. The pit was filled sometime before 1929 and was a short distance from Colombo Street. It was then named Bradford Park in 1930 and converted to a park.


Several shingle pits were worked in Waltham. Waltham Park was formed from Johns Brightling’s pit on the corner of Wilsons Road and Fifield Terrace. John Brightling also worked a pit on the corner of Waltham Road and Wilsons Road. A shingle pit was owned by Walter Butler on Waltham Road at the Rogers Street intersection in 1908, which was Butler’s second pit. An additional pit was worked at Opawa Road, Waltham, and west of Ensors Road at the north boundary of Jacksons Creek.


Walter Butler worked a pit on Garlands Road. It was the first shingle pit he worked.

Saint Martins

A pit was located on the corner Beckford Road and Fifield Terrace, St Martins. It was managed by H. Day but on J. F. Scott’s land.


Many shingle pits were once found at Opawa, with at least seven pits located around Hawford Road and Butler Street. The former pits were converted to a large park, now named Hansen Park, in recognition of Dr David Ernest Hansen’s work within the local community. They were also converted to residential land. L. Hadfield worked a pit at the end of Ombersely Terrace. E. Cooksley had a pit at the end of Hawford Road, while J.D Butler owned a pit at 26 Butler Street. Two pits were owned by J. H. Rosanowski at Hawford Road. J. D. Butler owned a pit next to these two pits. Artificial Stone Company also owned a pit at Butler Street and Hawford Road, which was taken over by Gilbert Butler. At the end of Butler Street, another shingle pit was present and operated by a succession of managers, but the land was owned by a Mrs W. Townsend. F. J. Perham had a pit on the corner of Fifield Terrace and Cholmondeley Avenue. An additional shingle pit was located on the corner of Locarno Street and Fifield Terrace. In 1928, a shingle pit was also present at 110 Hawford Road, Opawa. This shingle pit may or may not be separate to the shingle pits mentioned above.


A council shingle pit could be found at Marshland Road, Shirley, in 1927.


A shingle pit was located in Middleton in 1888.


Messrs Smart & Son had a shingle pit located on a 17.5 acre site and half of it was excavated from 1889 to a depth of about 30 feet. Asphalting machinery was transferred from a Sydenham site to the Hornby site so all the mixing with tar could be carried out with one machinery set. Smart and his sons operated in Hornby until 1968, when the Paparua County Council bought the land to use as a dump. The dump closed in 1973 and a park, named Kyle Park, was developed. British Pavements Ltd had many gravel pits in Hornby in 1965, but they usually only worked one at a time.


Quarried pits in Harewood were used to make Christchurch’s well-known Memorial Avenue in 1957. These pits paved the way for conservation waterways and expansive habitat restoration to support native flora and fauna, in what is now named Peacock Springs. The former farmland and subsequent quarry site is now a wetland oasis thanks to the efforts of Sir Neil and Lady Isaac who founded Isaac Construction. Peacock Springs is named for Lady Isaac’s love of the colourful birds, and is funded by the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust established by the couple. It covers 200 hectares. The Trust protects and breeds endangered birds, reptiles and plant species native to New Zealand. Recovery efforts are done alongside the Department of Conservation to release the native species back into the wild. A Heritage Village around Peacock Springs was also established by Lady Isaac to protect heritage buildings.The Isaac Theatre Royal was named after her, for her continuing contribution to restoring historic buildings, donating to the theatre’s restoration in the early 2000’s. Once quarrying alongside Peacock Springs ceases, Isaac Construction hope to make the area a public space with additional land opening up to link existing Christchurch City Council walkways to the Waimakariri River. A crushing plant was also located on Johns Road and continued operations into the 1980’s. A crushing and screening plant and flywheel were among the machinery on site.


A Christchurch City Council pit was located on Lower Styx Road, Marshland, in 1927.


Around Islington, a shingle pit was present in 1909.


Fernside provided broken metal for Oxford Road from a pit in 1889.


A shingle pit could be located on an 11 acre section in Sockburn, in 1921.


During 1880, a shingle pit could be located at Woodend.


Shingle was removed from a pit at Oxford Road for a ballast line in 1879.


On Mill Road, Cust, a tender was accepted for falling shingle and breaking stones in 1890.

Birdlings Flat

A shingle pit was located at Birdling’s Flat, and the broken metal was carted to Little River for use on their roads.