Grafton Bridge

Grafton Bridge

It was the world’s largest single-span concrete structure in the world when it opened in 1910, linking the city with its hospital and biggest park. Its advanced design suggested a promising future for Auckland.

But for many decades the bridge served a more tragic purpose for some; it was the site where they chose to end their lives.

Poet Yang Lian noted the bridge’s melancholic effect in his poem Grafton Bridge: “as you cross…the cemetery beneath the bridge closes in/pine trees raise suspicious faces/an ocean of the dead…”

Glass panels were installed on the bridge in 1992 in an attempt to stop the jumpers. In 1996, the panels were removed after being deemed too ugly and dangerous to clean. Six years on and the panels were quietly returned—with positive effect.

Beneath the bridge, Symonds Street Cemetery has also been through some changes. A few graves had to be shuffled when the bridge went up, and in 1966 some 400 graves were shifted along (including William Hobson’s, New Zealand’s first governor) to make way for the Southern Motorway.

Though rather dog-eared, the cemetery has survived 150 years of changes. Today, it tends to be a preferred hangout for the homeless, but money sifting in from council channels should ensure this piece of Auckland’s history makes it through another century.

Incidentally, a unique species of snail thought to have been wiped out after the motorway’s construction was discovered living on a small patch of grass near Grafton Gully in the 1990s. It seemed they, like Grafton, had defied all odds and survived.

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Content updated: 16/12/2019 20:18

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