boatshed & boatshed bridge

Boats have been a feature on the main lake since the day it was formed. At the April 1878 Board meeting it was resolved “That a vote of thanks be passed to T. Hurst, Esquire., for his handsome donation, viz., a pleasure boat.” It was also resolved “That any person desirous of placing the boat on the pond for Private use be allowed to do so on the payment of an annual subscription of £1 1s.”

On May 24, 1878, Mr Nicholls a local tinsmith christened his homemade 15ft iron Outrigger on the lake. The newspaper reported: “We hear that two gentlemen who assisted on that important occasion were christened likewise, the “Lady of the lake,” having, like many of her sex thrown those gentlemen overboard, with very little ceremony, on their seeking to make too intimate acquaintance with her.”

Initially the Board stated that boating wouldn’t be allowed on Sundays but in September 1878 they changed their stance, and it was allowed before noon. This didn’t go down well with the Wesleyan Church. In a letter from the church, it was stated “We certainly cannot commend their forthcoming bazaar to the sympathies of our congregation if this obnoxious resolution is not rescinded.”

In December of 1884 The Taranaki Herald reported that an application was made to the Recreation Ground Board by the High School for permission to excavate a piece of land at the head of the lake for a boat shed. The board acceded to the request but stated that the site and style of the edifice had to be approved by Mr Skinner. There is no record of any action being taken with respect to the request.

Boatshed Bridge circa 1895

Puke Ariki PHO2020_0014-017

At the September 1893 Board meeting it was decided to ask Mr G. Brown to prepare a plan for a small bridge and boatshed at the upper end of the lake and estimate the cost of these, and to attend the next meeting of the board with the results. In May of 1894 The Taranaki Herald reported that since the beginning of the year a new bridge and boatshed had been built at a cost of over £100.

In 1924 the boatshed was severely damaged by a fallen poplar tree. On the eastern hillside above the boatshed there is an old park boundary which was probably identified by poplar trees which were commonly planted for that purpose.

Boatshed & Boatshed Bridge

Auckland Weekly News December 22, 1904

On May the 25th 1953 the almost 50-year-old bridge suffered a catastrophic failure when, during a tour of the Park, twelve members of a visiting rugby team, from Hinuera near Matamata, overloaded the bridge causing it to collapse. They found themselves in the water, and fortunately no one was injured. It was acknowledged that the bridge was an old structure and had been deteriorating and likely needed replacing, this event just hurried thigs along. An initial estimate of £3000 to replace the bridge evoked a lot of criticism and many people argued that the bridge should not be replaced. One person felt so strongly about it that they wrote the following ode.


(With apologies to Longfellow.)

(To the Editor.)

I stood on the bridge at daylight,

As the workmen came and went,

And a groan rose out of the Gardens

As each thousand pounds was spent.


I saw the rich reflection,

In the waters under me,

Of this costly, extravagant spending

Of the Graham legacy.


And far in the hazy distance,

Of that crazy day in the park,

The pine trees bowed in sorrow

And the tree-fern’s frown was dark.


And like lake waters splashing

Among the palatial piers,

A flood of thoughts came o’er me

That filled my eyes with tears.


How often, oh how often,

In the days that had gone by,

Had we prayed the Park Committee

Some saner schemes to try.


And whenever I cross that water

On its bridge like the “Golden Gate,”

I will sigh for the spent three thousand

And gasp at the City’s rate!


I will think of the many hundreds

Of rate encumbered men,

Who have paid their bills to the Council

And crossed the bridge since then.


And for ever and for ever,

As long as the waters splash,

I will think of that Park Committee

And the way they squandered their cash.


I will hope that no picture disturbing

Will rise from this Bridge of Sighs,

To hang itself in the heavens

And startle some watching eyes!

I am, etc.,


New Plymouth June 30.

The bridge was replaced in in the latter part of 1953, using funds from the Graham Bequest which had been left to the Park for expenditure of this nature. The replacement Boatshed Bridge was designed by the city engineer Mr. R. F. Mainland and constructed by Thomson and Williams, whose tender of £1102, 5s, 10d for constructing the new bridge was accepted by the City Council at its August 1953 meeting.  A further estimate of £600 for materials brought the total price of the new bridge up to an approximate amount of £1800.

After several more years of indecision the Park Committee finally decided to replace the Boatshed in 1957. Plans for the new Boatshed were drawn up by Arthur Sandford. With a tender price of £1780, Mr. R. M. Clough was awarded the contract to build the boatshed.

Boating was for many years a good source of income for an often cash strapped Park administration. Boats can still be hired to this day.