10 Nov 2021

Bluestone paving from 1880s uncovered in Dunedin

6:34 pm on 10 November 2021

A glimpse into Dunedin's early history has been uncovered, though only briefly.

Bluestone paving unearthed during roadworks in Dunedin

Bluestone paving unearthed during roadworks in Dunedin Photo: RNZ/ Tim Brown

Sections of bluestone paving potentially dating back 140 years have been uncovered by workers carrying out alterations to Wharf Street.

The bluestone pavers cover an area of up to 120 metres long by five or six metres wide and were likely used as an entry for a railway goods shed adjacent to the wharf in 1883.

But unfortunately the discovery will be re-buried tomorrow to protect it as improvement work on the Harbour Arterial route continues.

The changes to Dunedin's wharf area will provide a faster, more efficient alternative route through the city during the Dunedin Hospital rebuild.

Contractors working on the first stage of Dunedin City Council's Harbour Arterial improvements project last week discovered the bluestone pavement buried beneath Wharf Street, under the Cumberland Street overbridge.

Dunedin City Council transport manager Jeanine Benson said burying the discovery provided the best means of protecting it.

"Along with our archaeology consultants, we explored options to keep some of the cobblestones visible for the public to enjoy. However, they are at a level too low to leave them exposed without risk of damage, and modification or extraction were also recommended against," she said.

Archaeologist Braden McLean says the bluestone paving is an exciting find

Archaeologist Braden McLean says the bluestone paving is an exciting find Photo: RNZ/ Tim Brown

The exposed cobblestones had been cleaned and recorded by archaeologists.

They would be covered with geotextile and crusher dust before being re-buried.

Consultant archaeologist Braden McLean, from NZ Heritage Properties, said it was an exciting find.

"This is a fantastic and rare example of a large intact paved crossing which appears to have been associated with a high-traffic area between a large railway goods shed and the associated wharfs."

Its exact age was unknown but it appeared to be associated with a railway goods shed from 1883.

"This land was reclaimed and was known to be terribly muddy. There was a lot of frustration over the condition of the road, so it is likely the railways installed this path to make access easier between the shed and the wharf," McLean said.

"The asphalt laid in the 1970s, at the time the Cumberland Street overbridge was built, has done a good job preserving the surface. Re-burying the features is therefore the best way to protect them."

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