The Bridge of Remembrance, which spans the Avon River between Oxford and Cambridge terraces, originally opened on Armistice Day in 1924. There were many ideas for an appropriate means of acknowledging Canterbury’s contribution to World War I. The suggestion for a bridge of remembrance was put forward in a letter to the The Press by Mrs J. Wyn Irwin, wife of a school teacher. Mrs Irwin envisaged an arched bridge in place of the Cashel Street bridge. This bridge was significant because all the soldiers passed over it as they left for war. This proposal received a lot of support but still had to compete with the other projects.
The design by Prouse and Gummer incorporated a cross suggesting sacrifice as the basis of the human character. Included in the bridge’s design are torches to highlight the inscribed battle fronts, lions symbolising the Empire and its victory, along with wreaths of rosemary for remembrance. The sculptural detail was performed by Frederick Gurnsey, a local sculptor and his assistant Lawrence Berry.
The Bridge of Remembrance was opened on Armistice Day, 11 November, 1924 and was dedicated to the memory of those who took part in the 1914-1918 war. At a later date further plaques were added to commemorate the battlefields of World War II.
It had been off-limits while structural and decorative work was carried out following the February 2011 earthquake. Strengthening repairs that started in May 2013 were finally completed in September last year.
It’s been a bit of a wait, but as of today (ANZAC Day 2016), the Bridge of Remembrance is open and the public can once again walk the bridge, along the Avon River Precinct.
There could not be a more commemorative day for this reopening. The Bridge of Remembrance is the ultimate acknowledgement of gratitude to our servicemen and women, and for the families of those who have given up their lives for this country. Lest we forget.