Important historical buildings from the quarryman’s days are being preserved. The once noisy rock face is now a quiet amphitheatre facing onto a parkland with short walks and wetland ponds.
The quarry was first worked in the 1860’s and produced a fine and distinctive blue-grey stone which can be seen in many of the city’s prominent buildings including the Canterbury Museum, Provincial Council Chambers and the old Sydenham Post Office.
In 1865 a wooden tramline was built for eleven kilometres from the quarry to Spreydon, but it was abandoned eight years later. In 1890 the first crushing plant was installed and the crater, you see today, began to appear. Output from the quarry increased dramatically for a while, but by 1925 thequarry was almost bankrupt again.
Then the Christchurch City Council bought the quarry, restored its productivity and ran it successfully until 1990 when the reserve of useable rock was exhausted. Despite the high cost of carting rock to the city, the Halswell Quarry had a long life of 130 years and is believed to have been the oldest, continually operating quarry in Australasia.
The buildings you see today were all part of the working quarry. The workshops built in 1912 housed a newer, bigger crushing plant. The single men’s house (now visitor centre) was built in 1921 to replace the wooden one that was destroyed by fire in 1920.
Paterson House above the main entrance was built in 1927 for the then manager, Mr Ned Paterson and also as a show home to demonstrate how the quarry stone could be utilised.
The Christchurch City Council decided to restore the quarry as a passive recreation reserve, wildlife habitat and an educational resource. The strikingly sculptural and geologically interesting rock faces of the quarry were retained. A huge planting programme was undertaken with
over 250,000 trees and shrubs planted.