No. 1 Fire Tank
formerly at the corner of Tuam and High Streets
The No 1 Fire Tank was built on the corner of Tuam and High Streets. The location is now the garden between the footpath and the outdoor seating at C1 Espresso.
Fire was an ever-present danger
Christchurch did not have a high-pressure water supply until 1909, relying instead on public and private wells, rain water tanks, and water drawn directly from the rivers. Fire fighters had to pump water from whatever supply they could find.
The No 1 Fire Tank was not, in fact, the first. There was already one tank at Matheson’s Agency (corner of High and Cashel Streets).
In 1869, Council built the No 1 Fire Tank “opposite to White’s furniture rooms” as a matter of priority. Mr A J White’s premises on Tuam Street later became McKenzie & Willis.
The tank was built of brick, capped with stone and an iron railing. It probably drew water from the city’s first public artesian well, which had been drilled on the corner in February 1864.
A Council committee also recommended tanks at:
Whately Road, near Peterborough Street
The northeast corner of Cathedral Square
The committee’s logic was that the hose of the city’s steam fire engines could not extend more than about 10 chains (just over 200 metres) when under strain.
Each tank could hold 12,000 imperial gallons of water (about 5,455 litres), which was expected to keep the steam fire engine’s hoses going for one hour.
New underground tanks
In 1885, at the urging of the Superintendent of the Fire Brigade, the council installed six underground tanks across the city. Each could hold 25,000 imperial gallons (over 113,000 litres) of water. They were made of triple-walled brick, about 2.2 metres wide inside and 1.8 metres high.
The six locations were:
St Asaph and Montreal Streets
High and Barbadoes Streets
High and Cashel Streets
Manchester and Gloucester Streets
Colombo and Gloucester Streets
Salisbury and Durham Streets
Find out more
Tanks! Blogpost and photos by archaeologist Hamish Williams, discusses excavation of the underground fire tank at Manchester Street in July 2015 during SCIRT work to lay a new water mains pipe.
‘Lost Christchurch’ blogpost about the Strange’s fire, “the largest and most destructive fire experienced in the city’s history,” which occurred in February 1908 – the year before Christchurch’s high-pressure water system came on line.
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