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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2002



'In 1891…the City Council, the County Council and the Richmond Borough Council set up a Road Round the Rocks Committee and the work was begun'.

'When the idea of the Rocks Road was mooted Francis Richmond agreed to give some land along the front of the Cliffs so that the road could be made. The Road Committee built its wall along the rocks and then filled in the roadway with material dug from the Cliffs'.

CB Brereton.

'Any fool can make a straight road, it takes a good man to put the curves in'. Sam Jickell, when asked why there were so many curves in his 1885 design for the roadway and seawall.

In the mid 1870s Nelson City Councillor Thomas Harley proposed what he called 'a half-tide roadway' around the rocky shoreline between Nelson Haven and Tahunanui. It was not until the early 1880s that Nelson City and Waimea County obtained Government subsidy approval for a roadway.

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Building the Nelson section of the wall and roadway about 1894. Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum, 179917/3.

Building the Nelson section of the wall and roadway about 1894. Tyree Studio Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum, 179917/3.

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Born in Stockton on Tees, Samuel Jickell Amice was 29 when he completed his 1885 design for the proposed road and seawall. Educated and trained in Europe, he was appointed Nelson City Engineer after only a few years in New Zealand and following a period of private practice here. His other works for the Council included the replacement Saltwater Bridge, the City Abattoirs and a fulsome report on the question of the city's water supply.

Jickell, the founder and first President of the Institute of Local Government Engineers, became City Surveyor in 1891 and resigned in 1901, becoming Petone Borough Engineer, and then held the same position in Palmerston North from 1904 to 1919. He was responsible for a large number of projects in that region, most noticeably the many reinforced concrete improvements to roadway structures and bridges through the Manawatu Gorge.

Six years after his first Rocks Road proposals, at which time there was still only a precarious, occasionally wave-swept walkway along the coast between the town and the beach, cost-sharing arrangements between Nelson City, Waimea County, Richmond Borough, and the Government were finalised. Nelson Mayor, Francis Trask, later a Member of Parliament, is said to have been much involved in advancing the project.

Although Sam Jickell had indicated the cost would be about £8,000 in 1891, the task, not surprisingly given its high seas and tall cliffs constraints, proved more difficult and expensive than expected and the final cost was almost £12,000.

After a Nelson City ratepayers' poll returning 38 against and 863 in favour of the project, the special-purpose committee set about arranging for work to begin on site in early 1892. No tenders were received when the Waimea County Council advertised for the supply of stone blocks and, though they were said to be more expensive, it was reluctantly agreed to build the seawall with blocks of concrete.