Heritage Buildings

Transforming 19th Century Christchurch with new sewerage infrastructure

The former No. 1 Pumphouse buildings were a cornerstone of the city’s earliest sewage system.  Constructed for the newly established Drainage Board in the 1880s, the buildings housed engines and steam-driven pumps, with a sewage collecting tank underneath. 

With the city’s sewage being moved out to a designated area in the sandhills of Bromley, the health and living standards of Christchurch residents was immensely improved.

No.1 Pumphouse became fully operational in 1882.  It played a key role in the disposal of Christchurch’s sewage until the pumps were decommissioned in 1957.  It was then used as a maintenance depot until the Drainage Board sold the buildings and land in 1989.

The new owners, Paddy and Jackie Snowdon, purchased the site as a base for their demolition business and retail salvage yard.  Named after the buildings, The Pumphouse Demolition Yard buys and sells recycled building materials and house parts.  It also has a not-for-sale collection of architectural antiques, as well as items of historic significance to the city.

The Pump House
Heritage Buildings

Years Old
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Years Pumping Sewage
Water Closet Connections*

Christchurch was the first city in New Zealand to have an underground sewerage system.

Prior to the new underground sewerage system becoming operational in 1882, the people of Christchurch suffered from serious health problems.  There were epidemics of diphtheria and whooping cough between 1872-75.  A typhoid epidemic killed 152 people in 1875-76. 
The Christchurch Drainage Board was set up in 1876 in order to improve the unhealthy living conditions.  Up until the No. 1 Pumping Station commenced operation, people would empty kitchen waste and chamber pots into channels in the streets.  Those channels drained into the Avon and Heathcote rivers, which became very polluted and unhealthy. 
Connecting to the new underground sewerage system required payment for the connection, as well as complying with regulations around the type of water closet (flushing toilet), its location in the house, ventilation, and ensuring there was an adequate water supply for flushing.

In 1882, there were concerns that connecting to the new system might not be affordable for all householders for years to come, if ever.

Furthermore, at a meeting of the Christchurch Board of Health, in 1882, there were concerns that connecting to the new system might not be affordable for all householders for years to come, if ever.  It was recommended that the Board should have the power to compel householders to connect to the new sewer.  This was seen the only way to improve the public health of the City.  Source: Papers Past:  Press, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 5324, 21 October 188221 October 1882


* By 1884 there were 293 water closets connected to the underground pipes.  Twenty one years later (1901), this had increased to 1915 connections.  Much of the work laying down new sewers was “practically left to private enterprise” as the Drainage Board was without funds.   Source:  Christchurch Swamp to City:  A Short History of the Drainage Board 1875 – 1989.

Now in 2019 there are approx. 147,000 households connected (99.9% of the  Christchurch population), via 180 pumping stations, managed by the Christchurch City Council.    Source:  https://www.ccc.govt.nz/services/water-and-drainage/wastewater/about-wastewater/facts-and-figures/

The No. 1 Pumping Station buildings are now privately owned.  However, they played a key role in the city’s history, and are one of the few heritage buildings to have survived and been restored to near original condition after the 2010 and 2011 Earthquakes.

Visit our Demolition Yard

You are welcome to call into our Demolition Yard to view the heritage buildings.  And while you’re on site, have a look through our recycled building materials and character house parts.